Content marketing, it’s a key component of most online marketing strategies and we continue to see greater levels of investment in this particular marketing activity. One of the problems with the perception that “content is king” is that it leads to companies thinking the aim is simply to produce new content on a regular basis.
But do you know if your content is actually delivering value for your audience or your business?
- Is the content you’re producing what your audience is seeking out or wanting to see?
- How do you know if your content is of sufficient quality?
- Is your content seen, linked to or shared?
- What can your existing content tell you to inform future content?
It’s likely that all sites will have content that is weaker, outdated or simply redundant. Identifying and addressing this should be part of your content marketing strategy and this is where conducting a content audit comes in.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is a process of collating, categorising and assessing your current content assets and using metrics to better understand the value of what you are producing.
The analysis needs to be objective and done with a clear understanding of the business goals, content objectives and the target audience in order to make definitive assessments as to the value of each individual content asset.
Why conduct a content audit?
The data gathered from a content audit can help inform not only your future content strategy but also identify opportunities to improve existing content assets. In addition, it will also highlight low-value content that can be pruned, as it delivers no value to your site or your audience.
In Google’s Search Rater Quality Guidelines they talk about a principle they’ve termed E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. These three attributes give us a clear indication as to what Google is looking from your content. Therefore your audit should be conducted with these traits firmly in mind.
How to conduct a content audit
#1 Create an inventory of content assets
The first step is to create a list of all of your content assets. For this, you’ll need a tool that can crawl your site. Screaming Frog is a great option, and it’s free if you have less than 500 URLs. If you have more than 500 URLs you’ll likely need to be paying for a tool, or be really cheeky and use those free trials they offer. Deep Crawl, SEMrush and Content King all work for this purpose.
Once you’ve crawled the site you’ll be able to export a list of all the URLs on your domain into a spreadsheet for analysis. Segment your URLs into separate tabs based on site the site directories where content is uploaded. For example, if you have a blog and all your blog posts sit under a /blog directory you can use ‘highlight all’ to select only URLs containing that directory and cut and paste these into their own tab.
#2 Define your goals and metrics
Now we have a list of all of our assets it’s time to decide how we’re going to measure performance and what metrics and information we need to determine this. Most of the crawling tools mentioned will automatically export things like title tags and meta descriptions along with the URL. In addition to these, you’ll also want to include the following for each individual URL;
- Total sessions
- Organic sessions
- Organic entrances
- Organic bounce rate
- Average time on page
We’d suggest looking at an average over at least the last six months across all of these metrics.
- Number of inbound links - using SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs or equivalent
- Page authority - using SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs or equivalent
- Word count for text content - helps to identify thin pages. Screaming Frog can pull this for you
- Target keyphrase and search volume - if your content is targeting a particular keyphrase you can include this and the search volume in your spreadsheet too
Now we know the metrics we’re going to use it’s time to gather the data.
#3 Gather your asset data
To gather all this data can be quite time-consuming if you’re having to do it manually. There are tools and clever functions you can use to pull data from different tools and amalgamate it into a single spreadsheet, but if you work with small sections of the site at a time, manual will be fine for most people. If you’ve got some advanced Excel skills, these could come in really handy here.
We’re building a large spreadsheet of all these predefined metrics for each individual URL and this will act as the basis for all the analysis, so take your time and make sure you’ve gathered all your data before you start to analyse.
#4 Analyse your data
With all the data gathered we begin to make our assessments. Each assessment will be different based on the data you gathered. It’s a manual process, and one not to be rushed.
You can utilise conditional formatting on columns using benchmark or averages in order to quickly identify URLs where metrics sit above or below your predetermined limits. So for example, you can easily highlight all URLs that have zero inbound links, very low bounce rates or high organic entrances.
Add a column on your spreadsheet called ‘Actions’ and after reviewing all the metrics for each URL you’ll need to make a judgement on what to do with that content. We'd recommend the assigning each piece one of the following labels.
- Retain - the content is of sufficient quality, depth, performs well and demonstrates a high level of E-A-T. These are not a priority for changes or improvements at this time. It’s likely that there will only be a handful of these as they will be your very best content pieces
- Update - the content is relevant, of value and is of a good standard but it has become outdated. This content is worth retaining, but only if it is updated so that it is current and accurate
- Merge - the content may be very similar to other assets you have covering the same topic. Therefore merging the two would create a single, more comprehensive piece of content of higher quality
- Improve - the content is relevant but not of sufficient quality. Your engagement metrics will likely give you a strong indication here with the page receiving very little traffic or the engagement metrics being very low
- Prune - the content redundant, outdated or trivial. If it’s not delivering value for your audience, traffic, links or social shares, then it may be best to remove it altogether. If you are going to remove it, consider whether there’s a related content piece that would be relevant to redirect this URL to before deleting the content
Whilst making these assessments, also consider potential opportunities for improving and updating the optimisation of content pieces. If the content assets have been produced with the aim of driving traffic, now is the perfect opportunity to review the keyphrase targeting and make changes where necessary.
#5 Draw up an action plan
With your content now assessed, we move onto creating a plan of action to address the issues and opportunities identified.
If you have a reasonable level of content, you’ll now have a fairly large spreadsheet with a lot of colour coded metrics and potentially a large number of actions. Add another column to your spreadsheet (the last one I promise) to include a priority scale.
Merging, updating and improving content will all require more time and effort to execute, but it will likely deliver greater impact than pruning low-value content. Consider which will have the greatest impact on your SEO and assign a priority accordingly.
It may be the case that you need to factor these actions into your existing content calendar, slowing down the current level of production and dedicating some time to improving the assets you already possess rather than focusing on creating more new assets.
#6 Adjust your content marketing strategy
Taking stock of what’s working for you and understanding what isn’t should help inform your future content marketing strategy. Try and identify trends and patterns with:
- Content topics - which content topics really resonate with your audience? Is there a clear pattern with the subjects that really engage them or lead to actions? Equally, are there subjects that never seem to strike a chord that perhaps you should steer clear of in the future?
- Content formats - can you deduce anything from the format of the content? Perhaps visual and multimedia content performs better than text content, in which case you may want to focus on producing more in those formats.
- Style - With text-based content, do list pieces, how-to guides or less formal and more entertaining pieces show clear signs as being of greater interest and value to your audience?
- Content length - there is a strong suggestion that long-form content performs better than short-form content, both from an SEO perspective and from an audience perspective. What does the data from your analysis tell you and how can you use this to help inform future production?
In our experience, very few organisations review the impact their content makes and the value it delivers for their audience and their business. There tends to be a fixation on producing new content without taking the time to review what has already been created to see whether greater value could be extracted from these existing assets.
A content audit should be something you are doing at least annually if you’re regularly creating new content. It’s a lot of initial work, labour intensive and usually leads to more work, but the value it can deliver is significant. And if no one else in your sector is doing this, and in our experience, that’s more than likely the case, it can offer a great competitive advantage.
If you’ve never conducted a content audit and would like support in completing one for your website just let us know and we’d be happy to help.