5 Best Practices for a Better Content Audit

By: Bri Long  | 08/12/2020


Content brings firepower to your digital marketing efforts, but without a well-conceived audit, it’s all too easy to waste time and resources on content that isn’t hitting the mark.

An audit can put all your content under one view, gather data on how you’re engaging your audience, and provide insight on content you need to create, update, repurpose or cut. Analyzing all your content can feel daunting, but with online tools and a best practices guide — dare we say, this guide — boosting the effectiveness of your content strategy is that much easier.

1. Go in With a Goal (or Two, or Three)

Before your cursor reaches for a new spreadsheet, take the time to think through what you’re aiming for. Do you want to improve your SEO rankings? Figure out what your audience responds to, or what your audience ignores? See where your content is falling short?

You can have a couple goals in mind or a whole list of them going in. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) offers a shortlist of potential goals worth considering, such as:

  • Better understanding the scope of content on your site
  • Seeing if content meets a certain standard, like accessibility or readability
  • Ensuring messaging is consistent across content
  • Finding what content can be adapted and moved to a new platform
  • Making sure metadata (tags and categories, for example) are consistent

What matters is making sure you’re not expending unnecessary time and effort chasing down information that won’t be useful for answering your central questions. A content audit is a big enough project on its own; the more focus you can bring to the process will make it more streamlined, manageable and effective.

2. Define and Decide on Helpful Parameters

Take a moment to think about what categories of information will help you evaluate your content. The information needed to judge your content — and make improvements — should be defined before you start so that you’re not backtracking to find more information in the middle of an audit.

Jotting down things like hyperlink, author, title, type of content and publish date are pretty standard. Other information to track for each piece of content, depending on your goals, could be keywords, buying stage, buyer persona, primary CTA, social shares and content pillar. Single Grain outlines several more to consider:

  • Word count
  • Person in charge of managing the content
  • Any broken links
  • What action to take (update, repurpose, cut, create)
  • Any additional notes

Also, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time gathering information. There are all sorts of online tools that can sift through your content and gather the info you’re looking for (HubSpot, SEMrush and Screaming Frog are a few). From there, you can narrow down your chosen template to show only the information categories needed to make a judgment call on your content.

3. Categorize Before You Analyze

While a lot of content may find its home on your website, guest posts and social content lurk elsewhere. All of that can provide valuable insights on your content strategy — but they all provide different insights. The click-through rate (CTR) on a social post touting a webinar can look different compared to the CTR on a blog post doing the same thing.

Analyzing on-site, off-site and social content as their own categories can provide platform-specific takeaways for the most effective content changes. Consider dividing your content up between separate spreadsheets (on-site, off-site and social, for example) to make reviewing your audit easier and more helpful.

4. Look for Patterns, Outliers and Opportunity

Once you have the necessary information and findings on your content in front of you, it’s time to be curious and bring your questions to the data. You might want to know things like:

  • What are our most visited blog posts?
  • What pages are people spending the most time on?
  • What high-volume content are people bouncing from most? Where are people exiting from?
  • What “awareness” content are people most often visiting before they click over to “interest” or “desire” content?

Also try to spot any trends, patterns or numbers that otherwise stick out to you. For example, you may notice that your visitors spend more time on pages with video content than pages with infographics. Blog posts that start with “How to…” in the title may have a higher CTR. A noticeably underperforming page (low CTR, low views, low engagement) might be doing something glaringly different — maybe the voice doesn’t match the rest of your content, or the material itself is outdated.

Keep your goals in mind while sifting through your findings. It may be helpful to add columns to the spreadsheet titled with a shorthand for each goal. You can use color or symbols to mark whether the content meets that specific goal, falls short or isn’t applicable.

5. Take Calculated Action on Your Analysis

The last column you’ll want in your content audit is an “action” column.

You can take action on high-performing content just as much as you can on underperforming content. Consider what’s doing well, because you may want to replicate it in a different format or on another platform. For content that’s underperforming, you’re performing a kind of gap analysis — that is, measuring the potential of your content against its current performance and identifying measurable steps you can take to eliminate the difference.

While you may certainly have specific actions and directions to prescribe for individual content pieces, you can triage the workload by using these four action “types.” Your content will likely take on one of these forms:

Update. This action type notes what content needs some attention. A white paper from a couple years ago might need updated data and citations. A low-ranking blog post might need to be reoptimized for refocused keywords.

Repurpose. This action type means you’ve got a piece of well-performing content, like a blog post on telehealth or a webinar on converting qualified leads for a B2B company. Consider adapting that content into a different form or building onto it — you could turn a blog post into an engaging video or a webinar into an infographic. Stretch the capabilities of your high-performing content.

Cut. If you’ve unearthed a white paper on “the latest trends” from 2012 or a 400-word blog post with no traffic over the last year, don’t be afraid to consider retiring it. Content that isn’t relevant anymore and can’t find a form or home elsewhere in your strategy is A-OK to cut in favor of a more relevant offering that could come from a repurposed or new content piece. In fact, deleting “deadweight” content that gets no traffic can actually help your overall site performance.

Create. This identifies that your content has a gap somewhere, leaving some of your audience untapped or left in the dark. So make another row in your spreadsheet, describe the content needed to fill the gap, and mark “create” in your action column.

After the Audit: Now What?

Hopefully, you’ve emerged from your content audit with extremely valuable insights on where you can improve your content strategy and deliver more value to your audience. Make a sustainable plan to enact those changes, and you’re potentially looking at an impressive return for the effort.

For help approaching your content, from audit to strategy to content creation, let’s talk.

 

 


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