A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit
Is your content a mess?
It might be high quality (it might not be), but that doesn’t mean that it’s organized.
It also doesn’t mean that you’re producing all of the right kind of content that your readers want to see.
Most online businesses that use content marketing have weaknesses in their content.
Either the content isn’t performing as well as it could be, or they’re missing content on certain topics and keywords altogether.
And this includes good businesses too, so don’t feel bad if you don’t think your content marketing is quite as good as it could be.
Instead, recognize that this is an opportunity to further improve your content marketing processes.
So, how do you find these weaknesses?
As you may have guessed, you find them with a content audit.
A content audit helps you assess your current content as well as shape your future content strategy.
In this post, I’m going to show you a 5-step content audit that you can follow (although there are many other effective content audit processes).
Step 1: Generate a list of all your content
The first thing you need to do is take stock of what you have.
You’ll want to compile a list of URLs and put them in a spreadsheet.
If you have a small site, you can do this manually, but otherwise I suggest you use software like Screaming Frog to generate a list.
The free version will crawl up to 500 links on a site, so as long as your site is small, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, you’ll want the premium version, which is worth the investment for any serious marketer.
Enter a starting URL in the text bar at the top of the tool, and press Start:
You can’t configure the options in the free mode, but the defaults should be fine.
When it’s done, set the filter to HTML, and export the results.
From this list, you’ll want to keep all the URLs with a status code of “200.”
If you find that you’re missing a lot of URLs, which is possible if your internal linking isn’t great, you can use another option like a sitemap generator.
If you use the tool I just linked to, enter your starting URL again, and the tool will crawl up to 500 pages:
You can then copy the results and paste them into a spreadsheet. You might have to clean them up a little, but it will work.
Step 2: Retrieve metrics, and categorize content
Now that you have a good idea about what you have, it’s time to figure out how it’s performing.
Just because you have an article about “SEO for cats,” which is a topic you wanted to cover, doesn’t mean that the article is getting traffic or doing anything with the traffic it gets.
Content that is underperforming is going to be the first main weakness that we’ll identify.
Below is a list of metrics that you might want to collect. Add a column to your spreadsheet for each one. Feel free to add any others that you care about:
- Title of content – You can pull this right from Screaming Frog.
- Length of title – You can also get this from Screaming Frog. Use it as a quick check for excessively long titles. Remember, it should be under 55-60 characters to show up fully in Google. This can affect your click-through rate (CTR).
- Category – Write down the topic of each page.
- Ranking for main keyword (if available) – If there’s a keyword you’re targeting, record your ranking for it as of now.
- Search volume for main keyword – A metric that will help you prioritize your SEO effort in the future. Get it from Google AdWords or any keyword research tool.
- Average organic search traffic per month – Get this from Google Analytics. Go to “Behavior,” and pick the page. Then add a secondary dimension of “source,” and look for the traffic data beside Google.
- Average overall traffic per month — Again, get it from Google Analytics. Record the total traffic number by going to “Behavior,” and pick a page. Look at a time period of at least 3 months when possible, and calculate an average.
- Meta description – Your meta description can also greatly affect your CTR. If your traffic seems unreasonably low for the typical monthly search volume, you can optimize your meta description to attract more clicks. You can also pull this from Screaming Frog.
- Bounce rate of organic search traffic – Again, go to “Behavior,” pick a page, and add a secondary dimension of source. Look at the bounce rate metric beside the Google row.
- Average time on page of organic search traffic – Use the same report as above, but get the average time on page.
- Number of backlinks – Backlinks are a critical part of ranking well. Use a link database tool such as Majestic or Ahrefs to get the number of backlinks to each page (can be done in bulk).
- number of linking root domains – You should be able to get this when getting the number of backlinks. It tells you whether backlink numbers are inflated (i.e., 10,000 backlinks from one domain).
- URL rank – Different tools have different metrics (e.g., MozRank for OSE, URL rating for Ahrefs) to judge the overall quality of links. Get one to get a rough idea of your page’s authority.
- Total social shares – you could also break this down by network. You can get this information using a tool like Sharetally.
If you plan on doing multiple content audits or you’re working on a very big site, doing all this manually would be crazy.
Some of it is easy to do all at once, like collecting numbers from Screaming Frog.
But all the other actions can also be done in bulk (and automated) with a little technical know-how.
Hire a programmer to build you a simple tool that pulls all this data from different APIs, and it will save you hours of work.
Step 3: Create an in-depth reader/customer profile
We’ll take a step away from your actual content for this part and instead focus on your target audience.
This step consists of two parts.
Part #1 – Identify your reader: It’s a basic rule for any marketing – create things that your target audience is interested in.
It applies to social media marketing, content marketing, SEO…and so on.
But in order to do that, you first need to determine who your reader is.
Refer to this section of one of my ultimate guides if you need help doing this.
Part #2 – Determine what they’re interested in: Now, you can start to learn and understand what they’re interested in.
You figure that out by researching demographics (age, gender, etc.) and psychographics (what they believe in).
Here’s a good introductory guide that will walk you through the most important demographics and psychographics.
Once you’ve done that, you should have a fleshed out reader avatar.
Part #3 – Use those interests to identify topics and keywords: Once you have a pretty good understanding of your target audience (be as specific as possible with everything), it’s time to translate that to content.
A good place to start is to use basic keyword research tools.
After that, use these advanced keyword research methods to find even more keywords and topic ideas.
You should record all of these keyword and topic ideas in another spreadsheet, complete with any search volume data they have.
Note that you are not limited to just these topics for content. From your knowledge of the reader, you might be able to know that they’d be interested in something that can’t be searched for.
You can still add these topics to the list; you’ll just have to get traffic for them from sources other than search engines.
Step 4: Conduct “gap” analysis
Now we have two spreadsheets:
- One with all your current content (and metrics)
- One with all the content (or content ideas) your target reader is interested in
It’s time to look at them together.
Area #1 – See which content you’re missing altogether: This has to be done manually and will take quite a bit of time.
Start by pairing up those keyword and content ideas to the content you already have.
Essentially, you’re copying the entire row from the first sheet that we made and pasting it right beside the keyword it matches.
Here’s a small snapshot of what it might look like:
What you’ll find at the end of it, in almost all cases, is that for some of the content/keyword ideas, you don’t have any matching content.
That’s a clear problem: you have a gap.
Obviously, you’ll need to fill these gaps, but we’ll get to that later.
Area #2 – See which content is not performing: I mentioned this briefly before. If your current content isn’t generating any traffic, it’s about as useful as if it was missing altogether.
That’s not good enough.
The challenge here is to identify this underperforming content.
Unfortunately, there’s no specific formula I can give you here.
It comes down to what you consider good. For some sites, getting 200 visitors a month to a piece of content is horrible, while for others, that’s great.
On top of the absolute amount of traffic your content gets, you want to consider two other main factors:
- Its search rankings
- Its potential search traffic
If a page is ranking in positions #4-10, it’s not getting much traffic.
However, with some extra work, you could easily get it to rank in the top 3 and get more traffic.
But you also have to consider if it’s worth the effort.
If the keyword gets a few thousand searches a month, it probably is. If it gets 20? Probably not.
At this point, you just want to highlight which content isn’t getting much traffic.
Next, we’re going to bring it all together.
Step 5: Create your new content strategy
The final step is to create a content strategy that will address all the weaknesses that have been identified up until this point.
And it requires a lot of manual work and careful consideration.
Step #1 – Create a column for action: It’s time to add another column to your spreadsheet.
I suggest adding it to the very beginning.
In this column, you’ll add a final label reflecting the corresponding action you want to take on it.
Again, choose any labels you want, but you could use these ones if you’d like:
- “Leave” – The post is performing well, no changes are needed.
- “Create” – A default label for any content idea that needs to be filled.
- “Merge” – Sometimes, you might have more than one piece of content for one topic (it happens if your content is not well organized). It’s usually best to merge these together into one best version.
- “Improve” – If your content is underperforming, you’ll want to improve it.
You’ll need to go through each idea, one by one, to do this.
Step #2 – Create a column for priority: There’s one final column you need to make. Put it right next to the action column.
Some gaps are bigger than others.
It makes sense to fill those big gaps first and get to the smallest ones only when you have time.
Here, you’re going to assign each action (other than “leave”) a priority from 1-10 (10 being the highest).
You need to factor in those things we looked at like potential for SEO traffic.
If a piece of content has the potential to generate a ton of new traffic, it gets a high priority and should be edited or created as soon as possible.
Finally, create an action list: Now that your sheet is filled out, sort all the actions based on their priorities.
Then, plan your content marketing goals, tasks, and resources so that you can start filling in these gaps one by one, in order of priority.
No collection of content is ever “complete”—there will always be some gaps.
Conduct a content audit on a regular basis, and identify your biggest weaknesses.
It’s a ton of work and leads to even more work (taking action on your results), but it is an extremely effective way to consistently improve the results from your content marketing.
This can get a little overwhelming if you haven’t done a content audit before, so if you’re confused about any of this, leave me a question below.
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