What makes carrying out a regular content audit a good practice to get into?
You would be hard-pressed to find a single writer today (this author included) who doesn’t look back on earlier work with their teeth clenched in abject embarrassment. Like anything else in life, writing is a skill, and very few people come straight out of university able to weave magic with their words.
Writing quality aside, the world of business, whichever industry you operate in, is an ever-changing beast. This means that what was true or relevant just a couple of years ago may no longer be so today.
This means there can be great value in periodically going back over your published content with a fine-toothed comb, which will give you a chance to assess what worked previously, what didn’t, make sure the content is still relevant, and ensure the writing is of a quality you’d expect today.
(Image source: orbitmedia.com)
The split of content creators who update older posts is nearly 50/50, suggesting the practice is still not as widely implemented as one would hope. However, those who do go back and update their older posts are 74% more likely to report strong results.
(Image source: orbitmedia.com)
Fortunately, we live in an era where data analytics are easier to access and analyse than ever before, and those who regularly check their analytics reports also enjoy a further boost to their results.
(Image source: orbitmedia.com)
Hopefully, with this impressive statistic-based tale we have weaved, we’ve convinced you there is value in periodically going back over your older content and objectively assessing both its performance, quality, accuracy, and relevance. This is where a content audit comes in.
How to Carry Out a Content Audit
We’re not going to lie – a content audit is not something you’ll look forward to carrying out. It’s detailed work, and will take a significant chunk out of your – or a hapless employee’s – day. Nonetheless, content auditing is necessary when it comes to running a successful website.
If you’re reading this article, then there is a more-than-reasonable chance you employ the closely related marketing efforts of SEO and content marketing. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, these two facets of marketing are the two which will benefit from a content audit. And so, let’s proceed with these two goals in mind.
#1 Create a Spreadsheet
The first thing you need to do to get started with your content audit is to open Excel (other spreadsheet/calculation software is available) and create a spreadsheet of all the content published on your website. Depending on how long you’ve been publishing content, this is likely to be the most time-consuming element of the whole audit. But, once it’s done, it’s done forever, and you only need to add new content to the spreadsheet moving forwards. There are some great free templates out there to help you set up the spreadsheet, and it should contain at least the following columns.
(Image source: coschedule.com)
These first ten columns are all filled out using Google Analytics data, and will help you identify how each article has performed on a range of variables, enabling you to compare, at a glance, which articles are the wheat, and which are the chaff.
- Page URL
- Page views
- Total %
- Unique page views
- Average time on page
- Bounce rate
- % exit
- Page Value
The last four columns will enable you to record what action was taken later in the process, so when you come to your next content audit, you can avoid wasting time attempting to deduce or repeating what was done previously.
- Needs work (updating/repurposing)
- Team member (so you can see who completed the previous audit in case of any questions)
You’re going to need to go through every blog post, ideally with Google Analytics (or similar) running in the background, and painstakingly fill out each column. This process isn’t difficult, but it will eat up a significant amount of time.
#2 Dig a Little Deeper
Now we have our spreadsheet set up, it’s time to drill down into each blog post and assess it based on four factors.
Let’s take a closer look at the sorts of things you should have in mind when considering each of those points.
- Do all the links in the article still work? – no 404 errors, etc.
- Do all images and linked videos still display as intended?
- Is your hosting plan still fit for purpose?
- Does the content score well for readability?
- Is it aesthetically attractive?
- Enough white space?
- Appropriate headings and subheadings?
- Cross-browser and -device compatibility – mobile compatibility is of paramount importance these days.
(Image source: statista.com)
- Is navigation of your content simple?
- Does the layout of your website make sense?
- Is all content accessible to all users – not subject to any geographical restrictions, for example
- Is your content engaging to read – you may need to be brutally honest with yourself on this one. If in doubt, ask someone more objective to read it
- Is the content still relevant – research, statistics, pop-culture references etc.
- If out of date, can it be repurposed or updated?
- Does it speak to the intended audience?
- Did it perform well statistically? Shares, likes, page views etc.
With this data gathered and entered into your spreadsheet, you’ll be pleased to know you have broken the back of your first content audit. It’s a lot of work, as you now know, but trust us when we tell you, it’s very much worth the effort.
Now all that remains is to implement the changes you’ve identified which need to be made. Edit the articles you’ve decided can be edited, update links, videos, and images, and delete the chaff which can’t be updated or repurposed. It’s only natural for any professional working in a creative endeavour to become somewhat attached to their work – but you need to leave emotion at the door and be brutal. This is business, after all.
Congratulations on completing your first content audit. The first one is the hardest, but it becomes much easier after that. Twice a year (or even more frequently if you like), you now need to simply update the spreadsheet with newer content, repeat the steps outlined above, and you’ll be sure your articles are as relevant today as they were when you first wrote them.
Here at markITwrite, we have years of experience designing bespoke marketing strategies for business people just like yourself. We design entire content marketing strategies, provide expertly written content, social media promotion, content auditing, and more, to help promote and grow your business.
Please get in touch today.