Everyone knows that high quality content is the foundation of any successful organic search strategy, but putting a process in place to consistently produce it is a bit hairier.
Not everyone has a huge, well-renowned (and expensive) agency with multiple copywriters and marketing experts ready to help create mind-blowing, never-before-seen creative experiences. But then again, not everybody needs to.
For many, all it takes to form the foundation of a fully optimized, well-written web presence is a healthy dose of planning and a thorough content audit.
Your content audit is key to taking less-than-stellar content and turning it into something engaging, well organized and search engine optimized. But what makes for a successful content audit, and why is it so vital to your content strategy?
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Before you begin any renovation, you need to know what you’re working with. Think about every renovation show on HGTV — while a home may look completely different after the Property Brothers get their hands on it, it’s still structurally the same building, with the same foundation and plenty of leftover architectural quirks.
The Scott brothers can’t redesign and overhaul a house without thoroughly inspecting what they work with, and sometimes, they need to gut a few rooms or call in contractors to fix hidden issues in the plumbing or electric.
If you think my metaphor is running away from me, hang tight, because a content audit really is a lot like planning a home renovation.
You can’t just take pictures of a few rooms, drive to Home Depot and Ikea, and transform a space (well, you could, but it wouldn’t necessarily be an improvement). You need to take measurements, check the infrastructure for any flaws, figure out what you can re-purpose and what you need to replace wholesale, and much more.
Likewise, with your web presence, you could make a few guesses as to which keywords to hammer home, sign a contract for some slick marketing automation software, and develop your content strategy on the fly, but chances are it won’t deliver as well as a content strategy designed with specific, measurable goals, defined conversion funnels, and a set of keywords you actually have a shot at ranking for.
You can also end up wasting time and effort rewriting content that could have been repurposed rather than replaced wholesale, or worse — missing major errors in your content, or opportunities to improve it.
In short, you want your audit to be well researched and data-driven to get maximum impact from your B2B content strategy. Let’s take a look at what a good content audit entails.
Taking Inventory of Your Content Assets
You should begin your content audit by taking stock of your assets. Just as a house has many rooms, each with its own specific function, a web presence, taken holistically, has several different types of content.
This includes the actual web page content on both the homepage and interior pages, dynamic content, including all social media properties and the corporate blog, as well as more static content assets, like e-books, case studies, testimonials and other intellectual property. A company may also have legal or privacy documents and disclaimers that require an update.
To ensure our content inventory is comprehensive, especially across large enterprise web properties, we love using Screaming Frog. Within minutes we can see a complete picture of the website, including those forgotten areas from two or three redesigns ago. Screaming Frog lets you export the entire site into an Excel spreadsheet, which will save you a ton of tedious work later.
Determining the Scope of Your Project
All of your content assets must be taken into account when conducting your content audit, though the degree to which you edit each depends on the project and timelines.
You might, for example, want to focus your project on improving the SEO of a website’s main service pages. For that, you wouldn’t need to edit the actual content of, say, your e-books or legal page, but you would want to consider how you link to those content assets (or even where you position those links on the page).
For the purposes of determining your editorial and content strategy, you’ll want to develop a consistent voice across all content assets, and that means taking a deep dive into as many of those assets as possible.
If you have tight deadlines, however, you should prioritize the content users see most frequently — usually the main website and internal pages, and then any social and blog properties. Start by checking your most popular pages in Google Analytics, and tackle those first.
Anatomy of a Content Audit
A content audit can be divided into three phases: the research phase, the audit phase, and the content development phase.
- The research phase helps you set your goals (for example, which keywords you want to rank for) and ensure that your audit is data driven.
- The audit phase takes those keywords and metrics and measures the current content assets against them. It also takes a look at other markers, like readability, organization and accuracy of content.
- And during the content development phase, you make the necessary adjustments and optimize the content, as well as lay out your editorial calendar for the next month or quarter.
The Research Phase
Begin your research by taking your website’s vitals, including site traffic, how well each individual page is performing, which keywords your website is currently ranking for and how they rank. Our go-to tools here are Google Analytics (or often Adobe SiteCatalyst) and Google Webmaster Tools.
Collecting individual page metrics, such as external links, social share counts, word counts, and readability scores, is really important because it’ll give you a clear idea of your strongest pages from many different angles. However, it could be a monster task without the right tool. Enter URL Profiler to make life easy by automatically pulling that data and more from a list of URLs. It’ll even directly import your Screaming Frog crawl.
It’s also helpful to conduct a competitive analysis, wherein you analyze how your top competitors are doing in terms of web traffic, keywords and social engagement, and how your company compares (competitor intelligence tools like SEMrush are particularly helpful with this).
From these analyses, you’ll create baselines for web traffic and social engagement that you can measure against after pushing your changes live, and you’ll want to identify the best performing pages on your site to ensure that any changes you make don’t negatively impact them.
You’ll also want to come up with a list of keywords to push for in your content strategy and ensure you have corresponding candidate pages that have a fighting chance at ranking for them.
Once you’ve gotten a content audit or two under your belt, you’ll have a good feel for what data points to include in a content audit template for future projects or clients. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet that merges in your Screaming Frog and URL Profiler data, with separate tabs for keyword research, competitive analysis, audit observations, and your editorial calendars.
The Audit Phase
Now is the time to dig into the content. You should look for ways to incorporate the keywords you identified during the research phase, but good content goes way beyond how searchable your pages are — you’ll also be looking for proofreading and editing errors, clarity and organization issues, and opportunities to link to other content assets (can you mention your e-book or case studies in more places?).
This is also a fantastic time to iron out your internal linking practices, think about consolidating or splitting up content for ease of navigation, as well as identifying which content needs to be rewritten completely or, conversely, repurposed.
The Content Development Phase
After the audit, it’s time to write some content! Developing your content strategy and resulting editorial calendar is a topic that could comprise many blog posts, but in general, you’ll want to plan what you’re going to write and set deadlines for when you’re going to write it.
I recommend assigning top priority to the core pages that appear at the highest level in your website’s information hierarchy. There are typically the pages that would appear in your primary navigation. Any content gaps you identify in those areas should be filled first.
The reason I like to focus on core pages first is because one of the functions of your blog is to provide internal linking support to core pages. If they don’t exist yet, you can’t link to them. Blog links to your core content pages are important not only for directing users into a conversion funnel, but for flowing link equity into pages that don’t tend to get much link love from external sites.
Wait! You’re Not Done Yet
Conducting a thorough content audit is crucial to a successful content strategy, but you’re not out of the woods just because your keyword research is on point and your editorial calendars are filled. After auditing your site and developing your content strategy, you should be conducting regular assessments to make sure your optimization is actually driving more traffic.
Remember that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, so it can take several months for search engine performance to improve. In the meantime, you can look at measures like social engagement and blog subscriptions to assess how well your content strategy is performing, and make iterative, data-driven adjustments.
The hallmark of a successful content strategy is that it’s always moving. Whether you’re conducting a content audit, editing a killer blog post or checking Google Analytics religiously, good content never sleeps.
What do you include in your content audits or content audit templates? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @Clickseed.