Pearl Lemon’s Guide to How to Perform a Content Audit

by Melanie Evans May 31, 2018

You’ve probably heard it time and time again. You should conduct a content audit on your website at least once a year. Maybe more.

Great advice, but a website content audit can be hugely intimidating, especially if you create a substantial amount of content throughout the year – a bi-weekly blog perhaps. You’ve probably read and heard endless advice pieces that made it all sound a bit terrifying, even if phrased in a rather offhand way: “sit down, lay out all the content you’ve ever created and evaluate its performance.” Huh? How? And in what spare time? You barely have a spare minute now.

We all know that the more complicated and time-consuming something is, the less likely you are to even want to consider tackling it. The fact is though, if you have a business website it has to be done. So to help ease your anxiety, here are some simple tips on how to get started with a content audit.

Why Perform a Content Audit?

Lots of businesses spend years building their website, rebuilding it, tweaking it, having Fred write the content for a while, then Jane, and when she left Tom. They basically have numerous people contributing content over the years, but all too often no one person overseeing it all.

This usually results in an overgrown, out of control “franken-site” with all sorts of content that doesn’t necessarily tie back to the user journey. There may be long outdated pages, fuzzy link paths or even broken or ‘bad’ links. A content audit can help you identify these dead ends and fix them, and also better optimize content to improve performance.

The ultimate goal of any website content audit should be to create the best user experience possible by ensuring each and every piece of content has a purpose and provides value to your users. And with that done, you can also look at how search bots – and you do need to attract them too – experience your site and determine whether you are offering them a good experience as well.

The Three Phases of a Good Content Audit

Big tasks can seem far less daunting if you break them down into more manageable chunks to be tackled one at a time. When conducting a content audit separating out the (many ) tasks into different phases will help you stay organized and keep your goal top of mind as you work.

At Pearl Lemon, we usually find it’s very helpful to break a content audit down into three distinct phases; taking inventory of your current content, identifying improvement opportunities and then creating a solid plan of action.

Phase I: Taking Inventory

Crawl Your Site

Well, not you personally. In the ‘old days’ if a webmaster wanted to take stock of everything on their site they may have tried to document it all by hand. Which, if you had a decent sized site, was pretty crazy. And probably drove people crazy.

That was then though. Now you can make use of an SEO spider service to do the bulk of the hard work for you. Tools like SEMrush’s Content Audit or Screaming Frog can pull a full report of all of your indexed pages and deliver it to you in just a few minutes, versus the hours, or days, it used to take by hand.

Even this can be a bit daunting when the report first comes in, but the next step of a good content audit is designed to help you take all of that information and make sense of it.

Create an Organizational Spreadsheet

Once you have your shiny new crawl report, start to trim it down to the fields that are really necessary and will help you accomplish your goal. Some of the most important fields to keep track of are:

  • URL
    Page Title
    Meta Description
    Keyword
    Content Type (web page, landing page, video, blog post, etc.)
    Stage of the Buyer Journey
    Bounce Rate
    Session Duration
    Conversion Rate

Reference Your Sitemap

You can use your sitemap as another reference point to fill in the remaining content a crawl might have missed. It will also help you visualize the flow of your website (which may also need a refresh). If you don’t have a sitemap, you can always create one by using a sitemap generator.

By the way, if you didn’t have a sitemap, but do now, submit it for review to the Google Search Console, so that their search bots have access to it, can better understand the structure of your website and can easily find your pages. Then make a note to keep it updated. This is a simple onsite SEO step that many people miss, which is a shame as it’s really not that hard.

Phase II: Sort and Identify Opportunities

Ok then. You have a crawl report. You have a sitemap. Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and start weeding out the bad stuff and deciding which content can stay to be nurtured in the future.

To simplify things, separate the content into four imaginary piles:

Content to Keep

There are probably some pieces of content on your site that really don’t need anything much done to them at all. Such a piece would be one that:

Covers a topic that is still relevant
Is up to date
Reads well and has no spelling or grammar mistakes (not only do readers hate those, but believe it or not search bots do too.)
It has been well-optimized according to current SEO best practices.

Content to Revise

In many cases, this becomes the biggest ‘pile’ of all when conducting a content audit. A great blog post is often only great for so long. Or it’s a nearly great blog post or article that could be improved enough to still be relevant and helpful. The reasons that a piece of ‘decent’ content might need an overhaul can include all of the following:

  • There is new information about the topic it covers
    There are more relevant keywords to optimize the piece around
    It can be combined with another piece of content to create a more useful piece of long-form content (Google loves long-form content)
    There are spelling, grammar or SEO errors that need to be fixed

Content to Remove

Sometimes, a piece of content just cannot be saved. It may have had a use once – or not – but it’s time passed long ago. All the following – or at least some of it – may apply to that kind of content:

  • If the topic itself is hopelessly outdated. For example, it references a product you stopped offering or a service you no longer provide.
  • If it’s just too short to warrant its own existence. Five or six years ago it was possible to ‘get away’ with writing a 300-word blog post and it would still suffice. That’s not really the case anymore, especially when dealing with SEO issues. Google likes the longer stuff. You don’t have to write a novella, but a 500+ blog post is almost a must.
  • If you wrote a better piece later. Often, if you produce a decent amount of content you will revisit similar subjects more than once. And often, the later stuff is the better stuff, be that because you changed writers or the ones you have just got better at what they do.
  • If there are two content pieces on a similar topic, and one clearly outshines the other, it’s best to let the inferior piece go.

Content to Reorganize

Be sure your content is focused on a keyword that makes the most sense for your audience. Following popular – and effective – pillar page structure, organize your content by creating a main topic cluster and tie subtopics back to it. You should reorganize your content if:

  • The user path isn’t clear, as in users are struggling to find the next logical step in their journey. You can usually determine if that’s the case by looking at the bounce rate for each page.
  • You currently do not have a pillar page or existing content can be combined to create a pillar page
  • You do not have an individual page for each product or service offering

This is a good time to ensure that you have content mapped to each stage of the reader’s journey. If certain stages are lacking in terms of relevant content, this is a good opportunity to plan to create new content to fill in the gaps.

Phase III: Time for an Action Plan

Phew! You have your content sorted and know which pieces could use a little sprucing, which need to be re-written, which need to be retired permanently and where you can fill in the gaps. Now it’s time to create that plan of action.

Revising Your Content

For those pieces that just need revisions, you can likely repurpose that old content into fresh, new content by including new or updated information and adjusting the keyword focus. However, make sure you are not just adding ‘stuff’ to the post for the sake of it, to be useful it has to be useful and relevant. This could mean doing any of the following:

  • Updating the keywords and meta description
    Reworking some of the paragraphs to better get your point across
    Making the copy scannable by using bulleted lists, headers and bolded text
    Adding video or images for a more impactful message
    Updating CTAs to keep your contacts engaged
    Fixing or minimizing SEO errors
    Fixing any AND ALL spelling and/or grammar errors.

Keep in mind the goal of the content piece and where it fits into your new, improved reader journey. This will help you get into the minds of your readers and focus on how to add value with your content rather than just extra words and pictures.

Restructuring

If your site does not provide a clear path for your user, you are going to need to create one. Take another look at how users might navigate from one topic to another. Restructure your site in a logical way that is easily understandable for your end user.

Creating New Content

For those areas that you’ve determined need new content, begin to physically map out a path you want readers and users to take, identify where your gaps are and what kind of content you need to fill them. You should lay out the content, delineating what type is used for each stage of the user journey, what its purpose will be and how it’s going to add value. Be sure you have helpful and targeted content for each stage so you aren’t repeating what you already have.

Update Your Inventory

So, you’ve taken a good amount of time putting together a detailed spreadsheet of all your valuable content. And now that you’ve removed, revised, reorganized and written new pieces, make sure you update that inventory spreadsheet. This will come in handy in the future, and having an updated sheet will save you a lot of time and energy and keep you from having to do it all over again.

Now to the bottom line. This is still a lot of work. Even when broken down into the steps we’ve outlined there’s a lot to do and it is going to take a big chunk of time. This is where it might just be time to call in the cavalry in the form of a professional, or a team of them.

At Pearl Lemon, we’ve managed to get this whole content audit stuff down to an art. Our team includes SEO experts, content creation experts, and even technical programming peeps who all manage to work together to get content audits done quickly, efficiently and accurately. We can then work with clients to create – and execute – that all important action plan as well. Interested? Contact us, let’s discuss it.

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