Carrying out a content audit for your website is like clearing out your office: you’ll uncover a mix of stuff you don’t need any more, stuff you’d forgotten you had, and stuff you need to re-organise or repair to make it useful again. At the end of the process, you’ll find you work a lot more productively in a space you’ve cleaned out and re-organised.
Evaluating and updating the content on your website can boost the performance of your business in a similar way. For example, a content audit at Microsoft revealed that of the company’s 10m web pages, 3m had never been visited! They deleted these redundant pages and discovered that the remaining relevant content became much easier for customers to find.
A content audit spreadsheet
The first stage of a content audit is to produce a spreadsheet, listing each of the pages on your website, along with their urls. You can then add columns to help you evaluate each of the criteria that matter to your business. These may include:
- Usefulness – does your audience really need the content on this page, or has it become redundant?
- Accuracy – has the information on the page kept up with developments in your business? Does it need to be rewritten in order to serve its purpose?
- Traffic – how many people actually visit the page? What are the bounce and exit rates?
- Format – is the content easy to scan? Has longer text been broken up into sections with sub-headings, bullet-points and break-out quotes?
- Design – does the choice of images enhance or devalue the page? Could an infographic or video clip help bring the content to life?
- Quality – is the writing clear and compelling with a strong call to action?
- Style – is the writing consistent with your branding? Does its tone of voice ‘sound’ like your business?
- Metadata – does the page have unique, keyword-rich title and description tags?
You may not wish to write pages of analysis into your spreadsheet, so instead you could score the results in each of these categories out of 10, and make longer notes in a separate document. A scoring system will help you identify at a glance those pages which are really underperforming, especially if you bolt-on a ‘Total score’ column.
You will have noticed that our first suggested column for the content audit spreadsheet was ‘Usefulness’. If a piece of content is no longer relevant to your business, it should be cleared out to make way for the information that will help generate leads and sales.
Modern web design is all about streamlining, with simplified navigation and intelligent information architecture. Make sure people can find what they’re looking for with as few clicks of the mouse as possible, and don’t make them wade through irrelevant pages to get there. Be ruthless and cull anything that is slowing down the user experience.
It’s likely the bulk of the work will be in updating, rather than removing, your content. Updates can encompass everything from re-writing and re-formatting the text, through to adding images and multi-media, or optimising your content for search.
What tends to happen with updates is that existing content needs to be transformed in order to become useful. For example, you may have a large, unwieldy FAQ section buried within a sub-page that your content audit shows to be underperforming. You may choose to re-structure this into a useful guide that can be accessed via your main navigation.
Let’s return to our clearing-out-the-office analogy. Often, the process of giving a space a thorough clear-out can spark new ideas: “Actually, the walls could use a fresh coat of paint” or “If we grouped these desks together we could fit in a sofa and coffee table”.
By undertaking a content audit of your website, you may find inspiration strikes, and gives you new ideas to work with. That lengthy blog piece from last year could be transformed into an ebook; the testimonials you’ve accrued on LinkedIn could be pulled through to your ‘Clients’ page for extra credibility; or you may decide to embark on a new website design to accommodate your updated and improved content.
The possibilities opened up by a content audit of your website really are endless – it’s a journey of discovery, and it’s up to you to make the most of it!