- A content audit analyzes all of your website’s content and determines its relative strengths and shortcomings using analytical data.
- Regular, well-executed content audits offer insights into your blog and content marketing strategy and help identify content that needs improvement.
- The six steps to audit your content performance are: set your goals and metrics, inventory your content, collect data, analyze your data, adjust your content strategy, and take action.
- If you’re limited on time or resources, you can focus on smaller content optimizations such as a content decay analysis or striking distance optimizations.
It’s a place we’ve all found ourselves. Although you know you have loads of content, you have no idea what topics you’ve covered, where it all is located, or whether or not it is still performing well.
Many companies tend to post content just to end up forgetting about it, letting it bring in some new traffic, then sit and become irrelevant, stale, and out-of-date after a few years (sometimes months).
As a best practice, content teams should revisit their content regularly to make sure that it stays as vibrant and engaging as the day it was first made public. Regular, well-executed content audits offer insights into your blog and content marketing strategy and help identify content that needs improvements or can be repurposed into other formats.
It’s time to crack your knuckles and get your content organized, analyzed, and optimized. While a content performance audit can be a tad stressful, we’ll walk you through when and why they should be performed. We’ll also provide easy-to-follow directions for completing your own performance assessments and provide some tools and resources for conducting a website content audit.
What is a content audit?
A content audit analyzes all of your website’s content and determines its relative strengths and shortcomings using analytical data. An audit will provide you with a bird’s eye view of all of your brand’s published content. In addition, it allows you to track which pieces have to be created, updated, rewritten, or deleted so that everything is consistent and aligned with your current strategy.
It’s a quantitative and qualitative assessment and the best way to measure content ROI and leverage successful content.
A content performance audit will tell you where you need to focus your SEO and content marketing efforts. It provides insight into potential content changes that will improve lead generation, traffic, and rankings.
How is a content audit different from inventory?
Like inventory in a store, taking content inventory will catalog all of the content you have on your website and where it is. It’s the easiest and most broad viewing content audit you can do, and it will help you make simple content marketing decisions. But it doesn’t show you how important your content is to your business or brand. This should not be confused with a content performance audit, which goes a lot deeper into the content on your site.
Six steps to audit your content performance
- Set your goals and metrics
- Inventory your content
- Data collection
- Analyze your data
- Adjust your content strategy
- Take action
1. Set your goals and metrics
Before you begin, establish why you’re conducting a content audit. Your audit is meaningless unless you intend to act purposefully. What benefits can an audit provide? What are the desired outcomes? Content performance goals for a website content audit can be split into three larger categories.
Your content audit should discover the most engaging content types on your website, which you can then emulate to increase audience engagement on weaker performing pages. The same can be said of popular social media posts and videos.
Note the top performing themes. You can generate more engaging content in the future by researching the current topics that draw your audience.
Boost SEO outcomes
Search rankings and traffic go hand in hand. If you want to improve your rankings, a content audit can help identify poorly optimized pages or areas where SEO best practices aren’t followed.
An SEO content audit checks meta descriptions, title tags, alt text, backlinks, and duplicate content. These are all SEO criteria that lead to a high SERP ranking. Popular SEO goals that can be boosted with a content audit include increased traffic, improved CTRs, and boosting impressions/visibility.
Your website might have thousands of visitors a day but nothing is converting. Why is that? A content audit can find the data to identify your most profitable pages and why your other efforts aren’t as successful. Perhaps you want to re-examine your content’s fit for each stage of the buyer’s journey and find any gaps in specific stages to increase content creation efforts.
Once you have set your goals, align them with relevant performance metrics and analytical data. Ex: Traffic goals should focus on rankings, impressions, CTR, and (of course) traffic. This ensures you find the data you need to grade performance. This will help you determine which pages meet your goals, and which will require further improvement.
2. Inventory your content
Before compiling a list of URLs and metrics, decide on the content to review. For example, you may audit your blog entries, news, educational materials, product descriptions, and landing pages. You can also evaluate video, PDFs, and interactive content like quizzes and tests.
This article focuses on how to audit traditional blog content (the most popular content) on your website.
Collect your URLs
Begin by collecting all URLs of web pages you wish to study using a content audit tool like Semrush or ScreamingFrog. These tools can swiftly audit your content and offer a list of URLs and metrics. You can even investigate a subdomain of your domain, like /blog/.
If you don’t have one, utilize a sitemap or your website’s backend to gather a list of posts or blog URLs.
Catalog your URLs
After collecting your URLs, use a spreadsheet to sort them by different criteria. You can catalog your content in the following categories (or however you deem appropriate):
- Content-type (blog post, manual, product description, landing page);
- Content format (text only, images/video, with/without call-to-action);
- Content category (or cluster);
- Content performance goal (improve SEO, increase traffic, improve social engagement);
- Author (if you have multiple).
Categorizing your content helps establish a hierarchy of importance and makes data collection more efficient by cutting out unnecessary pages to crawl.
3. Data collection
If you have preferred SEO and auditing tools, stick to what you know (or what you’re paying for). Most metrics are universal and should remain identical across tools. Here are some tools we use to audit content performance.
Screaming Frog is a website crawler. It takes URLs from your sitemap, crawls the website, and generates an SEO audit for you. If you have a small site, Screaming Frog will audit up to 500 links for free. Screaming Frog may detect issues such as unoptimized information, missing links, duplicate content, blocked robots.txt, missing alt text, and a lot more.
Semrush’s user-friendly interface and site audit tool provide an easy-to-understand review of a website’s general performance. It’s an on-page SEO analyzer that delivers actionable advice to improve a website’s performance. Semrush also provides excellent competitor analysis and the ability to track visibility and keyword ranks across several domains.
Google Analytics isn’t a traditional audit/crawler. Instead, it provides robust information and data about your site’s traffic and user behavior that will help you formulate your audit. Additionally, it shows you how long visitors spend on pages, the most popular pages, visitor patterns, and demographic breakdowns, amongst a full suite of analytical data.
The Site Crawl tool shows you how Google views and understands your site. This insight will help future audits be more effective.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is an underused SEO tool. Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) is a free tool for monitoring and analyzing your website’s organic search data.
The most important feature of GSC is that all data is Google-sourced. Therefore, connecting your website to Search Console will aid Google in understanding and crawling it. Crawling can be more thorough and frequent, helping to rank or re-rank pages and allowing you to look into technical issues that may be causing SEO de-ranking or poor user experiences.
Once you have your tools set, you can begin auditing your content and extracting the necessary data.
What type of data do I need?
The data necessary for auditing content performance depends on your goals and which metric you find valuable. Some will place traffic above all else, others rather have conversions are the defining success metric. However, content marketing metrics generally fall into five categories:
- SEO metrics (tip: use Google Analytics): metadata, target keyword, headings tags, inbound links, image alt tags, broken links
- User behavior metrics: Page visits (at least three months, if possible), indexability, page entries and exits, bounce rate, average time on page
- Content data points: Word count, type of content, assigned tags or categories, author
- Engagement metrics: Likes, shares, comments, mentions
- Sales metrics: leads, conversion rates, ROI
4.Interpret your content audit data
To get a comprehensive view of the state of your site’s content, look at all of your content analytics.
Your website, for example, may receive a lot of traffic but have a high bounce rate and short session duration. This indicates that consumers are interested in your subject, but the content does not meet their needs. In this situation, you’ll need to evaluate several aspects of your content like the relevancy of your landing pages, CTAs, or the page load speed, to figure out why people are leaving your website.
It helps to consider the intent of each piece of content. For example, material meant to increase awareness may attract more visitors but convert at a lower rate. Although more focused “transactional” material receives less traffic, it generates more leads, and so forth.
If the data shows performance fails to meet acceptable levels, it’s time to optimize.
Examine your content resources
To ensure that your content audit yields meaningful results, define a set of follow-up actions after the audit is complete. To do so, you must analyze the acquired data and develop conclusions.
Sadly, there are no hard and fast guidelines like “Do ___ if your content data says ___.” Instead, you must examine the collected data for any trends that may help you formulate your final recommendations.
Try to examine each piece of content according to your goals, using your collected data and metrics, and assign one of the following statuses:
You probably don’t need to refresh your content if it performs well and remains relevant. Instead, consider repurposing/republishing this content as part of your ongoing content marketing efforts.
Some examples are evergreen content, success stories, FAQs, and general information about your company.
This content is performing well enough, but you’ve spotted more minor issues that can drag down its performance.
Blogs less than 12 months old, newer resource pages, and pages with poor/missing SEO best practices can fall into this category.
The content audit may assist you in identifying underperforming web pages. Examine this material and consider how you can improve it. You might also come across some content that contains obsolete information that needs to be updated.
Blog posts with statistics, significant articles with out-of-date material, and low-traffic or low-conversion content are just a few examples.
Assets that are either too brief or insufficiently thorough would benefit from combining with another asset. Don’t forget to perform a 301 Redirect on any post absorbed into another to avoid losing any SEO equity the original post had accrued.
If the content isn’t bringing traffic, has few to no external links and you cannot improve a piece or updating it would require too much time and effort, deleting it off your website may be the best solution.
A few examples are content relating to a time-sensitive event or activity, information about out-of-stock products, duplicate content, and previous campaigns. Check out our Content Pruning Guide for a more detailed look.
You’ll have more data than you likely know what to do with. Setting up broader categories can help you decide your next steps and refine page-by-page optimizations.
5. Adjust your content strategy
When conducting a website content audit, bear in mind your long-term marketing strategy. Using your newly acquired data, adapt your content strategy to appeal to new audiences, increase organic reach, and improve conversion rates. Build on the things that work. To find out where and how to improve your content, examine it against your most successful material.
What works now may not work tomorrow; therefore, continual modifications are required. Conducting content audits at least twice a year is a great way to assess your progress and ensure you don’t fall behind. In a dynamic industry, you may need to review more frequently, like once a month or once a quarter. You must adapt and develop new tactics to connect and engage your audiences.
It’s time to improve your material — your action plan should be contingent upon your goals and analytical conclusions.
Prioritize your actions
Refer to your goals from Step 1 before creating an action plan for each URL. Every content investment should support a business goal.
Next, prioritize your actions based on the effort required to achieve your business goals. For example, a page ranking on page 2 needs a few adjustments, while something barely breaking into the top 100 will require a lot more effort. However, some target keywords or audiences will be more valuable to your business, so decide which measures are worth the time and which can hold on until later.
It is advised to add a priority column to your spreadsheet as a way to sort what you need to do or track current progress.
Create action plans for your content
Similar to your content analysis, this is a more targeted plan of the required actions for each piece of content. Pages that fall into the Optimize, Update, and Consolidate categories require further action, and now is the time to outline the next steps.
Here are some actionable moves to include in your content performance audit for individual pages:
- Repurpose content: Combine various bits of content to create a new one or publish it in a new format (e-book, infographics, slides, etc.). — Use a 301 redirect for removed web pages to avoid dreaded 404 errors.
- Rewrite/Refresh content: If you have underperforming blog entries, consider rewriting them with new examples, tips, and updated data points (for example, new stats or new product details).
- Expand content: Google loves long content. Long-form content averages 77.2% more links than short posts.
- Structure your content: A logical structure with appropriate H2 and H3 tags can aid readers and bots to better understand your material, make it easier to read, and increase your traffic. Additionally, well-structured articles are more likely to rank for Featured Snippets.
- Update CTAs: Substitute outdated banners and buttons with relevant offers to reignite your content marketing funnel and increase conversion rates.
- Add videos/Images: Incorporating visual content increases website traffic and makes your content more engaging. Additionally, videos and images on a web page increase the chances of ranking for Google SERPs.
- Optimize metadata: Rewrite your titles, meta descriptions, and H1 tags if necessary. Include new keywords to make the content more natural and appealing to consumers and search engines.
- Optimize Links: Include links to new articles to blog posts about related themes. This might aid in structuring your website and lower your bounce rate. Additionally, remove any broken links to avoid sending poor-quality signals to Google.
- Inform Google about your content updates by using Google Search Console. The URL Inspection tool within Search Console allows you to submit recently updated web pages to Google’s index.
6. Take action
You have goals, data, and a plan. Now it’s time to create deadlines and implement these initiatives. Schedule the necessary time on your calendar, spreadsheet, or project management tool, and get to work. It may even be worth cutting down on new content while you make time to optimize your current roster.
It’s easy to get “analysis paralysis” when staring at the masses of data your content audit may create. There are so many conclusions and things to do that you end up doing nothing. Don’t fall into this trap.
Here’s a quick rundown of an action plan that can net the most bang for your buck.
Where to start: Focus on quick content wins
Don’t have a lot of time or need to make improvements fast? Here are quick guides for prioritizing quick wins:
- Identify pages with declining traffic over time with a Content Decay Analysis.
- Target pages ranking in positions 11-20 with the Striking Distance Strategy.
General content optimization checklist
Still overwhelmed? Here’s a checklist of general updates to make any blog post fresh and relevant:
- Rewrite the intro and conclusion to emulate top-performing pages.
- Eliminate/consolidate any weak areas
- Add more content to pages or sections that need more details
- Update any statistics, facts, or quotes, and ensure all referenced sources are no more than two years old.
- Replace any out-of-date or irrelevant pictures/videos.
- Replace any broken links with live pages.
Along with doing content optimization, double-check the fundamentals:
- What is the reader’s next step? Is there a call to action (CTA)?
- Keep the same URL to maintain rankings and external links.
- Go into Google Search Console and request a re-index of the page.
Auditing competitor websites
Unless you offer a truly one-of-a-kind product or service, you are not the only player in town. Your content’s performance will always be weighed against the content published by your competitors — whether competing for ranking visibility, clicks, or attention.
A competitor content audit is akin to reviewing your own, but with certain limits because some metrics require direct access to their website and accounts. Despite this, there are still many things to track.
- Use tools like BuzzSumo’s Backlinks, or check a post’s share counter to see how many links your competitors’ content pages have.
- Use Semrush’s Domain Analysis tool and check the URL’s rankings and data.
What works for competitors may work for you. Execute Skyscraper link building and improve on what they’re doing, while poaching valuable backlinks. Keeping an eye on competitors is a good way to analyze gaps and opportunities you can exploit.
Content is best treated like a plant. It needs tending to in order to grow and keep bearing fruit. A content audit offers a check-up of all the metrics that make one piece of content successful or another unsuccessful. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. It all depends on your needs and your goals.
At RMG, we maintain a close check on our clients’ content success in order to make informed marketing decisions that will save you time, decrease expenses, expand your brand, and increase your total marketing ROI. Reach out and ask how we can redefine your content marketing efforts.