Maximize Your Website's Potential: The Importance of a Content Audit
If you were to ask any number of companies about their content strategy, most of them would tell you about new content creation. Maybe they'd mention monitoring the performance of their content for insights about what their editorial calendar for future months should include. The best online marketers know better. They understand the importance of looking at past content to adjust pieces to improve results in the future.
Content audits are critical elements of a successful Content Marketing implementation. They are a powerful way to improve website traffic quickly. If you have a website that's 3-5 years old, have regular content production and have never performed a content audit, you should expect your organic traffic to increase 50-100% or more when going through your first audit and improvement program.
From a technical perspective, if you have many outdated and nonperforming pages, the crawl efficiency of Google's bots is seriously impeded. When it takes crawling, say, 1000 URLs, to find 100 good ones, they will take note and not spend as much time crawling through your content in the future.
From a marketing perspective, your content represents your brand. Maintaining, updating, and improving the content you put out to your audience shapes how visitors and customers see you as an authority in your industry. A clear topical focus, ease of discovery, and ensuring value for users all arise from optimizing and curating your existing content.
Regular content maintenance is not only worthwhile, it is an essential endeavour to ensure your content is and keeps working for you.
When performing content audits, we organize content elements into three categories:
- Good: the most traffic-generating, highest converting, linked, and shared content.
- Improve: content that generates below-average results but covers a relevant subtopic.
- Remove: content that produces no ROI and covers a topic/subtopic no longer relevant to the business.
Let's talk about how a content audit will address these categories.
Steps for completing a basic content audit:
1. Decide what you want from your content
Delineate the main metrics you want to hit with your content. Common goals are site traffic, backlinks, social shares, and conversions. Every one of your site's pages should contribute to at least one of these, and any page that does not further at least one of these goals falls into the Remove pile.
Mandatory pages like About Us or Contact Us are exceptions to this general categorization. You may be able to improve these pages (meta descriptions, URL slugs, etc.), but they stand outside this overall content analysis/audit.
2. Collect all your content
Start by finding all of your website pages. You may be able to pull these from the backend of your site or your sitemap. Depending on the content management system you use, this can be as simple as exporting your pages into a spreadsheet. URLs can also be gleaned from Google Analytics data, Google Search Console, or a comprehensive crawl with the tool of your choice. Put this information on a spreadsheet with columns for URL, page title, page type (like blog or landing), and metrics (like monthly traffic, backlinks, shares, and conversions).
3. Categorize your content: Good, Needs Improvement, and Remove
Note where your traffic, backlinks, and conversions over the past year have come from. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find which pages gained traction on social media and where the backlinks are to your content. Google Analytics of Google Search Console can show you traffic to individual URLs.
Pages with above-average (or defined threshold) results for your metrics go in the "Good" pile. Any pages with below-average results for any of your metrics go in the "Improve" pile. Pages with zeroes across your metrics are in the "Remove" pile.
Here are some questions to ask as you assess what to keep, what to improve, and what to remove.
Is it worth people's time? Is it helpful, informative, or entertaining? Does it answer questions, help solve problems, or keep the reader interested?
Is it worthwhile to our company? Is it earning organic rankings, traffic, or backlinks? Is it providing business value by helping to drive conversions? Does it help establish branding or effectively build authority? Does it cover a critical subtopic in your topic cluster?
Is it relevant to our work? There is no reason, with rare exception, to keep content that is not, at the very minimum, distantly related to your site, industry, and customers.
Have we said this before? Repeated content doesn't help anyone, and it clogs up your site. If you have content that has been better addressed elsewhere, then it needs to be merged with the better-performing content asset or pruned.
4. Optimize and revise your content
Now that you have the categorized content, it's time to improve or remove it. These improvements can come from targeting, writing, and grammar. Be sure your content has a clear point, targets a specific topic, and uses terms correctly. Then add any technical improvements you find it needs, such as relevant internal links, meta descriptions, or alt text. Creating and having quality content is key!
Evaluate posts that don't need any obvious fixing and get more value through repurposing and updating them to create evergreen content.
After assuring yourself the Good pages either don't need updating or have been updated, move on to the Improve pages. You'll probably have to spend most of your time here. These pages have shown promise, so pay close attention, and you'll find ways to make them perform better.
An example would be a page built for traffic that is below average. You could add outbound links and an additional section that includes several keywords. Try linking to it from a better-performing page. Making changes to one page so it performs better, helps your site overall.
Delete everything in the Remove pile, and redirect the URLs to the blog home page or a relevant landing page.
5. Do a content audit annually, at least
Don't worry. It gets easier every time. Because you will constantly be weeding out the bad, and you'll have a database in place to work from.
Now that your pages have been pruned and you're working on getting the most value from your existing content, it's essential to keep tabs on the effect these changes are having.
Make sure to review existing content every 6-12 months.
Allocate a (time/money) budget to creating new content and updating existing content. At Aspiration Marketing, we dedicate 60% to creating new content and 40% to maintaining existing content.
Your efforts will be well worth the work. Search engines reward sites that are well-organized and worthwhile in terms of their content. Don't get discouraged if you don't see results from your content audit immediately. It'll take time for Google to recognize your updated content.
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