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Everything You Need To Know About Content Auditing

By Snap Agency August 29, 2014

A digital marketing tactic that’s coming out of the grueling world of content publishing is a game changer. It’s big enough to shape how the Internet spews out articles, infographics and videos at an untamed rate. (A rate of about 92,000 pieces of content per day. And it will continue to grow.)

It’s defeating knowing that there’s so much content competition within online business. How are consumers supposed to differentiate your business from the next? How will they even be aware that you exist? The little guy needs a chance too.

Well, there’s a way to beat that competition, my friend. And it’s done with a content audit.

ELI5: What Is A Content Audit?

A content audit is a in-depth evaluation of your company’s current content, CMS (content management system) and ecommerce strategy. This audit will improve SEO rank and overall content marketing capabilities for the long term. When you conduct a content audit, you are figuring out which pieces of content are valuable to both your organization and audience, and which pieces are hindering your website from optimal performance.

For example, if you wrote a blog for your tile & grout company in 2010 about a now defunct grout cleaner, that’s irrelevant information and is most likely hurting you. At the very least it isn’t helping at all. You want content that effectively drives traffic and gives people a reason to purchase products and/or services from you. Your webpages are the meat and potatoes of your online presence, while your social media accounts, blogs, landing pages and downloadable PDF’s are more like the peas and carrots. A content audit determines the grade of beef and quality of potato, while ensuring that each veggie is cooked to a perfect internal temperature.

A content audit assess a page and categorizes it as either:

  • Valuable

  • Efficient

  • Invaluable

The next step is to decide whether this page will be:

  • Kept as Is

  • Improved

  • Consolidated

  • Removed

Through this process, you are identifying a number of different elements that will enhance the SEO, user experience and overall resourcefulness of your website. From link structure and link building, to the informational value of your content itself, you’ll find useful insights to content performance.

Conducting a content audit will provide you with insights such as:

  • Content gaps

  • Content quality

  • SEO mistakes

  • Content strategy effectiveness

  • Content repurposing opportunities

  • Information architecture structure

  • Keyword usefulness

  • Page rankings

How To Conduct A Content Audit

Conducting a content audit is daunting, but well worth it if you want to drill down into your website’s content performance and effectiveness.

Resources needed to conduct a content audit:

  • A couple hours

  • A couple members of your team

  • Excel (or another spreadsheet making program, such as Google Docs)

  • Auditing tools

First, Make a Spreadsheet

The first step in your content audit will be to open the often-dissed, but always valuable, Microsoft Excel. Yep, you’ll be working in a spreadsheet.

Here are the suggested headers you need to fill in for each section of your rows:

  • Page

  • Page URL

  • Pageviews

  • Unique Page Views

  • Average Time on Page

  • Entrances

  • Primary Keyword

  • Impressions

  • Clicks

  • Page Title

  • Meta Description

  • Header 1

  • Wordcount

  • Page Authority

  • Links

  • MozRank

  • Action (Keep as is, improve, consolidate, remove)

  • Strategy (fill in the blank with simple actionable content strategy)

Content Audit Spreadsheet Example

The purpose of this spreadsheet is to keep your content audit (or your clients) housed under one roof. Although a spreadsheet isn’t very digestible, it provides you with the easiest way to share and divulge a large amount of information you or clients never had access to before. In fact, take a look at the average website sizes to put it in perspective of how much work you have in front of you:

  • Service based websites normally 1,000+ web pages

  • Small ecommerce website 1,000 – 3,000 web pages

  • Medium ecommerce website 3,000 – 10,000 web pages

  • Large ecommerce website 10,000+ web pages

If a site like Amazon ever decided to do a site-wide content audit, they might have their work cut out for them.

Next, Download Content Auditing Tools

Next, you want to educate yourself on the above listed content auditing tools. Different audit tools are used for different purposes and accomplish different goals. Screaming Frog and Google Analytics, for example are useful for gathering URLs, whereas Raven is best for organic SEO statistics, and MozRank informs you of your SEO authority rank. We discuss these in more depth and provide links to the tools we use below.

It may take some time to get familiar with each of the tools and which one works best for your business, so click around each application before use. Also, make sure you know how to use the information that these tools are giving you. If you’re misinformed about SEO best practices, then you may never accomplish your end digital marketing objectives.

Find Your Low-Hanging Fruit First With Custom Reporting

When conducting a content audit, you want to find the low-hanging fruit of your website. Working on the most important pages first will put you on a faster track in optimizing your site and getting you results ASAP.

1. Access Google Analytics.
2. Open the following link to load a custom report.
custom report configuration google analytics
3. You’ll be asked to select a view. Choose the desired profile. Hit CREATE.
4. Adjust the dates in the upper left to view as much historical data as you can. Go to the beginning of the site’s tracking if you’d like.
date adjustment google analytics
5. Scroll to the bottom and change “Show rows” so that all line items are viewable. If the number of rows exceeds 5000, change the URL parameter in your browser to match the number of items.
5. In the upper left, select EXPORT > Google Spreadsheets or your preferred format.
Export Content Audit Report Google Analytics
6. Copy and paste the data into your content audit spreadsheet for analysis.

If you’ve got a really big website, say above 10,000 URLs, it may be necessary to purchase a tool to do this work for you. There are some auditing tools out there that are cheap if you’ve got the money for it. The tool URL Profiler will run you about $400 bucks/year which isn’t bad. It grabs and consolidates all of your URLs onto a spreadsheet, allowing you to do domain analysis, URL analysis, content analysis and link analysis with ease.

Now you’re ready to get your hands dirty.

Getting The Dirty On Your Content

Snap Agency operates our website, as well with most clients, on a WordPress platform, so we’ll continue the content audit from the point of view of a WordPress CMS.

wordpress CMS link
Click here to learn more about building your website on WordPress.

First up: Clearing the Clutter

The size of your site will depend upon the removal strategy you use in improving your website’s content.

Here are the general rules of thumb for website size and content audit focus:

  1. Fewer than 100 Pages

    • Conduct in-depth keyword research for opportunities

    • Find content gaps and fill in with KWR

    • Improve upon every page with available time

  2. 101-1,000 Pages

    • Focus on in-depth KWR for gaps

    • Some removal of pages necessary

    • Improve upon most pages if time available

  3. 1,001-9,999 Pages

    • Heavy removal of irrelevant or ineffective pages

    • On-page keyword optimization, with minor KWR

    • No need for content gap analysis

  4. 10,000+ Pages

    • Heavy removal of irrelevant or ineffective pages

    • Improve top performers, key pages

    • No need for KWR or content gap analyisis

A great way to lower your budget or diffuse the work that you’ve set up for yourself with this audit, is to follow the 20/80 rule. This simply states that you can knock out the first 20% of your content right away (the best-performing pages) and leave the less important 80% of content to be fixed throughout the course of the coming months.

What Is Google Penalizing You For?

If you’re conducting a content audit, then there’s already an underlying concern that your website may not be performing in the way that you expect. But, you don’t really know why that is. For all you know, it could be the web design. In this case, we’ll be attempting to resolve the Google content penalties. There are specific criteria you need to look for in every webpage you audit: duplication, quality and relevancy.

Here are common causes of content-related penalties:

  • Low-quality content

    • If your content is written poorly, for search engine bots or just plain unhelpful, you’ll be penalized by search engines. They want to provide the best experience for their customers just as you should for yours. They won’t supply their searchers with information that doesn’t want to make them come back and use their search engine again.

  • Thin content

    • The most read pieces of content on the internet are well above 2,000 words. That last blog post featuring a 57 word blurb about a new grout cleaner may not be very helpful to your SEO rank.

  • Irrelevant content

    • If your audience doesn’t need the content you’re producing, then they won’t read it. It’s that simple. Make content that interests your target and they will reward you with an increase in website traffic.

  • Duplicate content

    • There may be no bigger SEO sin than duplicate content. If you’ve copied and pasted one service to the next, Google will notice that and penalize you for it as the robot is essentially calling you lazy. (Sorry we’re not all terminator, Google.) Create unique content and become a content force to be reckoned with in the search world.

Now that we know some of the issues you’re getting in trouble for, we can move forward with getting you out of detention.

Which Content Audit Tools Work For What?

There are tons of tools out there from big companies to small startups that want your business with content auditing and SEO. It will take some time (and plenty of free trials) to narrow down what combination of tools work best for your business and/or clients.

We use Raven Report to crawl our clients’ sites. They offer a great and easy user experience that crawls sites effectively.

track site metrics with raven tools
An example of the UX and metrics of Raven SEO.

(We have our reservations about some of the features in Raven, but that’s not to say that the tool has become of great use to us as we learned how to do audits ourselves.)

This tool pulls in most of your SEO data. Data such as the number of ALT tags missing or meta descriptions will be displayed after your crawl. The most useful feature to come from this audit tool however, is the generated link information. This lists everything from your external backlinks and referring domains, to page authority and more. You can also track site performance, identify errors, robots.txt blocks and redirects.

Google Analytics, Trends and Webmaster Tools are great for all around website performance evaluation. From these tools, we bring in top performing keywords, site performance over a period of time, pageviews, sessions, acquisition and much more.

Here are URL’s to the Snap Agency content audit tools that we normally employ:

Data Importing And Sorting Your Content Audit Spreadsheet

Get this data into your content audit spreadsheet by either manually copying and pasting it, following the steps above, or if the program/tool allows, export it into your spreadsheet — which is the easiest. At Snap, we start by sorting from entrances and move onto different categories from there.

Sorting by entrances is important to us as a digital agency in Minneapolis, because we want to identify where people are coming from, and which pages are effectively gaining traffic and each page’s SEO value. We take the first batch of 10 (this amount is personal preference, this number works for our site) or so to improve and mark them down in the “20” section of our “20/80” rule we’re following.

Next, we sort by pageviews. This breaks down which pages are being viewed the most. You may be surprised to find that the top performing pages on your site don’t really have anything to do with making conversions. For instance, they’re probably blog posts from a while ago that may or may not have to do with one of your core services.

Blogging is a marketing strategy best suited for building “brand interest;”  because the reader is “interested” in what your brand is saying. It’s the second step in the online conversion funnel and a major component of the content marketing schema.

See the image below for reference:

Content Marketing Funnel for Brand Awareness

You may not be making sales from blogs, but they are certainly interesting to a group of people – most likely the audience you want to target.

Now that you know this, you can improve upon the page. Or, you can repurpose the successful pieces of content into other forms of marketing collateral. Turn a blog into a slideshow, a slideshow into a podcast, a podcast into a video… You get the idea. Add a contact form to bring them into the next step in your funnel, or include products directly on the page to encourage sales.

After that, we normally sort by MozRank to understand how pages are performing according to the SEO gods. If there is a page that is getting a lot of views, but has a low rank, you should assume that something fishy is up with that page. Investigate further, and you might find that your information is duplicate or irrelevant. It could be anything we listed above, so utilize your tools, compare metrics and hunt down the problem.

All while we’re going line by line through this spreadsheet, we are constantly analyzing keyword acquisition, time on page, and meta and title tags. Making sure these are all in check as you go through your content audit.

Now, this is just our way of doing things. In reality, there are endless possibilities, and it will take time to understand which metrics are important to you and your success as a B2B or B2C business. In the end, however, you should have developed a deep understanding of your top performing pages and what makes them as such. And an understanding of the pages that you just need to say “good-bye and good riddance.”

Covering All SEO Bases

With the spreadsheet you’re creating, there are ecommerce SEO best practices to keep in mind as you go through your audit.

  • Page Title

    • Page titles are the lead element of a WordPress page, and immediately inform the search engine crawler of what the page is about. They should…

      • Be no more than 65 characters.

      • Not include duplicate content.

      • Contain a relevant keyword.

      • Be URL friendly.

  • Meta Description

    • Meta descriptions are the snippets that show up in the search engine listing. They are a short description of the page and should…

      • Entice the searcher to click on the link.

      • Fewer than 160 characters.

      • Be unique.

      • Avoid keyword stuffing (write for humans, not robots!)

  • Content

    • View your pages on the front end to ensure that your content is…

      • Relevant, interesting, and READABLE.

      • Grammar-oriented.

      • Greater than 300 words.

      • Not focused on a keyword that overlaps on another page.

  • ALT Tags

    • ALT tags were invented so the blind could operate the Internet with a screen reader. They describe an image so when you hover over your mouse, the text describes the image. This offers great opportunity to insert more keywords into your content, but don’t abuse it. Your ALT tags should…

      • Be on every single image

      • Be descriptive

      • Be relevant

      • Be long-tail rather than short-tail.

  • Check Internal Links

    • Internal links are your best friend when trying to gain search engine relevance. The more links pointing to and from your webpages shows that you’re an influencer and Google will reward you. Each page should…

      • Include at least three links.

      • Point to other influential pages on your site and externally.

      • Have relevant anchor text (keyword inclusion a bonus!) for links.

To Wrap It Up…?

Conclusion of Content Audit Blog Post

A content audit is undoubtedly one of the deepest ways to drill into your brand. It offers insights into site performance that you simply won’t find anywhere else. It takes a long time to conduct, but it’s worth your time. But, if you thought this was a “one-and-done” task, well my friend, you’re sorely mistaken.

It’s a repetitive process. (At least it should be).

As a content marketing firm, we are constantly auditing our own website to make sure that no content gaps exist and that every single web page has a structure and purpose. Every few months, we dust off the spreadsheet and re-run a site audit to find strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This keeps us fresh, and our skills updated for the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Your small tile & grout company or huge Internet store may need specialized commerce services to get this accomplished for you. But, you can absolutely take on the challenge yourself. You may only need to do this once a year, or it might take you all year to do this. It just depends on the amount of content you’re publishing, the audience’s reception, website performance and size, and your resources.

Content Audits do work, though. It’s pretty shocking to see how many mistakes have been made in the past that have never been fixed. Or, if SEO updates (such as the Panda update by Google) have taken place that make old tactics irrelevant – or even punishable – then a content audit is your search engine savior.

You may not even know you’re making mistakes. Until it’s too late.

Make your website content all that it can be. Drive traffic, increase revenue. A content audit is how it’s done.