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June 30, 2022

If you’re like most people, the thought of doing a content audit is as fun as getting a root canal. But just like going to the dentist can be vital for your oral health, conducting a content audit can be vital for the health of your website. This guide will show you how to do a content audit step-by-step.

How to Do a Content Audit

A content audit is an inventory and assessment of all the material on your site. This includes everything from blog posts and articles to images and videos. A thorough audit can help you identify areas where your site needs improvement and ensure that all your content is up to snuff.

Fortunately, there’s no need to dread this process. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that will show you how to do a content audit quickly and easily. So roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started!

A content audit is an inventory of all the content (information and files) on a website.

This can be a time-consuming process, but it is essential to understand what content is available, what content is needed, and what content can be removed or consolidated.

A website evaluation is a thorough inventory of your site to make it better.

A website content analysis is invaluable for any marketer looking to step up their content marketing efforts. 

5 Essential Steps in Content Auditing

1. Start by identifying your main objectives

What content issues do you want to solve? Your audit’s primary objective should be chosen accordingly. This will determine everything you do in your audit and inventory.

If your goal is to organize the content you will bring into a new CMS, then you might want to spend zero time looking for consistency.

Other possible goals

  • Get rid of redundant, obsolete, or trivial content.
  • Know the scope of your content.
  • Determine SEO effectiveness. If this is your primary goal, Laura encourages that you audit for other goals.
  • Compare content quality to a standard (such as accessibility or reading levels).
  • Assess content to ensure consistent messaging
  • Assess the content that you need to move to a new platform.
  • Find out how to organize content better for searchability.
  • Find out if metadata such as tags or categories has been used correctly.
  • Support balanced editorial planning.

Think about this: What goal would you set for your organization’s content audit?

2. Determine the content you want to include

Organizations often require a complete inventory. This is a complete listing of all content that the organization owns. An organization can do with a partial inventory more often than a complete inventory. Laura says she is firmly on the ‘it-depends side of the fence.

Laura’s first web inventory was for a website that had tens of thousands of pages. She didn’t want it initially; her team had already put all the content there and knew what it was. After completing the inventory, she discovered that the client didn’t know all the information on the website.

She says, “They were delighted that we had done all the work for them.” “The site had grown so large that they had become disconnected.”

Laura was pleased that the client requested a thorough inventory.

You must decide whether you want to list every item or just summaries. Laura suggests you can record summary information if your content is stored in a robust CMS, is well-organized, and has valuable metadata. A copy can be anywhere from X to X characters long. The tone is technical.

She warns that this situation is rarer than we would like.

If you feel compelled to list less than everything you own, take a representative sample and evaluate it. Laura advises, “Do more than what you think is sufficient.”

Ask yourself this question: What content would you include if I were to audit my organization’s content? What channels, content types, and so on would we do if we were to exclude a subset of content? How do we determine if our subset is sufficient to achieve our goal?

3. Describe your audit/inventory facets

Define the facets, which are the data types you want to capture in your inventory. These facets will be columns in your spreadsheet or any other tool you use to capture your inventory data. Laura has found spreadsheets to be the most flexible.

Laura offers a starting list to help you identify the types of facets that you might like to capture.

  • You create an index number. Laura creates an index number for every content item, even though web-based content may not necessarily be tied to a URL. Multiple pieces of content can live at one URL, or one piece of information may appear on multiple pages. Non-web-based content does not have a URL. When you are sharing your audit with colleagues, index numbers can be helpful. Laura explains that you should create a system that makes sense. This will allow you to see key points by looking at the number.
  • URL (if applicable). This aspect is helpful for static website pages. However, if your web pages are built dynamically, you might need another ID to identify the individual pieces of content that need to be audited. Laura says that often when performing an audit, we think intuitively about a page or screen, and then we record our assessments based on that. “However depending on the purpose, it might make sense to analyze content chunk-by-chunk.” She points out the Starbucks web page at the end of the post: “In this case, there are multiple content pieces that you could analyze.”
  • Headline. Transcribe the title.
  • Summary of the content. The headline or title may not always convey the topic adequately. Consider copying the content if it is too short.
  • Identify the intended audience.
  • Detail the main message that the organization wishes to convey in this piece. (The message is not likely to be the text on the page.
  • Navigation information (page-based audit). Document how people navigate to the content.
  • List the template that this content is based upon. Confirm that the content adheres to a standard look.
  • Supplements (image, audio, video, PDF, etc.) You can detail the media files that people can download or experience. These files can be noted as facets or captured elsewhere.
  • Sharing/other tools. Check out the tools available for sharing digital content. Are you encouraging people to share? Are they willing to share? Could you make sharing easier? What other tools can you offer people?
  • Laura suggests you not delete content just because it doesn’t get much traffic. You shouldn’t assume that content with low page views is wrong. This could indicate that the content is hidden in your system and cannot be found. Consider that a low number means “We need more questions before taking action.”
  • Audio or Video file type, length, size, and format. Document the characteristics you wish to capture.
  • Image file type, dimensions, and size. List of characteristics for image files that you wish to capture.
  • Determine whether you need to know the file size of PDFs. Ask yourself if PDF is the best format and if it will be valuable to people. Laura states that too many marketers give people junk content to email addresses, making everyone else look bad.
  • Check whether login, registration or multiple permission levels restrict access to this content.
  • You might want to capture information such as browser title, keywords you want to rank in searches, description text, and H1 text. You may also want to check if an SEO description is available or is correctly coded to appear as a snippet within search results.
  • And more facets. Examples: asset type, content quality. Laura will tell you everything you need to know, depending on your business goals and the state of your content.

TIP Don’t let yourself be tempted to capture a binary rating such as “keep or delete” when auditing content quality. That’s unhelpful and “stark.” Laura encourages you to give more nuance to the question. She suggests that you create a quality scale and add words to it. “Those shades in the middle are harder to understand if you don’t put some words on them,” she said.

Consider a scale such as “exemplary, good,” meh, not great, crap.” This is especially useful when more than one person is evaluating or (b) when one person does a lot of evaluations. To make it easier for people to align their evaluations, you can provide content examples for each measure of your scale.

Do not be too eager to mark content for deletion. Sometimes deleting content screws up SEO value. Only delete content that you are sure isn’t relevant to your audience.

Think about this: What aspects would you capture for each item if I were to audit my organization’s content?

4. Create an inventory of the content to audit

You can automate your web-based content inventory using a web-scraping tool such as SiteOrbiter or Screaming Frog.

You can export from your CMS in some instances, but be careful. Laura states, “I’ve seen exports produce lots of trash and I’ve also seen them produce something I could work with…sort of.”

Laura’s preferred method for capturing small sites is to copy the URL and then paste it into a spreadsheet. She says there is no better way to see what you have than to do it manually.

Think about this: If I were to audit my organization’s content, which format would I prefer for the inventory? What capturing tool or method is most appropriate for our content and primary purpose?

5. Audit your content 

Laura chose the Starbucks home page example because everyone knows the brand, and she is a fan. She points out that she would like to look at all website pages, videos, social media channels, point-of-sale materials, etc., in an inventory and audit.

Laura walks through the following template to illustrate her audit approach. Although she uses a simplified table, there are likely more than 12 columns. There is no right or a wrong number of columns. Capture data and observations following your audit’s goals.

You would use the “ID” column to capture the Starbucks home page URL. Next, you would go through the columns. If your goal is to assess how well the content supports the company’s messaging, you might have a column called “Messaging.” This would allow you to note the messaging on that page and how it aligns with the intended messaging.

After filling out a row, you would then move on to the next piece in a new row.

Think about this: What data and observations would you use to make strategic decisions about the content in your organization?

How is Content Audit Important?

Just like a house, a website can lose its appeal over time. This is why it’s essential to regularly update it.

And who would want to enter a home that hasn’t been maintained?

A website’s content is its lifeblood. Without fresh, engaging, and relevant content, a website will fail. That’s why it’s essential to regularly review your content to see what works and what doesn’t.

A website’s content is one of its most important assets. A thorough, regular review of your content can help you improve its quality, increase conversion rates, and attract more visitors.

A content audit is essential to understanding your website’s strengths and weaknesses. It can help you identify opportunities for improvement and create a content strategy moving forward.

Not sure if you need a web content review? Here are a few signs:

If any of the above sounds familiar, it may be time for a content audit. This will help you take stock of what you have, what’s working and what isn’t, and give you a plan for moving forward with fresh, engaging content that supports your business goals.

A website’s content is its literal housecleaning. A web content audit is beneficial to a website in three ways:

A content audit provides an assessment of your current strategy

A web content analysis provides a comprehensive overview of all your content.

Whether looking at your landing pages, infographics, blog posts, or videos, this holistic approach to reviewing your content can uncover topics and areas that may have been overlooked or over-invested in.

While it’s easy to get bogged down in the details, a content marketing audit provides a fresh perspective on your overall strategy.

A content audit can help you take a step back and assess your current content strategy. This can help determine whether you want to continue with your current strategy or if you need to do some strategic prioritizing.

It can help you identify weaknesses in your search engine optimization strategy

Without a regular schedule of auditing your content, you might as well throw random pieces of pasta at your walls and see what sticks to them.

By analyzing concrete, measurable data, you can determine which website pages receive the most traffic, which pages are shared the most, and which get the most user interaction.

An SEO content audit can help you determine which areas of your website need improvement. By analyzing which pieces of content are the most successful, you can identify areas that may need more attention. This objective data can help you improve your website for better SEO results.

You can optimize and refresh your old and under-performing content for better results.

An audit provides direction and recommendations for future content marketing

By analyzing your most popular pages, a web content analysis can inform your future content creation.

Perhaps one post outdid the others in traffic and engagement. Because of this, you should produce more posts related to that subject or format future ones similarly.

Your Google Analytics can also show you which posts have been most popular. This can help you identify which areas have been under-served and prompt you to create new blog posts on these topics.

Do I Need both a Content Audit and Content Inventory?

A Content Inventory is a good start but won’t give you much insight into the quality of your content or ways to improve it.

That’s why we recommend doing both activities simultaneously, rather than only doing one.

It’s OK to do the Content Audit first and then do an inventory.

The content inventory will help you understand the potential implications of any decisions made during the audit. This will allow you to take decisive action on those decisions.

Content Auditing and Inventory 

Content inventories and audits are key activities that should be done together before developing your digital strategy.

A content inventory is an essential first step in any website redesign or content strategy project. It helps you take stock of what you have, identify gaps, and assess the quality of your content.

A content audit goes a step further, providing insights into how well your content performs against specific business goals. It can help you decide what to keep, what to improve, and what to get rid of.

Both processes can be time-consuming, but they’re worth the effort. A good inventory and audit will give you a clear picture of your content landscape and set you up for success as you progress with your project.

1. Do a content inventory: Make a list of all the pages on your website.2. Do an audit: Go through each page on your website and check for quality, accuracy, and relevance.

Content strategy is all about planning, creating, managing, and delivering content. It’s about understanding your audience’s needs and wants and then creating and delivering content that meets those needs. Writing for the web is a vital part of content strategy. It’s all about understanding how people read on the web and writing in a way that makes it easy for them to find the information they’re looking for.

Before developing your digital strategy, it’s essential to do two things: a Content Inventory and a Content Audit.

A content inventory is a comprehensive list of all digital content currently possessed by an organization, captured at either the page or asset level. This inventory includes specific characteristics and details about each piece of content.

A content audit examines, assesses, and evaluates the quality of the content listed in the inventory. Audits uncover content that needs updating, where gaps exist that new content could fill and if certain pieces of content are ready for removal.

Maintaining Content Inventories and Audits

It’s not enough to have your content inventory and audit complete. You also have to review it entirely to decide what to do with problematic, inaccurate, or outdated content.

Look for individual pieces of content or entire sections that are of low quality.

Looking at all the factors and ratings in your audit, record the status for each piece: keep, update, or remove the pieces which need updating, document what exactly needs to be done to improve it, and assign an owner to the task.

The owner could be the content owner, the author recorded in the inventory, or someone else.

Review your proposed changes with the stakeholders, content owners, and content creators you’ve involved from the start — especially for significant changes or removing content altogether.

Getting content up to par with industry best practices and your organization’s content standards will likely be the easiest to do, so start there. Ensure each piece follows the best practices for web writing and includes coherent metadata.

Iterating on content so that it evolves to serve user needs better and drive metrics may take more time.

However, these heavier content efforts are still worth pursuing as soon as possible after your content audit and inventory are complete, particularly for content that is highly visible and problematic for users.

As soon as you start using your inventory and audit to guide what to do with your content, it’ll already be time for an update to reflect new content created, actual changes made to existing content, or retired content.

Any modifications to pieces or sections should be reflected in the content inventory spreadsheet as soon as possible.

Content-management systems and content audit tools can help you keep the inventory portion updated automatically. However, the audit always needs continuous monitoring and updating by its owner(s).

Being the owner of an audit is a big, time-consuming job. People always try to tack it onto their other responsibilities, and that never works out.

Much like the content they contain, inventories and audits can quickly become outdated and unwieldy without care and maintenance.

Share the responsibility of maintaining the content audit and inventory with the same group you’ve involved all along, or bring others into your process to help you keep it current and accurate.

Conclusion

After you’ve gone through this guide on how to do a content audit, it’s important to take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned. Doing a content audit can be tedious, but it’s also a precious exercise. Not only will it help you improve your website, but it will also give you a better understanding of your audience and what they’re looking for. So don’t be discouraged if it takes time to get through all your material—it’ll be worth it in the end!

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