Relevant, engaging, and useful content forms the backbone of any successful content marketing campaign. A content audit ensures that your content retains its purpose over time.
How to prepare for a content audit?
A content audit can take several hours of your time. The time required depends on your goals, scope of the audit, and various other factors. So before you begin the actual audit process, it’s important to document a few things.
1: Define the goal and scope of your audit
Here are some of the typical content audit goals:
- Identify content that needs updating to ensure continued relevance and factual accuracy
- Identify high/low performing content
- Create an inventory of existing content
You should also define the scope of your audit. Is it just the website or are you going to audit your entire content – from sales brochures to email creative? A well-defined scope will bring clarity and efficiency to the entire process.
2: Divide and conquer
Consider splitting the work based on tasks; Jim does the content inventory, Jake collects metrics, and Jill updates outdated content.
3: Identify metrics that matter
Which factors decide if a piece of content needs attention? Is it just the accuracy of the post or do you want to update content that doesn’t engage visitors, as well?
It’s important to define your metrics before the start of the audit.
How to run the actual content audit?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to run your audit based on your goals, scope, and metrics.
Step #1: Get all URLs on your website
The basic building block of your content audit is the URL where your content resides. Export all URLs (public and private) associated with your site. Now, create an Excel spreadsheet with this data.
You can copy URLs on your website one-by-one. I recommend using third-party tools as it will help you save a lot of time.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider– This is a useful desktop tool that can crawl your website and provide useful information. The free version only crawls 500 pages. If you have more pages to crawl, you’ll need to get a paid license.
Here are a few free alternatives to screaming frog SEO spider.
|Xenu Link Sleuth||Windows||Free|
|BeamUsUp||Windows, MAC, Linux||Free|
Content insights is a tools dedicated for content auditing. It’s a web-based tool that doesn’t require you to download or install any software. Here’s what Paula Land, CEO of Content Insights has to say about the tool.
“The Content Analysis Tool (CAT) grew from my experience as a content strategist doing content inventories and audits for clients.
Unlike tools built for SEO, CAT supports the needs of content strategists embarking on a project. It supports
- identifying areas of audit focus
- creating a framework for audit data and observations and
- planning for content migrations
CAT includes useful data for an audit: complete list of all assets, file types, metadata, word count, analytics, links in and out, and screenshots. You can also differentiate two runs of a site to see what’s been added, changed, or deleted. This helps teams manage a changing site and know where to focus in a rolling inventory and audit process.
Collaboration features (releasing soon), allow teams and clients to share data and collaborate on audits, using custom columns and vocabularies to tag files. Data is accessible on a dashboard for easy access and viewing or exportable.
Our usage model supports everyone from freelancers to large agencies. We have different options for purchasing based on how often you use the tool.”
Step #2: Collect relevant metrics
Based on your auditing goals, you need to collect relevant metrics to start the analysis. Some of the metrics you can measure:
|Author||The person who created the content.|
|Meta Title||Heading that appears in search engine result pages (SERP) and the browser’s tab/window.|
|Meta Description||The short description that is displayed in search engine result pages (SERP).|
|Page Type||Identifier to classify a page: product, article, lead generation, support, etc.|
|Content Type||Identifier to classify the main content of a page: text, image, video, audio, etc.|
|Reading Score||A score that indicates how easy the content is to read. A popular benchmark is the Flesch-Kincaid reading score.|
|Comment Count||The number of user-generated comments (if supported) on a particular page.|
|Social Media shares/likes||The number of times a piece of content has been shared/liked on various social media platforms. Choose platforms that’s relevant for your business.|
|Focus Keyword||Which main keyword does your content target? Useful for SEO purposes.|
|Inbound Links||The number of external pages that link to your content. Use tools like ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz to find inbound links to your website.|
|Total Traffic||Total unique visitors who visited the content. Any analytics software will give you this metric. The closest to unique visitors in Google Analytics is their User metric.|
|Bounce Rate||The percentage of people who entered your website through a particular content page and exited without visiting another page. Generally, as a rule of thumb, the lower the bounce rate, the better the page engagement is.|
|Conversion Rate||How good is your content at driving the desired action from the page? The higher the conversion rate, the more valuable the page is.|
|Load Time||Does the page load slowly? Slow websites impact SEO rankings and sales. Make sure your entire page loads within a few seconds.|
|Assets||Number of assets linked to a page, licensing option of the assets used, etc.|
|Owner||Who’s responsible for handling changes to the page?|
Here are some tools to help you automate part of the process.
Google Analytics and similar analytics software can provide relevant metrics such as unique visitors, bounce rate, the conversion rate for your goals, etc.
Sharedcount is a free tool that will give you social media share count for all your URLs. Bulk-check feature is available only for registered users.
URL profiler is a powerful tool to build a content inventory as well as collect metrics in bulk for all your URLs.
Here’s Gareth Brown, creator of URL Profiler talking about how the tool can help.
“One of the biggest issues when carrying out a content audit is building your inventory in the first place. Often, the data you’ll want to collect exists on many different platforms and in various formats. You end up piecing it all together in Excel with hundreds of different VLOOKUPs. URL Profiler solves this issue by collating the data for you in a consistent spreadsheet format.
You can start by importing your sitemap URLs, or crawl data from a tool such as Screaming Frog. Add onto this a wealth of additional data points – social share counts per URL, SEO metrics such as Moz Page Authority, and a host of technical SEO checks.
Besides pulling in other data sources, URL Profiler will also give you ‘Readability’ metrics, such as reading scores, sentiment, and keyword analysis. This will give you a qualitative view on ‘what your pages are about’.
While it is true to say that URL Profiler will save you a lot of time regarding data collection and formatting, the main thing it gives you is a sheer wealth of data, which in turn leads to much deeper insights for your content audits.”
Step #3: Collate all your data in one place
You have the metrics; what’s next?
By now, you probably have several excel sheets if you used different systems to build a list of URLs and collect metrics. Combine everything into one sheet. Use VLOOKUP functionality to find and populate metrics against URLs.
Step #4: Gather Insights
Now that you have everything in one, it’s time to dig deep and identify content that needs attention.
For fact-check, browse one URL at a time and note down any comments you might have. Make sure it’s easy to understand for the person responsible for making the changes.
Step #5: Take action
The following three columns in the excel sheet help you take action.
- Comments: Detailed comments about audit finding helps the reviewer jump straight in and fix the issue
- Action Required: Value is either “Yes” or “No” as the value. This will help the person reviewing your report take action straightaway
- Action Taken: When someone is working on a piece of content, mark as “under progress”. Once done, change it to “Yes”
Questions your content audit should answer
Your primary goal is to figure out which content needs your attention. Here are a few questions your content audit should answer.
1: Are there any factual inaccuracies?
To ensure content stays relevant, it needs to be accurate. Since fact-checking takes a long time, it’s often skipped during the audit.
Some content doesn’t need updating as the core principles don’t change (newton’s laws of motion). However, certain topics will most certainly be inaccurate after a certain period (E.g., Best budget android phones).
Flag content that’s most likely to become outdated. To save time, fact-check only flagged content during your audits.
2: Do you have valid licenses for the assets used?
Sometimes, you might end up using assets (images, videos, etc.) that you either don’t have rights to use, or their license has expired. Don’t wait for a legal notice asking for insane amounts as penalty for using assets illegally. Take action proactively.
Ensure that all external assets that you have placed on your website have proper license/attribution. If you cannot get the budget to buy a license, it’s better to remove the asset from your site.
Some licenses are context specific. You can use some assets in editorial content, but not on commercial pages like sales pages, landing pages, etc. Read the source license carefully before using an asset sourced from third-party.
3: Does your website have duplicate content issues?
Content duplication happens when the same piece of content can be accessed through multiple URLs, and search engines index several of them.
It’s acceptable for other sites to have a copy of your content from an SEO point of view (syndicated content). Duplicate content on your site, however, can result in either a penalty (aimed at spammers) or lower search engine ranking for your page.
In most cases, it’s not easy to fix how content gets rendered via multiple URLs. Don’t fret. There’s an easy fix. Use canonical URLs in your header section to tell Google and other search engines the original URL to index.
4: Does your website have broken links?
Broken links impact the user experience on your website. Fix broken links before your potential customers encounter a broken experience on your website.
Tip: Xenu Link Sleuth is a feature-rich and free tool to find broken links on your site.
5: Is your content rendering correctly on mobile devices?
While your website might be mobile responsive, your content need not be. This results in a bad user experience.
The typical culprits are infographics that require a lot of pinching and zooming to start reading. Content that gets loaded inside iframes also impacts usability.
6: How readable is your content?
Does reading your content require your audience to reach out for a dictionary now and then?
Content readability is important for making your content engaging. Content with long sentences, big paragraphs, and jargons are often considered hard to read.
While there are no set standards, here are a few rule of thumbs to follow:
- Maximum of 3 lines per paragraph
- Use short sentences
- Avoid jargon/uncommon words
- For infographics, avoid clutter and keep the design simple
Readability score and Hemmingway app are two useful tools to check your content readability. The closer your content is to a school-going student being able to understand it, the more readable and compelling it is.
Successful content marketers know that content audits should be a recurring process. Based on the amount of content on your site, set your audit frequency. Make sure the audits are part of your content marketing strategy to ensure commitment.
Ready to start your audit?