April 15, 2019

What Is a Content Audit (And Why You Need One ASAP)

m3-blog-What-Is-a-Content-AuditIf there’s one word that can drive fear into the hearts of business owners and individuals alike, it’s “audit.” And, each year at tax season, you’ll see plenty of advice on how to avoid being audited, what to do if you’re being audited and which countries to move to if you find out you’re being audited. (Just kidding on the last one. They’ll still find you.)

In some cases, however, an audit isn’t a bad thing; in fact, when it’s a content audit, it’s actually a great thing. So let’s look at what a content audit is, how it’s done and how it can help you improve your website while increasing traffic and revenue.

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What Is a Content Audit, Anyway?

If you aren’t familiar with content audits, the first thing to know is that they’re nothing like a tax audit — so relax! Nobody is going to ask you to produce a receipt for that pack of gum that you tried to write off as a business expense or question why it appears your quarterly budget meeting took place at a Halsey concert.

Instead, a content audit is designed to evaluate the content, elements and information that’s found on your website. It is the foundation of a good content strategy, because it allows you to see the strengths, gaps and weaknesses of the content that lives on your site.

When done properly, a content audit takes a deep dive into every aspect of your current content. It evaluates the purpose and effectiveness of what you already have and sees how it aligns your business goals with your audience’s needs.

Once that evaluation is done, you can focus on which areas need improvement, what needs to be fine-tuned and what could or should be eliminated completely.

What Happens During a Content Audit?

A content audit is different from taking content inventory, which is designed only to tally up what content you have in various locations on your website. Instead, with a content audit, you’ll look closely not only at what you have, but whether or not it’s still relevant and how well it is performing.

Since comprehensive content audits are a time-consuming process, you might want to divide your audit into different segments. For example, maybe you’ll start by doing an audit of your blog posts; at a later time you can conduct a content audit of your landing pages, your case studies or your product descriptions.

Start by determining which pages you’re going to include in your audit, then create a spreadsheet with URLs from those pages. Among the things you’ll want to include in the spreadsheet for each entry are:

  • Type of content
  • Date of publication or last changes
  • Number of words
  • What stage of the buyer’s journey it applies to
  • Content author
  • Metadata such as title, meta description and header
  • Metrics such as backlinks, shares and number of sessions

While you will collect and enter much of this manually, when it comes to metrics, things get more complicated. Using a tool such as SEMrush’s Content Audit tool can streamline the process of gathering data and can quickly help you see which pages are performing well.

Using Google Analytics will help you further understand what’s performing well and attracting the most traffic, as well as what’s effective in terms of engagement and conversion.

Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to analyze it. Looking at the performance of each piece of content will tell you a lot about your customers as well as your content. You can create goals for your content and decide what to do next with each piece of content. And, best of all, you’ll be making that decision from an informed point of view.

How You’ll Benefit From a Content Audit

As with anything else in life, the information you gather during a content audit doesn’t really matter until you apply it. Using what you’ve discovered can help you improve your current practices and see what might need to be updated or removed.

In many ways, it’s like cleaning out your closet; you’ll be surprised by how much outdated stuff you’ll find that isn’t doing anything more than taking up space. Should it stay where it is, or go out in the trash with that Nickelback t-shirt?

Here are three ways you can benefit from a content audit:

No. 1: You can see what’s working well for you.

Don’t think of an audit as a way of looking at “what’s wrong” with your site; it’s one of the most effective ways to see what you’re doing right. Celebrate that. Give yourself a fist bump. Then look at what the analytics tell you and see how you can apply that to lesser-performing pages.

No. 2: You can find content that could be repurposed.

Do you have several pieces of content that follow a similar theme? Why not repurpose them into a pillar page on a specific topic? Or take an existing post and turn it into an infographic, complete with updated information. There are several ways to reinvent what you’ve already done — without reinventing the wheel.

No. 3: You’ll discover ways to improve your SEO results.

Improving your on-page SEO is an effective way to increase your ROI, so this is an opportunity to take note of your top-performing pages, optimize internal linking where necessary and get rid of those pages that are no longer relevant. It is recommended to hire an SEO specialist or agency to ensure that your site's ranking in Google and other search engines is not harmed while you make these changes. 

Paying attention to what your content audit tells you is a way to find out what topics your customers are most interested in and can inform your content strategy moving forward. It’s a good idea to conduct a comprehensive content audit once a year, but you can also do condensed content audits, in which you measure a smaller number of URLs and use fewer metrics. These can be done as often as once a month to make sure you’re staying on track with your content goals.

Paula Felps

Paula Felps is a staff writer and editor with madison/miles media who has written for a variety of print and digital publications. She is the author of multiple books and is owned by a 17-pound Boston terrier named Archie.