How to conduct a complete content audit in 5 steps

A solid content marketing strategy consists of more than consistently publishing new content. It includes updating and republishing a mix of older content that meets the needs and expectations of users.

With all of the content you’ve already published, how do you know what’s right for repurposing? By performing a content audit.

A content audit is a comprehensive inventory and analysis of all the content on an organization’s digital publishing platforms, namely websites, blogs, and social media. It provides insights into the performance of content that can be used to help companies achieve their goals.

“The main goal of a content audit is to provide a comprehensive framework of content that needs to be thrown out, edited, reorganized, optimized, repurposed, or created from scratch,” writes the team at B2B digital marketing agency Walker Sands. The audit essentially provides the foundation for a future content strategy.

While conducting a content audit isn’t simple or quick, you can break down the process into the following five steps to make it less overwhelming.

1. Set specific goals for the audit

As with any business process, you don’t want to dive into a content audit without setting specific goals. The first step is to make sure you know what you want to accomplish with the audit. Not sure how to specify a goal for a content audit? Here are some ideas:

  • Eliminate low-performing content.
  • Improve search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Ensure brand and messaging consistency across all content.
  • Support future editorial planning.

The most important thing when setting goals is to make sure they advance the mission of your content strategy and align with organizational goals. In doing so, you ensure the content audit will be useful for informing not only the content strategy but other business decisions as well.

2. Gather all content assets

The next step in a content audit is gathering the content to be audited and input the URLs into a spreadsheet or audit form template. This can be done manually if you don’t have an abundance of published content and have the time to compile a list; however, there are tools out there to help.

Screaming Frog, SEMrush, and URL Profiler are common web crawlers that can search out URLs on an organization’s website. Using these in conjunction with third-party APIs such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools will ensure you pull a comprehensive list of pages from the website.

Once you’ve gathered everything, be sure all asset information is imported or input into your spreadsheet. Then it’s time to define the data to capture in the audit.

3. Decide which metrics to analyze

Next, determine which metrics are important for your audit and assign a column in the content audit spreadsheet for each data point. There are a plethora of metrics available for capture, yet one of the most counterproductive things you can do is try to capture every data point.

That said, some common metrics to consider are

  • Title
  • Author
  • Content
  • Meta tags
  • Target keywords
  • Bounce rate
  • Page views
  • Organic traffic
  • Backlinks
  • Rank in search engines
  • Social shares

To determine which data points are most relevant for your audit, go back to your goals and identify the metrics that inform them. Be exhaustive in listing the data you need to capture, but don’t complicate the process by including points you don’t need.

Take the time you need to be thorough. “Don’t try to take shortcuts, skip sections or skim through without really looking,” advises independent user experience designer Donna Spencer. “It’s important that you understand all of the content before you try to work with it later.”

4. Analyze the data

Now that you’ve collected all of your assets and identified the data points you want to measure in the content audit, it’s time to analyze the data. Each piece of content will be attached to several data points that will help you determine how well the content is performing.

Your goals will guide the way you analyze your data. To get started, look for trends that provide valuable insights, such as topics that the highest-performing pieces are about or where most of the traffic for those pieces is from.

Also, take note of content that isn’t performing as well as you think it should. Additionally, keep a discerning eye out for content that your audience is interested in but that you haven’t addressed.

By noticing these and other trends in the data, content teams can determine the next steps for the organization’s content.

5. Prioritize action items

The final step in the content audit process is to determine action items based on the findings from the data analysis and prioritize them. Start by adding two columns to the audit spreadsheet — one for future action and one for priority level. Best practice is to put them at the beginning so it’s easier to reference and track progress.

Go through each piece of content individually and label it with an action to take, such as “leave,” “improve,” “create,” “merge,” or “delete.” From there, assign each one a priority based on a scale that works for the organization’s workflow. Content with the potential to generate a high volume of new traffic or move the company closer to reaching its goals should be the highest priority.

All of these action items are the building blocks for a new content marketing strategy.
Keep in mind that content audits are most effective when they are done regularly. Travis McKnight, a senior content strategist at internet marketing agency Portent, says content should be audited at least once a year because that gives organizations enough data to uncover patterns.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

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