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If content marketing plays into any part of your online marketing strategy, then you could likely use a content audit at some point.
In a content audit, you collect all the performance data around your website’s content and analyze it for efficacy based on your business’s marketing goals.
Seeing all this information at a glance can provide you with invaluable perspectives into your content marketing strategy thus far and ultimately help you to plan out your content future.
Depending on the amount of content you have, content audits can be complex and time-consuming. Performing a content audit the right way will often hinge on whether you have the appropriate time and bandwidth.
You can also download our free content audit template for your own use, right here!
With these key points in mind, let’s dive headfirst into SEO content audits and then discuss what to include on your content audit checklist.
What Is a Content Audit?
A content audit is the systematic documentation and analysis of your website’s content.
The point is to see how that content has been performing since publication, according to the metrics that are important to you.
On the literal side, a content audit typically looks like a bunch of URLs in a spreadsheet with adjacent columns showing data about each page.
Those URLs can be for any type of web content that you can imagine.
Content categories that would make sense to audit include:
Now, any entity with a repository of online content can perform a content audit; you can do a content audit if you run a personal blog.
But given the time and effort involved with doing this, it’s usually money-making businesses that run content audits for themselves.
That’s because businesses that have fully embraced SEO as a marketing strategy will know what they hope to get out of their content marketing efforts.
That’s a really important part of performing a content audit: knowing your goals.
So let’s talk about that now.
Why Perform a Content Audit?
If you’re fairly new in the business world or aren’t an expert in SEO content marketing, then you may not initially see the point of assembling your content inventory.
You may be of the mindset that a piece of content is done when it’s published and will continue to rack up traffic and conversion dividends for your business for years to come.
You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong there, but content should only stick around on your website in its current form if it’s actually doing what you originally intended it to do when you created it.
So that takes us into the reasons why you may want to perform a content audit.
Your goals will be your own, but there are some common objectives people have for analyzing all of their online content:
Perhaps you expect your content to drive conversions through form fills and phone calls. Or maybe you just need your content to generate traffic for the ads you run on your site. Or you could want all your “free” content to drum up sign-ups to your email subscribers list so you can do more hard marketing that way.
Whatever your on-page SEO strategy is, a content audit can show you whether your website content is helping you to achieve your goals.
Updating old content
Another reason to audit all your old content is to see if anything is outdated and could use some touch-ups.
This is an ongoing problem for any and all content marketers out there. You write a killer piece and send it on its way, but it only keeps its fangs for a finite period of time. Time passes, those fangs become more like molars, and then it’s outdated.
A content audit can show that to you in the form of declining metrics, fewer conversions, and so on.
Building on success
In the same way that a website content audit can show you where your content isn’t doing so hot anymore, you can also learn where your greatest strengths are. Maybe your audit shows you a pattern where all of your posts on this or that general subject tend to generate more traffic than anything else.
By seeing those trends from a 30,000-foot view in an audit, you can more easily strategize on future content posts.
Getting more organized
If you’ve been in constant “produce” mode on your content for a while now, then you might be too in the weeds to see what’s really been going on with your content strategy.
But having that 30,000-foot view that I just mentioned can be hugely beneficial to you, since it lets you see where you are, what you have, what you’re missing, what content can be deleted versus updated, and so on. Once you have your content marketing audit in hand, you can organize it all however you want, whether that’s siloing content into types, topics, or publication dates.
Whatever you do with it, trust me when I tell you that it can help you in the future. Being able to separate, see, and study all your content from one spreadsheet can allow you to plan more content, show your sales team what to push, and make your content archive generally more nimble and focused.
Your Content Audit Checklist
Think of the previous sections as an extended introduction for this checklist for performing an SEO content audit.
Now that you know what a content audit is and why you could benefit from running one, let’s get into the parts of a content audit that should make up your checklist.
Here are the things you will need and the steps you should take to perform a website content audit.
1.) Use a Crawling Tool (or a free content audit template)
Before you even start thinking about what metrics to track or how to organize your content, you need a way to gather it all and a place to store it.
Most of the automated URL-crawler tools out there that will do this for you cost something, just so we get that out of the way.
Some popular options include the Semrush Content Audit tool, the Ahrefs SEO WordPress plugin, URL Profiler (which has a 14-day free trial), and Screaming Frog (which is actually free for up to 500 URLs).
When I talk about URL crawlers, I just mean that, based on your root domain, these tools go through every URL on your website and present them to you along with corresponding technical data such as your meta titles and descriptions, authors, publication dates, average sessions and session duration, and backlinks.
It’s all fairly simple to get through one of those paid tools, and if you have a smaller site, the free version of Screaming Frog works just fine, too.
If none of these options works for you, you can always manually input your URLs into a spreadsheet and then create and fill in additional columns for all the SEO data you want to collect.
Just keep in mind how long that would take if you have a lot of URLs.
Luckily, we’ve made our own simple content audit template that you can download for free for your own use right now!
You can find meta information for each post on the back end of your website, performance data from your Google Analytics and Search Console properties, and more technical SEO data points from a Chrome extension such as SEO META in 1 CLICK.
2.) Collect Content Data Points
Once you have the means of gathering and documenting your content URLs, it’s time to think about what kind of information you want to collect on that content.
As you can guess, the data you aggregate should be directly related to your goals that we talked about in the “Why” section above.
You can easily get lost in a sea of data here, so if you’re sure of your objectives for your content marketing, do yourself a favor and collect only the data you really need.
Here are some examples of content data that you might find it useful to collect during your content audit:
-Publication and update dates
-Meta title and character count
-Meta description and character count
-Categories and tags
-Content category (blog post, infographic, white paper, etc.)
-Production time (if available)
-Call to action
-Image alt text
All that data has to do with the content specifically.
On top of that, though, it will also be useful to collect real performance data over a specified period for all of those content pages, such as:
-Average keyword positions
You can access some of this data from those tools I mentioned, such as Semrush and Ahrefs, and that’s ultimately the more convenient route since you can get it all in one place.
But if you’re going the manual route, or if you just want the most accurate data right from Google rather than a third-party tool, then you can also find all this information from your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.
Obviously, that applies only if you’ve had your website set up with those tools from the start.
3.) Make a Content Plan
So you’ve run your content marketing audit and have all your data.
That’s a big chunk of this project out of the way now, but your work in the content marketing business goes ever on, because now it’s time to plan what you’re going to do with what you’ve learned.
This is another reason why it’s so important to understand your goals for this project, your big “why.”
Without knowing what your content should be accomplishing, you couldn’t possibly draw anything from the results of your audit.
You can plan out your website’s content future however you want, but a useful way of organizing all your content in a way that isn’t too overwhelming is to separate everything into categories.
Those categories will reflect what you plan on doing with that content.
The most straightforward way to think about content categories is like this:
Here’s what they all mean.
The “keep” content is your A-list material.
This would be your newest, best stuff, as well as some older, evergreen posts that continue to perform well in traffic, keyword rankings, conversions, or whatever else is important to you.
Look for patterns here.
Is there a certain content type that consistently does well? Do blog posts that include infographics or videos always perform better than those without?
Then you know what to draw from that: make more of those!
In that sense, the “keep” content is the easiest to manage (not that it’s actually that easy!) because you’re literally leaving it alone while drawing lessons from it for the future.
Beware, though, because content can’t stay perfect forever.
You just might have to update it one day, so let’s talk about that.
In the “update” category is all the content that is important to you and has performed well in the past, but that has started faltering recently.
That faltering could be due to a lot of things, but we see it most often with content that’s simply outdated as far as its references and statistics.
When people are looking for real information on their inquiries, they want to access the most comprehensive and up-to-date content.
They won’t click on something from 2019 if there’s a 2023 option available.
So this is where updating this older content comes in.
Google actually treats updated content just like new content.
Now, the updates have to be substantial enough to warrant a new Google ranking.
That means updating all numbers and figures, writing a new introduction and conclusion, adding additional sections containing new information, taking out references to concepts and events that aren’t relevant anymore, and tweaking the meta title and description to suit a more contemporary audience.
Updating content could also mean looking into the intent of the page and seeing if the keyword targets align with that intent.
If you have an informational, top-of-funnel blog post that has been targeting a commercial keyword such as “best smartphones,” then changing the keyword and optimizing the overall tone of the piece could make all the difference as far as rankings, traffic, and conversions.
Your content audit allows you to see this kind of information and make the right changes.
Then there’s the discard category, the trash pile.
This is all the content you don’t need anymore, for a variety of reasons.
Maybe you have a bunch of news posts from past years, announcing then-recent initiatives or commenting on something happening at that time.
Now, though, their relevance has passed, and they’re doing nothing for your business.
By continuing to exist, they’re only eating into your crawl budget with Google, which still has to crawl them when it could be crawling other, more useful content pages.
4.) Implement and Track
By this point, you’ve analyzed your content audit results.
You’ve separated your content pages into categories for keeping, updating, and discarding.
Ideally, things look a lot leaner to you now, and it’s finally time to implement your changes and see what happens over the ensuing months.
For the things you’re going to keep, make sure you’re looking at their performance month to month, but otherwise make them a bit less of a priority right now.
You’re going to live more in the “updating” category for a bit, going through your posts and other content one by one to ensure their complete relevance for the current era.
Keep your goals in mind as you work.
If it’s traffic you want most, then hone in on keyword targets, search volumes, keyword intent, and what your competition is doing.
If your content is supposed to be more conversion-based, then focus on CRO elements such as call-to-action buttons, forms, surveys, and customer testimonials.
Whatever you do, be sure that you track the performance of your new stuff going forward, because you’ll want to know if what you did is working.
As you may know, you can never set and forget anything in SEO.
Besides, you’re only going to have to run another content audit in a year or so.
That’s right: content audits are huge undertakings and can be massively helpful to your business, but they’re still only one snapshot of your content at one point in time.
The results of your audit can become outdated in a matter of months, and if you want to keep your content marketing strategy going for years to come, then an audit is necessary about once a year.
Here’s Your Quick Content Audit Checklist
That was a lot of information to take in on content marketing audits.
To help you see it all at a glance and digest it a bit easier, here’s a distilled version of the checklist:
|Content Audit Checklist Item||Why You Need It|
|Use a crawling tool or spreadsheet||This is where you’ll store all
your content data for analysis
|Collect content data points||The data you’ll collect–such as the content’s
meta tags, word count, and target keywords–will help you to study your content
|Make a content plan||Your content plan will detail which content from your audit you will keep, update, or discard|
|Implement and track||Implementing content changes based on your content audit is the whole point of the audit,
and tracking performance shows you if it’s working
Get Content Audit Help with LSEO
Even by our own admission, content audits are a challenge.
Whether you have 18 blog posts or 800, there is a lot of data to think through when you’re reviewing your entire content strategy.
If you’ve been meaning to get to a content audit for a long time now and just don’t have the time or need some help, the content experts at LSEO can help.
Hit us up today for help with your audit or for any other content-related SEO services you need.