3 steps to conducting a content audit you'll actually use

Content audits are a vital way to… okay, we can already hear you yawning.

We know, we know, it’s certainly not the sexiest-sounding task – be honest: how long has it been since you last conducted a content audit? Have you ever done one?

The thing about this task – the act of collating all your content together, seeing where the best content is and where the gaps are – sounds like the most time-consuming, repetitive and dull chore you could think of. Who would want to spend time doing that? And so you bumble along, creating new content, on top of other content, on top of even older content, in the hope that no-one will notice you’re repeating or entirely emitting topics.

As HubSpot says in their advice for agencies when auditing client marketing strategies:

"The start of a new year is an ideal time to begin one very meaningful conversation: the annual plan. Annual planning meetings don’t have to be a daunting. They can be an opportunity to build a deeper relationship between agency and client. Use the meeting to collect a holistic picture of your client’s business, past and present, so you can plan for the future."

Here are a few reasons you might want to reconsider your auditing strategy:

  • Over a third of marketers never complete a content audit, meaning they have limited information about their strengths and weaknesses and a unspecified direction for their content strategy. 
  • Your content gets outdated or irrelevant over time as your industry pushes forward – it needs updating to remain helpful and findable to searchers.
  • You get into content troughs, repeating the same style, topics and angle again and again – your customers have come to know what to expect, and not always in a good way.
  • There’s tons of fabulous content hiding on your website from ages ago – there might be something you created that’s three years old that would really freshen things up if you revisited it.
Perhaps you’re focusing on the wrong metrics, and an audit might offer the chance to analyse things like page length, social shares and visit metrics that you’ve neglected.
Choice of umbrellas in lots of colours

During our HubSpot onboarding process, we encourage clients to conduct an audit before we plan and proceed with their campaign. This enables us to see content that has previously performed well, identify gaps in content and helps us ideate a direction to move in, based on real data.

We are all guilty of not prioritising this task – but just like every chore you ever hated as a kid – the more you do it, the better and quicker you become at it (and the more you reap the benefits). With our mission to make Everybody Smile More, we want to help you take the sting out of your next content audit and get into good habits. Go on, rip off that plaster – here’s how to get going.

Step 1: What do you already have?

The first step is to chart the content you already have. You can do this through a website crawler, such as Screaming Frog, or use the HubSpot content audit feature to create new topics based on your existing pages and posts.

You can always do this manually too, if you’d prefer – though it takes longer, going into each lead magnet, webpage and blog posts individually might give you a more in-depth and comprehensive overview of your starting position. We suggest a good old-fashioned spreadsheet to collect this information, acting as a library of materials.

Questions you need to identify include:

  • Is there content targeted at each of your personas? Whether you have two personas or ten, is there content aimed at each group? If so, are your biggest personas reflected in the content; do they have the largest quantities of content designed for them, or is one of your smaller, less lucrative personas getting most of the attention?
  • Is the content aimed at each stage of the buyer’s journey? Once you’ve identified personas, is there content that falls into each of the awareness, consideration and decision stages for each persona? Are links made between these, encouraging prospects to move along in their journey? Are there opportunities to convert on each page?
  • Is every topic within your industry covered? Do you tend to come back to well-covered content because it’s familiar? Or do you cover a wide range of subjects? Are certain writers and experts more popular than others? Which content is the most popular, getting the most clicks, shares, conversions, and the longest time spent on the page? As Atomic Reach recommends, create an inventory of what you do and don't have.
  • Is your content helpful, informative and educational? Are you genuinely advising and helping your reader solve their pain points? Are you pointing them in the direction of useful external content away from your site? Or only plugging your own products and services? Are you storytelling, tip sharing and relationship building?
  • Is your content up to date and relevant? Where you’ve advised your readership to use a certain service or try a particular product, have there been changes in the time since you posted? Are your posts from 2014 still getting hits? If so, is the content within them still going to help and build trust or are you sending readers down obsolete rabbit holes?

analysing results in lots of charts on a tablet

Step 2: How’s that content performing?

There are several success metrics to take into account once you’ve collated your content – there’s no use creating more content on topics people just aren’t reading. Likewise, if someone is only on your page for 8 seconds, those ten-minute reads are wasted content on many of your visitors.

Some of the considerations you want to make are:

  • Are people still reading your content? What are your visit metrics like? Is that blog post from two years ago still generating leads? If so – leave it as it is, or even better, republish it and promote it on social media. If not, it’s not doing anything to your website but bloating it up, and possibly preventing readers finding your relevant, more recent offerings.
  • What metrics should you analyse? This depends on what your business goals are – do you want to focus on:
- Behaviour metrics such as page views, average session duration and bounce rates?
- Engagement metrics such as likes, shares, comments and mentions?
- SEO metrics such as organic traffic, backlinks and keyword rankings?
- Sales metrics such as number of leads, conversions and ROI?
  • What can be repurposed and what needs to be archived? Organise old content into four categories, depending on how it’s still being accessed:
- that which can stay the same
- that which needs some tiny tweaks to modernise it
- that which needs completely repurposing before archiving the old version
- that which needs to be archived.
  • Can Google find and rank your content? If you have lots of disparate content on the same topics but it doesn’t link together and isn’t anchored in the same place, Google won’t find it and therefore, nor will your readers. If you’ve got a bunch of content on the same topic that isn’t performing well, it might be time for you to create a pillar page.

white arrows pointing up to show improvements and progress

Step 3: What have you learnt?

Once you’ve learnt from all this digging around, you need to create some reports – you can do this through your marketing dashboard within HubSpot, or through another platform such as Databox. This activity allows you to step back and formally acknowledge the patterns emerging, helping you decide what action to take next.

Create some reports showing:

  • What you’ve learnt about persona-driven content: are there gaps? Are there some personas you need to concentrate on during your next campaign?
  • What you’ve learnt about buyer’s journey-driven content: is there barely any awareness-stage content on your site? Are your resources decision-stage heavy? Does one persona have mostly consideration-stage content and needs other gaps filling?
  • What you’ve learnt about value and results-driven content: does your content assist in the conversion of leads and sales opportunities? What are the key value points that relate to your customer and does your content reflect this?
  • What you’ve learnt about your content strategy (or lack thereof): have time and resources been fully invested in crafting the best content strategy possible? Does the content team know how to regularly update, improve and build upon top-performing content?
  • What you’ve learnt about your sales and marketing alignment: what are the weak points in your sales process? Have you created content to align with these points to allow for better education and inspiration? Content can help with weak spots so much, so encourage your marketing and sales teams to meet and knowledge share on a regular basis.

Single Grain says:

“When it comes down to it, a content audit isn’t just a one-off process that you conduct once in a blue moon. It’s a mindset that you should apply to both your website content and the other marketing channels you use. By carefully inventorying your existing content pieces and assessing the data you’ve gathered for each item, you can make informed marketing decisions that will help you to save time, cut costs, grow your brand, and improve your overall advertising ROI.”

Try setting yourself a new aim to conduct a content audit every quarter, or even every month, you’ll find it’s only the first one you complete that takes a lengthy time. From thereon in, you’ll find it gets easier and quicker as you make this a consistent, repeatable process.

Search Engine Journal recommends doing it even more regularly:

“Once you’ve caught up and added all of last year’s content into your Excel doc, you’ll want to repeat this audit activity for new content on a weekly basis. It will be much easier to keep track of your content and audit it regularly when you’re only having to go back one week to input data... upload the most recent numbers and stats on a weekly basis.”

However often you manage to update your content audit, just make it a regular, documented process – get it in your calendar (and the calendars of your colleagues) so people know it’s got to be taken seriously and have plenty of time to gather the data. The less time you leave between audits, the less burdensome the task will become!

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