If you were to ask any number of companies about their content strategy, most of them would tell you about continuing content creation. Maybe they'd mention monitoring 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 with an eye toward adjusting pieces to improve results into the future.
A content audit is a worthwhile endeavor because it ensures your content is working for you by helping you make past posts even better.
A content audit tracks all of your past content. It organizes and optimizes as it goes. It's also a powerful way to quickly improve your website's traffic.
From a technical perspective, if you have lots and lots of outdated and nonperforming pages, the crawl efficiency of Google's bots is seriously impeded.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 brand is represented by your content. So improving the content you put out to your audience shapes the way customers (current and potential) see you as an authority in your niche. A clearer topical focus, ease of discovery, and ensuring value for users all arise from optimizing and curating your existing content.
Every bit of your existing content can first be organized into one of three categories.
The first category is the Good, which is your most traffic-generating, highest converting, linked, and shared content.
The second category is the Needs Improvement, which is any content that generates below average results.
And then there's the Trash, which is content that produces no ROI at all. We know "trash" sounds pretty harsh, but if the content isn't helping your cause, it's hurting it, so it's best to just throw it out.
Let's talk about how a content audit will address each of 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 Trash 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 from your sitemap. Depending on the content management system you use, this can be as simple as exporting database fields. Or URLs can be gleaned from Google Analytics data, Webmaster Tools, 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 Trash
Note where your 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 can show you traffic to individual URLs.
Pages with above average results for any of your metrics go in the Good pile. Any pages with below average results for any of your metrics go in the Needs Improvement pile. Pages with zeroes across your metrics are in the Trash pile.
Here are some questions to be asking as you assess what to keep, what to improve, and what to trash.
- 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?
- 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/or customers.
- Have we said this before? Repeated content doesn't help anyone, and it ends up clogging up your site. If you have content that has been better addressed elsewhere, then it needs to be pruned.
4. Optimize and revise your content
Now that you have the pile of categorized content, it's time to improve it or trash it. These improvements can come in the form of targeting, writing, and/or 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.
Evaluate posts that don't need any obvious fixing and get more value through repurposing and/or 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 Needs Improvement pages. You'll probably have to spend most of your time here. These pages have shown promise so play 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 a number of 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 Trash pile, and redirect the URLs to the blog home page or a relevant landing page.
5. Do a content audit annually
Don't worry. It gets easier every time. Because you will be constantly 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 important to keep tabs on the effect these changes are having.
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.