Many small businesses have content on their website that needs a bit of refreshing (including mine!). If your content was written more than a year ago, it may be time to schedule a content audit before you plan your content marketing activities.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is a thorough review of all the content on your website to assess each piece for its accuracy, freshness and relevancy to your target. The decision is whether the content is fine as is, could be improved or consolidated, or deleted.
Keeping all of your content up-to-date is important to ensuring your business:
- Becomes visible in search results
- Projects a consistent brand to your ideal client
Poorly written content wastes your time and resources and potentially drives visitors from your website.
Why do you need a content audit?
There are several reasons to conduct an audit:
- Many of your blog posts were written more than a year ago. Depending on your industry, things may change enough that you need to review your posts for accuracy. If your posts are about plumbing, landscaping or remodeling or other home services, you probably have more evergreen content than someone in the digital marketing world (like me!) Check out this post on how to refresh your evergreen content for more visibility.
- Your posts are not ranking in the search results. After running SEO reports, you realize you are not ranking for some important keyword phrases. The content audit should focus on how to update or create content that can improve your site’s natural search performance.
- The time on page for your posts is short increasing your bounce rate. Although having a high bounce rate is not necessarily bad, you may want to review those posts to make sure they aren’t suffering from thin, out-of-date or just plain incorrect information.
Companies who have conducted an audit and deleted out-of-date or low-quality content saw an increase in traffic. You can find out why in Ahrefs blog post on the topic.
The content audit process
Conducting an audit is not difficult but it is a major effort depending on the amount of content you have. Here are critical steps you must take to ensure their audit will be actually be useful and not a waste of time.
Step 1: Determine the goals
Before you start your content audit, you should determine your goal. If you just audit your content with no specific outcome in mind, you might be collecting the wrong data. Are you trying to:
- Improve organic search performance?
- Create more cornerstone content by consolidating several posts on the same topic?
- See what’s missing to generate ideas for future content pieces?
- Understand which topics your audience prefers what isn’t working?
- Eliminate or update content that is out-of-date, no longer relevant or poor-performing?
By determining your goal, you can now focus on the data needed that will help you achieve that goal. Do you want to:
- Improve organic search performance? Gather ranking data for each page.
- Eliminate content that is no longer relevant or of interest? Collect page views and time on page.
- Update content that is out of date? Record the last update date.
Be strategic in what data you gather.
Step 2: Create a content inventory
The first thing to do is to create an inventory of all content on your website. This will be the most resource intensive part of the process. To get the data you need, you will need to refer to several tools and consolidate the information into a spreadsheet.
If you have been keeping an editorial calendar for your posts, that can serve as the base of the inventory. If you don’t have an editorial calendar or want to make sure you account for all posts and pages, get a copy of Screaming Frog.
The free version will inventory up to 500 URLs. Select just the HTML pages to limit the number of URLs found to stay within the 500. Export the data into your favorite spreadsheet tool.
Screaming Frog provides a lot of useful SEO information, but for your content audit, focus on the following data:
- Title including length
- Meta Description
- H1 and two H2 headings and length
- Word count
Your inventory can start with these columns. Then we can add other data to help you achieve your goal.
Step 3: Add Google Analytics data
Google Analytics provides a lot of data about your content and how it is performing. The following items are good to know to help determine the quality of your content. Add these to the spreadsheet if you have a small amount of content, otherwise, sort your Screaming Frog data and Google Analytics data by the URL and look at them side-by-side.
- Bounce rate
Look at data for 3 to 6 months so you can determine what pages are being visited more frequently. Go into GA and select Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages.
Use this data to determine what content is performing well and which you need to investigate. Any page that has a small number of visits are good candidates to evaluate.
Step 4: Rate and analyze your content
Now that you’ve collected all the data, what content is performing well and what isn’t? Is there content that is:
- Well-written and recently updated but isn’t often visited? You may need to look at the on-page SEO or your promotion strategies (do you actually share your content on social media?)
- Light on substance or out of date? Determine whether a complete rewrite or an update would help you achieve your goal.
- Irrelevant for your target audience? Eliminate it from your website.
Create a rating system for your content. Keep your rating system simple. Use the most important metric to determine the rating. If your goal is search engine visibility, you may want to rate your content based on the following priority:
- Rank for the relevant keyword phrase
- Number of sessions
- On-page optimization information from Screaming Frog
Add a column to your spreadsheet for rating and then rank them A, B and C.
- Keep the content rated A
- Update or consolidate the B content
- Eliminate C content
Remember to 301 redirect any URLs of content that you consolidate to the new page.
Step 5: Create an action plan
Now that you have your content audit, create a plan for deleting, updating or consolidating your content. Prioritize the tasks and tackle those that have the most impact. If you have content that:
- Ranks well but has little traffic, update the content and the on-page SEO.
- Is well-written but is out-of-date, post an updated version.
- Was covered in multiple posts, consolidate the topic into one piece.
Then promote the content to your social profiles. If no one knows about your content, you will never increase traffic to your website.
The quality of your content and whether it resonates with the visitor is what determines whether they will consider you when they need your product or service. And as Ahrefs found out through their content audit, deleting out-of-date or low-quality content actually increased their website traffic.
A content audit does take work, but is worth it if your content converts visitors into customers. Once you are through the initial data collection, you can prioritize the tasks and organize them into smaller chunks. This will make the update and rewrite effort a little bit easier to schedule.