Jan 15, 2021

Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit

by Digital Marketing Institute

Do you manage content for your organization? If so, the time will come when you need to perform a content audit. Though many brands and marketers fail to do so, a content audit can make a huge difference in understanding your content, identifying potential gaps or weaknesses, and evolving your strategy.

Whether you’re launching a new website, rebranding your content, or simply taking a yearly look at updating what you have and determining what you need moving forward, it’s impossible to measure improvement if you don’t first establish clear baselines. 

Read on to learn why your organization needs a content audit, and get the checklists, templates, and guidelines you need to get started.

What is a Content Audit?

A content audit will ensure that you know exactly what content you have and what you don’t have, giving you the chance to fill any gaps in your messaging. It can also help you identify any duplicate content, repurpose and reuse content, and remove or update outdated content. It also helps you plan your overall content strategy.

Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit

What insights does a content audit offer?

  • Which pages generate the most traffic and convert the most users
  • Which pages could be consolidated
  • Which pages have the highest bounce rate
  • Potential search optimization opportunities
  • The pages that are ranking best and worst
  • Any content gaps that you need to fill
  • Pain points that can be quickly fixed
  • Which pages need to be updated, avoiding any stale or incorrect content

Content audits can take a large chunk of your time, but they’re extremely important. To help you get started, you’ll need some templates and tools.

Content Audit Tools

First, you’ll want to collect the metrics and URLs you’ll need for your audit. These may include Google Analytics, Screamingfrog, SEMRush, SocialCount, DYNO Mapper, and MOZ Open Site Explorer, among others.

You’ll also need a content strategy document, a keyword research spreadsheet, and a content inventory spreadsheet. The latter two should be completed prior to the content strategy document. We’ll provide a quick overview of how this happens then dive into the details of all the information you’ll need in the next section.

Content Inventory Spreadsheet

Your content inventory spreadsheet is your first step and should track all of your pages and include all the information as well as metrics you want to focus on, such as title, keyword, backlinks, content type, URL, etc. This will be the most time-consuming part of your audit. Your spreadsheet should look something like this:

Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit

Organizing Your Data- Diving into the Details

Adding this vast amount of data manually is a pain, to say the least. So, you should mitigate the number of hours you need to spend on auditing with helpful tools. To find all the pages currently being hosted on your website, use a content scraping tool like Screamingfrog. This intuitive tool  can create a CSV of all of your URLs that you can easily upload and start using.

However, be aware that some URLs may be missed (so a double check will be needed) and that non-indexable URLs should not be included. In fact, you should get rid of any information you don’t need before starting your audit. This will be a real time-saver. Once you’re ready, it’s time for the more manual portion. You’ll want to add the following basic fields to your content inventory spreadsheet, gathering information from different sources.

  • Title
  • Description of content
  • Type of content
  • CTA
  • Primary persona(s)
  • Word count

After you input these basics, start looking at how well each post is engaging users. This may include adding the following metrics to your content inventory spreadsheet, most of which can be found using Google Analytics (unless otherwise noted):

  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Average time on page
  • Bounce rate per page
  • Publish date
  • Location (which regions or counties your traffic is coming from)
  • Scroll depth (Google Analytics)
  • “Last updated” date (if applicable)
  • Targeted backlink destination URL (via SEMrush)
  • Social likes & shares (via BuzzSumo)
  • On-page conversions (when applicable)

It will be helpful to have an overall count the actions needed. A simple chart like this one will do:

Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit

Optimizing Existing Content

At this point, you should have some valuable data from your content inventory—enough to help you make some tough decisions about which content to keep as-is, retire, repurpose, update, and optimize. Add a column in your spreadsheet to mark which of these labels you choose for each item.

Automated Content Audit Tools

There are several automated tools that can help you along the way. Here are a few:

Keyword Audit

After you have completed your content inventory, it’s time to do some keyword research. Is there a topic or keyword within your industry for which you haven’t created content? Include all of the keywords for which you want to rank, your current rankings, and edits or optimizations you want to do, etc. A simplified example might look like this:

Consult our detailed On-Site SEO Audit Handbook and Toolkit to help set this up properly.

SEO Metrics May Include

  • Internal Links
  • External Links
  • Backlinks
  • Primary keyword
  • H1/H2
  • Backlinks’ anchor text
  • Metadata
  • Moz Page Authority (PA)
  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness (using URL Profiler’s Google Page Speed Insights API integration).
  • Traffic from organic search (last 90 days)
  • Content uniqueness (using a site like Copyscape)

During this part of the audit, you should be focusing on which keywords you’re currently ranking for, and those that you want to rank for. Then you can identify any gaps and create additional content or optimize existing content to rank for these terms.

Content Strategy Summary

Next, it’s time to create your content strategy document. This document should combine an overview of your goals, along with detailed action items and plans for moving forward. Here are two different visual examples of how to approach this part of the project:

Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit
Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit

Your content strategy document should include:

  • Business objectives and content-related metrics
  • Primary personas
  • Buying stages
  • Audience needs
  • Goals over specific periods of time
  • (Optional) Information about where your personas hang out online
  • (Optional) What your competitors are doing and how you’re different
  • (Optional) A content matrix of your existing content (see image example- based on your audit)
Tools and Guidelines For Your Next Content Audit
  • (Optional) Types of content you work on and goals for each
  • (Optional) Content workflow
  • (Optional) Content editing and publishing process

Writing Your Report

Once you’ve done all the legwork, it’s time to deliver a summary of what you’ve learned and what you’re proposing moving forward based on the audit and strategy documents you have now completed. Be sure to start with an executive summary that outlines your progress and your general findings, then dive into the data. Classify changes needed by level of urgency, and be sure to put an implementation timeline and list of necessary duties in place.

We recommend first removing or archiving the URLs that have been marked as such, then updating existing pages with fresh content and proper keyword targeting, before adding additional content to any pages that need it. As you can see, these are listed in order, from least to most intensive in terms of time needed.

Ongoing Content Optimization

Your content optimization shouldn’t stop after just one audit; it should be an ongoing process that continues throughout the year. We recommend performing a content audit each year to keep things as up-to-date as possible. For more information and additional resources, templates, and checklists, check out the links below.