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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?
It’s likely that all sites will have content that is weaker, outdated or simply redundant.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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
We’d suggest looking at an average over at least the last six months across all of these metrics.
Now we know the metrics we’re going to use it’s time to gather the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.