Content audits can be daunting — you’re opening Pandora’s box, and you can’t exactly unlearn that your content needs re-writing, or that your category pages are out of date. These 5 tips can make your content audit more productive, more manageable, and less frightening:
1. Set an objective
Why are you performing a content audit? However simple your objective is, it’s worth defining first. A few ideas:
● Find an explanation for a steady decline in organic traffic
● Investigate the cause of a high bounce rate
● Learn what my best traffic-driving pages have in common
2. Crawl first, audit later
Start by pulling in a list of URLs (we use ScreamingFrog) and then fetch organic page-view counts from Google Analytics. When you export your ScreamingFrog crawl, you’ll want to keep these columns:
● Page title
● Meta description
● Word count
● Page size
You’re not performing a technical SEO audit, but having this data to hand can help contextualise your findings — and if you’re looking into on-page optimisation as part of your audit, it helps to know what keywords are used in the page title and H1.
3. Always customise your template
There are plenty of templates online that can serve as a great starting point. However, no two businesses are alike, and your objectives will likely be specific to your brand. Your audit will need to reflect that.
There are certain checks you’ll want to perform for all audits, for example:
For the first time, the SearchMetrics’ 2016 Ranking Factors study lists content relevance as a ranking factor. Ask yourself: is my content really about what it’s supposed to be about? Score it 1-5.
Clothing retailer ASOS still talks about spring/summer 2016 on one of its product categories. This isn’t likely to hurt their sales, but if you’re dealing with financial or legal topics, outdated information can seriously dent customers’ trust in the information you provide.
Trueness to brand
If you have more than one person producing your content, and especially if you’ve outsourced it, you’ll need to check tone of voice. Ask yourself: is this really us? Score it 1-5.
You’ll find those criteria on most audit templates, but there are other checks that can be just as vital, but specific to your brand. A few I’ve added in the past:
Target customer segment
For brands that can easily categorise users — for an electronics brand I work with, that would be “trade” and “consumer” — categorising content by target segment can help ensure you’re creating the right ratio of content for each group, You’ll also learn if/why one group is performing significantly better than another.
If you have specific landing pages for social or PPC campaigns, include a column for this so you can filter by campaign.
Top-ranking competitor URL
In really competitive industries, “good” isn’t good enough. For each page, I’ll check the target keyword and pop the top-ranking competitor’s URL into the spreadsheet. This will come in handy for your qualitative review, which I’ll come onto in a second.
4. Cover qualitative findings
Your content audit spreadsheet is great for organising quantitative data and spotting trends. You can present these visually with pie charts, making it easier to report to management.
But as you’re auditing, you’re going to find things that don’t fit neatly on a 5-point scale — for example, a discrepancy in font sizes, or an issue with page layout. You might notice several pages are very similar, and could be combined into one stronger page (thereby consolidating backlinks and avoiding keyword cannibalisation).
I like using Chrome DevTools for visual suggestions — with a basic understanding of HTML and CSS, you can tweak the code to see a live preview of the changes you’re proposing.
Put all of this stuff — the findings, suggestions and comments that don’t belong in your spreadsheet — into a Word doc. Make notes and return later if you’re worried about getting sidetracked. When the audit’s complete, you’ll have:
● Immediately actionable quantitative data (e.g. “37% of pages require expert knowledge to understand, whereas our target audience is people who are new to the topic, so we need to de-jargon this”)
● A list of points relating to user experience and content presentation
● A summary of the key findings of both
5. Use a sample to represent the whole
I recently completed a content audit for a major finance site with over 18,000 pages. As their content is organised around broad topics, I saved several weeks’ work by focusing solely on the savings section, which was about 200 pages.
Many of the findings were applicable to every other topic area on the site. For example, the top-level pages were often over-optimised. Pages targeting long-tail keywords (e.g. ‘children’s savings accounts’) tended not to have a strong call to action. Effectively, the user journey ended there.
All of this applies equally to the mortgages, banking, and loans sections as much as it does to savings.
E-commerce brands could audit a specific product category (e.g. “TVs”, or audit “across” rather than “down” — so, looking at all top-level categories, or all product pages.
Once the findings of the content audit have been implemented site-wide, audit a different section to evaluate results. If you’ve made progress, your audit should reflect it — and ultimately, so should your rankings.
By Lily Bradic, content strategist at Selesti
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