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How to Prepare for Your Content Audit

lisa-barone
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If you have experience performing content audits, you know. You know how arduous it can be, the mental energy required, but, also, the payoff. You've experienced the reward that comes with taking a hard look at the content that exists on your website (and maybe even the content that exists on competitor sites), bettering it, and creating a plan for the future.

But if you've never performed a content audit before, well, you don't know. But you will.

Performing a content audit on your website may be a time-consuming task, but it's also an incredibly valuable one. It allows you to:

  • Identify the content you already have.
  • Assess how well it's optimized for users and search.
  • See where content should be updated or removed.
  • Uderstand how you can increase your content efforts to better usability, loyalty, and search visibility.

If content is your king, the content audit ensures all is right in your kingdom.

If you've never performed an audit on your site, here's what you need to know to get started.

It Helps to Know What You're Looking For

Approach your content audit with a good understanding of what it is you're looking for and for what purpose. This will help you determine what's worth tracking and will keep you focused on the appropriate end goal.

You'll want to ask yourself:

  • Are you concerned with traffic?
  • Are you tying content to conversion?
  • Are you identifying the amount or types of content you have on your site?
  • Are you looking for content to update?
  • Are you looking for content to repurpose or reuse?

By approaching your audit with a plan, you know what to look for, what matters, and what will be helpful to record. Without this information you are likely to miss something that may be important later.

If you go through this process and you still aren't sure whether a certain metric should be tracked – track it anyway. Record it for a series of pages to see how it feels and whether it's helping you to identify patterns or behaviors. If it is, continue. If not, kill it.

Create a Page Rating System

For many of us, our content audit will be used to identify how well the pages on our site are performing so that we can improve upon them. Creating a page rating system can help you to assess this information in a logical, intuitive manner.

You may choose to do this via a traditional alphabetical system or a numerical one. I've found that a one-to-five rating system works best as it's descriptive enough to allow me to identify a poor performing page, but not complex enough that I waste valuable time determining if a page is a five or a seven.

Get in, assess, and get out.

While assessing the quality of your pages, remember that it isn't necessary for every page on your site to earn a perfect score. If a page is written as a three, but is still pushing users down the correct path, that may be good enough.

But don't be a hoarder. Your site architecture shouldn't look like the garage you've been "storing" things in for 30 years.

If you find pages on your site that are redundant, duplicate, or no longer serve a purpose – get rid of them. Don't bloat your site by assuming obsolete pages aren't doing you any harm.

This Will Require a Spreadsheet

Get your spreadsheet ready with the information that you're going to track. This document will serve as your road map and your lifeline through the content auditing process. What you track will depend on the size of your site, your goal, and your tolerance for pain.

I would recommend you start here and expand as needed:

  • Page URL
  • Page Title
  • Meta Description
  • Heading Usage
  • Word Count
  • Type of Content – Article, Blog Post, Landing Page, Video
  • Condition of Content – Evergreen, Out of Date, Off-Topic, Re-Use
  • Targeted Customer
  • Facebook Likes
  • Facebook Shares
  • Facebook Comments
  • Twitter Shares
  • LinkedIn Shares
  • Google +1's
  • Page Rating (1-5)

The data points above will give you the essential information you need to track behaviors and effectiveness.

Start Small

If you've never performed a content audit before, don't attempt to tackle the entirety of your 10,000-page site on your first go at it. Instead, start with a particular folder or your blog section. This will allow you to get a feel for the process, to identify the types of data most valuable to your efforts, and to find the shortcuts you'll rely on when tackling the larger beast.

A Little SEO Knowledge Goes a Long Way

Whether you're performing this audit as a content specialist, a marketing manager, or another position that doesn't include SEO in the title, you will still benefit from a basic understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) and how it applies to your content.

You don't have to be the greatest technical SEO in the world, but being able to identify if that meta description is too long, how to resolve broken links, or what that status code means is super helpful in unmasking the data you'll soon be swimming in. If you don't currently have this knowledge, recruit a buddy and ask them to walk you through it.

And continue learning about SEO and how it applies to your job. The time when content marketers didn't have to understand the basics of SEO is long gone. We all need to speak the same language.

Swim. Don't Drown.

Digging through the depth of your site's content inventory can be a revealing process. You may find pages that you loved but forgot existed, you may find more content than you were expecting, you may find content that can be far better optimized, and you may find great opportunities to get rid of pages that no longer serve a purpose.

But that doesn't mean it won't be painful. Or that you won't get overwhelmed. Or that the truth of what is (or isn't) on your website won't hurt.

Just keep swimming. Don't get stuck obsessing over something that doesn't "fit" squarely into your site architecture or obsessing over a certain metric. Record the information and keep making your way through the site.

Study Competitors While You're in the Zone

Hey, you're already elbow-deep in data, so why not keep going, right? Sure.

Once you've gone through your content inventory and produced your internal scorecard, take a deep dive into your competitors' content assets to do a side-by-side comparison.

  • Where are the content gaps? 
  • Are they targeting an audience differently?
  • Is their content better optimized?
  • Are they focusing on bigger content pieces while you're focusing on quick nuggets?

None of this is a signal you're doing something "wrong" but it's important information to be aware of as you move forward.

It Will Be Worth It

An in-depth content audit is a lot of work and it's quite time-consuming. But it will also offer you great results by helping you see what's on your site and necessary next steps.

Image Credit: 10ch/Flickr


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