Otherwise known as a content assessment, a content audit is exactly what it sounds like. In short, you go over the content you have here-to-for created with a fine-toothed comb.
Content Audits and Baby Steps
First, let’s understand the topic of this article. Several types of digital content now exist on the web: images, videos, podcasts, radio shows, articles, blogs”¦ the list goes on. That content could be all over the Internet by now. For the purposes of this article, we’re targeting just one place: your website.
See? We’ve already narrowed the criteria”¦
However, you don’t just open up your site and jump in ““ especially if you have tons of content to wade through. Although different companies / individuals have their own ways of auditing content, they’ll all agree that organization is the key to keep from being overwhelmed.
Google Webmaster Tools
Step: In Google Webmaster Tools, go to: Your site on the web > Links to your site > All linked pages > Download this table
How To: GWT is a good place to start, because it gives you a list of pages being linked to. You don’t want to delete or move content that already has links coming to it without making allowances for the incoming links.
The image below shows you where to look on Google Webmaster Tools to find pages on your site that have incoming links. At the bottom of the page, GWT has an option to either download the visible table or download all links.
Note: “Download all links” gives you a list of the sites linking in ““ not an extremely important metric in this current process, but might be useful elsewhere.
Step: Create a content map that outlines the full process from the time your visitor enters the site to the time they complete the goal.
How To: You have developed all this content for a reason, but has it led to your goal? If not, what are you missing? The only way to really find out is by creating a content map. If you don’t have an understanding of your target market, you’ll find this difficult.
A content map is an outline of your visitor’s process to finding your conversion page, whatever it may be. For instance, the process to a product sale may be something like: Product Page (short, tightly focused content) > Product Page 2 (more in depth information for those who want to know specifics) > Order Page (i.e. Check Out) > Thank You
On the other hand, it could be short and sweet (indicating a determined buyer): Product Page (short, tightly focused) > Order Page > Thank You
An example can be found below:
Step: Create categories and separate pages into these categories
How To: Based on your content map, you should have clear categories set up. For example, most e-commerce site pages can break down into two main categories: informational pages and sales pages.
Once you have your categories chosen, use the Excel file from GWT and copy/paste each page link in its appropriate category. It might be helpful to count the number of pages per category and write the number for each area of your content map.
Finding Content Gaps
Step: Observing the amount of content in each category, identify uneven areas.
How To: Look over each category and the number of pages. Are there places where your content has fallen off? For example, although content development is a huge part of what Level343 does, we have a much smaller amount of articles on this topic than others. This would be considered a content gap.
If you have a category with an abnormally large amount of content vs. other categories, you have your first focus.
Step: Clean up your content.
How To: Look through the pages for this category. Using Google Analytics or your favorite analytic tool, identify low vs. high performance pages. Set your high performance pages aside and focus on the low performance (You can go back to the high performance later).
Look over the remaining pages with a fine-toothed comb. Can any of the content be combined? How much is outdated, and can it be updated? If you can’t repurpose a low performance page, and that page has no links, copy/paste the content into a document and save it into a file (it may come in useful later somehow). Once you have a copy on your computer, however, delete the page from your site.
If the page has a few incoming links, make sure you create a redirect to a relevant, more recent article to stop a bunch of 404 errors from cropping up.
Rinse and Repeat
A content audit seems like a lot of work ““ and it is. However, once you get the first category done, you’ll find that it becomes a faster process. After going through 100 pages, you begin to recognize which pages should get the axe rather quickly, which ones you might be able to reuse and so on.
Of course, this is a “brief” how to for content audits; they can get as in depth as you want to make them. While you’re digging deep, however, keep in mind why these assessments are recommended. They aren’t done “just because it might be, sorta kinda, time“. They’re done with a specific reason, or for many reasons, such as;
Getting rid of low quality pages. People grow, change and get better at their chosen field. As you grow stronger in your industry, learn more and gain confidence, your writing improves. Pages from yesteryear may not be quite as eloquent as this year; go check. You might have to restrain yourself from instantly deleting.
Finding pages to improved and/or updated. If you have a page with great, though outdated information, updating the page with current information can turn an old article into a new one. Repurposing content in this way is not only an accepted practice, but smart thinking.
Finding out which type of content performs best for your target market. Maybe you’re bringing in traffic that makes you smile. Well, let me knock your glow down a few inches. Getting the right type, tone and layout of content for your target market can go a long way to gaining more traffic and a higher amount of conversions.
If you keep focused on your goals and why you’re doing the content audit, you’ll end up with a much more focused site ““ which isn’t at all a bad thing.