How to audit your content: step-by-step

Content shock

Do you manage your organisation’s content? Are you concerned that it might not be striking the right note with customers, it’s out-of-date or it simply doesn’t look like an accurate reflection of your brand? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then it’s time to consider a content audit.

This article will talk you through the various steps to follow to audit your content and point out some tools which might help you along the way.

What is a content audit?

A content audit is the process by which you take stock and gain a comprehensive picture of your organisation’s content. (It’s a little like cleaning out a shop store room, or doing your annual spring clean to collect for the charity shop.)

It will tell you about the content you currently have and how it’s performing; material you should have that’s missing; duplicate or unnecessary content; and, anything that’s out of date.

Having a detailed overview of this will not only inform you, but it will also help you plan your overall future content strategy more effectively.

So, where do I start?

There is a series of steps that tend to be common to most content audits, regardless of business type or sector. These are:

1) Create a list of all your content

Yes, we know, this might sound like climbing Mt Everest – but don’t panic!

If your site is very small you could try to list your website content manually, otherwise crawling software – such as Screaming Frog – will create a list of your URLs for you. The free version of this software will crawl up to 500 links; if you have more than this you can try the premium version.

You might also wish to collect URLs from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and XML Sitemaps, for example, to gain a more comprehensive list.

You’ll also need a record of any content not hosted on your website, such as social media posts, guest blog posts etc, as well as offline content like promotional catalogues and brochures.

2) Establish your metrics and record the results

So, now you’re aware of the pieces of content you have, it’s time to see how well they’re performing. Here are some useful metrics to collect and record in your content spreadsheet.

  • Content title
  • Content title length – as a rule of thumb, titles should be under 60 characters to show up in Google; keep this in mind as it can affect your click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Category – or, in other words, the topic of the content
  • Ranking for main keyword – if there’s a particular keyword you’re targeting with your content, note your current ranking
  • Search volume for main keyword – knowing this will help focus your SEO efforts. You can obtain this using Google AdWords or other keyword research tools.
  • Average organic search traffic by month – in an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to make any special efforts to drive traffic to your content. People would just come across it in an organic way, like it and engage! If this isn’t happening, it’s a potential sign that your content isn’t striking the right note with your audience. You can find your traffic info using Google Analytics.
  • Average paid traffic engagement rate by month – this metric measures the engagement rates for paid traffic to your site, e.g. from any paid campaigns you might be running on social media. This data is also available in Google Analytics: try to look at a period of a few months and work out an average to give you a representative figure.
  • Meta descriptions – these are the short paragraphs that summarise your page’s content. They can really impact the number of click-throughs your content receives, so you need to ensure they’re optimised to attract the maximum number of clicks. Screaming Frog will indicate whether your descriptions are too long, short, duplicated or missing entirely!
  • Bounce rate – are visitors to your site bouncing straight off your content without viewing any other pages? Depending on the content type, e.g. blogs can have high bounce rates despite good time on page stats, this could be a red flag that your materialisn’t fit-for-purpose! You can find this using Google Analytics.
  • Average time on page – another good indicator of the effectiveness of your content and your audience’s response to it. This is also available in Google Analytics.
  • Number of backlinks – links to your content from external sites are crucial to your ranking and building trust in your brand! Tools such as Ahrefs will calculate the number of backlinks to your content. Just remember, it’s the quality of the links you should be concerned with and not the quantity!
  • Total social likes/shares – Obtain this information using tools like Buzzsumo and Sharetally. This data can also be broken down by social media platform.

3) Analyse your content using your results

Now that you have all of this insightful information, the next step is analysing it to come up with a plan to improve things!

For content that has performed well, pay attention to key details such as: type of content, topic, creator, when was it published, etc. Having this insight may help you produce successful content in future.

Similarly, for content that has missed the mark take note of the metrics attached to it. Perhaps the content topic was a poor choice or it was published at an unsuitable time?

Next up, come the painful decisions about what to keep as it stands, get rid of entirely, re-work, update or optimise. You might choose to add some extra columns into your content spreadsheet to record this.

You’ll also need to identify any gaps in your content: e.g. have you recently introduced a range of new services that you have no information about on your website?

4) Come up with an action plan

So, you’ve taken the time to audit your content and have analysed your results – that’s great! Now you need to act on your findings. Your action plan should be based on your business goals, your audience and the conclusions derived from your content analysis.

Here are some steps you might include:

  1. Re-purpose or consolidate: You might try to combine different pieces of existing content to create a new piece. Or you may publish it in a new format (e.g. as an infographic or slideshow).
  2. Rewrite: If you have pages that aren’t performing well, perhaps they need to be re-worked with new examples and ideas.
  3. Refresh: Does your content need to be updated with some recent stats or research?
  4. Restructure: Maybe the presentation of your content is causing confusion amongst your users. Should it be laid out in a different way or re-ordered?
  5. Write: Address any content gaps by creating and publishing new content.
  6. Add visual interest: Today’s users respond to the visual. Adding or replacing images on your site, or including video clips, might be all you need to get their attention!
  7. Check your CTAs are up to date: Replace any out of date text to ensure it reflects your current offering.
  8. Optimise meta-descriptions: Make them more appealing to users and increase your CTR!
  9. Optimise your internal linking: Ensure you add links pointing to any new content, where possible. This can help to reduce your bounce rate.
  10. Address any technical issues: Fix anything else that isn’t working, such as broken links, slow page speed, etc. Your users will thank you for it, as will Google!

You might also want to categorise these improvements according to priority. This will allow you to get to work quickly on the most urgent areas.

5) Implement your changes and monitor performance

An organisation’s content is rarely perfect – there will always be some room for improvement and gaps to address.

However, if you audit your content regularly, you’ll be able to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to take corresponding steps to respond to this – before your users turn to the competition!

Both your successes and failures will help you shape an informed, long-term content strategy in a direction that suits your target audience and improves key metrics across your content portfolio.

Auditing your content frequently also allows you to assess whether any changes you’ve made to it have worked. You should keep a close eye on your analytics following any changes you implement, too, to gauge how they’ve been received.

Content audits don’t offer a 5-minute fix, and are likely to create work as you act on your findings. They are, however, an effective way to get better results from your content marketing activities.

We hope we’ve persuaded you to start auditing your content and reaping the benefits for your brand!