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Content Marketing 29 min read

How to Audit Your Content Production: a Step-By-Step Guide

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How to Audit Your Content Production: a Step-By-Step Guide

Senior Content Manager at Mailbird
No matter what type of content your company creates — articles, videos, landing pages, or all of them at once — in any case, you'll need to control the process. Performing content audits is a must to make sure you keep the right direction and use your resources effectively.

Neal Schaffer, the founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, once said: "Most businesses produce all kinds of content, but even good content teams have their weaknesses – what they produce may not be performing as well as it should, or they may be missing specific terms and phrases that could provide better content marketing ROI. Conducting a content audit provides the opportunity to improve your content marketing revision processes further."

Say you believe this right off the bat. But how, exactly, should the process look? And how do you audit your content production most effectively?

First, let's define the terms.

What Is a Content Audit?

A content audit is a process of conducting an in-depth evaluation of your existing content in order to:
Make sure all your content is listed properly.
Put effort into what brings you real value.
Cover the missing topics or types of content on time.
Make sure all content is correct, relevant, and up to date.
Performing an audit in content marketing helps you make sure you follow the right course to achieve the specified goals. It's like checking the map while you're steering a ship.
The best way to show what this looks like is through an example. Infographic and design app Piktochart did a content audit to see what they needed to improve.

They analyzed over 600 articles on their site, then used pageviews to create a "top 100" list of the best-performing pieces.

Emil Kristensen
CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote
Piktochart​ Content Audit
Piktochart Content Audit (Source)
After looking at how well those pieces were performing and seeing areas for growth, they created a new content marketing plan.
Piktochart Content Audit (Source)
They shifted their publishing quantity and changed their general methods for producing and distributing the pieces they wrote.

It gave them more clarity on their strategy and they succeeded at a simplified, streamlined program that helps them accomplish their content marketing goals more efficiently.

By looking at where you are, where you can improve, and what you can learn, you'll change the work with content forever.

It all starts with defining what you're trying to accomplish.

What Exactly Should You Audit?

Your audit may include different types of pages, such as:
  • Blog articles. Here, you can evaluate each blog post's organic traffic, keywords, and their SEO positions, and search CTR, as well as the articles' structure, relevance, visual assets, etc.

  • Website pages. The same as blog articles, a site's pages might need evaluation for their SEO performance and relevance, but on top of that, you might pay more attention to their conversion rates and the number of downloads or sales.

  • Landing pages. As these pages are usually the most primed for conversion, an audit here will be more focused on target actions, but it may also include other aspects, such as graphics, text, or general relevance.
    These three are the most typical types of content to audit, but you may also want to evaluate the performance of other assets: case studies, articles from your customer support center, guides, podcasts, branded templates, videos, and others. Our guide will be more focused on SEO audits as an example, but you can easily extrapolate the instructions and examples into other content types and metrics to follow.

    When Should You Start Auditing Your Content?

    A brief answer is: at any point. But the sooner you start, the sooner you can improve your content production process and your results from the implementation of your content strategy.

    Nonetheless, there are some signs that point to a critical time when you need to launch an audit as soon as possible:
    You have a lot of content, and it hasn't been improved or evaluated for years.
    You don't have a clear content plan, just a bunch of ideas that the team produces.
    You don't know what to post next.
    Some of your content barely has any views, or the conversion rates are low.
    Even if you're not pressed for time, there are a lot of reasons to plan for a content audit — and then an improvement in production — as soon as your time and budget allow.

    Why Conduct a Content Audit?

    A study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) revealed that 91% of B2B and 86% of B2C companies use content strategies to target new markets and stay relevant in their existing ones.

    This means that you definitely can't afford to get off track, but at the same time, being quite expensive in production, content needs to be used efficiently.

    And here's how content auditing may help you with that.

    Identifying Issues

    Performing an audit allows you to see the bigger picture. Content may well be the reason you're not getting enough traction and customers don't engage with your brand or don't come back for a second purchase.

    An audit will let you quickly detect different kinds of issues that may cause the slow growth, such as outdated content, underperforming content, low-quality content, irrelevant keywords, or links that simply don't work. Likewise, it can show you which pieces of content work and are good enough to bet your budget on.

    Improving Quality

    As a result, you'll be able to easily plan updates and improvements to address the issues you've identified – fix broken links, change keywords to ones with higher volumes, and overall improve your website's accessibility.

    If you also audit the production process, you can fix any bottlenecks that delay it, such as a stage of production or someone from the team.

    Filling in the Gaps

    While mapping your content, you will notice gaps in topics or content types that should be filled in. These gaps can be filled by improving posts with more expert, analytical, or valuable information.

    As for content types, some of your best-performing bits can be repurposed. For example, blog posts can be split by subtopics and turned into social media posts, or the whole topic can be transferred into audio or marketing videos.

    Correcting the Course

    The market is changing rapidly, and sometimes your goals do, as well. An audit is a perfect time to align with your current goals and improve your strategy.

    Better yet, if you make audits a regular occurrence, keep track of how your content's performance shifts over time to make prompt changes and improvements.

    Coming up with New Ideas

    While analyzing your content's issues, successes, and results, you'll come up with new insights that were not so obvious before the auditing process. You can manifest these new ideas by repurposing one content type into another, ordering your content creation.
    Pro Tip: Take a look at what your competitors are doing. You might not see their analytics, but if you like a piece of content and customers are eager to engage with it, why not try a similar approach in your content efforts?
    To make the analysis of competitors' content easier and quicker, you could take advantage of Serpstat's Keyword Research Tool, and specifically the Top Pages section.
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    Now let's move on to the practical side of things.

    How to Plan a Content Audit

    It is quite a large and time-consuming process, so it's better to plan content audits in advance. The more content you have and the more time has passed since the last audit, the more time you will need to perform one, and vice versa.

    Let's go!

    Establish Goals

    As usual, everything starts with goal setting. You should specify your long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals for content. They may include improving the company's SEO positions and organic traffic, getting email leads, boosting awareness among specified target audiences, supporting the release of new features, or increasing the frequency of blog posts.

    Let's go over a few common goal examples:
    Improving Your Website's SEO

    Regardless of whether your website is new or old enough, you might want to boost your SEO to get more organic visits. An audit may help you identify the weak links within your current SEO process and find what should be improved — content and keyword placement, meta tags, internal and external links, etc.

    Increasing Conversion Rates

    If your website pages' conversion rates aren't as high as you want them to be, there might be different reasons for that. You might not have enough popular content to keep visitors interested. Your content may be not engaging, or the converting elements, such as banners, calls-to-action, and product descriptions, may be not convincing enough.

    Improve Audience Engagement

    This may refer to your blog with its number of page views and reading depth, or it may concern your social media activities with their likes, comments, and shares. Whatever you choose (probably both), you might want to gain more engagement from the audience you attract, and there may be different ways to achieve that, such as improving the quality of your content, adding more visual assets, adding or changing calls-to-action, or even focusing on a new audience.

    Define Metrics and Benchmarks

    Before you start generating ideas and implementing improvements, you need to define your metrics and benchmarks: Point A, where you are going to start from, and Point B, which you aim to achieve.
    The key to setting goals is to define key performance metrics, or KPIs. Rather than a scattershot list of every possible improvement to track, KPIs bring your focus into what really matters for your business right now.
    Emil Kristensen, CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote
    To make it transparent and measurable, you will need a specific list of metrics for each of your goals and their benchmarks. Here are some examples:

    • SEO-related metrics: keywords and their positions, backlinks, organic traffic
    • Behavioral metrics: pageviews, bounce rates, dwell time, likes, shares, commentaries
    • Sales-related metrics: conversion rates, ROI, number of leads.

    Ways to Conduct a Content Audit

    There are two ways to conduct a content audit — manual and automatic. Both have their advantages and pitfalls, so a hybrid approach is an ultimate way to go.

    When doing a manual audit, you'll need to pull data individually for each piece. This simply takes too long to be time-effective for most teams.

    The other strategy is automatic. The disadvantage with this strategy is that it can often miss out on some of the KPIs you determined earlier if it's not included in the software.

    We recommend supplementing automatic data generation with manual number-crunching for a more complete picture.

    And we should touch on one more tip before continuing — you want to compile and review all your content, not just what's on the blog. An "about us" or home page might include content that's outperforming your expectations and can provide helpful data.

    Emil Kristensen
    CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote

    Best Tools to Audit Your Content Production

    The market is flooded with tools and applications that might help you restructure your content. However, there are always a couple of trustworthy names that have been in the business long enough and understand your requirements better. Let's have a look at a few of these tools.
    Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is a powerful tool that lets you make well-informed and data-driven moves to maintain a responsive digital presence.

    It gives you actionable insights into your website's current health, so you can make smart decisions about your current and future content strategy.

    How?

    • Helping your developers understand the factors affecting the loading time of your web pages

    • Giving you stats regarding site indexing, visibility, and accessibility, so you can make improvements accordingly

    • Informing you whether your SEO factors are in any way impacting your organic traction

    • Tracking gaps and discrepancies in your content
    Google Analytics
    Serpstat

    As the name suggests, Serpstat is a tool that gives you comprehensive statistics about how well your SEO techniques are working. It goes a step ahead by providing you with the necessary steps to fix the issues, so you can boost your digital presence like never before.

    Additionally, it:

    • Performs an in-depth SEO analysis and categorizes the issues based on high, low, and medium priorities, saving time and resources.

    • Gives you recommendations to cut down on the site's loading time.

    • Lets you schedule automatic audits and gives you consolidated data according to your time and convenience.

    • Conducts an express audit of your content and gives you instant data based on analysis.

    • Allows you to create beautiful customizable reports, including white-label ones. These reports can be shared across all your channels. Email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail give you the option of creating separate groups where this data can be shared for further action.
    In the Serpstat Site Audit tool, you can enter your domain as well as the project name and other more advanced features:
    And that's it! Serpstat will conduct the audit as soon as you click "Start scan."
    Because it does an in-depth analysis, it will probably take a while for the audit to finish. But when you're done, you'll get a comprehensive report that will form the basis of our audit:
    Serpstat's Site Audit summary
    To dive even deeper, go to the Serpstat Text Analytics tool and optimize your texts for SEO to the fullest:

    How To Increase The Text Relevance Of Site Pages: Serpstat Text Analytics Tool

    With the details you've gotten from the scan, you can start the manual part of the content audit, which we will talk about in the next section of the article. By using a manual spreadsheet, you can sort, annotate, and combine data in custom ways specific to your business.

    How to Perform a Manual Content Audit (Step-By-Step)

    Create a Master File

    It's always useful to make your audit as visual as possible, such as by creating a tracking spreadsheet, or a master file, in Google Docs or MS Excel (learn how to add text boxes in Google Docs). Such a spreadsheet will help you map, filter, and analyze different types of data and easily decide on the required actions for each item.

    Fill in your master file with the following columns:
    Content name
    Content link
    Content type
    Date published / last updated
    Content / campaign owner
    Content creator
    Buyers' journey stage
    Goals
    Metrics
    Auditing status
    Required action
    Priority
    Master file columns
    Master file columns
    You may also add your own columns to better fit your marketing process and goals. For example, there can be columns for the content type, format, length in words, marketing expenses, or even the changes in organic traffic or SEO positions over time.

    Map Your Existing Content

    Now it's time to fill in the spreadsheet with all the content you want to audit.

    It's better to coordinate with your technical department and ask for some automation, such as uploading all the article links and names from your CMS or extracting the data from Google Analytics. At the very least, ask them for a sitemap to be sure you won't miss any piece of the published content.

    Depending on your marketing strategy and audit goals, the spreadsheet may contain only social media content, blog posts or also include email marketing and other types. If so, make sure to set filters, so you can analyze each type of content separately, together with its features and metrics.

    Evaluate Content

    Content evaluation is the most important and time-consuming part of the process, where the actual audit is starting. It needs your personal attention, so there's not much you can automate, except for using conditional formatting and filters within your spreadsheet, but those do help.

    Start with defining the success/failure criteria:
    • There may be strict conditions, such as "the conversion rate into downloads should be no less than x%," but they are good only if you have well-performing pages of exactly the same type with proven effectiveness.

    • Otherwise, there may be a more conditional evaluation, where you take all the best-performing pages as a success and all the worst ones as a failure. You can easily use the conditional formatting feature here and save some time.
    Fill in the "Auditing status" column of your spreadsheet accordingly.
    Evaluating your content can give a lot of insights, and it's better to write them down right away before you dive into the next practical steps.

    For example, you might notice that pages of a specific type or with a specific CTA perform better than others. Or you might see that some articles are overloaded with keywords and should be checked separately.

    Write down anything you notice to check on later and add another piece of improvement into your content strategy and planning.

    Assign Actions to Existing Pieces

    Based on the evaluation you performed, choose what to do with each piece of content and fill in the "Required action" column.

    Most typically, there are three types of actions applied to existing content:

    Keep

    For high-quality, well-performing content that doesn't need to be improved soon.

    Chances are, the keep pile will be the smallest.
    Update

    Not every piece will need extensive revision, but most articles and pages will probably fall into this category.

    Some content will need refreshing, such as updated statistics, screenshots, or product information. You may also want to improve pieces' SEO potential with smaller updates like metadata, internal linking, or a fresh "updated on" date.

    Other pieces will need complete rewrites, either because of outdated information or inaccurate references to your website as you've continued to develop and grow it.

    There may also be other types of content that are perfectly fine, but require new (or improved) calls to action.

    A great way to see where you need to improve your content is to categorize it into buyer's journey stages, as in this example:

    Emil Kristensen
    CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote
    Buyer's journey categories
    Buyer's journey categories (Source)
    You can then pinpoint areas for improvement. For example, a piece that was originally written as a blog article for a newly-aware prospect might be too complex.

    Converting it to an in-depth PDF guide for leads could improve your marketing strategy and maximum customer conversions without demanding more content generation.
    Delete

    There will be some pages you need to remove.

    This can be the toughest category to follow through with, but removing duplicate pages, similar content, or information on old features and products can damage your site's online reputation.

    Tools like Serpstat can help with duplicate content.

    Anytime you delete a page, be sure to create a permanent 301 redirect to an updated version, or another page with similar content.

    This allows users to seamlessly transition to a different URL in their browser, while keeping the SEO reputation of the original page.
    Create

    Whether we speak about SEO or any other type of content, most likely, you haven't yet covered all the topics that relate to your business evenly, so you need to choose the most relevant ones to work on.

    This can be done in different ways, such as:

    • Checking your master file and ideating new topics. It's the most obvious step that may give you lots of ideas, but it's always necessary to check trends and keywords to make sure your target audience is looking for what you want to create.
    • Analyzing your competitors' websites. It's always good to go through the sites and blogs of your competition to make sure you're not missing any important topics where they build their expertise.
    • Checking keywords. By using such tools as Google Ads or Serpstat, you can check which keywords are trending best. Serpstat lets you compare your keywords with the ones your competitors are ranking for and thus quickly find any gaps.
    Add these topic ideas to your master file and assign them the "Create" action.
    As an example, let's turn to the Piktochart content audit mentioned earlier.

    After the audit, the team realized that their top 100 articles only made up 15.8% of the total article share, yet received 89.2% of the views.

    Emil Kristensen
    CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote
    Piktochart Content Audit
    Piktochart Content Audit (Source)
    By creating a few powerful downloads or other calls to action for the top-performing articles, you can create disproportionate advantages for your bottom line without too much work.

    Part of your "create" category should also include findings about what types of content work best and areas that need more focus.

    When you're in the trenches writing content, it can be easy to miss key data. The content audit is the perfect time to find this out and realize where you have missed opportunities.

    For example, some types of content may do best at generating traffic, leads, or SEO backlinks.

    Piktochart's analysis mentioned earlier found that inspirational and non-product related educational content generated the most links.
    Piktochart Content Audit
    Piktochart Content Audit (Source)
    Expanding these strategies is a key component of a content audit.

    At the end of the day, the areas you want to grow and improve will depend on the data and results you see in the audit.

    But it starts with truly understanding what's going on behind the scenes.

    Assign Priorities

    There might be quite a lot to do, so you'll need to prioritize your efforts from "low" to "high." Base your decisions on the actions required, the business goals you follow, and the expected outcome.
    For example:

    • Relevant to current business goals, minimum effort required, maximum outcome expected — high priority

    • Not relevant to current business goals, high effort required, low outcome expected — low priority
    Assign priorities to both your old pieces and the new topics you discovered.
    Content Audit priorities
    Content Audit priorities
    Pro Tip: Consider assigning the highest priority to SEO articles whose main keywords are ranking between 11 and 20. They are often low-hanging fruits that are easy to update and improve in rankings.

    Write the Conclusion

    At the very last step, it's time to summarize the results of your audit.
    Issues Detected

    Based on the master file you have filled in, write down all the issues or weak links you have detected, for example:

    • There are many old and outdated articles that have to be removed or updated.

    • Some pages that used to have high page views are descending.

    • The website was hardly affected by a Google core update and needs the whole content or SEO strategy revisited.
    These issues may turn into new tasks where you'll want to find the reasons and perform experiments for improvements.
    Actions Required

    Write down the actions you are going to perform, for example:

    • Based on your master file — updating or removing pages that don't perform well

    • Based on issues — diagnosing specific pages (or even strategies) and running experiments to overcome them

    • Based on insights — checking them and trying to replicate the best ideas
    Improve your content plan with what you should do first. Choose from the most high-priority items, those that require less action to perform, and those that align with the resources you have: people, budget, etc.
    At the very last step, it's time to summarize the results of your audit.

    Content Auditing Checklist

    To make it convenient, you can use a checklist similar to this one and go through its points every time you perform another content audit:

    Final Words

    By performing a content audit, you get a full-blown diagnosis on your content's gaps, areas that require immediate actions, restructuring of your existing content, and fresh topics to write about, helping you make well-informed decisions on polishing your digital persona. It empowers you with the necessary information that goes a long way in optimizing your content strategy.

    Initiate the process of a content audit by setting your goals, then move on to preparing a strategy based on the data you've collected and analyzed. Set up a plan of action for each URL and restructure your content to make it more relevant for your target audience.

    Leverage tools like Google Analytics and Serpstat that give you an in-depth analysis on your SEO techniques and site performance, and conduct audits at regular intervals. Adjust your content strategy accordingly, and there will be no stopping you.
    To keep abreast of all the news from the Serpstat blog, subscribe to our newsletter. And also join our group on Facebook and follow our Twitter.

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