How to Do a Content Audit: A Step-by-Step Process

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • A content audit helps you create a complete inventory of all your content.
  • The first step in a content audit is to determine the goals and KPIs that guide your decision to keep, improve, consolidate or remove individual pieces of content.
  • A content audit helps you eliminate thin content, conserve crawl budget, implement strategic internal linking, concentrate link equity and improve user experience.
  • Supplement your content audit with a competitive gap analysis to blow your competition out of the SERPs.

When was the last time you conducted a content audit? This year? Last year? Five years ago? Never?

If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. Many content teams are guilty of forgoing a content audit to focus on pumping out new content.

And that new content is important. But if you want that content to outmaneuver the competition, you need an effective content strategy. And a web content audit can help you shape a strategy that not only improves your rankings, but also fulfills your audience’s needs and generates brand love.

how to do a content audit

An SEO content audit is worth its weight in gold. There’s even a way to automate most of the work. So stick with us and we’ll walk you through this step-by-step process.

WHAT IS A CONTENT AUDIT?

A content audit is a complete inventory and assessment of all the indexable content on your website and your other digital marketing properties. This includes landing pages, blog posts, articles, white papers, ebooks, checklists, FAQs, videos, presentations, infographics, tools and more. The content is measured against performance KPIs based on your SEO and marketing strategy goals.

WHY YOU NEED TO DO A CONTENT AUDIT

For companies that don’t have an SEO-focused content marketing strategy, a content audit helps you find strategic and competitive gaps:

  • Are there gaps between your content and that of your competitors?
  • Do you have content for each target audience?
  • Are there a content gaps at key points within the customer journey?

But a content analysis isn’t just about identifying potential shortcomings. In fact, large brands often have the OPPOSITE problem: A bloated website with way too much content.

Consider the scenario below:

Your marketing department amped up content creation to target every single buyer persona at each stage of the customer journey. Maybe they even outsourced content production to an agency. The deliverables kept rolling in month after month, and quality was amazing. But the agency didn’t understand the SEO implications of overproducing, and now your website has massive amounts of duplicate content. As a result, content performance is suffering in organic search, so your team is forced to shovel more money into PPC to deliver traffic and conversions.

A blog content audit helps you organize, categorize and streamline content production to deliver 10X the results. It enables you to inventory what you have, map each url to a keyword and identify the gaps. Then, you can build out a content plan for your blog strategy that fills those gaps, improving what didn’t work and leveraging what did.

The insight you glean from your content audit helps you look at each piece of content individually and decide whether to keep it as is, improve it, consolidate it or remove it.

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Improve SEO

A content audit uncovers common mistakes that are an ankle weight for your SEO performance. You’ll probably discover content that:

  • Repeats previous topics
  • Competes with other content for keywords
  • Addresses the wrong audience
  • Doesn’t fulfill the search intent for the target keyword
  • Replicates low-performing content

Many times, large brands produce content for the sake of meeting a volume or frequency goal rather than meeting an SEO or audience need. That’s the result of rudderless content. Conversely, informed, KPI-driven content produces massive amounts of organic traffic.

A content audit forces you to strategically target more valuable keywords, better match search intent and inspire higher engagement. All of that will ultimately boost your performance in the SERPs.

It doesn’t matter whether you need to optimize ecommerce product pages, refine your B2B SEO strategy, or simply improve website crawlability and UX. You must take inventory of your content before you can take action.

For example, an ecommerce content audit may lead you to add popular category pages to your main navigation or your footer menu.

A blog content audit could reveal “orphan content” without any links at all. Or you may discover that you need to improve content to overtake the competition. You might need to add a handful of related keywords, double the length of the content piece, or make it more enticing for backlinks.

The SEO impact of removing content might feel counterintuitive. But it’s the same concept as pruning away dead leaves on a plant so healthier leaves can flourish.

If you have tons of content that nobody engages with, all that content still gets crawled. So your crawl budget and link equity are spread thin across many pages instead of adding weight to your successful pages.

As evidence of the sheer value of removing thin content, one of our clients in a highly competitive niche had a lot of thin, low-quality content that was impeding SEO performance. After an audit, we determined they needed to remove over 80% of their content. And look at the results:

site content audit

Organic sessions increased 425% within eight months!

What’s even more amazing is that this client published only five new blog posts during that same time period. Focusing on the old content – especially removing that content – had a bigger impact than creating new content did.

When you remove the low-quality content, you increase the odds that both search engines and people will hit high-quality content when they visit your site. That will also build trust and authority over time.

Identify gaps in your content

As a content marketer, it’s easy to keep writing about the same topic just because it’s easy to write about. Are there high-priority topics, keywords and audiences that aren’t getting enough love? A complete audit of your content will show you the percentage of each type of content on your site, so you’ll be able to correct the imbalances and fill in the gaps.

Cover the entire purchase funnel

Content audits will also help you identify how much content is being provided to audiences at each stage of the purchase funnel: awareness, consideration, decision. All three stages are vital to your bottom line. And they each require different types of content.

For example, a B2B content audit may uncover a glut of topics only geared toward the “awareness” phase. Taking a full content inventory can spark new content ideas as you consider what would be valuable to people in the lower phases of the funnel.

Ensure your content is more effective than the competition

Measuring your content’s performance against competitors’ content helps you determine whether your strategy as a whole and individual pieces of content are beating the competition. This is especially effective with individual pieces of content or keywords, since you can easily measure them against the competing content’s SERP performance.

Ensure your content is more effective than the competition

If other content is beating yours in the SERPs, there’s a reason. Find the reason and improve your own content so that it fits (and beats!) the length, format, substance and tone that resonates. Most importantly, improve content so that it provides more value to the reader than any competing content in the SERPs. For example, if the competition has a text-based blog post for a specific target keyword, you can include an interactive template in your piece. This delivers a better experience that further meets the needs of your audience. It also makes it more likely that they will link to your content.

Improve engagement and conversion rates

Better content means more engagement. More comments, more shares, more downloads, more sign-ups, more time on page and more pages per session. The more people you can engage fully, the better your chance of converting them.

But how can you know if your audience is truly engaged? Wouldn’t it be nice to see where they looked and clicked and how far they scrolled on the page during your content audit?

You can. With behavioral analytics.

Tools like Mouseflow, Hotjar and Decibel allow you to actually see a user’s digital body language through heat, click and scroll mapping. With this insight, you can uncover what is working on your site – what gets engagement – and what doesn’t.

Once you uncover what isn’t working, you can try new tactics. And the best way to see what new tactic works is to conduct A/B testing.

Say you discover your visual CTAs aren’t getting any traction. Instead of testing CTAs sequentially, you can test a text-based CTA vs another type of CTA concurrently with A/B testing. Or test a behaviorally-based CTA against a static CTA and so on.

Then, attack old content with a more conversion-driven focus, adding implicit or explicit calls to action (CTAs). While you don’t want to overwhelm your audience, you do want to give them as many opportunities to click or engage as possible (insofar as it makes sense).

Even if your content is high-quality, trust in otherwise great content can diminish over time as parts of it become outdated. Take the content we produce at Terakeet. A lot of our content is “evergreen” advice that will continue to be useful in a few years.

But that advice is often supported by today’s research, based on our understanding of how Google search works today. In a few years, the evergreen part of a post like this might be undermined by small insights that have changed, data that is no longer useful, or tools that don’t exist anymore. Updating successful content will keep your voice credible, preventing trust-related conversion blockers.

Ensure a distinct brand voice

Ensure a distinct brand voice

A business at the enterprise level may still be holding onto the ghosts of content strategies past. And it’s very likely that some of those content strategies didn’t consider brand voice. Or it’s possible that you’ve been through a rebranding or two since the original content was written and the voice of your old content deviates from your current branding.

During your content audit process, you may discover content that’s still successful organically. But it doesn’t radiate the personality, values and tone that your company strives for now. You’ll be able to put content like this into the “improve” category so you can make sure your company is putting its best face forward when people land on it.

HOW TO DO A WEBSITE CONTENT AUDIT

The format you choose and the data you collect and analyze will vary depending upon your goals. Therefore, you may not find a generic website content audit worksheet or checklist useful. On the other hand, it can be daunting to start from scratch if you’ve never done one before.

Feel free to download this SEO content audit template to get started. It contains columns for the most important metrics you’ll need to assess your site.

1. Determine your KPIs

Your content goals can include any of the broad benefits we mentioned above, like improving engagement and conversions. Be sure to establish specific KPIs, factoring in the metrics and timeframes you’ll use to measure performance and determine success.

Those metrics can include many things. Google organic rankings and organic traffic. Engagement (time on page, scroll depth, bounce rate, click-throughs as part of a funnel, interaction with the post) and conversions. Backlinks and social shares. They can also include improvements within a certain audience segment, persona or part of the funnel.

2. Take inventory of your content

Run a site crawl using a website content audit tool like DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog or URL Profiler. Connect your third-party APIs, such as Google Analytics, Search Console, Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs. Screaming Frog, for example, allows you to customize each metric you want to include in your final report. Simply check the boxes for:

  • Target keywords
  • Organic traffic
  • Content type
  • Index and canonical tags
  • H1s
  • Page title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Average time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Internal links
  • External links
  • Word count
  • Page views

Once your crawl is complete, you can export the data into a content audit spreadsheet that includes a long list of URLs, alongside columns tracking different data points. Use any software you’re familiar with, such as Excel or Google Sheets.

Add columns for any additional information that would be helpful to your team in assessing the exact type of content that produces the best results, such as author, page length, downloads, CTA click-through rate, etc.

You’ll end up with a lot of information, so break it up as you need to. If all website content is indexed and canonicalized as it should be, for example, you can delete those columns. Be forewarned: while automated objective metrics can take you pretty far here, there’s no getting around actually visiting each URL and reading the content subjectively.

From Zero to 1.5 Million in Organic TrafficTerakeet Increased Organic Traffic from Zero to 1.5 Million within 15 Months for a Disruptive Retail Brand. See How

3. Assess and analyze your content

Once you’ve gathered all your metrics, make an “Action” column to determine the next steps for each piece of content on your site during your content audit. You have four choices:

Keep as is

Is the content doing exactly what it’s supposed to do? Performing well? Is the information complete and up to date? Is engagement is high? And is it properly optimized for both SEO and conversions? Hooray, no further action is needed! Mark it as a keeper and move on.

Improve

This label is for any content that either performs well or is well executed and mostly complete. But it needs improvement. This is a broad and variable category. So you’ll probably want to add all your “Improve” URLs to a new audit spreadsheet and log the type of improvement the content needs during your content audit.

Does it need copy additions, updates, quality or voice improvements? Is the copy solid but it needs better SEO optimization, calls to action, or internal links? Is the format ideal? Plan your attack. Knock out the simpler updates first and then prioritize the remaining updates based on strategic value.

Consolidate

If you’re a company like Dyson, you could well end up with 20 of the same “how to choose a vacuum cleaner” articles over time. Those articles won’t be exact duplicates. But they all cover the same information from the same angle without adding value.

A website content audit helps you consolidate content

When content repeats itself in this way, the solution is rarely as easy as picking the best content and deleting everything else. There’s rarely one piece that contains all the information while the others contain nothing additional. So we mark copy like this as “Consolidate” instead of “Delete.” You’ll ultimately be pulling all of that information together into one piece of super content.

Delete

It can be tough to delete useless content from a website in the same way that culling your belongings prior to a big move is tough. (That calculator from 1995 has no value to you now. But it still works and you might need it someday!) We encourage you to make like Marie Kondo and delete as much useless content as you can. Thin content with little or zero traffic and engagement doesn’t need to be considered for improvement or consolidation. You don’t need to wonder whether three paragraphs of work should be preserved because it might contain information that can’t be found anywhere else. Just delete it.

That said, be careful with content that does show search traffic, engagement and/or conversions. For the sake of your organic traffic, identify what’s bringing people to pages like that and improve their content instead. Two-thousand (2,000) page visits in the past year might be lackluster for your site. But deleting 500 of these pages at once can create a needless shakeup in website traffic and authority.

5. Conduct a competitive gap analysis

After you delete or consolidate the unnecessary content, you’re going to be left with a complete inventory of the current content on your site (including the to-be-improved content). So it’s time for one more spreadsheet: your competitive gap analysis.

A competitive gap analysis allows you to see where your content falls short in relation to your competitors. This kind of insight can help you develop a content strategy that nurtures your leads throughout the buyer’s journey and ensures they go to your site for their needs at different stages – not your competitors’ sites.

SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush can further assist you by pulling automated competitive gap analyses based on the keywords your competition ranks for that your website doesn’t.

Alternatively, a gap analysis can help you determine where your competitors are not ranking and leverage that gap in your own content.

Let’s say you’re an insurance company. You’re analyzing your biggest online competitor. And you realize – gasp! – they don’t talk about liability insurance in their content. (It’s one of their offerings, they simply don’t have content in support of the offering.) They’ve covered everything else in their blog, articles and video: auto, motorcycle, renters’ and health insurance. They’ve even covered pet insurance. But liability insurance? It’s nowhere to be found in any of the content.

Or let’s say that you focus on homeowner’s insurance. Your competitors have a variety of homeowners insurance-related content in the form of blog posts, checklists, calculators and FAQs. But all of the content speaks to families specifically. The content is neglecting certain important and growing buyer segments such as single women. This is another untapped opportunity.

When you identify a gap in your competitor’s content, you open the door to new opportunities for you to seize new share of voice in the SERPs.

6. Create your new content strategy and plan

Learn how to do keyword research so you can uncover your audience’s level of interest in different pain points, topics, how-tos and product attributes. Use this information along with your business goals to decide how much of each type of content to produce.

Once your content audit is complete, you should have everything you need to build out a full content strategy that’s bigger and better than ever. Build a strategy that replicates your high-performance content, fills in the content gaps, expands into new territory and delights your audience.

7. Ongoing content audit best practices

When it comes to enterprise search engine optimization, you’re never really done. So add “Ongoing Maintenance” to your website content audit checklist. Once you’ve cleaned up the initial issues, continue to run regular crawls with tools like SEMRush to spot broken links and redirect chains.

It’s surprising how quickly those things can pile up, and they DO impact your SEO performance.

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