Content marketing is hip right now. It’s so hip that I feel like I should be wearing a massive beard while sipping a single origin blend coffee from an obscure African country out of a mason jar.
What is content marketing? It is where you sneak up on customers and confuse the heck out of them by giving them helpful information, amazing tips and incredibly useful content without charging them for it. It is where we DON’T TALK ABOUT THE SALE.
Content marketing works on the concept that by being helpful we can build trust with potential clients and that when the time comes for them to buy something, they will fondly remember our brand.
However, before small businesses scale the pinnacles of content marketing and create a whole heap of brilliant new website content, they first need to wade through the swamps of content audits.
What Are Website Content Audits?
A website content audit is the simple act of cataloguing and reviewing everything on your website.
Cataloguing and reviewing sounds gentle. It sounds peaceful. It sounds like something done by motherly women in twinsets and pearls while wrapping books in clear contact paper at the local library.
Unfortunately content audits are nothing like that.
Most website content audits are like machete wielding porters slashing their way through toxic overgrown jungles, while fighting off angry cute black and white animals that carry enough venom to bring down an armour-plated T-Rex. (Yes, Mr Penguin, Panda & Hummingbird – I am looking at you!)
So rip off your shirtsleeves and tie them around your head as a bandana. It’s time to go Rambo on your content.
Why Do a Content Audit?
Content marketing is all about sharing useful, meaningful information. If your website has been around for more than a few years, chances are that some of the material is a bit on the dated side.
Pretend for a moment that you are a shopkeeper. Stocktake time is where you count every item of stock you have in a store to work out what you have, what is selling, what needs to be written off and what needs to be sold at a discount. Stocktakes help you understand your top selling product lines and help you remove slow or non-selling stock lines.
Your Web Content Needs A Regular Stocktake
By reviewing all your web content, you remove all the outdated, duplicated and irrelevant material. Customers love this!
Imagine your customer at a stocktake sale at a department store – having to rummage through huge bins of horribly coloured towels in order to find the perfect towel that matches their bathroom. Now imagine your customer being able to see at a glance your stock and find what they are looking for in seconds. That’s what a content audit does.It makes it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for, as they don’t have to wade through mountains of useless stuff to get to the good bits.By auditing all your web content, you remove all the outdated, duplicated and irrelevant material.Click To Tweet
Did We Mention The Hidden Content Gems?
Doing a content audit helps you find what is currently working in your content marketing strategy. This gives you a massive head start when working out what to share with your customers in the future. Rather than polishing the crystal ball and trying to guess what people want, you now have the option to leverage or extend your existing proven popular content.
Google Also Likes A Tidy Store
King Google only allocates each of its minion spiders a fixed time to race around each website to work out what is there. When the virtual bell tolls, your little spider has to race off to the next ball. If your site is filled with overstuffed closets, then your crawl budget is wasted on the spider rediscovering old material. Clearing out the clutter means Googlebots get to find the good stuff on your site (which is good for your rankings).
>> Read more about crawl optimisation:
Planning Your Content Audit Process
Before you pick up your first content machete (sounds so cute when said that way … a bit like baby’s first pair of shoes), you need to do a little bit of reconnoitring of the area and work out your content audit strategy.
Step 1: Review Your Goals
This may sound a bit crazy, but what do you want your website to actually do for you? What do you want your website to achieve? You need to be clear on your business goals, as you need to compare everything on your site against your objectives.
For example: If you want your small business website to bring you local Brisbane clients, then part of your review will probably be removing images of the Sydney Opera House.
Step 2: Review Your Keywords
Each business and industry has words that people use when talking about that industry. Generally these words can be clumped together into categories, themes or content buckets. What are your keywords?
For example: If all customers and industry reps refer to your service as a Building and Pest Inspection, but the technically correct term is Building and Timber Pest Inspection, don’t you think you should at least use the term that everyone else uses somewhere on your website? There’s no point in ranking for a term that no-ones uses. It would be like me celebrating because I rank well for herringbone hen coats. Woohoo!
Step 3: Map Your Site
Deep breath. You need a spreadsheet for this bit. This is where you map every page and post and download on your site. Don’t run away! We haven’t got to the good bit yet.
Seriously. You need a spreadsheet. There are some plugins starting to be created for this, but right now, a spreadsheet is the simplest option for most small businesses.
The simplest spreadsheets for smaller websites have the following columns:
URL | Page Title | Topic Summary | Category (See below) | Notes
>> Read more about content audits:
Step 4: Review Your Data
Before you leap in with your machete in hand, it pays to know which are the weeds and which are the mighty oaks of your site. You don’t want to be chainsawing down trees and keeping the weeds!
Using your Google Analytics account, identify the pages with the most traffic, highest bounce rates, and any keyword search terms that lead to your pages (yes, I know Google is strangling the keyword data!)
You can either add in an analytics column onto your spreadsheet if you want record the key data, or you can simply add comments in the note section.
>> Read more about how to use Google Analytics to review your content:
Step 5: Review Your Content Audit Criteria
This is where you need to put your heart away in a box for a while. You need to look at each individual piece of content on your website with totally dispassionate eyes. If your heart gets involved, it’s too easy to wimp out. You need to be tough.
What are you looking for?
Anything that doesn’t match those criteria need to be marked for closer attention.
Step 6: Categorise It
If your idea of a weekend well spent is clutter-clearing the spare room, these concepts will be remarkably familiar.
When working out what to do with the hideous vase gifted you by a hated Aunt, you usually ask yourself the simple questions: Love it, toss it, donate it, sell it, hide it, (and bring it out only when the Aunt comes to visit). Content Auditing categorisation is quite similar, except you can’t really pop content into the closet for emergency visits.
Your content categories are:
The content is perfect the way it is.
The content still has life in it, but it could do with a few tweaks to refresh it. Add new images, add better links to internal pages, improve the SEO, add links to external resources, and make it more reader friendly with better formatting.
Most long-term sites have duplicate or thin content. Even in the best of websites if you have written about the same topic lots and lots of times things begin to blend into each other.
Thin content is content less than about 300 words that doesn’t really say anything new or exciting. Think of it as a very small entrée and not a meal.
Duplicate content is the same information repeated over and over. Think of as the leftover Christmas ham that seems to go on for weeks. Google hates duplication as much as you hate ham after three solid weeks of it!If you have duplicated or thin content, then do your best Will-It-Blend impersonationClick To Tweet
If you have duplicated or thin content, then do your best Will-It-Blend impersonation and blend them all in together to create one epic article. Either mash the different variations of the content into the page with the highest useful traffic, or create one brand new super epic page and redirect all the skinny articles to the big page.
If your content is outdated (e.g. old promotions), then redirect the page to a landing page relevant to the content. Don’t simply redirect it to the home page (Google hates that!). Redirect it to the nearest most useful and relevant page.
Think of a redirection as the salesperson saying, “I’m sorry we are out of stock of Brand X right now. Could we interest you in Brand Y,” where Brand X is a book on marketing and Brand Y is NOT a pink stuffed unicorn.
Sometimes content is beyond redemption. Perhaps you don’t offer that product or service anymore; or you can’t work out what the heck you were thinking when you published it in the first place; or it was so badly stuffed full of keywords that Google slapped you silly with a penalty; or all the spammer sites decided to descend on that page with toxic links. In those cases a 404 Redirect gone is the kindest way to put that piece of content out of its misery.
Some of your content is brilliant. It is superb. It is begging for more. These are the hidden gems with exciting opportunities for future content marketing. These articles can be extended into infographics, Slideshare presentations, checklists, and downloads. Look at new and creative ways to share the goodness with your customers.
On your site you should have a raft of high-performing evergreen content. These pages form the cornerstones of your web traffic and your ongoing promotions. Know what they are and make sure they are marked and highlighted on your site.
Remember to jot any notes to yourself in your spreadsheet against each page as you categorise each page (e.g.: Change the image, notice the broken link on this page, xyz would make a great infographic etc.)
>> Read more about how to review your content:
Step 7: Machete Time & Then Fix What You Can
This is where you may need a tame web type person to help you correctly redirect, consolidate, and trash your content (if you don’t know how).
Get the redirects wrong and you can break your site and lose a whole lot of good Google juice in the process … and then you will need to hire a tame web type person to not only fix your site, but then do the redirects the correct way, then an SEO person to repair the damage to your traffic.
>> Read more about how to redirect your content:
Step 8: Create Your New Content Creation Calendar
From your content audit you will now have a great list of ideas of new content that needs to be created and areas where your content needs to be extended. Put those into an editorial content calendar for future reference, so you are mining your own gems first before starting up digging new speculative mines elsewhere.
Step 9: Celebrate The End
I will not lie to you. Content audits on small websites with only a handful of pages may only take a few hours. Content audits for bigger websites (100+ pages), take days. Content audits for massive websites (1000+ pages) take weeks to do properly – even longer if the site has been hit with a Google penalty.
Large content audits are mind-numbingly boring, tedious and it is guaranteed that you will find yourself going over content many many times as you refine your process. (Don’t ask me how many nights and weekends I have spent on the Heart Harmony Communications website, or how many times I have gone over the same pages!)
Getting through a solid content audit is cause to celebrate. Celebrate long and hard until you remember that you need to pencil in your next content audit in the same way that shopkeepers do with their regular stocktakes. Same time next year perhaps?