How to do a content audit (and why you should)

A content audit can be a really valuable exercise to identify ways to improve the performance of your website and highlight gaps and opportunities.

 

by Tami Iseli22 August 2017

Conducting a website content audit is a bit like cleaning out your plastics cupboard... You know you need to. You know that life will be infinitely better when you do. It’s just that you’re not quite sure where to start – and the thought of what’s behind that door leaves you feeling slightly nauseous.

The good news is that there are ways to ease the pain (including this downloadable content audit template). But more on that in a minute. First, let’s get some clarity on what we mean by ‘content audit’. 

A content audit is an analysis of all the indexable content on a website to determine how best to deal with it. The process can be broadly split into two stages. The first is the content inventory stage, where a catalogue of all the content to be reviewed is compiled in the form of a spreadsheet. The second stage is the analysis itself, where the content is reviewed against a set of predefined criteria and recommendations are made about whether to leave, remove, improve, split or consolidate it. 

What are the benefits of a content audit?

A content audit is a great way to identify content that:

  • no longer fits with your organisational strategy 
  • doesn’t reflect your current brand voice
  • contains information that is out of date
  • could be consolidated or linked with other on-site content
  • is absent or insufficiently addressed on the site
  • could be better optimised for search
  • provides an opportunity for repurposing or re-promotion
  • highlights a popular topic, potentially guiding ideas for future content
  • could be relocated or split up to make it easier to find
  • lends itself to customer journey personalisation 
  • is of poor quality and potentially harmful to a site’s quality ranking
  • is cluttering a site and creating obstacles to smooth navigation.

Turning the spotlight on ourselves

The last couple of years have been a period of rapid evolution for Get Started. Our service offering has changed, we’ve expanded geographically, and our entire brand identity is under review. It was a fitting time to take stock of where we were at with our content. So we decided what better way to illustrate the process of conducting a content audit than to use our own site as a guinea pig? 

For the sake of completeness I will touch on the content inventory stage, but what I really want to focus on is the analysis we went through – and some of the revelations that we unearthed along the way. (For a more detailed account of how to create a content inventory, I highly recommend this excellent piece by Moz.) 

Step 1: The content inventory 

Unfortunately at the time of writing there was still no magic tool that would give you a 100% iron-clad content inventory, with all the data neatly populated in a pretty spreadsheet. My hope is that one day someone will ride that unicorn into town, but for now, you will probably still need to amalgamate data from more than source. (Or, if you’re really brave, and your site is relatively small, you could manually generate your own inventory.) 

For the Get Started site, we used a combination of Blaze, Screaming Frog and data exported from our (Kentico) CMS. Both of these subscription-based tools are designed to crawl the indexable pages of your site and give you a list of URLs (with some additional meta data and other information). Blaze did the bulk of the legwork (including integrating data from our Google Analytics account), but it didn’t pick up everything, so that’s where Screaming Frog and Kentico came in. We compiled all this information into our content audit spreadsheet.
 
You might be wondering whether it’s necessary to include all of your content in your content inventory. The answer is no. If you have a small site and some time on your hands, go for gold! However, if you have a larger site or limited resources (or both), there is still plenty of value to be gained from selecting and analysing a representative sample. You might choose to just focus on the higher level pages in your site’s hierarchy, or pages with the highest (or lowest) traffic. Alternatively, you may be able to isolate areas of your site with high strategic value (e.g. critical pages in the path to purchase/conversion).

Content inventory

Your content inventory is the basis of your content audit. Save yourself the headache of creating one from scratch by downloading our content audit template here.

Step 2: Analysis

Once you have your spreadsheet populated with basic data (and preferably organised in a way that reflects your site’s structure), you are ready to jump into the analysis stage. It’s a good idea to use two monitors for this – one for your spreadsheet and the other for your website. This will save you having to constantly switch between tabs.

What to analyse

The factors you choose to analyse will vary depending on your priorities and the type of website you have, but the following is typical of a brochure-style website content audit, and is what we used to analyse our own site. 

Title – Page titles can make or break your content from an SEO perspective. Make sure your titles accurately describe the content and contain relevant keywords. You should also aim for 65 characters or less to avoid your titles being truncated in search results. 

Meta Description – Meta descriptions are the snippets that appear under the clickable link in search results. As such, they should be interesting enough to entice searchers to click through to your page. To avoid being truncated in search results, they should ideally be under 160 characters. 

Audience – If you have already developed brand personas, these can provide a useful framework for assigning a target audience to individual pieces of content. The aim here is to assess whether there is a key audience that is not being adequately addressed with content. This data may also be used as a basis for personalising the customer journey. 

Page views – This may provide some clues as to which topics work well for your site and which pieces of content might provide further opportunities for updating/recycling/re-promoting. It’s also good to look at content that is performing poorly to identify opportunities for improvement or removal (removing underperforming content can be a good way to improve your site’s overall quality ranking). 

Goal completions – This will only be relevant for pages where you have goals set up. For us this was form completions for lead generation assets such as whitepapers, as well as Contact Us forms. 

Objective/Call to action – What is the purpose of the content? Does it contain an appropriate call to action?

Content quality – This is where you would capture more detailed qualitative analysis. Is the content outdated? Does it align with your current brand voice/branding guidelines? Is it clear and accurate? Is it generally well written?

Other things you may want to include in your analysis (depending on the type of site you have) include: 

  • page type (this may be useful for something like an e-commerce site where you have very specific page templates for products, category listing pages etc.)
  • conversions/revenue (for an e-commerce site)
  • stage in the buyer journey (i.e. awareness, consideration, conversion and retention)
  • last updated (this can be useful where you have a very large site and want to focus on sections that have not been reviewed for a while).

As well as reviewing specific pages, the analysis stage can also include a high level review of the overall site structure and whether there are any gaps that need to be addressed. You may also choose to reference other websites to gauge best practices and help you think more broadly about ways to approach your own site. 

Each page/item you assess should conclude with a recommended action, e.g. Leave, Remove, Improve, Split or Consolidate and some accompanying notes to explain why.

Assigning an audience to your content provides a good foundation for personalisation.

Some of our findings 

The complete findings from our content audit of the Get Started website are too many to mention, but here are some of the key learnings that came out of it.

Our About page was very much in need of an overhaul 

Since this page was originally written, we have opened four new offices (Sydney, Bali, Albury/Wodonga and Adelaide), we’ve significantly expanded our team and our range of specialist services, we’ve gained two new technology partners (HubSpot and Episerver), and we’ve done a fair amount of work on our brand voice and identity. We’re also looking at a potential rebrand. As such, this page was flagged for significant reworking (watch this space!).

Some of our meta data was outdated

A quick scan of the data uncovered by Blaze and Screaming Frog revealed that there were a number of pages that had meta descriptions referring to us as a ‘Melbourne-based’ agency. As this no longer reflects who we are, these meta descriptions were flagged for updating. There were also some pages with titles and descriptions that were in some pretty dire need of search optimisation.

There were some opportunities to improve the site’s information architecture

As with most websites, ours had undergone significant organic growth over the years and its structure and navigation were no longer as user-friendly as they could be. This was particularly evident in our services section, where the site had struggled to keep pace with our evolving offerings. The result was that there were some important pages that had become hard to find and weren’t receiving the volume of traffic they should have been.

Some pages were getting a surprising amount of traffic!

The analysis also revealed that there were certain pages that were getting a lot more traffic than we had realised, but some of the content was out of date. These pages were quickly slated for review!

Some articles on our blog were due for retirement

As a technology-focused company, it’s our job to report on the latest and greatest developments – but nothing stays new forever. It was time for some things to go!

There were some opportunities to tailor the customer journey 

By including an ‘Audience’ field in our analysis, we gave ourselves a really simple way to identify areas of the site that would lend themselves to future customer journey optimisation.

The time had come for us to retire outdated blogs like this one. 

Next steps

You may have guessed that this exercise was part of a broader grand plan - and you’d be right. Like the cobbler who sends his children to school in holey shoes, we too are guilty of neglecting our own. While we’ve been busy designing shiny new websites for our clients, our own site has been quietly gathering dust (in some areas!). But that is soon to change. Stay tuned for the upcoming reveal of our brand new bells-and-whistles website!

Download our content audit template

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