For the purpose of this article, we will limit ourselves to content found online. Thus, in web publishing terms, a “contact audit” is simply the process of looking at elements of information found on a particular website. A content audit is analogous to an income tax audit: both are methods of analysis and accounting of all current assets. Content audit should not be confused with content inventory. Content inventory is a much broader term, simply noting all content available. A content inventory acknowledges the mere presence of content, while a content audit evaluates the nature of content itself, evaluating the content’s effectiveness. A good content audit can satisfy five criteria
- What content currently exists?
- Who is the author of this content?
- How can people discover this content?
- How well does it work?
- Is the current content viable, or obsolete?
The reason a content audit is important is because in today’s world, very often a company’s website is the main method customers will use to connect with the company. In other words, if your website is your company, then the site’s content is the website. Now that we have defined our terms, let’s look at some reasons why to do a content audit:
- You can figure out the best ways to avoid a Google Panda Penalty.
- You can identify which content would benefit from editing.
- You can identify and prioritise which content needs to be updated.
- You can identify and eliminate redundant content.
- You can identify which content should be eliminated.
- You can list your content based on your company’s priorities.
- You can adapt your content to be more likely to show up in online searches.
- You can identify which content is driven by which keywords.
- You can identify which keywords need to be prominent.
- You can identify the most popular pages on a website and create ways to increase their traffic.
- You can identify new revenue opportunities for your content.
- You can identify your website’s strengths and weaknesses, especially if the domain is or will be for sale.
- You can identify the strengths and weaknesses of a new client.
What tools do you need to begin a content audit? Really, the best answer is time. If you want, you can make the job easier by using Google Analytics and a Google Drive Spreadsheet. You don’t need to be an IT admin to do a content audit. Naturally, the process of content auditing will vary based on factors like your your industry, your specific business plan, and your budget. In general however, the basic timeline of a content audit looks like this:
- Collect all URL’s for your domain. This step is where Google Analytics can come in handy.
- Import all those URL’s into a Key Performance Indicator, or KPI.
- Evaluate the content of each metric. You can opt to retain content, improve it, remove it, or add it to other content.
- Do a search for all keywords. Match the keywords to other content that already has rank, within matrix guidelines. For non-ranking keywords, apply them to the most appropriate pages.
- Note gaps in content.
- Develop your strategy. At this point, you can evaluate your findings, and create a strategy to maximise the effectiveness of your existing pages, write new pages to fill gaps, determine which pages should be moved, and so on.
Note that each of the above steps can be modified to reflect the needs of your individual web domain. One example of this might be if your domain has huge amounts of content, with lots of recurring keywords. In that case, you could simply avoid the process of content gap analysis and keyword research, and instead prioritise the deletion of some content and edit the rest.
On the other hand, if your domain doesn’t have loads of content, you might need to prioritise improving content gaps and researching keywords. Depending on your industry, you may need to focus on improving current content, and look at new ways of leveraging that content for maximum effectiveness. The point is, nothing is written in stone! The process can be altered along the way, as you identify the specific areas of attention your content requires. There might even be processes that you can completely forego. Let the results of the content audit guide your behaviour.
If a Content Management System, (CMS) is running your domain, that software should provide a list of all the Web Pages for your domain. Some CMS programs can begin the audit process for you. If not, you can try using Content Analysis Tools, or CAT’s, to help establish a starting point for your audit.
Generally speaking, the bigger the site, the easier it is to get lost while doing a content audit. Try to limit your audit to just the information you need. If you don’t know if you need information for a certain page, write down relevant pages, and then work off that list. You can always add to the list later.
Be patient! Content audits of large domains can take several days to complete. Don’t give in to shortcuts, don’t skip pages or breeze through content without thoroughly reading it. You need to understand the entire picture before you can run an effective audit. A well-executed content audit can be a vital first step in maximising the effectiveness of any website.
The audit process can be tedious and seem boring, but it can give you accurate information, so that you can make the best decisions for your business. You don’t need an advanced degree from MIT to complete a content audit, but it helps to be patient, persistent, curious, and detail-oriented. In short, don’t let the process intimidate you. Your business, and your clients, will thank you.