Sometimes you need to look backwards to move forwards…

A content audit is the process of reviewing your website’s existing content to identify what should be deleted, what could be refreshed or improved, and what’s missing.

Understanding what’s working and what’s not can give you valuable insights that will shape your future planning.

At this time of year, many marketing teams will be planning their activity for 2021. But many won’t take the time to go back, check and tweak what they already have, leaving a valuable resource untapped.

When is the right time to conduct an audit?

Ultimately it depends on three things:

1. The nature of your content and how often you publish

2. How fast your industry is evolving

3. When you last did an audit

If you have a big website and really active social channels, then it could be more frequent, but I tend to recommend an annual review.

I would also suggest conducting your audit after you have an overarching content strategy in place (not to be confused with a detailed content plan or calendar). When you’re assessing the value of existing content, some of the evaluation criteria used will be dependent on the strategy moving forward.

Although the performance of existing content does come into play when deciding what to do in the future (i.e. more of what works and less of what doesn’t), just because a piece of content received lots of traffic doesn’t mean it’s good content if the topic is no longer relevant or your target audience has changed. And you can’t do a gap analysis without knowing the content themes or pillars that you need to cover.

The benefits of a content audit

  1. Stay Google compliant by removing or updating poor-quality content

Google’s Panda update in 2011 meant that companies could no longer get away with stuffing web pages full of artificially optimised poor-quality copy.

By demoting low-value content on the search engine results pages (SERPs), Google pushed marketers to think more about the value their content delivered to readers.

Since then, Google has continued to prioritise rewarding quality content and user experience.

Another SEO factor is called Crawl Budget, which refers to how much attention your site will get from search crawlers. Basically, the more pages you have, the more crawl budget you require for those pages to be indexed and crawled by Google after they’re published. If the number of pages exceeds your site’s crawl budget, you’re going to have pages on your site that aren’t indexed.

It’s not something to worry about if you have a smaller website (1000 URLs or less), but on big sites with many thousands of pages, like ecommerce sites, it does become a factor. You should also be considering whether content is optimised for mobile as this is a key ranking and usability factor.

Aside from keeping Google happy, good quality content builds trust and drives better conversion rates.

Of course, don’t assume that every low-quality page automatically needs to be removed from your website. Sometimes information can be refreshed or expanded on, turning a poor-quality, piece of content into something of high value.

2. Identify outdated content

Information, statistics, and studies become out of date quickly these days, especially if you’re in an industry that’s rapidly evolving.

If some of your content is no longer up to date and accurate, you don’t always have to delete those pages from your site. In some instances, you may be able to simply update some of the content. When more extensive surgery is needed you can at least use the existing content as a starting point for a new asset, which may save time when compared to starting from scratch.

3. Extend the life of content that still has value

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to content can be generating a never-ending stream of fresh ideas. But you may have content that still has value, buried in your archive. The hard work has already been done, but it’s going to waste.

Breathing new life into existing content is a win-win because:

  • It reduces the number of new topic ideas you have to generate.
  • By repurposing into a new format (infographics or video, for example) you also recycle the information in a new way that will appeal to a different audience.
  • Just scheduling the same piece of content to be shared more than once extends its value. If it’s not time sensitive and the information is still relevant, why not repost at different times of the day, week, month or year?

4. Discover how your existing content should influence your future strategy

An audit will help shape your future content plan by:

  • Reminding you of what you’ve done already to prevent duplicates
  • Identifying opportunities for internal linking between assets
  • Identifying what’s performed well
  • Flagging gaps in topical coverage that should be filled
  • Saving time and resources on producing content that’s not performing well

5. Maintain consistent messaging and tone of voice

Consistent messaging and tone of voice helps people trust, and feel a connection with, your brand.

An audit helps you assess the consistency of content which may have been created across many years, by different personnel, at different stages of the brand’s evolution.

How to do a content audit

1. Create an inventory

First, you’ll need to capture all the content you’ve publishedso far and add to a spreadsheet of some kind. Vital points to include are:

  • URL
  • Title
  • Category / theme
  • Type of content (e.g. blog, podcast, infographic, video, etc)
  • Meta data

For a small site you can do a lot of this manually, but if you have a big site, you’ll probably want to use content auditing tools or software to create your inventory:

  • Ahrefs
    Check for search volumes, backlinks, competitors, and content that works well in your industry.
  • Google Search Console 
    Check for keywords, pages, clicks, impressions, and indexing status.
  • Google Analytics 
    Track and generate accurate, real-time reports on your site traffic.
  • Screaming Frog
    This tool will crawl your entire website and spot SEO issues, including word count, broken links, duplicate content, page titles, and meta data.
  • Surfer SEO
    Identifies on-page SEO elements that you need to optimise including word count/article length, common keywords, and keyword density.

2. Agree assessment criteria

This will be different for each business, but some factors you may wish to consider are…

a) Performance

  • Website
    • Page views
    • Average read time
    • Bounce rate
    • Traffic sources
  • SEO
    • Backlinks
    • Page load time
    • Organic traffic
    • Metadata
    • Keywords and phrases included and correct
  • Social media engagement
    • Likes
    • Shares
    • Comments
  • Lead generation
    • Newsletter / email sign-ups
    • Contact forms submitted

b) Quality

  • Well written / designed
  • Relevant
  • Accurate / outdated
  • On brand

3. Action required (prioritised – high, med, low)

  • Remove
  • Update (Why? Content out of date / tone of voice not on brand etc)
  • Use topic for new asset
  • Repurpose into new format
  • Link internally

It’s important to remember that this audit is ultimately for your business, so only capture relevant information that will help you and your specific objectives. Don’t waste time capturing more information than you need as it will just muddy the waters, and you won’t end up using it anyway.

4. Analyse your content and agree an action plan with timeline

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in! As mentioned at the start of this article, remember to analyse content in the context of your overarching strategy.

Your content strategy (a topic for another day!) should define overarching content themes to develop, along with your audience personas and the specific subjects they will find valuable and engaging. It should also include the content required for SEO purposes.

All of this information will act as a benchmark for the evaluation of existing content, and the gap analysis that will drive new assets.

Keeping it fresh

If you regularly publish new content, audits shouldn’t be seen as optional. Yes, they can be time consuming, but they are a crucial part of effective content marketing and SEO.

Still unsure where to start? Our team based in Bristol/Bath is always on hand to help with content audits, content strategy or creation. Please get in touch if you’d like to chat about a project or just to get some advice.

Ben Hollom

November 11, 2020