You put a lot of work into your business’s blog. (Kudos to you!) For years, you’ve posted a new article about a relevant topic every week, complete with target keywords and optimized for SEO.
At first, you saw lots of meaningful growth. You picked up keywords, boosted your domain authority and gained organic traffic each month. But lately, the numbers aren’t looking so good. It might even look like your reporting tool has stalled because nothing has changed and your content has plateaued.
Stagnant content is not a unique problem. Plenty of businesses who put a heavy focus on their content will run into this hurdle at one point or another. Many factors can contribute to stagnant organic metrics, but there’s one thing that can help you avoid the problem in the first place — a content audit.
What is a Content Audit?
Content audits are a critical part of every effective content marketing strategy. As your business grows and changes, so will your content. Audits are your chance to review all the content on your website and evaluate if each piece still fits your message, strategy and marketing goals.
The main objective of an audit is to identify the value of your content. What’s considered valuable will depend highly on what you need your content to achieve. For example, you might need to determine which pieces users are engaging with the most, what topics they seek out the most or what type of content fosters the most conversions.
Content audits are also a great opportunity to get a pulse on your SEO. As you organize your content, you can take note of what keywords your content is ranking for and if it’s gaining or losing traction. This is important because poor-performing, dated and no-longer-relevant pieces can drag down your entire site’s SEO.
With these few content audit capabilities in mind, I want to turn your attention to a very important word in the title of this blog: “Regular.”
Why “Regular” Is Important
Too many people see content audits as something to do only when they have a problem they can’t solve with their usual methods. But the truth is, a content audit works much better as a preventative measure than a last-ditch solution.
Regular content audits help you ensure your content is relevant and supports your audience and marketing goals throughout the year. It gives you a chance to catch problems early and make adjustments so you don’t end up on the back foot.
Aside from just early detection, audits also support several key areas of your content strategy, including:
- Content gaps – identify topic gaps in your content as they relate to your users’ interests or the buyer's journey
- Optimization – ensure each piece of content is fully optimized and supports your overall SEO strategy
- Support the buyer’s journey – discover which content is helping leads move along their journey and why
I think most content strategists would agree that it’s easier to make minor tweaks to these areas than to overhaul them completely. And if you’re performing content audits regularly, that’s likely all you’ll have to do.
☝️ Quick note: “Regular” can mean different things to different people. In general, it’s wise to audit your content about every six months if you post frequently. Some businesses with less content or those that rely less on their content marketing strategy for conversions could try once a year.
The key is to find the frequency that your team can handle that also provides the most value. You want to make sure you allow time for your metrics to reflect the changes you made, but not so long that significant issues arise without you noticing.
How to Perform a Content Audit
Combing through your website’s content is time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is to systematically assemble every piece of content and its metadata — page title, headings, internal links, redirects, even the meta description if you want to see it.
The specific data you assemble and approach you take for evaluating content assets will depend on your business and the goals of the audit. Even with these deviations, the following steps will guide every content audit.
Define your goals
In case you haven’t noticed from our other blogs, we’re pretty big on setting goals. You need to have a destination in mind so you can assess when you’ve achieved success or when you’re missing the mark. (This goes for all of your marketing efforts, by the way.)
Before you do anything with your site’s content, you need to define your goals. What are you trying to accomplish through content marketing?
If this answer isn’t obvious, that’s okay. You just might need to take one step back and consider your revenue and business goals first. Once you have those in mind, ask yourself these three questions:
- How does content marketing fit into those goals?
- What results do you need from your content?
- What does success look like in metrics?
As you consider and answer these questions, you’ll start to see how content fits into your overall digital marketing strategy. Use that discovery as your true north throughout the content audit process as you evaluate existing content and establish what you need from new content.
With your goal in mind, you can start your content inventory, which is exactly what it sounds like (unfortunately). You’ll be digging through every single web page on your site to identify where your content lives within the site hierarchy.
To keep things organized, you can use a content audit template or create your own audit spreadsheet with Excel or Google Sheets. This sheet will act as a snapshot of your site’s content.
➡️ Pro tip: It can be helpful to assign page IDs for each section so you can see where content belongs in the grand scheme of things. For example, you could label the pillar page about digital marketing as A1, and the pages that it links to as A1.1, A1.2, etc.
The amount of information you compile on this sheet depends on the complexity of your website and your content goals. Smaller sites with limited content can effectively work with just a page ID, page title and URL. More complex sites with lots of content and specific goals might need to add information such as target keywords, customer journey stage or conversion opportunities.
The key in this step is to focus on gathering information and not on evaluating content. You can’t start playing poker before you have a full hand of cards. Take the time to get everything set up and accounted for, then you can start deciding what to keep and what to toss.
At this point, I know you’re trying to think of ways to speed up the process. So I will mention that there are some content audit tools out there that can help you — Screaming Frog, Semrush and Google Analytics to name a few. But if you don’t already have an account or don’t want to spring for a subscription to SEO-specific tools, you don’t have to.
It’s perfectly possible for someone on your team to assemble all of the information you need for an audit. It just takes some time.
Analyze the Data
After compiling your inventory, it’s time to dig a little deeper. (In this step, analytics tools can help you find more specific information, such as bounce rate or how many backlinks a page has.)
There are two ways to approach content analysis:
- Qualitative – look at the qualities of each piece of content to see if they match the topics users are interested in and their search intent. Do they offer valuable information?
- Quantitative – go straight by the numbers. What are your metrics telling you? These include page views, conversion rates, social shares or anything with a number attached to it.
Some people will opt to use just one method, but I prefer a mixed approach. It gives you a fuller picture of your content’s performance and its role in user experiences with your brand.
On the qualitative side, you can look at what topics your content covers and if that information is relevant and valuable to your audience. Some things to look for are whether or not your content matches the user's search intent, if it offers opportunities to go further into your website and if the information aligns with your business goals.
As much as you can learn from the qualitative analysis, the rest of your team will probably want some concrete data too. That’s where the quantitative approach comes in.
It’s important to remember that just because a page is high-performing, that doesn’t always mean it’s valuable. You need to look at the metrics that relate to your overall content goals, not just raw numbers. For example, if you want content that converts, looking just at page views won’t tell you if that piece of content is successful.
I find that quantitative data is a great way to back up your qualitative analysis. You can use one to support your claims in the other, and vice versa. This means you can take a data-driven approach to your content decisions, which makes it much easier to reach your content goals.
As you analyze the data, patterns will likely emerge, and you’ll start to see which pieces of content are helping and which might be hurting. With that information in mind, you can make recommendations about which pages to keep, which might need some work, and which should be retired.
Notice I didn’t say “make decisions.” Content creation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and your team’s decisions about content shouldn’t either. After you complete your analysis, gather all of the content stakeholders in your organization and present your findings. This gives them an opportunity to share their input and suggestions. You’d be surprised what a fresh pair of eyes can find.
When you make that presentation, you can absolutely recommend what you think are the best next steps for your content strategy. Use the data you compiled throughout the process to back up your analysis and recommendations. This will help stakeholders understand why you’re suggesting specific courses of action and evaluate for themselves if those will help the company reach its goals.
Adjust your Content Strategy
With your team rallied behind you, it’s time to implement your decisions in the overall content strategy. I highly recommend creating a calendar for accomplishing these adjustments and finding team members who can own each task.
For example, you might have one person in charge of repurposing existing content for social media or the sales process. Another person could work on keyword research and new content creation. This creates shared ownership among your team, making it much easier to get lots of things done in a shorter amount of time.
Be sure to keep an eye on changes as you implement them. It will take some time for those adjustments to generate traction, but you still want to make sure they’re moving you in the right direction.
Take Stock, Take Control
Content marketing is a powerful tool, but like other digital marketing solutions, you have to keep up with it. A content audit is a great way to take stock of how your content is performing so you can take control of its success.
If this article piqued your interest, check out our other blogs about content marketing and how to leverage it in your business!