The basics of content auditing
A good audit can help turn your raw analytics data into a shiny new content strategy. Here’s how
What is content auditing?
A content audit is a deep analysis of all the content on your website. When we say deep, we mean deep – a good content audit evaluates every single page, looking at information such as the type of content, its source, standard, visibility, performance and audience. Think of it as a website inventory.
One of the main aims of a content audit is to uncover pages that are performing badly, pages with outdated or incorrect information and pages that are poorly optimized for search. But the process isn’t just about spotting problems; it will also show which pages are performing and ranking well, so you can double down on the things you’re doing right.
What does a content audit analyse?
A content audit will look at:
- Content type: For instance, is the content on a page image or text?
- Content source: Is the content original?
- Traffic source: Where is the page’s audience coming from?
- Content performance: Is the page showing high levels of engagement? Of the new visitors to the page, how many come back for more? How many explore the site further?
- On-page SEO: Are URLs, tags and metadata correctly aligned? Are the right keywords present, and how well is the page ranking?
- Backlink profile: Are people linking to the page? If so, are the people linking to it credible enough to confer authority and boost search ranking?
Why is a content audit important?
Content is king when it comes to generating organic search traffic. Google looks at content signals when assessing how to rank your website – and as everyone knows, the higher you rank the more traffic you’re likely to receive.
A content audit will equip you with a thorough knowledge of how your pages are performing. It will show you:
- Which pages are doing well and which content people like most
- Which pages are performing badly and in what way, so that you can focus on improving them
- How you are ranking on search engines, so you can revise or update keywords and metadata
- Content gaps you can fill and errors that need correcting
What do I need to start a content audit?
A DIY content audit isn’t impossible, but it can be extremely time consuming. You’ll need to have at least a basic knowledge of technical and organic SEO principles, access to a website metrics package (e.g. Google Analytics) and experience of working with spreadsheets. Then it’s a matter of listing the parameters you want to report on, building a corresponding report in your analytics package, downloading all the data and mining it for insights.
How to use a content audit
For brands with an existing website, a content audit provides essential input when developing a new content strategy. Most audits come in filterable and sortable spreadsheets, so you can easily hone in on the top-performing and the weakest content.
As a foundational approach, try breaking your content into three tranches: the most successful, the least successful and the bits in the middle. There are insights to be found in all three, so don’t just use your audit as a way of looking for problems.
Don’t just pat yourself on the back when you look at top-performing content. Ask yourself whether these are the pieces you expected to see at the top of the pile, and whether they reflect the way your content operation is set up. If you’re seeing mostly long, deep pieces but your content team is being tasked with producing high-volume bitesize content, you might need to change the team’s remit. Listen to what this list is telling you about what kind of content your audience is enjoying.
That goes for subject matter as well as format. Crucially, this list gives you steers about the themes and topics your audience like to read about. These are the things that will be shaping your content calendar as you work through your new strategy.
In addition, look at how people are reaching these pages. Is it a good mix of referrals, organic search and direct visits? Depending on how granular your audit is, you’ll get a sense here of which traffic sources are working well for you, and which might need more attention.
Finally, look at how effective your most popular content is. It’s great that people are reaching it and consuming it, but what are they doing next? Are they heading deeper into the site or exiting? Great traffic that fails to convert to action or engagement is usually a sign of weak CTAs or UX.
Generally, your analysis of the worst-performing content will put pieces into one of two buckets: strategically important content that needs to be rescued, and content you probably didn’t need in the first place.
The good news is that you’ve already gathered plenty of insights from your top-performing content, so you have the makings of a rescue plan for those pieces that aren’t working. Can you convert them into some of the popular formats you’re seeing in the top tranche? Can you rework them to tie them into popular themes?
As for the ‘junk’ content, you needn’t remove it unless it’s bad enough to have a negative impact on your brand. Just trawl it for insights on what isn’t working – look for common themes and presentational approaches, and update your editorial guidance to caution against them.
It may not be as black-and-white as the upper and lower ends, but the middle can still yield some worthwhile insights. Look out for secondary topics and themes, and solid, dependable formats that are delivering consistent if unspectacular traffic. Remember not every post will be a stratospheric success; there’s a lot to be said for the content that provides your regular traffic bedrock.
While you’re trawling the middle, look out for underperformers – pages and posts whose topic and/or format suggest they should have risen into the top third. You may be able to lift them with a few content or SEO tweaks, or by putting a bit of paid support behind them.
Other things to look out for
Keep an eye out for regular referrers. An audit will show you which sites and individuals are linking to your content. That’s strategically useful information – make a note of it and make sure your outreach team is getting in touch with those outlets when you publish something relevant.
It’s also worth ordering the audit spreadsheet by page load time, so you can see which pages are taking a long time to load. Slow loading can genuinely impact your search visibility, so make a note of sluggish pages and get your technical team to work on speeding them up.