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Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 12 , 2020

A content audit helps ensure the information you’re publishing is accurate, up to date, high quality, and relevant to your audience. Here’s how to conduct one for your website.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What a content audit is
  • Why it’s important
  • How to conduct an audit of your own content
  • Why regular content audits are key

You always want to be publishing the latest and greatest content. Not only does content provide value to your audience, but it helps illustrate that you’re a knowledgeable thought leader in your industry.

If you’re not conducting regular content audits, you may be doing your brand a disservice. Especially if you’ve got years of published content in your library, there’s likely information on your site that isn’t accurate or relevant anymore. 

We’ve done content audit exercises with several of our SEO clients and seen impressive results. One client actually saw a 61% bump in blog traffic alone after implementing changes uncovered during the content audit process. Ready to make a content audit plan of your own? Here’s where to start. 

creating a content audit spreadsheet

There’s no magic number when it comes to exactly how many words a quality piece of content should have. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Create a spreadsheet 

To start, crack those knuckles and pull up a new spreadsheet. (If you’re a “spreadsheet person,” you’ll love this part, but if not, you’ll get through it!) Then put all of your blog URLs into the spreadsheet. If you have a sitemap, you should be able to easily pull in the URLs from there. (If you don’t have a sitemap, we recommend implementing one for best possible SEO).

You can also head to Google and conduct a “site:” search for your domain. This should bring up all of the pages that are indexed in search results on your website.

2. Dig into the data

Now, it’s time to analyze your blog’s performance data. You can start by determining how many sessions each page had over the past six months or longer, depending on how much traffic comes to your site and how much content you have. You can do this using Google Analytics or your preferred analytics tool. Looking at how many sessions each post has will tell you how many people are visiting the page.

Next, see how many backlinks point to each page. You can use Ahrefs, SEMrush or other similar tools to gather that info. Checking out backlinks is important because not all posts are necessarily meant to drive traffic. There may be another reason you published a piece of content, and it may be benefiting you by earning high quality, high authority backlinks, even if it’s not necessarily driving traffic or visits. 

You may also find that there’s a big batch of content with zero or few backlinks and no visits. For these posts, you may want to ask yourself why this content is on your site, since it’s not providing any SEO value. By identifying that batch of pages, you can brainstorm ways to repurpose and make the most out of this content, since it already exists on your site.

Want more content insight? Check out 10 Steps to Creating a Content Strategy for SEO, a webinar recording led by our lead strategist, Justine Rabideau.

3. Identify pages with “thin content”

There’s no magic number when it comes to exactly how many words a quality piece of content should have. Generally, longer content ranks better, but you shouldn’t be writing content just for the sake of hitting a certain word count. After all, it’s about providing value to the user, not beating the search engine algorithm.

Thin content is classified as pieces that don’t satisfy a user’s search intent. Pages with only 200-300 words probably don’t provide a ton of value to the reader (though there are exceptions, of course). Take this opportunity to see how you can make this content more robust. Can you build it out and include related topics, or should it simply be removed for your site with the URL redirected elsewhere?

4. Look for posts with duplicate or similar topics

As time goes on, especially in niche industries, it can be hard to branch out into different topic ideas for your content. Even if you follow all the steps for keyword and topic research, it can get difficult at a certain point. 

This is especially true if a lot of people have worked on your site over the years. You might find you have posts that aren’t the same word-for-word, but that cover the same topic in a similar scope. For these posts, you can consider removing or combining them into one longform piece. Figure out which one is performing better or is better written, or combine both into one awesome piece that provides more value for your site. 

Need more help getting your content on track? That’s why we’re here.

content audit plan

It’s wise to keep a running list of posts that need to be updated on an annual basis so you don’t have to dig around to find the post later. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Identify posts with outdated content or older statistics

As more information becomes available, you want to make sure you’re updating these facts and figures in your content. Particularly in the digital marketing world, things change really fast. Think about it: If you’re searching around online and find a post from 2015 in 2020, you’ll probably think it doesn’t contain the most relevant or up-to-date info. 

See what posts contain data or statistics that have been updated, like results from an annual industry survey. You don’t have to totally rewrite the post, but once you update this info, make sure you mention that the post is updated or revamped. Adding a small note as the bottom of the content and updating the date it was published usually checks off these boxes.

6. Redirect posts as needed

Don’t forget to redirect posts removed from your site to avoid 404 errors. Depending on where you host your site, there should be a plugin that makes this relatively easy. If you find a bunch of pages that need to be removed, make sure you redirect those URLs either to the most relevant post or to the main blog page. 

You want to put redirects in place because you don’t want 404 errors or links to 404 pages. Unsurprisingly, Google isn’t a fan of having broken or dead links on your site.

7. Plan to repeat this process regularly

Digital marketing audits are never a one-and-done task. Usually, auditing your content once or twice a year is enough to ensure your content library is fresh and relevant. You can set a calendar reminder for accountability. 

The frequency for your company will depend on your bandwidth. This is a time-intensive exercise, depending on your content volume, but one that’s well worth it. It’s also wise to keep a running list of posts that need to be updated on an annual basis (like posts that reference the current year) so you don’t have to dig around to find the post later.

The takeaway

Content audits are a great way to zoom out and get an overall picture of how your content is performing. You can see what’s resonating with your audience, what’s not, and what simply needs a refresh.

By prioritizing content audits, you not only set your site up for maximum SEO, but you can feel confident that you’re providing as much value as possible to your site visitors and content readers. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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