I’ve recently read a case study about a successful content audit that managed to resuscitate a website and I remembered i was planning on writing about this topic for a long time.
In short, the case was about an audit performed on 1800Dorbell.com, a website specialized in selling doorbells and other accessories for homes. The website was plagued by broken links and other SEO related issues such as duplicate content, low quality inbound links and so on. After the audit, suggestions were made which led to a staggering 96% increase in revenue upon applying.
How is this possible?
I will try to answer this question and at the same time, provide you with a complete guide on content audit and why this process is so important for a content marketer or a website owner.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is an activity of compiling a list of all the content from a website, an inventory of everything that has been published over time. This information can be then analyzed based on several relevant metrics and used for improvement, content repurposing or marketing strategy development.
In other words, the compiled list helps us assess what content can be kept as it is, what can be improved, removed or consolidated.
Mainly, there are three types of content audit:
- Full content audit – includes a complete list of all content items from a website. It may include not only the articles and pages but also the downloadable assets.
This complete list should be used in various cases, including on website migration but also in case you want to improve your results based on your main goals and metrics. Here’s a short list of everything that this sheet should include:
- Index number
- URL (of the article, page, downloadable item, resource etc.)
- Seo title
- Keywords (Main and secondary)
- Notes and suggestions – actions to be taken
- Author – name, email, other contact details
Also, the list should be complete so that nothing would be left out of the audit. I will talk in details about it during the next chapters.
- Partial audit – This type of list may include a partial database of the content published within the last few months or years, the articles that are performing better, a specific category of articles etc.
- Sampled audit – This type of audit is less detailed than the previous ones and includes sampled pieces of content from the website which are being used as random examples.
What is the content audit used for?
The main purpose of the content audit is to produce a comprehensive and complete listing of the website’s content and save it in a spreadsheet. This list is going to be used on several types of content and marketing strategy analysis that will come in handy when the marketer needs to update the strategy, re-develop it or apply changes to it.
This list can also be used if you want to move the website to another content management system or if you want to talk with authors about improving the content or repurposing it.
By creating this list, you will get a better understanding of the content that has been published on the website and everything that needs to be done further for better results.
Let’s summarize some of the most common reasons you might need a content audit:
- Find out the content that needs to be consolidated
- Find out overlapping topics
- Check for broken links for SEO purposes
- Find out the content that needs to be updated
- Find out the content that needs to be improved
- Analyze which articles are ranking for what keywords and create or improve your SEO strategy based on your findings
- Analyze which pages are the strongest ones in terms of SEO and learn how to leverage their strength or develop your content strategy based on their success
- Find out new marketing opportunities
- Analyze a website you are about to buy or make an offer for
How to perform a content audit?
There are several steps you need to undertake here and I will try to pinpoint each of them in the correct order for a better comprehension of the task we are undertaking.
Let’s analyze together what we need to do and how to do it and explain the entire process:
1. The content of the audit list
First and foremost, we need to define our goals and implicitly, the information that will need to be gathered and listed on the content audit report.
Recommended information to be collected:
- Title of the article that is listed
- URL – The link to the article listed in the sheet
- Navigation title – the SEO name of the listed URL
- Content description – A short description of the article or the content that is on the listed page.
- Comments – advice and suggestions regarding each of the listed pages. Anything that you want to remember later you can note here.
Supplementary information to be collected if needed:
- Keywords (main and secondary – if needed, this section can be expanded into two separate sections) – This information is important if you want to analyze the website from an SEO point of view. Also, it is important if you want to analyze page ranks based on keywords or improve ranking on them.
- Topic, category, tags and other types of metadata for the listed articles or blog posts.
- Author – (contact for the author) – This information is important if you want to easily contact the authors for discussing the content marketing strategy, improve the content or update old content for more relevancy.
- Date of publishing/date of the last update.
- Related content.
- Attached files if any (downloadable content, charts, graphs, and images if they are relevant or important to this list)
- A numbering system which will be later very useful if you are dealing with large amounts of data.
Also, it might help you to have a secondary list that compiles all the actions that need to be done following the content audit.
Here’s an example of what this list can look like:
|Recommended action||Total number or items||Page views/Clicks/Shares per day/month/etc|
2. Define your goals and/or metrics
Before actually starting with your content inventory, it may be useful to define your main goals.
What do you want to achieve with this content audit? What is the purpose of the collected data? What do you want to change or improve to your main strategy?
Answer these questions honestly. The answers are important because based on them, you will select the content of the audit, the categories that are to be listed in your audit file.
Examples of goals that may be set at this point:
1. Improve conversion rate – Analyze your pages and see which one (or many) of them offer the best user experience. Also, it might be of help to know the articles that are most commented, that are most visited or most shared and analyze why they perform this good. You can also define your best strategy for writing or creating the best content for customer retention and acquisition.
Here’s yet another example that is suggestive to this type of audit. Autobody Toolmart, a company that specializes in selling auto parts and accessories managed not only to revive their website via a content audit but also to increase conversion rate and consequently, to increase their sales with over 30 percent. How? The content audit identified which pages to be deleted and which pages to be improved or rewrite. The results speak for themselves.
2. Improve SEO results and metrics – Analyze the articles based on their main and secondary keywords and their overall search engine ranking and performance based on these factors. Also, such an audit may help develop a fruitful strategy of developing the content strategy based on specific keywords that perform better/are more popular among the targeted audience.
3. Increase engagement – User engagement is to some marketers one of the most important goals that should be set at the start of each content marketing campaign. In order to do that, you need to identify the most engaging pieces of content you have, develop new strategies for creating similar content and figure out which topics generate the most engagement within your targeted demographics.
A great example in this case comes from Pixelfish, a company that managed to increase engagement by 300% via a series of content audit sessions performed over a specific period of time.
3. Choose your most important metrics
Based on your already defined goals, you can now select the metrics you will measure with this audit. I suggest selecting no more than three metrics at once because if you want to meet your goals, you will need to be thorough in your work. Spreading you attention around will not help you. Focusing on a limited list of actions to undertake, will allow you to be more efficient and consequently, achieve greater results.
- TIP: If you are going to organize multiple or consecutive content audits in the future, you can use the same metrics you choose now for your later endeavors. Or, you can analyze different metrics each time you run an audit so that during a specific period of time, you will cover all the important aspects that are related to your marketing strategy for a website or a blog.
4. Start compiling your content audit list
Create a new spreadsheet and start by labeling each column based on your previous decisions. Here’s an example of how it may look like:
This step is obviously the most important of all as it is actually the content audit itself. There are many ways in which you can get started and I will try to help you during the next paragraphs do a great job in the least of time.
- TIP: You can crawl your website manually and save all your links, titles and keywords into a spreadsheet but I would not recommend such a choice. Time is of the essence here. Time is your most important resource and therefore, you should not waste it doing things that can be automated with external tools.
If you are running a website that was built upon a professional content management system, chances are, that the CMS has already the capability of exporting a full list of URLs and the corresponding metadata. If you are using WordPress for instance, you will find some external plugins you can install from third party developers. They will most certainly help you depending on what you need to save on your list.
Also, the XML Sitemap can help you as well, if you need only the information provided by such a list.
My advice, however, is to at least try a dedicated software such as Content Analysis Tool and export all your data with it. The tool allows you to make an automated content inventory and it will therefore save you time and a lot of headaches at this point of your audit.
What will be saved with CAT?
- All page URLs and the files associated with them
- File type
- Image, video, and document links
- Metadata (title, description, keywords)
- Google Analytics data
- H1 text
- Links in and links out
- A screenshot of the page
- Word count
All these metrics will help you compile the list of your content audit. However, should you need additional metrics, I suggest using URL Profiler, a great tool for this purpose which will allow you to expand your list and collect everything you need in terms of audit related data and information.
Another useful content audit tool you can use for data collection is SEMrush’s Content Audit.
This tool can also automate the process based on your sitemap and provide you a full list of your urls and some other metrics of your choice. You can use it to create a content audit list based on specific sections of your website such as the blog section or the shop section.
How to use it?
Well, first, you need to register with SEMrush. Then, select the “Content Audit” option from the left sidebar menu and insert your domain name in the form. Click “Start Audit”.
Automatically, the tool will crawl your website and provide you with a full list of pages and articles. It looks something like this:
It will take a while until all your links will be listed so, I suggest you to be patient and let the crawler do its job. As you can see from the above screenshot, you can also connect your Google Analytics account and the Google Search Console for a more thorough analysis of your content.
You can also select to filter the information based upon some important information that is relevant to your goals.
You can view a list based on word count, shares, backlinks, crawler errors, subfolders and categories or tags. This option will help you narrow down the content to the specific parts that interest you, should you want to do a partial audit. If you want a full audit however, you can ignore the filters and view all your URLs.
5. Asses the data and write down the notes
Although I have already mentioned the “notes” section” on the previous chapter, this is the moment when you will get to actually write them down.
You will need to assess your data first and analyze everything that is important to your audit and marketing strategy first.
Analyze each of the URL listed based on each metric you have chosen and write down notes to come back to when you will want to take action.
A content audit is not the easiest process a marketer has to complete once in a while but as I have already proved throughout this article, it is an essential process that cannot be ignored. Whether you are planning to better your marketing efforts, to expand your business, change the marketing strategy or move your website to another CMS, you will need a content audit to help you understand the content and adjust your strategies according to it. Also, the audit will help you assess what needs to be done further and evaluate your database by analyzing the most important metrics that your blog and website are based on.
Have you performed a content audit until now?
If yes, what were your findings and how much did this process help you improve your strategy and get better results on the long run?