A Beginners Guide to Creating a Content Audit

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Any site which employs content marketing, be it a blog, an Amazon niche site or a company blog, will eventually end up with a whole lot of content.

This content will be indexed by the search engines and available to whoever finds it, but the content might not be doing your site or business justice.

Just think about the content you wrote when you just got started, maybe from years ago: it’s probably not the best content, but it’s still there lingering on your site.

A content audit, literally reviewing every piece of content on your site, can help you find out exactly what’s going on with the content on your site and provide data for what you need to do with it.

This will take time.

A content audit is not a quick process, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of articles on your site.

This means that you will need to carve out time over days, weeks and even months to achieve a full blown content audit, but the benefits can be many.

The benefits of a content audit

There’s a variety of ways that doing a content audit can benefit your business:

  • Discover content that is doing well so that you can attempt to replicate its success
  • Discover content that is performing poorly
  • Find gaps in your content that could be filled
  • Pinpoint content that is not properly set up for on page SEO
  • Locate content that is broken in some way: broken links, images, etc
  • Find which articles have a high visitor count but a high bounce rate/low conversion
  • Discover content that is repeated or overlaps with other content that could be merged
  • Use the existing content to generate new content ideas
  • Find content that is no longer valid, is erroneous or no longer valid and fix or remove it

Steps to do a content audit

There’s no right or wrong way to do a content audit but there’s a general flow that you can use to make the process a little easier.

1. Create a list of your content

The first thing you need to do is collate a list of all your content, that needs reviewing. This could be all the content on your site, as well as social media, YouTube, email marketing campaigns etc.

For the sake of simplicity I’m just going to focus on site/blog content here.

How then can you find a list of all your site content? Well if you use WordPress you could just look in the Post and Pages section, but that’s inefficient.

Sitemaps

Most SEO plugins offer sitemap functionality and you can use this to generate and easy top copy list of the post articles. This is an OK way to do it but it still only provides URLs.

Screaming Frog

If you don’t use WordPress (or even if you do), you can use Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider tool. This software crawls your site and pulls out every URL and as well as the URL data it also provides additional information such as page title, status code of the page, word count, meta data and much more.

The only downside is that the free version only crawls up to 500 URLs, so if you’re site is bigger than that you’ll need the premium version. That being said, it’s likely worth it due to the extra data you get and at £149 ($185 approx.) for a year it’s reasonably priced.

Content Audit Plugin

If you prefer to do your content directly in WordPress then check out the Content Audit plugin. It provides an easy way to mark content for review and you can also export the data to CSV.

2. Categorize your content

This step involves taking your raw data and breaking it down into chunks. The purpose is to make it easier to find and compare content.

For example you can break the content down into categories such as (for a marketing style site) SEO, Content Marketing, PPC etc. This allows you to compare related article more easily.

You can also mark your content by type such as article, video, infographic.

You can go as detailed as you want here and include analytics data such as number of views, bounce rate, conversion figures and so on.

The more data you gather here the more detailed your audit can go.

Resist the urge to review content at this stage, it’s only for gathering the information, the review part comes next.

3. Review the content itself

This is by far the lengthiest step, especially if your wanting to do a full content audit.

If your just wanting to review some of your content you could for example sort the data gathered in the previous step by views and review the top 100 and bottom 50 (these are arbitrary numbers, change them as needed) to only focus on the best and worst content you have.

With a full content audit you will need to go through the content one by one and review the following:

  • Quality – is the content actually any good? Is it full of typos or is it poorly written?
  • Length – Google hates short content so is the article of a reasonable length?
  • Shares – is it a popular post on social networks?
  • Views – has anyone even seen the post or is it a virtual ghost town?
  • On page SEO – are page titles, keywords, meta data, image tags and other on page SEO done correctly (at all)?
  • Accuracy & validity – is the content accurate and up to date and is it still valid?
  • Conversions – if the article is selling or promoting something, does it actually convert?
  • Analytic data – what’s the average time spent on page, bounce rate, etc?

Quality, length, shares, views, on page SEO, accuracy & validity, conversions, analytic data

Taking the data in to consideration you should place the content into one of 3 broad “piles”:

  • Good
  • OK
  • Poor

Good content is usually fine to keep either as is or with minor tweaks (nothing’s perfect!), hopefully this is your biggest pile!

OK content is content that needs some work doing to it to improve it. This could involve sorting out on page SEO, updating the content to be more relevant, general formatting and layout tweaks and so on.

Content in the poor pile is a different beast. This pile will contain short articles, badly written content, outdated content, duplicate content or anything that no longer fits in line with your business due to a pivot or change in focus.
What to do with poor content?
There’s 3 main ways to handle poor content:

  1. Spend the time, energy and money to turn the content into something worth keeping
  2. Delete the content
  3. Notify users of the issues and direct them elsewhere

Let’s look at these in more detail…

From poor to good

This is perhaps the best way to handle poor content and at the same time the worst way. Sure, saving content sounds like a great idea but not all content is worth the time and money to do so.

Each piece will need to be reviewed to see if it’s viable to improve the content to a decent level.

Don’t just improve it for the sake of it, be ruthless!

Deleting content

To avoid ranking penalties and customer confusion, content should never actually be deleted. Instead you should look to redirect the URL to another piece of content that is related to the original, or if you must, to the home page.

Once the redirect is in place you can delete the content but only if you’re sure the URL will never be used again. It’s perhaps better to leave the content on your site and mark it as redirected (via a category or tag if you use WordPress).

When redirecting content use a 301 redirect which tells search engines the content has permanently moved.

If you do decide to just delete the content completely without pointing the URL to another price of content, it’s still advisable to set up a redirect but this time use a 410 redirect which states the content has been permanently deleted.

Notify visitors

This option leaves the content available but you will add a highly visible section at the top that informs the customer that the content is out of date, etc., and provides a link or two to other content that is more relevant.

Really this is just a manual redirect of sorts and relies on the visitor bothering to click through to the other content.

That being said it does mean that the visitor won’t be confused when visiting a URL from a search engine only to end up on another URL.

4. Define your users

The whole point of doing a content audit is to improve your content, but what’s your actual aim?

By creating a user avatar (or several) that outlines your ideal customers/visitors you can get a better sense of who you’re actually targeting and the sort of information that they might be looking at.

User avatars are out of the scope of this article but there’s plenty online about them including this article by Digital Marketer.

5. Conduct a gap analysis

Once you have a better understanding of your ideal user base, you can then review your content to see what content is targeting them and what is missing.

The information laid out from the content audit makes it easy to see what content is missing and this can lead to a new content marketing plan to fill those gaps.

The Bottom Line

A content audit is an involved process, but ultimately it’s worth it. The ability to see exactly what’s going on with your content, fix the holes and plan new content can help revitalize your site and focus its direction.

What are you waiting for? Get auditing!

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