These days, content is everywhere. Whether it’s from the web, social media, or video, people and companies create content every day.
But what happens to your content after you release it to the world? Some companies don’t pay much attention to content from the past. Smart businesses get the most out of what they create through a content audit.
Whether you’re familiar with content audits or not, I’ll walk you through each step of this process. Trust me – a website content audit is worth your time and attention.
First, you’ll learn what a content audit is. Then, we’ll quickly cover why content audits are so beneficial. After that, I’ll show you everything needed to perform a website content audit.
Table of Contents
What is a content audit?
A content audit lets you gather and look over all of your company’s content. You can also update, edit, or remove content during this process.
Why is a content audit beneficial?
On paper, a content audit might sound like more of a formality than something that could benefit your business. But you might feel differently about content audits when you learn how beneficial they are.
Lets you know about potential website issues
One of the major benefits of content audits is they let companies uncover website-related problems. These problems can range from minor to things that are holding your company back from an online marketing perspective.
Improves things from an SEO perspective
As you resolve issues uncovered during a content audit, it can lead to major improvements in the form of improved search rankings and more traffic.
Points out your company’s best content
The content audit process isn’t only about uncovering problems. This process can also show you your content MVPs. You know, those website posts that gain a lot of traffic and engagement.
When you know what these posts are, it’s much easier for you to continue churning them out to eager audiences.
Uncover insights about what’s not working
On the flip side of my last point, auditing website content can uncover topics that aren’t performing well. Don’t be too hard on yourself about this type of content.
Everyone who creates content has those pieces they put blood, sweat, and tears into… only to see that no one cares about that topic.
Fortunately, a content audit can uncover what’s not working so you don’t continue making those types of content.
How to do a website content audit like the pros
Knowing why content audits are so beneficial, it’s now time to learn how to do them. Here are each of the steps needed to audit your content.
Create a list of your website’s URLs
The first step in any content audit is to gather a list of your website’s URLs. Having this list handy makes your life so much easier during a content audit.
You can gather and categorize your URLs in any way. However, here’s what I like to include with each URL I write down or include in a spreadsheet:
Name of URL: Having each URL separated lets you know what you’re working on.
Published date: During content audits, it’s good to update old content that no one has touched in a while. Having published dates also helps you avoid updating content someone just published.
Last updated date: This item applies more if you either manage a writing team, publish a lot of content, or both. Having the last updated date for each piece of content helps you avoid updating content someone recently updated.
Main keyword: Including your main keyword from each URL lets you know how well your company is doing from an SEO standpoint. If you see a lot of low rankings or none at all, it could be time to change up your search engine optimization strategy.
Putting content into buckets
With your lists of blog posts, landing pages, and other types of content, you can begin putting these URLs into buckets. I’m not talking about a literal bucket, of course – it’s just a term to use to group URLs.
When it comes to grouping your content, I like to use one of two methods.
Grouping by content plan
This step will make things much easier for you going forward. At this stage, see which URLs you want to update, leave alone, or delete.
Leave alone: It can take weeks or months for search engines to reflect new or updated content. If you have newer pages, these probably don’t need updates yet. Instead, wait and see where your content initially ranks before updating it.
Update: Most likely, most of your URLs will fall into this category. Depending on the length of your URLs, some of them will require more time and effort to update than others.
Delete: As a content writer, there’s almost nothing harder from a work perspective than deleting content. But, sometimes, there’s no other option. Look over your content to spot anything that might not be relevant, has no traffic, or both.
If these pages continue to collect digital dust months after updates, it might be time to delete these URLs from your website. Think of this process as being similar to pruning a shrub. You’re not cutting down the whole bush. You’re just getting rid of a few of those ugly parts.
Digging deeper into each page or post
Now, we’re getting into the nitty gritty of a successful content audit. This is the time when you’ll look at each URL in the Update category.
Let’s now cover some of the updates you might want to make during a content audit.
Content length (word count)
In your content audit checklist, it’s good to look at the length of your content. To be more specific, it’s important to check out how your content’s length compares to your competitors.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic word count that will take your website to spot number one in Google’s search results. But I can tell you that “thin content” can prevent you from reaching page one in search engines.
As you look over the URLs you want to update, take a look at the word count for each URL. Updating these pieces with more content and a few more strategically placed keywords could boost your rankings.
As you check out your web pages, you don’t want to see duplicate content. This type of content can happen in a few ways.
Duplicate content can come from someone taking someone’s content word-for-word and passing it off as their own. If there’s any of this content on your website, it’s gotta go.
Whether it was a mistake or intentional, your business won’t do well by stealing other people’s content. Instead, check out all of the amazing marketing tips I have on Content Marketing Life.
Sometimes, duplicate content is accidental. For instance, you might have accidentally published the same URL twice. It’s even possible to trigger duplicate content alerts from accidentally writing something that sounds too similar to another person’s writing.
Search engines like Google and others have the massive task of determining where a piece of content first came from. Fortunately, these bots and content platforms keep track of this information.
When search engine bots detect duplicate content, they’ll display the original higher in search results than anything copied.
Programs like Grammarly can scan your created text to make sure it’s all original.
Is the information still factual?
Ideas and opinions can change over time. Considering that, it’s good to look at your existing content and make sure there’s nothing that’s out of date.
Taking a high-level look at your content can also let you erase any of those bad takes you might have made in the past.
Almost every good blog post contains links. External links take readers to another website. Internal links take people to different pages on the same website they’re visiting.
If you want more people to see certain web pages, it’s good to use them as internal links. I don’t recommend making a lot of changes to internal links at once. Instead, add a few internal links to existing content every few days. If you own a large website, you can slightly ramp up how often you add internal links.
It’s also important to look for gaps in your content strategy. Content gaps are missing topics that one website doesn’t have compared to its competitors.
For instance, let’s say that you own a book review website. After looking at your competitor’s websites, you notice that many of them review true crime books. Your website doesn’t have true crime reviews, meaning you have a content gap.
You could fix this hypothetical content gap by including more content about true crime on your website.
Filling in gaps can ramp up your overall content quality. That’s because you’re completing topic clusters, groups of keywords spread out in separate pieces of content.
Visuals (images and videos)
While looking through a blog post or a landing page, it’s also important to make sure that each page is visually appealing. You don’t have to go overboard with images. However, it’s good to have at least a few images or videos in your content.
One study from Cisco estimates that about 82% of all internet traffic will go to video websites. Plus, visuals and images are appealing. They give our brains a break from reading and digesting a lot of text.
If you identify content that needs a lot of images, I’d recommend using websites like Pixabay or Pexels. These websites host royalty-free images, which means you can use them on your website legally.
I’d also recommend getting a little creative and making your own images and designs with Canva. This free program has a ton of easy-to-use tools and templates.
You can also make sure your content efforts are paying off by having backlinks. A backlink is when one website links to another one. Getting a backlink is kind of like another website vouching for the quality of your content.
As you might imagine, backlinks can have a huge effect on the success of a content marketing strategy. While you’re auditing your content, it’s good to see how many backlinks your URLs have.
I’d recommend using a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to track your backlinks. If you have high-quality content that isn’t ranking, it’s probably because it has little to no backlinks.
Search engine position
From an SEO content audit perspective, it’s also imperative to take note of your search engine rankings for each of your URLs. You might also run into URLs that aren’t ranking at all. If that’s the case, also take note of the unranked URLs.
While an SEO audit doesn’t usually provide instant results, doing it right should lead to higher rankings in the future.
Another thing to check out is the meta description of each of your URLs. Typically, this description is the first sentence or two that someone sees in search engine results. Although, Google will sometimes insert a 150-ish character blurb from your main content as a description.
Amazingly helpful content audit tools
Before we wrap things up, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite tools to use when auditing content. Here are the main online tools I use for every content audit.
We’ll kick things off with SEMRush, which is a powerful content audit tool. By connecting your domain with SEMRush, you can find out what pages are rankings, up-to-date ranking changes, and much more.
When it comes to auditing content, SEMRush can tell you where content gaps are and how to resolve them. You can also use this tool to find out about competitors’ backlinks, which is useful for replicating these links.
SEMRush can also run automated audits to uncover any potential issues. This feature looks at everything from page title tags to sitemap data to ensure your website is good from a technical standpoint.
If you need help with on-page SEO, I can’t recommend Surfer enough. This is a paid tool (the version I use costs $49.99 per month), but it’s well worth the cost.
You can use Surfer’s SERP analyzer to avoid the time-consuming process of manually looking through search results to analyze competition levels.
The SERP analyzer shows you the average word count, domain strength, and content score for each result in Google’s top 10 results.
But the main tools you’ll use in Surfer are either the Audit or Content Editor tools. We’ll start with the Audit feature.
The Audit tool lets you input a target keyword and target URL. Next, Surfer automatically analyzes and grades this URL’s content (giving a score of 0-100). You can use the Audit tool on your company’s URLs during a content audit.
It’s also possible to use the Audit feature on competitors’ URLs to see what you’re up against.
Another stand-out feature of Surfer is its Content Editor tool. I use this tool daily, especially during an SEO content audit. To use the Content Editor, you just need to enter your target keyword.
After entering your keyword of interest, Surfer presents a content editor with a content score that updates in real time. You also have a list of relevant keywords that also updates as you add them to your content.
Surfer’s Editor also shows you how many subheadings, paragraphs, and words your content should include by averaging Google’s top 10 results.
Google Analytics is a great content auditing tool to see where your organic traffic comes from. You can also use this tool to see how your paid advertisements perform. Google Analytics contains so many features and ways to use it – it would be impossible to list them all here.
You can also use this tool to find out how long website visitors stay on your website and where they go. This tool’s ability to display real-time data lets you see how many visitors your website has at any given time.
Google Search Console
Another helpful tool to use during a content audit is Google Search Console. Connecting your website to this free tool lets you know the following:
- How many times your web pages show up in Google’s search results
- How many clicks your site content gets
- Your website’s average click-through rate
- Where your website’s URLs rank in Google’s results
While you don’t directly edit content in Google Search Console, this tool lets you learn about what search queries people use to find your content.
Google Search Console lets you see what pages receive organic search traffic and which ones don’t. You can also see if there are any issues potentially holding a web page back from great rankings.
Do you want to double-check how well your content team is doing? Whether you’re auditing content from yourself or another writer, Grammarly is a must-use tool during audits.
Grammarly is a free tool that checks your writing for grammar, punctuation, misspellings, and other errors. There’s also a paid version of Grammarly that looks at your text in a more in-depth format. However, the free version contains more than enough features to keep your writing looking great.
Broken Link Checker
The location of content changes over time. Sometimes, people move website pages. They may also delete pages on their websites. When someone is linking out to moved or non-existent pages, this is known as a broken link.
Broken links essentially go nowhere. They’re also not something you want on your website because they’re bad for SEO. Google doesn’t want to list content on its first page that contains a bunch of broken links.
Fortunately, a handy little plug-in called Broken Link Checker is a lifesaver for resolving link-related problems. This tool regularly scans your website for broken links, notifying you when they happen.
You can also see each broken link with the option to delete, edit, or replace it. With this tool, you avoid the time-consuming process of manually checking links.
My advice: While this tool is amazing, it’s not perfect. So, I recommend double-checking each instance of a broken link that this plug-in reports. That way, you don’t accidentally delete a false positive.
If your marketing strategy isn’t going as well as you’d like, a thorough content audit can help take your online business to the next level. Be patient after performing a full content audit, and you should soon see an increase in organic traffic.
Alex Eagleton is a copywriter and digital marketer passionate about helping companies connect with customers. Throughout the past decade, he’s worked with companies including Referral Rock, Connecteam, and Ramsey Solutions. He’s a versatile writer who understands how to align with companies, truly matching their voices and tones.
When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with his dogs, reading, and playing guitar.
You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.