The 5-Step Content Audit to Do Now

Jessica Thiefels on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

how to do a content audit

If your website or blog is a few years old, and you’ve regularly published articles, it may be time for a content audit. Odds are you’ve accumulated a lot of content—both good and bad—and old articles are collecting dust when they could be updated, republished and re-shared with your audience. 

A content audit allows you to do a few things:

  • Uncover high-level insights into your content. What’s working? What isn’t? What’s driving traffic? What’s driving engagement? While you may track this regularly already, looking at if from a broader perspective, like over the course of 2 years or 5 years, for example, allows you to make better data-backed statements about your content. 
  • Because of this, a content audit will also inform your content strategy moving forward. When you know what’s working, you can be more specific about the content you create, ensuring it’s valuable based on a strong set of data.
  • Finally, an audit helps you get more from your best-performing content. Once discovered, you can optimize with in-text ads, lead-driving downloads, and links to other related content, all of which benefits your SEO, blog and business as a whole.

As you might imagine, a content audit isn’t a quick and easy process. Some larger companies even hire outside agencies to do them because of how time-consuming they can be. Not only do you need to scour your data, but you also need to make decisions about the quality for each article, and then choose whether to keep, edit/update, redirect or combine each piece—and then do the work of updating, combining and removing. 

If you’re ready to dedicate time to a content audit—and reap the benefits of doing so—follow these five steps to get it right. 

1. Update Your Current Content Goals

Doing a content audit allows you to reflect on your current content goals and how both current and new content can be used more effectively. In order to audit your content, you have to be clear on what each piece of content should be doing—that way you know where to look for data, while also being able to decide whether to keep, update or re-direct. 

For example, if your main goal is to drive traffic to landing pages, part of your data assessment will require you to start with your highest-revenue landing pages and work backwards. Which content is driving traffic to these top pages? Secondly, which pages are falling short and what do we do with them? Finally, how do we update these top pages to be even more valuable, thus earning more SEO value and traffic?

If your goals aren’t yet specified, do that before starting your audit. This may take time, and require buy-in from a number of stakeholders, but in the end, will result in a stronger content audit that drives greater results. 

To make this process easier, focus on just a few important goals. Arash Asli, CEO of Yocale suggests: “Narrow your attention to the most important metrics that connect to your goals at the time. By looking only at a handful of metrics at a given time, you can draw insights more easily. Perhaps you want to measure conversion data. Maybe you want to measure traffic. Maybe you want to measure engagement (such as time spent on site or social shares). You could even assess aspects of your SEO strategy.”

Remember that the scope and scale of your content audit is up to you. If you don’t have a lot of time, break it down throughout the year. Do one mini content audit focused on just one goal each quarter, instead of a single major overhaul. 

2. Collect Content Audit Data

This is a spreadsheet-based project, and Search Engine Journal has a great template if you don’t want to start fresh. If you have a manageable amount of blog posts, you can manually start your list with titles and URLs for each post. However, this won’t be the best method if your site has hundreds (or thousands) of blog posts. 

Instead, use tools that will make the process easier and more management. Here are some tools to leverage for your content audit: 

  • Google XML Sitemap Plugin or Yoast Sitemap: Sitemaps will be a more labor-intensive approach, since you’ll get a list of all indexed pages on your site. However, you can use this list to pull out the blog posts.
  • Screaming Frog: This is an SEO crawler tool with free and paid versions. The free option gives you up to 500 URLs. This tool will also automate some of the data points for you as well.
  • URL Profiler: Another paid SEO crawler tool that provides a list of URLs with SEO data points.  

Now is the time to start collecting data, which will depend upon which goals you set earlier. The good news is, if you used a tool like SEO crawler, some of these data points are included. The rest you’ll gather from Google Analytics and potentially even ecommerce tools and other data-collecting tools that you currently use. 

From a content marketing perspective, there are a number of metrics that denote the effectiveness of the page, while also providing insight into how you can improve it. At a base level, consider including the following in your audit: 

  • Sessions/page views
  • Bounce rate 
  • Number of social shares, or post engagement (comments) 
  • Conversion data (any associated sales funnel data) 
  • Organic traffic
  • Source/medium

Use this as a starting point and add the data points that are specific to your content audit. 

3. Assess All Your Content 

As you dig up old content, you need to figure out which content you’ll keep, redirect, update and combine. Like the data you collect, each content audit will have its own unique set of questions you need to ask to start sorting. Here are a few questions that make sense, regardless of your specific audit goals—build your own question set from here. 

  • Is the information still relevant? For example, does it include any industry news or trends that are out-of-date? 
  • Is this blog post still aligned with my overall business model and objectives? Small businesses often shift focus, and perhaps old content doesn’t reflect your current mission or speak to your new target audience.
  • Do these articles still provide value to my audience? Writing is a constant evolution; older articles might not be up to your current standards. 
  • Can I update with new research, stats, or resources to provide even more value? Perhaps you have new knowledge, expertise, or case studies to include in old articles to beef up their value.  

4.  Analyze the Audit Data 

As you analyze your data, you’ll add each post into your spreadsheet and ultimately decide what to do with it. Here’s a breakdown of the four actions you have to choose from with each piece you analyze. 

  1. Keep: The content performs well, you see no needed improvements, it’s still relevant and drives consistent traffic to your website, or leads to conversions. 
  2. Update: Update and edit content if specific points or claims are out-of-date. This is also applicable if you find the blog still provides value, but traffic has declined. Updates and revisions can give it new life. 
  3. Consolidate: Taking a bird’s eye view of all of your content will allow you to see if you have multiple articles that cover similar topics. Consolidate duplicate or redundant information, so your content (and keywords) aren’t fighting against one another. 
  4. Redirect: Eliminate irrelevant content that no longer reflects your business objectives or point of view. You might also want to remove articles that get little to no traffic. 

5. Clean Up Content 

Once you finish the data portion of the audit, it’s time to take action on your content. I recommend bringing in extra resources to complete this portion of the project. Check out our guide to outsourcing content marketing if this is something you might be interested in. If you’re simply bringing in writers, you’ll still need to organize all the content in terms of actions to be taken. Here are a few tips for doing that. 

Updating Content

Highlight sections, claims, points, or data that you need to update and edit. When updating articles that have declined in traffic, use the data to determine why and add an action item to fix that, I.E. not enough backlinks, not enough value, low social engagement. Make sure to note the original publish date and when it was updated. 

As you update your content, don’t forget to go back to basics to make sure all pieces can drive the most value. Check out some of our blog posts for a refresher: 

Content Consolidation 

If you’re combining multiple articles, choose the best page for the consolidated piece to live. In most cases, this is the older page, which is more likely to have better SEO value. Rewrite and consolidate all information into one comprehensive guide and then redirect the URLs of the articles that you’re eliminating to the new combo blog post. 

Consolidating multiple pieces of content like this is a great way to establish long-form, deep-dive guides, so use this as a chance to create comprehensive content that will serve your audience and drive SEO value.

Redirect and Remove 

When removing or combining content, don’t forget to follow SEO best practices. Check out this Yoast guide for deleting pages to get it right.

Learn From Your Content Audit 

After you complete your content audit, you not only have fresh, updated content on your site, but highly valuable data. Use it to your advantage and create a list of actionable insights to apply to future content. Implement those strategies into your existing content calendar and strategy and don’t forget to repeat the process. An annual content audit ensures your content is always performing its best, driving greater results and ROI.