How to perform the perfect content audit for your brand

How to perform the perfect content audit for your brand

6 minute read

How to perform the perfect content audit for your brand

6 minute read

How to perform the perfect content audit for your brand

Luke Chaput de Saintonge

Content strategist

Table of contents

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In previous posts, we looked at the 7 reasons why you should audit your content and 3 steps to prepare for an effective content audit. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and look at how to actually perform the ultimate content audit for your brand.

How to set goals for your content audit

Before you get started with the difficult and time-consuming process of auditing all your content, you need to define your goals. Setting goals for your content audit helps you determine how you can make it successful. It also helps you establish what will need to be done as part of your audit.

First, start by considering your overall business goals. How can a content audit benefit your business as it pertains to these goals? What results do you want to achieve from the content audit?

Here are some examples of possible content audit goals and how they impact success measures and tasks:

Goal: Increase audience engagement.

If your goal is to increase audience engagement, then you might focus your content audit process on identifying which types of content your audience is engaging with most. Identify which pieces are shared most often on social media

Make note of which topics have been most popular so far. You can use this information to generate more engaging content in the future by creating content on the topics your audience loves most.

Goal: Improve SEO results.

If you want to improve your results from search engine optimization, then you’ll want to not only audit your SEO content but also perform an overall SEO audit to see which pages are ranking and/or bringing in the most organic traffic.

During your content audit, use Google Analytics to identify which pages have the most page views over time. This will help you determine the web pages with the best potential for ranking in the top 10 search results. You may also look for opportunities to improve internal linking or identify pages that need to be updated or removed from your site.

An SEO content audit also involves looking at things like meta descriptions, title tags, alt text, backlinks, and duplicate content. If you want the best chance of ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs), then these are all elements of SEO that contribute to it.

Goal: Boost conversion rate.

When your goal is to increase overall conversions, you’ll need to identify the pages that generate the most sales and leads. You should also identify pages that offer the best user experience. Identifying these during your content audit will help you better understand how to improve your other pages.

As you audit all of your content, consider whether you have content suitable for every stage of the buyer’s journey. When you see gaps in different stages, that could indicate that you need to focus future content creation on those areas.

How to perform your content audit

Let’s recap. By now, you should have an inventory of your content and know what data you want to gather. For larger sites, let’s also assume you also know who’s on your audit team. Now, it’s time to run your content audit.

Content audit graphic
Content audits can be a long and tedious process, but it’s an important part of content management.
(Source).

Here are five things you’ll need to do before you begin auditing your content:

1. Do a pilot audit

No matter how well you plan your audit, you can’t account for everything before you start. If you’re auditing with other people, you’ll need to run a pilot - one that involves the whole audit team. Even if it’s just you, try to identify someone you can bring into the project - if only as an occasional sounding board.

Typically, the pilot involves giving everyone on the audit team the same sample of content to audit, say 5-10 items from each area of the site. Allow everyone a few days to do the task, and then come back as a group to discuss it.

The content audit pilot helps calibrate the team’s approach to auditing. This is especially important for qualitative data where answers are quite subjective. The pilot also helps identify areas that may prove harder than first expected. Maybe you thought it would be easy to identify decision-makers for most bits of content, but in reality, this information is hard to come by.

2. Identify where you can save time and effort

Your pilot will give you an idea of how difficult your audit is going to be. It gives you a chance to adjust your approach to meet your deadlines and to fit everyone’s schedule. You may need to remove certain data from the audit or just sample some of it.

This is an especially useful approach for qualitative data. If you’ve got 300 press releases, do you really need to rank each one individually for usability? Chances are you’ll get the same insights from a representative sample.

3. Set realistic deadlines for your audit

Most people on the audit team will be auditing in addition to their day jobs. And because it can be long, repetitive work, audits have a tendency to drag on.

You’ll need to set strict deadlines, but be realistic about how much auditors can take on and when they can complete the audit.

4. Set regular project catch-ups

Once you’re up and running you’ll need to meet regularly with the other auditors. As with the pilot, the aim is to ensure that you have a forum in which to raise questions or identify problems with the audit. This helps ensure everyone’s data is consistent.

These project catch-up meetings are also a good place to check that everyone’s on track to meet their deadlines. If someone falls behind, you might need to adjust deadlines or assign the work to other team members.

5. Tell your organisation what you’re up to

When it’s done, your content audit is a crucial source of business intelligence and can help influence a range of business decisions. This information may impact operations, such as digital resourcing, or content strategy, such as setting publishing objectives.

Your content audit document should be much more than a spreadsheet that only a few content folks ever look at. You can maximise your chances of getting organisational engagement by communicating widely about your project. You’ll certainly need to make sure senior leaders know about the project and why it’s so important.

Then use any available internal channels to:

  • Talk about the project kick-off. Share more about who’s involved, what you aim to achieve, when you hope to finish and how you’ll share the findings
  • Publish regular project updates. Throughout the auditing process, share updates as well as trends and highlights from the emerging data
  • Communicate the results. Talk about what you’ve discovered, potential next steps, and what actions you hope the organisation will take based on this information.
Want to learn more about the different ways to perform a content audit? Check out How to find out what’s wrong with your content.

Analysing your data from the content audit

Okay, so you’re all done auditing. And now you have A LOT of data. But what is it actually telling you?

Data analysis graphic
It’s not enough to just collect the data. You’ve got to analyse and act on it!
(Source)

Analysing quantitative data

Some quantitative data lends itself to relatively quick and easy analysis. You can filter your data to isolate things like:

  • Pages that receive the least amount of web traffic
  • Website content that’s not been edited or modified in a long time
  • Pages that do not have owners
  • Pages with a high bounce rate or poor readability

This data is telling you that there might be problems with this content. Is it sufficiently popular, important, or up to date to warrant being on the site?

Think about combining metrics to get a better idea about how well your content’s doing. For instance, if the estimated reading time for a piece of content is high and people are spending a long time on this page, it might be a good thing. People are taking the time to read it. However, if people are spending a long time on pages that have a low reading age, this might suggest the content is difficult to understand.

Similarly, a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve got a high bounce rate on pages where people spend a long time, maybe that’s okay. Maybe users get everything they need from this content and don’t need to hunt around your site for more information. It could indicate that this content is focused and effective.

Depending on the way you set up your content inventory, you can create custom formulas to crunch the data and combine metrics. (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are great tools for this!)

Analysing qualitative data

Hopefully, you’ll have a lot of ranking scores for the qualitative aspects of your content, which makes it easier to analyse. However, there will be a lot of hidden assumptions behind these scores, so you’ll want to analyse your qualitative data in a group.

A good way to analyse large volumes of complex data is to use affinity mapping. For those who have not done this before, it involves writing your insights and observations onto post-it notes, sharing these with the group, and then clustering them into themes.

If you’ve already done some quantitative data analysis, you might want to share your findings with the group beforehand and discuss whether you agree with what the data is telling you about your content.

By the end of this session, you should aim for group consensus on the findings from the audit. These will form the basis of the recommendations report you share with the organisation.

Taking your analysis further

The really interesting analysis comes when you combine your rankings with hard data to get more nuanced insight into your content. Try doing things like:

  • View pages within a particular section that have scored poorly for usability
  • View pages across the site aimed at a particular audience group
  • View pages that have a bounce rate of more than 70% and a reading age of 12 or above

Tools to help you run a successful content audit

Running a content audit can be a complex and time-consuming process. To make it go more smoothly, you can use some helpful tools that make the process more accurate and efficient.

Content Audit Template

Content audit template
Grab our content audit template to get started with taking inventory of your content assets.

A great tool to start with for your content audit is a template. A content audit template will give you space to conduct your content inventory and organize all the information you need to audit your existing content.


As you start to run your audit, you’ll put all your pieces of content into the audit spreadsheet including information like URL, page title, and metadata like the meta description, alt tags, and more.


To make your content audit go faster next time around, you can continue to add new content to the content inventory spreadsheet over time. This will allow you to focus your audit efforts on analysis instead of taking inventory.

💡 Download our content audit template now to get started.

GatherContent

GatherContent dashboard
When you use GatherContent to organize, manage, and collaborate on content, audits are no longer such a daunting task.

Content audits can be time-consuming and difficult to coordinate if you have multiple people on your audit team. When you use GatherContent to organize and manage your content, content audits are far less daunting because you won’t find yourself searching for content assets all over the Internet.

GatherContent allows you to organize your content in folders, making it easy to find later. It also makes version control simple, so no one wastes time finding the most up-to-date version of a content audit.

The collaboration tools on GatherContent can also make the audit process run much more efficiently. Everyone can be on the same page and keep others updated using the feedback tool.

Need to know: GatherContent allows you to get everyone on the same page with cloud based, real-time content collaboration.

Screaming Frog

ScreamingFrog dashboard
ScreamingFrog is a powerful tool that will help you identify and fix common SEO issues.
(Source)

ScreamingFrog is a website crawler for Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. With both free and paid options, this tool allows you to conduct onsite SEO audits by crawling your website quickly, extracting key data, and auditing it for common SEO issues.

ScreamingFrog will help you find broken links, analyse page titles and metadata, find redirects, discover duplicate content, and more. If your goal is to improve search engine optimization, then a tool like this is a must.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics dashboard
Google Analytics will help you better understand how visitors behave on your site. (Source)

Google Analytics helps you better understand your site visitors' behaviour. With this tool, you can find your most popular pages and posts, getting pageview stats for your entire website. You’ll also be able to see the average time spent on page, helping you understand which pages engage visitors most.

The data you get from this analytics tool will be invaluable when it comes to determining content quality across your pages. If you’re not already using it, adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site is quick and easy.

💡 Learn more about how to automate your content audits.

You've run your content audit. Now, take action.

What you do next with your audit will depend on your project goals. Here are some common courses of action.

Get rid of stuff

Almost all websites have too much content on them. One of the most useful things an audit can do is help you determine which website content you can get rid of.

After all, smaller, more focused websites are easier and cheaper to manage. It’s common for content audits to use ‘ROT’ analysis to earmark content for deletion.

Is your content ‘redundant’, ‘outdated’ or ‘trivial’? If so, maybe it should go.

Your data should make it fairly easy to spot the ROT:

  • If few people visit a page, maybe it’s redundant (or buried – check its position in the site map structure).
  • If content is old and has not been edited for a long time, it may be outdated.
  • If content has a high bounce rate and low average time on page, maybe it’s trivial.

As bloated as many websites get, it’s surprisingly hard to convince people to delete content. To get anywhere, you’ll need senior-level support.

Circulate the content you’ve marked as ROT to the people who own it. Make it clear to them how the evidence from the audit backs up your decision. Tell them it’ll be removed by a certain date if they can’t tell you why it needs to stay. Make sure senior leaders will back you up.

Content improvement

Even if you’re lucky enough to remove the ROT, you’ll still be left with lots of content that needs improving. Your content audit will show you where to focus your efforts.

For instance, you can prioritise pages that get high volumes of traffic but that scored low for usability. Or pages with high bounce rates that scored low for actionability. You’ve got the data now to make informed decisions.

There’s a bit of work to do before you start editing content. You’ll need an idea of exemplary content to model your improvements on. Your content audit can show you the good stuff as well as the bad. Use this to create your recommendations for style, structure, and tone of voice.

Allocate resources

Your audit can help show you who’s doing what on your website: who’s publishing, who is editing and who is making strategic decisions. It can show the content that’s not being managed or maintained by anyone.

You’ll need to make sure that every piece of content has an owner - someone responsible for looking after it, and that every owner is the right person for the job, not just someone who’s acquired content by default.

Go forth and audit

It’s not the easiest or most glamorous task to run a content audit, but what you get in return can be incredibly powerful. The knowledge you gather through this process will tell you a huge amount about your organisation, your audiences, and will help take your content strategy further.

💡 Don’t forget to download our content audit template to help you get started!

In previous posts, we looked at the 7 reasons why you should audit your content and 3 steps to prepare for an effective content audit. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and look at how to actually perform the ultimate content audit for your brand.

How to set goals for your content audit

Before you get started with the difficult and time-consuming process of auditing all your content, you need to define your goals. Setting goals for your content audit helps you determine how you can make it successful. It also helps you establish what will need to be done as part of your audit.

First, start by considering your overall business goals. How can a content audit benefit your business as it pertains to these goals? What results do you want to achieve from the content audit?

Here are some examples of possible content audit goals and how they impact success measures and tasks:

Goal: Increase audience engagement.

If your goal is to increase audience engagement, then you might focus your content audit process on identifying which types of content your audience is engaging with most. Identify which pieces are shared most often on social media

Make note of which topics have been most popular so far. You can use this information to generate more engaging content in the future by creating content on the topics your audience loves most.

Goal: Improve SEO results.

If you want to improve your results from search engine optimization, then you’ll want to not only audit your SEO content but also perform an overall SEO audit to see which pages are ranking and/or bringing in the most organic traffic.

During your content audit, use Google Analytics to identify which pages have the most page views over time. This will help you determine the web pages with the best potential for ranking in the top 10 search results. You may also look for opportunities to improve internal linking or identify pages that need to be updated or removed from your site.

An SEO content audit also involves looking at things like meta descriptions, title tags, alt text, backlinks, and duplicate content. If you want the best chance of ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs), then these are all elements of SEO that contribute to it.

Goal: Boost conversion rate.

When your goal is to increase overall conversions, you’ll need to identify the pages that generate the most sales and leads. You should also identify pages that offer the best user experience. Identifying these during your content audit will help you better understand how to improve your other pages.

As you audit all of your content, consider whether you have content suitable for every stage of the buyer’s journey. When you see gaps in different stages, that could indicate that you need to focus future content creation on those areas.

How to perform your content audit

Let’s recap. By now, you should have an inventory of your content and know what data you want to gather. For larger sites, let’s also assume you also know who’s on your audit team. Now, it’s time to run your content audit.

Content audit graphic
Content audits can be a long and tedious process, but it’s an important part of content management.
(Source).

Here are five things you’ll need to do before you begin auditing your content:

1. Do a pilot audit

No matter how well you plan your audit, you can’t account for everything before you start. If you’re auditing with other people, you’ll need to run a pilot - one that involves the whole audit team. Even if it’s just you, try to identify someone you can bring into the project - if only as an occasional sounding board.

Typically, the pilot involves giving everyone on the audit team the same sample of content to audit, say 5-10 items from each area of the site. Allow everyone a few days to do the task, and then come back as a group to discuss it.

The content audit pilot helps calibrate the team’s approach to auditing. This is especially important for qualitative data where answers are quite subjective. The pilot also helps identify areas that may prove harder than first expected. Maybe you thought it would be easy to identify decision-makers for most bits of content, but in reality, this information is hard to come by.

2. Identify where you can save time and effort

Your pilot will give you an idea of how difficult your audit is going to be. It gives you a chance to adjust your approach to meet your deadlines and to fit everyone’s schedule. You may need to remove certain data from the audit or just sample some of it.

This is an especially useful approach for qualitative data. If you’ve got 300 press releases, do you really need to rank each one individually for usability? Chances are you’ll get the same insights from a representative sample.

3. Set realistic deadlines for your audit

Most people on the audit team will be auditing in addition to their day jobs. And because it can be long, repetitive work, audits have a tendency to drag on.

You’ll need to set strict deadlines, but be realistic about how much auditors can take on and when they can complete the audit.

4. Set regular project catch-ups

Once you’re up and running you’ll need to meet regularly with the other auditors. As with the pilot, the aim is to ensure that you have a forum in which to raise questions or identify problems with the audit. This helps ensure everyone’s data is consistent.

These project catch-up meetings are also a good place to check that everyone’s on track to meet their deadlines. If someone falls behind, you might need to adjust deadlines or assign the work to other team members.

5. Tell your organisation what you’re up to

When it’s done, your content audit is a crucial source of business intelligence and can help influence a range of business decisions. This information may impact operations, such as digital resourcing, or content strategy, such as setting publishing objectives.

Your content audit document should be much more than a spreadsheet that only a few content folks ever look at. You can maximise your chances of getting organisational engagement by communicating widely about your project. You’ll certainly need to make sure senior leaders know about the project and why it’s so important.

Then use any available internal channels to:

  • Talk about the project kick-off. Share more about who’s involved, what you aim to achieve, when you hope to finish and how you’ll share the findings
  • Publish regular project updates. Throughout the auditing process, share updates as well as trends and highlights from the emerging data
  • Communicate the results. Talk about what you’ve discovered, potential next steps, and what actions you hope the organisation will take based on this information.
Want to learn more about the different ways to perform a content audit? Check out How to find out what’s wrong with your content.

Analysing your data from the content audit

Okay, so you’re all done auditing. And now you have A LOT of data. But what is it actually telling you?

Data analysis graphic
It’s not enough to just collect the data. You’ve got to analyse and act on it!
(Source)

Analysing quantitative data

Some quantitative data lends itself to relatively quick and easy analysis. You can filter your data to isolate things like:

  • Pages that receive the least amount of web traffic
  • Website content that’s not been edited or modified in a long time
  • Pages that do not have owners
  • Pages with a high bounce rate or poor readability

This data is telling you that there might be problems with this content. Is it sufficiently popular, important, or up to date to warrant being on the site?

Think about combining metrics to get a better idea about how well your content’s doing. For instance, if the estimated reading time for a piece of content is high and people are spending a long time on this page, it might be a good thing. People are taking the time to read it. However, if people are spending a long time on pages that have a low reading age, this might suggest the content is difficult to understand.

Similarly, a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve got a high bounce rate on pages where people spend a long time, maybe that’s okay. Maybe users get everything they need from this content and don’t need to hunt around your site for more information. It could indicate that this content is focused and effective.

Depending on the way you set up your content inventory, you can create custom formulas to crunch the data and combine metrics. (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are great tools for this!)

Analysing qualitative data

Hopefully, you’ll have a lot of ranking scores for the qualitative aspects of your content, which makes it easier to analyse. However, there will be a lot of hidden assumptions behind these scores, so you’ll want to analyse your qualitative data in a group.

A good way to analyse large volumes of complex data is to use affinity mapping. For those who have not done this before, it involves writing your insights and observations onto post-it notes, sharing these with the group, and then clustering them into themes.

If you’ve already done some quantitative data analysis, you might want to share your findings with the group beforehand and discuss whether you agree with what the data is telling you about your content.

By the end of this session, you should aim for group consensus on the findings from the audit. These will form the basis of the recommendations report you share with the organisation.

Taking your analysis further

The really interesting analysis comes when you combine your rankings with hard data to get more nuanced insight into your content. Try doing things like:

  • View pages within a particular section that have scored poorly for usability
  • View pages across the site aimed at a particular audience group
  • View pages that have a bounce rate of more than 70% and a reading age of 12 or above

Tools to help you run a successful content audit

Running a content audit can be a complex and time-consuming process. To make it go more smoothly, you can use some helpful tools that make the process more accurate and efficient.

Content Audit Template

Content audit template
Grab our content audit template to get started with taking inventory of your content assets.

A great tool to start with for your content audit is a template. A content audit template will give you space to conduct your content inventory and organize all the information you need to audit your existing content.


As you start to run your audit, you’ll put all your pieces of content into the audit spreadsheet including information like URL, page title, and metadata like the meta description, alt tags, and more.


To make your content audit go faster next time around, you can continue to add new content to the content inventory spreadsheet over time. This will allow you to focus your audit efforts on analysis instead of taking inventory.

💡 Download our content audit template now to get started.

GatherContent

GatherContent dashboard
When you use GatherContent to organize, manage, and collaborate on content, audits are no longer such a daunting task.

Content audits can be time-consuming and difficult to coordinate if you have multiple people on your audit team. When you use GatherContent to organize and manage your content, content audits are far less daunting because you won’t find yourself searching for content assets all over the Internet.

GatherContent allows you to organize your content in folders, making it easy to find later. It also makes version control simple, so no one wastes time finding the most up-to-date version of a content audit.

The collaboration tools on GatherContent can also make the audit process run much more efficiently. Everyone can be on the same page and keep others updated using the feedback tool.

Need to know: GatherContent allows you to get everyone on the same page with cloud based, real-time content collaboration.

Screaming Frog

ScreamingFrog dashboard
ScreamingFrog is a powerful tool that will help you identify and fix common SEO issues.
(Source)

ScreamingFrog is a website crawler for Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. With both free and paid options, this tool allows you to conduct onsite SEO audits by crawling your website quickly, extracting key data, and auditing it for common SEO issues.

ScreamingFrog will help you find broken links, analyse page titles and metadata, find redirects, discover duplicate content, and more. If your goal is to improve search engine optimization, then a tool like this is a must.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics dashboard
Google Analytics will help you better understand how visitors behave on your site. (Source)

Google Analytics helps you better understand your site visitors' behaviour. With this tool, you can find your most popular pages and posts, getting pageview stats for your entire website. You’ll also be able to see the average time spent on page, helping you understand which pages engage visitors most.

The data you get from this analytics tool will be invaluable when it comes to determining content quality across your pages. If you’re not already using it, adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site is quick and easy.

💡 Learn more about how to automate your content audits.

You've run your content audit. Now, take action.

What you do next with your audit will depend on your project goals. Here are some common courses of action.

Get rid of stuff

Almost all websites have too much content on them. One of the most useful things an audit can do is help you determine which website content you can get rid of.

After all, smaller, more focused websites are easier and cheaper to manage. It’s common for content audits to use ‘ROT’ analysis to earmark content for deletion.

Is your content ‘redundant’, ‘outdated’ or ‘trivial’? If so, maybe it should go.

Your data should make it fairly easy to spot the ROT:

  • If few people visit a page, maybe it’s redundant (or buried – check its position in the site map structure).
  • If content is old and has not been edited for a long time, it may be outdated.
  • If content has a high bounce rate and low average time on page, maybe it’s trivial.

As bloated as many websites get, it’s surprisingly hard to convince people to delete content. To get anywhere, you’ll need senior-level support.

Circulate the content you’ve marked as ROT to the people who own it. Make it clear to them how the evidence from the audit backs up your decision. Tell them it’ll be removed by a certain date if they can’t tell you why it needs to stay. Make sure senior leaders will back you up.

Content improvement

Even if you’re lucky enough to remove the ROT, you’ll still be left with lots of content that needs improving. Your content audit will show you where to focus your efforts.

For instance, you can prioritise pages that get high volumes of traffic but that scored low for usability. Or pages with high bounce rates that scored low for actionability. You’ve got the data now to make informed decisions.

There’s a bit of work to do before you start editing content. You’ll need an idea of exemplary content to model your improvements on. Your content audit can show you the good stuff as well as the bad. Use this to create your recommendations for style, structure, and tone of voice.

Allocate resources

Your audit can help show you who’s doing what on your website: who’s publishing, who is editing and who is making strategic decisions. It can show the content that’s not being managed or maintained by anyone.

You’ll need to make sure that every piece of content has an owner - someone responsible for looking after it, and that every owner is the right person for the job, not just someone who’s acquired content by default.

Go forth and audit

It’s not the easiest or most glamorous task to run a content audit, but what you get in return can be incredibly powerful. The knowledge you gather through this process will tell you a huge amount about your organisation, your audiences, and will help take your content strategy further.

💡 Don’t forget to download our content audit template to help you get started!

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About the author

Luke Chaput de Saintonge

Luke is a content strategist with more than 10 years’ experience working for public and private sector clients.

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