What is a Content Audit

Lots of folks have a collection, like your grandma’s case of salt and pepper shakers or your artsy friend’s wall of paintings. They add a touch of happiness to your life.

But, that collection might fade away from your attention if you don’t take stock or freshen it up now and then. Maybe you’ll dust off the shelves or rearrange things. Or, perhaps you’ll purge it and start over.

The same rule goes for content. You need to evaluate your content regularly so it keeps performing and delivering value to your readers. This process is called a content audit. But, what the heck really is a content audit, and how do you perform one? We’ll give you the down-low.

What is a content audit?

A content audit is the process of cataloging your content, reviewing its performance, and analyzing it for opportunities to improve.

The typical content audit takes four steps:

  1. Listing all the pieces of content you’ve made. Yes, even those 5-year-old blog posts that make you cringe at your old writing style.
  2. Collecting each piece of content’s performance data, like views, conversions, engagements, and time on page.
  3. Analyzing your content’s performance data for patterns in what kinds of content perform well and what kinds don’t. Make sure content’s intent matches the keywords it ranks for!
  4. Taking action to improve those patterns by pruning content, changing your content strategy, or planning content refreshes.

How often should you audit your content?

Audit your content about every three to six months.

Why? According to Databox, that’s how long it takes for search engine optimization (SEO) changes to take effect. Plus, on a human level, giving your content changes a few months to breathe gives people time to read and react to them. You’ll get the chance to measure those reactions through analytics like time on page and call-to-action clickthrough rates.

Should you audit closer to every three months or every six months? Well, that depends on how many pieces of content you have on your site. While small sites are easier to audit and need it less often, larger sites take more work and need more frequent audits. If your site has less than 500 content pieces, you can probably audit it once or twice per year. If you have more than 1,000, auditing becomes an ongoing part of your content maintenance rather than a one-off event.

As you get used to auditing, it’ll become a regular part of your content maintenance process without having to think about it.

Snip snip: When should you prune your content?

Content pruning is the act of unpublishing or de-indexing underperforming content.

Search engines view websites with low-quality pages as low-quality overall, lowering their rankings. So, saying goodbye to those pages can bring up your site’s quality. Besides, if you have a real stinker in your content library, it could turn away readers who would otherwise like your work.

But, that doesn’t mean you should go buck wild with your virtual shears. How fast should you prune content? Consider pruning your content when it has suuuper low traffic and conversion numbers and no potential for refreshing or consolidation.

Don’t make the decision to prune content lightly. If you end up cutting content that contributes to your overall site performance, you could hurt your future traffic numbers.

How much content should you prune?

Unless you have a massive content library, don’t prune more than 5% of your content at a time, tops.

While you can’t salvage some content from bringing your website down, you can still refresh or consolidate a lot of it. Hear it from a Google Webmaster yourself at about 6:22 in this video (timestamp included in the link).

When asked what you should do with low-quality content, he suggests improving it instead of pruning it. “Improving it is probably the best thing to do in general because then that’s extra value that you have for your website,” he explains. It’s only in cases where you can’t enhance the content you have that he recommends deleting or de-indexing.

(And yes, he is dressed as Spock, and no, we don’t know why. We’re just glad he’s living his best life.)

Feel free to look for good pruning opps every time you audit, but make sure you aren’t missing the chance to refresh first.

Watch out! Avoid these content auditing pitfalls

You now already know how careful to be with your content pruning, but there are a few more easy mistakes to make during an audit.

Judging new content too harshly

See one of your newer pieces of content bringing in fewer readers or engagements than older ones? Don’t be so quick to edit or remove it. As we mentioned, it can take months for SEO results to kick in, so go ahead and ignore anything published within the last six months.

Prioritizing the wrong content to refresh

Don’t just refresh content for refreshing’s sake — know what content to refresh first. If you know your way around SEO, start working on getting content with second-page rankings up to the first page. Then, put low performers and old content with high potential next on the priority list. 

Going in over your head

A mini-audit or an audit that happens a little at a time is still better than no audit. If you have a huuuge volume of content to go through, don’t be afraid to break up the process into manageable chunks. Or, make your audit a team effort to spread out the work.

Best practices for auditing your content

To get the most out of your audit, follow these pro tips.

Start with a goal in mind

Before you even touch your audit spreadsheet, think of the goals you want to meet. Check out these examples for inspo:

  • Taking an inventory of all the content on your website
  • Boosting your search performance
  • Figuring out what type of content your audience likes
  • Looking for content to prune or refresh
  • Getting an audit list established so you can compare future performance
  • Finding trends in what types of content perform well for you

Then, prioritize the steps you take in your audit based on those goals.

Know what metrics to focus on

Different metrics will apply to different content goals. For example, it’s fine if you don’t get many free trial signups on content meant to raise awareness about your brand. On the other hand, you might be in trouble if that happens with content for folks more familiar with you.

Create a detailed plan of action

Once you decide what to do with your content audit results, make an actionable plan. Write down who’s responsible for each piece of content you want to change and when they should change it.

Establish clear boundaries for all actions in the audit. Example: 

Content to Redirect: Content that is no longer relevant, but has backlinks to it so we’d like to redirect that page to another piece that is relevant to keep the authority. 

Content to Refresh: There is value here, relevancy, and potential to drive results in the near future. 

Content to Merge: Content that can be combined with other content that matches the same Searcher intent and doesn’t need to be split into multiple posts (it’s creating cannibolization)

Stay in line with your marketing goals

If your audit inspires you to refresh content or take a new approach in your strategy, make sure that tactic lines up with your overall marketing goals. Let’s say you see a one-off blog post related to pizza do well. That doesn’t mean you should write only about pizza to market your health food business.

Speed it up: Content audit tools for faster auditing

A good ol’ spreadsheet is the content auditor’s classic tool, but you have to add content and metrics to that sheet. (Use the SPARKLINE formula for a quick visual check on how the content is doing if you go the spreadsheet route).

These tools will help you speed up content auditing:

  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics is free and makes it simple to transfer your website data to Google Sheets. Head to the Google Analytics report you want and click “Export” to convert the data you need to a spreadsheet.
  • Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider tool crawls your website for SEO specs like broken links, titles, and meta descriptions. Even if you’re not focusing on SEO, it’ll collect all of your web pages into one spreadsheet for you, so you’ll only need to add columns.
  • ClickFlow: ClickFlow has a “Content Decay” report that lets you know what pages are losing traffic. No need to guess what content to put first on your refresh list.
  • SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs: While Google Analytics compares your site’s SEO performance to its previous performance, SEO tools compare that data to your competitors’. You’ll be able to quickly see where your content ranks in your industry.
  • Buzzsumo: If you have a social-focused marketing strategy, Buzzsumo gathers a page’s social engagement all in one place for faster audits.

Time to refresh and reorganize

Once you finish your content audit, it’s time for even more content fun: Refreshes and strategy tweaks. Update old content that could perform better, and adjust any parts of your strategy that didn’t show results in your audit. Here’s a guide on how to do just that.

Need a hand bringing your new content vision to reality? These content optimization tools will help you find premium refreshing opportunities and write quality content moving forward.

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Melissa King

Melissa King is a freelance writer helping B2B SaaS companies engage leads and customers with kick-butt content. Find her work at melissakingfreelance.com.

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