Why Your Website Needs a Content Audit
Do you remember getting report cards when you were in school?
Whether you were a good student or one that dreaded report card day, these pieces of paper always made you feel so exposed.
But believe it or not, the point of report cards was not to call you out. They were there to make sure that your parents and teachers knew what you were doing well and what areas you might have needed help in.
A website content audit is similar. Though it sounds intimidating, an audit ultimately helps to assess your site’s performance and redirect your content strategy as needed.
What is a content audit?
First things first: a website content audit is essentially a detailed inventory and analysis of your site. It evaluates each page in detail and provides data on key metrics such as:
- number of unique visitors
- total page views
- average time spent on page
- bounce rate
With this data, you can assess what content resonates with your audience and conversely, what content doesn’t. In this way, content audits provide a means of getting an objective perspective on your site—not an easy thing to do.
The 3 Major Benefits of Conducting a Site Content Audit
1. Detailed, specific feedback for SEO
Google updates its algorithm on a regular basis, making SEO dynamic and ever-changing.
That means your website’s on-page SEO deserves a regular checkup, especially whenever a major algorithm update takes place.
A content audit helps you to accomplish just that. It provides insightful data on how users are reacting to your content and where there’s room for improvement.
For example, with a content audit, you may find:
- Your product pages with video content outperform those without videos
- A quarter of your blog posts do not contain any inbound links
- Your worst-performing landing page has a handful of broken external links
- Several landing pages’ meta descriptions are well over the character limit
- Visitors to your FAQ page have the longest session times
Whether it’s a lackluster bounce rate or disappointingly low amount of time on site, use observations from your audit to pinpoint your website’s SEO weaknesses. From there, you can make improvements as needed. That might be:
- A complete overhaul and rewrite of a page
- Consolidation of similar content into just one page
- Deletion of any content that simply doesn’t add value to your reader or the rest of your website
SEO is a finicky science at best—so while you may not be able to fully predict how a page will perform, a website audit at least provides hard data to help improve each page’s chance of ranking highly on Google.
2. Insight on user preferences and behavior
According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 56% of marketers use data collection technology to learn about their audience’s preferences and behavior.
Sure, many companies conduct customer surveys, but that only gives them subjective information that visitors choose to share.
A content audit, on the other hand, uses hard data gathered from all visitors to a site. And when you examine these data points and how they relate to one another, you’ll get a much more holistic and telling picture of how users respond to your content.
That includes insight like which pages users linger on, how often they convert, and when they navigate away. It’s immediate, objective, and not colored by the phrasing of a particular question.
Consider, for instance:
- Does a certain page get an inordinate amount of shares, views, and backlinks? If so, you might want to study this particular page and figure out how to replicate its results.
- Does a page see a lot of traffic but have a high bounce rate? This might indicate that readers are drawn to your page, but something about it misses the mark.
- Or is traffic simply lackluster? It’s possible your content simply isn’t optimized well, making it difficult for users to find organically.
With a content audit, you’ll get all of this visitor information without intruding on their time—a big deal, considering how often customers are asked for their feedback. “Survey fatigue” is real, and you don’t want it to impact anyone’s perception of your company.
3. Ideas for future content
Finally, aside from its insight on your website’s SEO and reader behavior, a content audit can benefit your business by fueling content ideation.
After all, your audit identifies not just your website’s weak points, but also its strong points. You’ll see what pages do exceptionally well and can then use them as internal case studies to lead your content strategy.
That might be, for example, realizing that one category of blog posts consistently receives more traffic than others. If so, you should consider investing in producing more blog content for this category.
Alternatively, your audit may reveal content gaps—that is, missing information that could benefit your readers. Thanks to your audit shedding light on this, you can focus on filling these gaps.
4 Basic Steps for Conducting a Content Audit
A content audit may seem rigorous, but it essentially boils down into four key steps.
1. Find or set up a content audit template
Start by creating a content audit file where you can organize all of your data. This can be a simple spreadsheet with columns for each metric you want to analyze, such as:
- Page title
- Category or type, e.g., guest post, product page, infographic
- Meta description
- Word count
- Date of publication
- Number of social shares
It’s also helpful to create a “Notes” column so that you can include any miscellaneous details worth mentioning, e.g., a post that’s been republished before.
Of course, there’s no need to reinvent the content audit wheel altogether—especially if you’re pressed for time. Find a selection of free and customizable audit templates online, such as ones from the following brands:
2. Collect data about your site
It’s tedious gathering and aggregating data—and far less interesting compared to actually perusing it.
Fortunately, there are a variety of site audit tools out there that simplify the data collection process. Consider trying one or a few of the following:
Different tools offer different functionalities and thus, different insight. So if the thought of having even more data doesn’t overwhelm you, try mixing and matching multiple programs—that could mean a more holistic view of your site.
Of course, consolidating data from separate tools can be a pain. However, you’ll find that most audit tools allow you to easily export your data as a spreadsheet, which you can work off of directly, or transfer into in your audit template.
3. Analyze your data
Here comes the fun part: interpreting your data. With a rich set of data points at your disposal, it’s time to dive in and understand your site’s current successes and failures.
To make the most of your data analysis, try these tips:
- Look for patterns. Do you see any trends in what performs well or what performs poorly? There may be some underlying commonalities in certain pieces of content on your website and how users respond—for example, it could be that your audience prefers your listicles over your infographics, or that the downloadable content with “free” in the title gets consistently more views. In any case, make note of these patterns, which can be very telling of what users like and dislike.
- Compare multiple data points. For instance, do pages with a low bounce rate also have high social share numbers? How great is the overlap between your most shared pages and pages that receive the most traffic? The more data points you compare, the more deeply you can analyze the performance of individual web pages and understand what content is most effective.
- Create a benchmark SEO checklist. It can be overwhelming running through the ins and outs of SEO for each individual web page, especially if your site happens to be on the larger side. But by creating an SEO checklist, you can easily identify whether your content meets a baseline standard of optimization, and flag pages that don’t in your audit spreadsheet. Some checklist items might include:
- Target keyword in content’s H1?
- Target keyword in content’s meta description?
- At least 1-3 inbound links?
- At least 1-3 outbound links?
4. Create action steps
Every conclusion you draw from your content audit data should inspire some sort of action because, without any next steps to act on, a content audit is—well, just a status update at best. And leaving it at that would be a big missed opportunity for your site.
So use the insight gleaned from your audit to establish concrete action steps for your content. That could include any of the following:
- Edit a page for minor errors, e.g., fix broken links or correct typos
- Reoptimize a page to make it more SEO-friendly
- Rewrite or significantly revise some content
- Consolidate multiple pages into just one
- Delete content altogether
Make an action plan delegating tasks across your content team, and consider ordering them from highest to lowest priority.
And to keep tabs on how these changes impact your site’s performance, later on, log them in your calendar or on Google Analytics. You can refer back to these notes months down the line when it’s time to conduct another audit.
Yes—that’s right. A content audit isn’t just a one-time event; it should be repeated, whether on a monthly, quarterly, or biannual basis. Why?
There’s no telling that your site will maintain a steady trajectory over time. Google’s algorithm changes, after all, and your users likely will as well. A content audit thus helps you stay on your toes, ready to change or adjust the direction of your content strategy for optimal results.
Because SEO and user needs constantly change, your website should as well.
That’s ultimately why you need content audits—they help with guiding your site’s natural evolution.
Done well, a content audit provides specific and actionable data about how each of your web pages performs—and in doing so, give clues about how to improve your site and what kind of content you should produce next. In short, content audits help you transform your site’s current shortcomings into its future strengths, and develop new content that better aligns with your audience.
About the Author: Joyce Chou is a Content Specialist at Compose.ly, a content platform that matches businesses with seasoned freelance writers. Apart from writing for Compose.ly’s blog, Joyce also contributes to other publications about digital marketing, personal finance, and business and e-commerce. You can reach Joyce on Twitter or LinkedIn.