How long has your website been online? How many pages do you have?
Don’t know? That can be a big problem when maximizing the effectiveness of your online presence. With SEO, every piece to the puzzle has to be evaluated, strategized, fixed to ensure it’s helping you instead of hurting you. Now let me ask you another question.
When was the last time you took the time to audit your content?
Over the years, your strategy may have been to add content. And you took a “willy nilly” approach: writing posts about the latest thoughts, creating landing pages for the newest promotions, connecting to social media accounts “just because.”
Now it can be described as nothing short of a mess.
And you have no idea what to do next. Or if your content is helping you … or hurting you.
Why A Content Audit Is Your First Step
Every business should have a content strategy in place. A content strategy defines who your customers are and how you’ll reach out to them with your marketing.
A content audit provides you with an analysis of the content you already have in place. It’s a list of every piece of content you currently have online, where it’s going, what it’s purpose is, who it’s targeting, and how it impacts the sales process.
Your local Target store conducts audits every year to determine how many tubes of toothpaste and boxes of cereal are on the shelf. Think of your content audit in the same manner – it’s the process of determining what you have online.
The only way to find opportunity in what you do online is to take a step back and determine what’s there.
The only way to fix your current strategy and make it better is to start from the beginning.
Step 1: What’s your goal?
You knew this step would be here. It’s always the starting point in any effective strategy.
You can’t take on any project if you don’t understand the why. The why directs you and gives you the steps you need to do what you do.
Why does content matter? What’s your reason for auditing your content? Is it:
- To get rid of outdated or redundant content?
- To find out your most popular topics?
- To determine the effectiveness of each piece of content?
- To ensure quality in every page on your site?
- To evaluate continuity, and make sure your message holds true?
- To organize it and make it connect in an easier way?
- To add SEO and make it work harder?
- To support future plans and strategies?
If you’re not sure, take the time to discover your why. It’s the only way you can find opportunity in your online presence.
Step 2: Create a list of all content online
Before you continue, you have to know your why. You also have to have a list of all the content you currently have online.
This means knowing every page that exists on your site and blog. If your site is small enough, you can do this manually, copy/pasting each URL into a spreadsheet to create a list.
If your site is larger, you may consider a tool to help you scrape your site and put every URL into a user friendly chart to analyze the data.
You can track this in a way that makes sense for your business, but in general, you should capture:
- URL – where the piece of content exists online
- Title – what the piece of information is about
- Summary – a brief description of what a reader gains by reading this piece of content
- Audience – who this piece of content is targeting
- Navigation – how visitors reach this piece of content
- Supplements – is there supporting documentation for this page
- Sharing – what motivators exist for this piece of content for readers to share it with their own communities
- Analytics – how much traffic, how many views, how many shares
- Attachments – is the page supplemented with audio, video, graphics, PDFs or other attachments? Note size, length, dimensions, format, etc.
Your list is designed to help you gain insight quickly. Include whatever data necessary to make decisions.
Step 3: Develop a picture of your reader
Study your data for a minute. You’ll start to notice a lot of things. Like what pages are more popular than others. Like what paths visitors take as they click around.
You’ll start to notice trends. And hopefully, you’ll start to see a bigger picture.
Do you notice glaring holes in your content? Did your content audit reveal areas where you could dive a little deeper, and provide higher quality data? Maybe add a video? Or create a full-fledged guide to offer step by step plans?
If you’ve never done so, now is the time to develop a detailed picture of your ideal customer and reader. They might not be the same thing. Often, your readers are a broader category. You might have lots of people read, and only a select few take the steps necessary to becoming a customer. That’s okay. If your content can weed out higher quality customers, all the better.
Defining them also gives you a chance to determine the content they need to move around. Figure out their demographics and psychographics. How about developing a guide or two to help walk your ideal customers through your data more efficiently? The possibilities really are endless … once you see it in black and white in front of you.
Flushing out your content reveals trends. You’ll find some topics and keywords are clicked on more than others. You’ll get a better understanding of what your target audience really wants.
But don’t give up on “old” content that doesn’t seem to be performing well. Also ask yourself how relevant this content is. Do you know it’s a frequently asked question when people visit you in person? Then maybe the content needs to be modified, so it speaks more clearly to potential readers. Sometimes changing a word or two can make all the difference.
Step 4: It’s time to design a new content strategy
The final step is to review your current content and address the weaknesses by developing a content strategy that will carry you into the future.
Move through every piece of content on your content audit. If you’re working with an Excel spreadsheet, for example, create a column for “action.” Then choose labels with the action you’ll take.
- No change – the content is working well, and you’ll leave it alone
- Improve – list how you’ll make this piece of content better
- Merge – sometimes two pieces of content can be merged to make it even better
- Delete – if it’s no longer relevant, get rid of it
- Create – see holes? List out ways to fix it
You can even create a column for prioritizing. This is necessary if your current online presence has hundreds of pages, and it may take you weeks or even months to work through it all.
Once your sheet is filled out, your new content strategy is in place. You now have a plan to carry you into the weeks and months ahead.
No guessing at what posts to create. No randomly picking topics “just because.” Your content audit will be your guide for the future to create exactly what your target audience is looking for.
How’s your content marketing strategy? Is your content working well for you?