How to Choose the Content Audit Strategy that’s Right for You
By Rose de Fremery on December 21, 2020
If you haven't done a content audit recently, it's time to think about putting one on your to do list. Although content audits take time and effort, they're also very important for maintaining quality and optimal site traffic. As Skyword CEO Andrew Wheeler points out, "Unless we regularly take stock of our content and re-optimize and re-use it, we stand to lose out on a lot of the value it holds."
Audits are not a one size fits all undertaking, however, and they don't always have to be exhaustive. Sometimes you can reap impressive ROI just by choosing the right type of audit based on your current needs and goals. Picking the strategy that's right for your brand can save you a lot of time, money, and effort.
How a Content Audit Can Benefit Your Brand
When you're constantly creating new content, it's easy to forget that you have a pile of older content stacking up on your site. You could be sitting on a content gold mine without even realizing it, missing out on a terrific opportunity to drive greater ROI from your highest performing content. Or, you could be struggling with frustrating challenges like a decline in site traffic or inconsistent performance, not even aware of how quickly and cost-effectively you could resolve them.
Alternatively, because your content hasn't gotten a refresh in a while, you could be running into compliance or trust issues because your guidance is no longer accurate or your audience thinks the information and advice you've shared is out of date. If you don't understand how your content is performing and why, then you'll be hard-pressed to capitalize on what's going well or fix problems that are getting in the way of your success.
These content performance issues are very common, but they're fixable. All you need to do is figure out the right content audit strategy. Here, we'll introduce three kinds of audits—an SEO audit, a performance audit, and a general content audit—and explain the cases in which each one delivers the best results for your brand.
If SEO performance is your chief concern, then an SEO audit is a good pick. It assesses and addresses technical factors that impact site health and on-page elements that influence search rankings. You might need an SEO audit if you've run into any of these challenges:
- A dip or decline in site traffic
- A plateau in site traffic
- Inconsistent site traffic
An SEO audit typically includes on-page SEO analysis as well as site-wide SEO analysis, though it is possible to customize your audit depending on your unique situation and needs. Here's what each type of analysis accomplishes and when you might want to use it.
On-page SEO analysis
When performing an SEO audit, you'll want to make sure you're looking at pages whose search traffic has declined over the last year or so. Then you'll evaluate the search-relevant elements of that content such as overal editorial quality, length, technical formatting like H1 and H2 tags, meta data fields, images, and the integrity of hyperlinks. You may also take a peek at your backlinks, so you can figure out which external sources are driving traffic to your site.
Most importantly, you should closely scrutinize keywords to make sure they're aligned with what your audience is actually searching for and are properly incorporated into your content. Even light keyword optimization can have a big impact on improving your traffic.
Site-wide SEO analysis
In addition to examining your on-page SEO performance, you'll also want to scrutinize your site-wide SEO performance. Tools like Screaming Frog can be very helpful for this part of your SEO audit. They can run a full site-wide audit and flag any pages that are having load time issues or 404 errors that are dragging down your site's performance.
You may need to partner with your web development team on this analysis and to make the necessary adjustments.
A performance audit looks at SEO plus other factors to figure out which content approaches are driving ROI and which aren't. Once you can see which assets are top performing and which are performing poorly, you can zero in on why you're having certain challenges and figure out how to solve them.
It's good practice to do a performance audit at least once a year since it will help inform your content strategy for the following year, but you might need a performance audit now if:
- You've experienced decline or plateau in search traffic and/or conversions
- You're embarking on a site migration or redesign and need to clean house
- Your content is performing inconsistently against your benchmarks
To accomplish this kind of audit, you'll need to pull a range of performance data for each content asset such as the search traffic, sales conversions, or newsletter signups it's generated.
You will also typically categorize the content you're analyzing by topic, theme, and customer journey stage so that you can evaluate any gaps in your strategy or redundancies in the overall content you're creating.
As you look at how each piece has performed, take into account how that content was distributed and the CTA language used in the asset. Did certain social or email distribution methods have an exponetial impact on results? If so, you may want to employ those methods more frequently. Did high converting posts have certain CTA language or CTA placement in common? If so, consider incorporating the same formatting into future content.
If you identify content that earns high traffic and high conversions, you'll want to consider how you can further distribute it to take advantage. If some of your high traffic content doesn't convert so well, that may be a sign you need to tweak the CTAs.
Ultimately, a performance audit will help you optimize to get more value out of the content you've already created and reap the largest return from your future content investments.
A general content audit is one of the most robust and comprehensive audits you can perform. With business priorities constantly shifting, this kind of audit is necessary to make sure your content is in alignment with your current strategy.
A general content audit helps to make sure all your content:
- Meets your current SEO and quality standards
- Conveys a consistent brand tone and style
- Is topically relevant and formatted to match your current strategy
- Presents relevant advice and product information
While conducting this type of audit, you'll go through each piece of content and decide whether it needs to be decommissioned, or altered in some way to meet current standards. This is especially helpful if you've recently undergone a strategy shift or rebrand, or if you're concerned about compliance issues stemming from outdated content.
You can customize a content audit based on specific requirements such as your editorial tone or brand voice, your creative lens, or your compliance requirements, but analysis usually has three layers: SEO, editorial quality, and strategic alignment.
The SEO portion of your content-focused audit includes all of the steps you would complete in a full SEO audit. You'll want to make sure that your audience is finding your content, that it appears prominently in Google search results, and that you have all the right keywords in place.
When evaluating the editorial quality of your content, you'll look at the strength of the argument presented, the relevance of the topic, and the quality of the imagery as well as the overall structure and flow of each piece. This review is akin to having an editorial team review all of your existing content to make sure that it provides the intended value to your target audience.
This portion of the content audit looks at elements like topic relevance, product language, sources and data, CTAs, consistency of brand style and tone, and compliance with brand guidelines.
Choose the Audit Strategy That's Right for You
If you've been busily creating great content without stepping back to analyze how your older content is performing, you may be missing out on opportunities to drive even greater ROI from your content or resolve content performance problems that are holding you back.
Generally speaking, it's a good idea to do an audit at least once a year. Not only is it beneficial on a practical level because it maximizes the value of the content you've already created, but it is also valuable on a strategic level because it can help you ideate and create even higher-performing content in the future.
When deciding how and when to undertake on an audit, assess the in-house knowledge and expertise you have readily available, such as SEO professionals, web developers, and editorial staff. Depending on your needs and resources, it may be beneficial to team up with an experienced partner that can create a plan to set you up for success, and make sure your audit is in line with your goals. That way, you'll be able to make the most out of your audit and spot that hidden gold in your content marketing program.
Eager for more insights like this? Sign up for The Content Standard today.
Featured image by RF._.studio on Pexels.