Your website content is crucial in communicating your message, promoting your product or service, and increasing organic search engine visibility. But how do you know if your content is performing as it should? What if your content is letting you down? You need to perform a comprehensive content audit to get the answers to these questions and more.
In this article, we'll delve into the following:
- What is a content audit?
- Why is it important to run regular website content audits?
- How do you perform a content audit?
- What tools do you need for a content audit?
- How do you implement an audit action plan?
Let’s get started.
What is a Content Audit?A content audit is an organised review and evaluation of the existing content on your website or blog. It gives you an overview of your content performance, including metrics such as views and engagement. It also allows you to identify opportunities for improvement in terms of SEO, user experience, and relevancy.
A website content audit typically looks at the following:
Inventory of contentThis involves listing all active URLs, categorising the various content types, such as blogs, landing pages, and videos - noting their titles and headings.
Performance metricsPerformance is evaluated by examining the traffic, user engagement metrics like bounce rate, conversion effectiveness, and the frequency of content being shared on social platforms.
Search Engine OptimisationSEO checks include analysing the ranking keywords, optimising meta descriptions, the quality and number of backlinks, the internal linking structure, and the presence of descriptive alt text for images.
Content quality and relevanceThis assessment checks for up-to-date information, ensures content is relevant to the target audience, has sufficient depth on the topic, and is consistent with the brand's tone and style.
Content structure and formatThe visual structure, usability, and mobile optimisation of content are evaluated to ensure a positive user experience.
Redundancies and gapsThe audit identifies any repeated content across the site and highlights topics or areas that need to be addressed.
Potential for repurposingThe audit explores opportunities for reformatting content, such as transforming a blog post into other media forms.
The review includes checking how quickly content loads, ensuring no broken links are present, and confirming efficient redirect setups.
The general goal of any content audit is to provide an understanding of the existing content to create a future content strategy. Typically, a website content audit also includes a more specific objective, such as identifying how to make content more effective in terms of search engine rankings or user engagement rates.
Why Is It Important to Perform a Content Audit?
A content audit is like a health check-up for your website. It ensures everything is running smoothly and you're not missing any issues that are hindering your website's performance. Are users clicking off the page too soon? Is your content interesting and engaging for the reader? Does it match the brand's voice and style?
One of the most important reasons to perform regular content audits is related to SEO. Here are a few reasons why.
Keeping Up with Algorithm Updates
You've likely heard horror stories of websites losing their prime search ranking overnight. These dramatic shifts often result from algorithm updates, where Google has changed how it ranks content. And these updates are not rare events – in 2021, Google updated their algorithm 5,000 times.
Some of these updates have been more significant than others, and sometimes they can drastically alter the way content is ranked. In 2022, Google launched its Helpful Content update, which changed the way the algorithm rewards helpful and informative content. This update highlighted the importance of creating high-quality content that directly answers user queries.
Now, you may notice that it's common to see FAQ sections included at the end of landing pages and regular blog posts. Why? They provide direct answers to specific questions, and content creators hope to be featured in Google's Snippet section – the answers that appear at the top of search engine results.
You might miss opportunities to capitalise on these algorithm updates if you're not performing regular audits. Or worse, you may be penalised for producing low-quality content that may have passed before a key update.
Maintaining Content Freshness
For certain types of search queries, Google rewards fresh content. This makes sense – if users are looking for data on a trending topic, the latest stats for recurring events, or up-to-date product information, then they want to see the freshest content available.
Freshness as a ranking factor has been around since 2011, but it's often misunderstood. Fresh content may be valued, but that doesn't mean that older, ever-green content will stop performing well over time. When someone types a search into Google, the algorithm decides whether it falls into the category of "Query Deserves Freshness" or QDF. For example, queries about current events will trigger the QDF quality, while more general questions won't.
A regular web content audit will help you identify areas that need updating so your content is always relevant. You'll also be able to identify content that needs to be removed or replaced entirely.
Reviewing the Content's Quality
While the exact ins and outs of how Google ranks content aren’t publicised, we know that quality is high on its priority list (alongside freshness). Google uses criteria called E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) as a major factor in what it determines to be "high quality" online content. In fact, these rating guidelines are so important that Google produced a 168-page document on the subject. Since we can't cover everything mentioned in that document, here is a rough outline of how they rank content:
- Experience. Is the content written by someone with first-hand experience in the matter? Or is it written by someone with second-hand knowledge?
- Expertise. Content should be accurate and written by someone with in-depth knowledge of the subject. For example, medical advice should be written by a qualified medical professional.
- Authority. Content should come from a source that's considered credible. This might be a well-known industry leader, or an academic institution, depending on the topic.
- Trustworthiness. Content should be fact-checked and free of any potential bias. The source should provide accurate information and not try to mislead or deceive its readers.
When it comes to content topics that fall into the "Your Money or Your Life" category, Google is even more strict about enforcing these guidelines. Some examples of this type of content are legal, health, or financial advice. A regular SEO content audit will ensure the high-quality standard is met and maintained.
How to Perform a Content Audit
Content audits can be lengthy, but the results will be worth it. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform a comprehensive content audit:
1. Determine The Goal(s) of Your Content Audit
Your web content audit should have a specific purpose in mind. Is it to identify high-performing pieces? Are you looking for areas of improvement? Knowing your goal will help you plan the steps and resources needed for your audit.
Here are some examples of what your audit goal might be:
- Identify content that needs to be updated or removed
- Increase organic traffic to the website
- Boost user engagement and time spent on the site
- Improve conversion rates
Depending on your goal, you'll need to determine what metrics you'll track during the audit. For example, if you're looking to improve user engagement, you might track metrics like:
- Page views
- Average time on page
- Bounce rate
Generally, nearly every content audit is effectively an SEO content audit. There's no escaping the importance of SEO when it comes to the overall success of your website and, subsequently, your business. So even if you’re performing a content marketing audit, your SEO metrics will be important to track.
2. Identify and Collate Content to Include in the Audit
Next, you'll need to collect all the content you plan to audit. Depending on your goal, this could include all your website's content (static and dynamic) or specific types of content such as blog posts, videos, and so on.
If you have a website with a lot of content, it may not be worthwhile to audit every single piece. In this case, you can narrow it down by selecting the content with the highest page views or other relevant metrics.
You can create a content audit spreadsheet for each piece of content, including columns like the URL, title, author, date published/updated, and a column for your correlating metrics. If you're using a content management system (CMS) or analytics platform, you can export the data and create the spreadsheet quickly.
3. Set Up Your Content Audit Tool Stack
You'll need to have some way to track and measure the performance of each piece of content. Depending on the goals of your audit and what metrics you want to track, there are various content audit tools that can help. Here are a few of the most popular ones.
Google Analytics is the most important content audit tool you need. It's also free, with a paid version for more advanced features. With the launch of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in 2020, you can track events such as page views, scrolling, outbound clicks, internal clicks, site searches, form interactions, video engagement, and file downloads right out of the box. You can also create custom events if you want to track or measure something specific. To get started, you need to set up an Analytics account.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a collection of free tools that provides insights into how your website performs in organic search. It can provide you with data such as the number of clicks to your website from Google, average click-through rate (CTR), and average position for each query/page. You'll need to link up GSC with Google Analytics to get the most out of it.
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that can help you quickly crawl and analyse your website. It is especially useful if you're looking to audit the technical aspects of your content, such as meta tags, redirects, broken links, and so on. It also has an SEO Spider feature, which allows you to analyse page titles, headings, images, alt attributes, and more. There are both free and paid versions depending on what you need.
If you're using WordPress, the RankMath plugin is a great way to optimise your SEO. Whether you need to optimise meta descriptions, title tags, or any other essential SEO factor, RankMath can definitely help.
Ahrefs is a great tool for analysing keyword rankings, backlinks, and organic search traffic. While you may not need to use it for every content audit, it can be helpful if you're looking to measure the performance of specific pieces of content.
4. Organise and Analyse the Data
Once you've gathered the data, it's time to organise and analyse it on your spreadsheet. Depending on what you're looking to accomplish, this could include different metrics such as the number of visits per page, time on page/session duration, bounce rate, SERP ranking, keyword density, etc.
With everything in one place, you can now get a better understanding of your content performance and which pieces need to be improved. You can also look for common patterns across web pages or topics that could indicate certain areas of improvement.
Here are some examples of patterns that you may start to notice during a web content audit:
- Certain topics tend to perform better
- Certain types of content experience higher social sharing
- Certain keywords have higher rankings than others
- Certain content pieces have higher bounce rates or shorter session times
You may want to use a rating system to rate the quality of each piece of content. This can be difficult to determine subjectively. As mentioned, the Google algorithm values high-quality content that meets its E-E-A-T criteria. To make the rating process easier, consider setting up a simple scorecard that looks at different aspects of quality. Here are some of the questions that Google suggests you ask yourself when evaluating content quality.
5. Implement Your Action Plan - Content Audit Checklist
You can determine your next steps using all the data you have collated on your spreadsheet. Typically, this will include one of the following:
- Remove. You may decide to remove content that underperforms or is no longer relevant.
- Keep. If something is performing well, then no action is necessary, and you can keep the content as it is. Make note of which pieces are working for future reference.
- Optimise or Update. Content that is underperforming or not optimised can be updated to ensure it meets the latest SEO standards, includes the latest information, meets your quality control criteria, and performs better. You may need to update the keywords, rewrite some sections, and add internal links, among other things.
- Consolidate. If there are some pieces that are too short or duplicate other content, you may decide to merge them.
If you are optimising or updating some pieces of content after a content marketing audit, then you'll likely need to do at least one of the following:
Make the piece longer
Everyone wants to know, is long-form or short-form content better? Well, the answer depends on the quality of the content and topic. Research has found that longer pieces generally perform better than shorter ones. According to Hook Agency, 1,760 words – 2,400 is the ideal length for a blog post when it comes to search engine performance. But this doesn't mean that all content should be this length. If you're writing 2,000 words on a topic that could easily be covered in 600 words, you'll lose readers.
Make the piece more visual
Visuals can help grab attention and break up text-heavy content so it's more appealing to read. Use visuals like infographics, charts, images, or videos to make your content easier to digest and more interesting.
Consider how you can make the piece more engaging
Engaging content is key to a successful blog post or article. Your content may contain excellent research and facts, but is it presented in a way that is engaging and easily digestible? Is the writing style interesting and inviting? Have you included elements such as compelling titles, short paragraphs, or bullet points to make the content easier to read?
Improve the keyword density
The keyword density of a content piece is an important factor when it comes to SEO. If your keyword density is too low, it might be difficult for search engines to understand the piece and, therefore, won't rank as high in search results. Research your keywords and focus on using them naturally throughout the content.
Update statistics and information
Fresh, relevant information is key to maintaining an audience's interest. For instance, if your content was created several years ago, it's most likely outdated. Check the facts and figures and ensure they reflect your industry's latest research or statistics.
Analyse Competing Websites
This last step is optional during a website content audit, but it can be a useful way to better understand how your content is stacking up against competitors. You won't be able to access all the information that competitors have, but you can use tools such as BuzzSumo to go through your competitors' websites and identify their most successful content. Analysing your competitor's websites can also help you with the following:
- Identifying gaps in content where you can focus your efforts
- Seeing the types of formats competitors are using and what works best for them
- Establishing which topics your audience is most passionate about
- Understanding how to best differentiate yourself from competition
- Benchmarking your performance against well-established competitors
Content Audit: A Continuous Cycle of Improvement
The content audit process is an important step that ensures your website offers valuable, well-written content, which helps you engage and retain customers while performing well in search results. It's also an ongoing process – once you've done the initial audit, it's important to do regular follow-up audits to keep your content relevant and up-to-date. The good news is that subsequent audits will become easier once you've performed your first audit. You can start scheduling regular audits (quarterly or bi-annually, for example) and use the process you developed during the first audit to create an efficient system for ongoing review. By regularly auditing your content, you can maintain and create a successful content marketing strategy.