A content marketing audit can ensure what you’re publishing is accurate, helpful and relevant to your audience.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What a content marketing audit is
  • Why these audits matter for search engine optimization (SEO)
  • How to audit your own content
  • Why regular content marketing audits are key

If you’re a business that cares about your SEO (and you should!), then you always want to be publishing the latest and greatest content

Not only does content creation provide value to your audience, but it helps illustrate that you’re a knowledgeable thought leader in your industry.

Sadly, just publishing great content isn’t enough.

If you’re not conducting regular in-depth content marketing 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 inventory 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. 

Here, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about content audits, with help from HawkSEM Lead Strategist Charlotte Soto. 

How content marketing audits benefit companies

Taking the time to conduct a website content audit will benefit your company’s marketing efforts in several ways.

First, it helps you identify low-hanging fruit opportunities. Think: tasks like on-page SEO optimizations and uncovering opportunities to refresh content to bring its relevancy to the present day.

It can highlight keyword cannibalization that might be taking place on your site. From there, you can address this issue “with a proper hub-and-spoke architecture to expand your keyword presence without diluting authority,” says Soto. This can also help you identify stronger internal linking opportunities amongst the existing content topics and subtopics published on your site.

Soto adds that, if you run an enterprise-level SEO website, this helps preserve the crawl budget for blogs that aren’t ranking or generating goal completions to newer topic generation.

Lastly, an audit allows you to better understand the types of content users are engaging with and converting on, so you can scale initiatives accordingly. 

With a clear picture, you can determine where the lack of content is to ensure you’re hitting multiple areas of the conversion funnel: informational, commercial, and transactional.

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)

9 Step Content Audit

1. Determine your content marketing audit goals

Just like KPIs help guide your marketing strategy, having a clear list of goals will help guide you through the content marketing audit process. It can also keep you on track and help you create actionable tasks to tackle once the audit is complete.

Are you simply wanting a zoomed-out look at all of your published work to ensure content quality? Do you need a better idea of what keyword or content gaps exist and what articles need optimizing? Are you looking to pinpoint which content needs refreshing or redirecting? 

The answer could be “yes” to all of the above and more. What’s important is fleshing out what you hope to accomplish.

2. Create a spreadsheet

First off, crack those knuckles and pull up a new Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet. (If you’re a “spreadsheet person,” you’ll love this part. If not, you’ll get through it!) 

You need to export URLs for your content assets from Google Analytics or your favorite crawler tool. Then, you’ll import the data into your audit spreadsheet. 

Basically, you want to 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 the 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 organic search results on your website.

Pro tip: If possible, Soto suggests classifying your URLs into main products or service line content to filter them out more easily.

3. Dig into the data

Now, it’s time to analyze your blog’s content performance metrics. You can start by examining the data points to determine how many sessions or page views each web 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, Screaming Frog, SEMrush (which also offers a content audit tool), or other similar resources 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 got a high bounce rate or not driving a ton of traffic. 

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 website content.

The metrics Soto typically focuses on include:

  • Sessions in a specified time frame (with the understanding that new content pieces need at least six months to mature in search engines)
  • Average time on page
  • Goal completions
  • Total keywords ranked on the search engine results page (SERP)
  • Keywords ranked 1 -10
  • Keywords ranked 11-30 (these are considered “striking distance” keywords and can be on-page optimized to win more prominent positions)
  • Keyword intent classification (informational, commercial, transactional, and navigational)

Pro tip: During your audit, you should also check out “index status.” You may find that some pieces of content like blog articles get discovered by Google but not indexed.

4. 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). Search Engine Journal reports thin content “can negatively impact your search rankings and on-site user experience.”

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?

Pro tip: While social media and SEO may fall under the “content” umbrella, each deserves its own audit. Check out our step-by-step guide to conducting a social media audit and conducting an SEO audit.

5. 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 site content. Even if you follow all the steps for target 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 more high-performing, or combine both into one awesome piece that provides more value for your site. 

Want more content marketing strategy insight? Check out our 10 Steps to Creating a Content Strategy for SEO webinar recording.

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 through and find the post later. (Image via Unsplash)

6. 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 2014, you might think it doesn’t contain the most relevant or up-to-date info. 

See what posts contain messaging, 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 at the bottom of the content and updating the date it was published usually checks off these boxes.

Pro tip: This is also a time to look for things that are missing in terms of your technical SEO. This could be a blank meta description, missing ALT text on an image, or an inaccurate title tag. 

7. Redirect and delete 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.

8. Create a prioritized list of action items

Once the audit is complete, it’s time to analyze the results. Once you’ve got your data, you can set a prioritized action items list derived from the audit. 

This can include tasks like which to on-page SEO optimize, which blogs to remove and set redirects to if applicable, and which to leave as-is.

9. 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-consuming 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.

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

Should you partner with an agency for your content marketing audit?

If the above seems like, well, a lot of work, that’s because it is. Years of industry experience tells us that audits like this are crucial to hitting goals, scaling, and beating competitors. But they can be time-consuming, and many of us simply don’t have the time.

That’s where an agency partner comes in. If you’re already using an agency for your digital marketing needs (especially a full-service agency), then it could be worth asking if they offer content audit services.

As Soto explains, a proper agency isn’t focused on vanity metrics. That’s because we know the content that brings in organic traffic or gets social shares doesn’t always align with consumer intent or results in a high conversion rate.

An agency can also help you:

  • Expertly analyze results from an SEO and consumer perspective
  • Ensure your content touches each stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Identify opportunities for keyword-rich implementation 
  • Ensure content is not too text heavy or dense 
  • Identify opportunities to incorporate visual SEO elements for enhanced rankings  

The takeaway

Content audits are a great way to zoom out and get an overall picture of your content’s performance. You can see what’s resonating with your audience, what’s not, what content gaps exists, and what simply needs a refresh to better align with your business goals.

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. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's senior content marketing manager. Through more than a decade of professional writing and editing experience, she creates 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 reading, yoga, new vegetarian recipes, and paper planners.