A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit

audit

Is your content a mess?

It might be high quality (it might not be), but that doesn’t mean that it’s organized.

It also doesn’t mean that you’re producing all of the right kind of content that your readers want to see.

Most online businesses that use content marketing have weaknesses in their content.

Either the content isn’t performing as well as it could be, or they’re missing content on certain topics and keywords altogether.

And this includes good businesses too, so don’t feel bad if you don’t think your content marketing is quite as good as it could be.

Instead, recognize that this is an opportunity to further improve your content marketing processes.

So, how do you find these weaknesses?

As you may have guessed, you find them with a content audit.

A content audit helps you assess your current content as well as shape your future content strategy.

In this post, I’m going to show you a 5-step content audit that you can follow (although there are many other effective content audit processes). 

Step 1: Generate a list of all your content

The first thing you need to do is take stock of what you have.

You’ll want to compile a list of URLs and put them in a spreadsheet.

If you have a small site, you can do this manually, but otherwise I suggest you use software like Screaming Frog to generate a list.

The free version will crawl up to 500 links on a site, so as long as your site is small, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, you’ll want the premium version, which is worth the investment for any serious marketer.

Enter a starting URL in the text bar at the top of the tool, and press Start:

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You can’t configure the options in the free mode, but the defaults should be fine.

When it’s done, set the filter to HTML, and export the results.

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From this list, you’ll want to keep all the URLs with a status code of “200.”

If you find that you’re missing a lot of URLs, which is possible if your internal linking isn’t great, you can use another option like a sitemap generator.

If you use the tool I just linked to, enter your starting URL again, and the tool will crawl up to 500 pages:

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You can then copy the results and paste them into a spreadsheet. You might have to clean them up a little, but it will work.

Step 2: Retrieve metrics, and categorize content

Now that you have a good idea about what you have, it’s time to figure out how it’s performing.

Just because you have an article about “SEO for cats,” which is a topic you wanted to cover, doesn’t mean that the article is getting traffic or doing anything with the traffic it gets.

Content that is underperforming is going to be the first main weakness that we’ll identify.

Below is a list of metrics that you might want to collect. Add a column to your spreadsheet for each one. Feel free to add any others that you care about:

  • Title of content – You can pull this right from Screaming Frog.
  • Length of title – You can also get this from Screaming Frog. Use it as a quick check for excessively long titles. Remember, it should be under 55-60 characters to show up fully in Google. This can affect your click-through rate (CTR).

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  • Category – Write down the topic of each page.
  • Ranking for main keyword (if available) – If there’s a keyword you’re targeting, record your ranking for it as of now.
  • Search volume for main keyword – A metric that will help you prioritize your SEO effort in the future. Get it from Google AdWords or any keyword research tool.

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  • Average organic search traffic per month — Get this from Google Analytics. Go to “Behavior,” and pick the page. Then add a secondary dimension of “source,” and look for the traffic data beside Google.
  • Average overall traffic per month — Again, get it from Google Analytics. Record the total traffic number by going to “Behavior,” and pick a page. Look at a time period of at least 3 months when possible, and calculate an average.
  • Meta description — Your meta description can also greatly affect your CTR. If your traffic seems unreasonably low for the typical monthly search volume, you can optimize your meta description to attract more clicks. You can also pull this from Screaming Frog.
  • Bounce rate of organic search traffic — Again, go to “Behavior,” pick a page, and add a secondary dimension of source. Look at the bounce rate metric beside the Google row.
  • Average time on page of organic search traffic — Use the same report as above, but get the average time on page.
  • Number of backlinks – Backlinks are a critical part of ranking well. Use a link database tool such as Majestic or Ahrefs to get the number of backlinks to each page (can be done in bulk).

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  • number of linking root domains – You should be able to get this when getting the number of backlinks. It tells you whether backlink numbers are inflated (i.e., 10,000 backlinks from one domain).
  • URL rank – Different tools have different metrics (e.g., MozRank for OSE, URL rating for Ahrefs) to judge the overall quality of links. Get one to get a rough idea of your page’s authority.

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  • Total social shares – you could also break this down by network. You can get this information using a tool like Sharetally.

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If you plan on doing multiple content audits or you’re working on a very big site, doing all this manually would be crazy.

Some of it is easy to do all at once, like collecting numbers from Screaming Frog.

But all the other actions can also be done in bulk (and automated) with a little technical know-how.

Hire a programmer to build you a simple tool that pulls all this data from different APIs, and it will save you hours of work.

Step 3: Create an in-depth reader/customer profile

We’ll take a step away from your actual content for this part and instead focus on your target audience.

This step consists of two parts.

Part #1 – Identify your reader: It’s a basic rule for any marketing – create things that your target audience is interested in.

It applies to social media marketing, content marketing, SEO…and so on.

But in order to do that, you first need to determine who your reader is.

Refer to this section of one of my ultimate guides if you need help doing this.

Part #2 – Determine what they’re interested in: Now, you can start to learn and understand what they’re interested in.

You figure that out by researching demographics (age, gender, etc.) and psychographics (what they believe in).

Here’s a good introductory guide that will walk you through the most important demographics and psychographics.

Once you’ve done that, you should have a fleshed out reader avatar.

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Part #3 – Use those interests to identify topics and keywords: Once you have a pretty good understanding of your target audience (be as specific as possible with everything), it’s time to translate that to content.

A good place to start is to use basic keyword research tools.

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After that, use these advanced keyword research methods to find even more keywords and topic ideas.

You should record all of these keyword and topic ideas in another spreadsheet, complete with any search volume data they have.

Note that you are not limited to just these topics for content. From your knowledge of the reader, you might be able to know that they’d be interested in something that can’t be searched for.

You can still add these topics to the list; you’ll just have to get traffic for them from sources other than search engines.

Step 4: Conduct “gap” analysis

Now we have two spreadsheets:

  • One with all your current content (and metrics)
  • One with all the content (or content ideas) your target reader is interested in

It’s time to look at them together.

Area #1 – See which content you’re missing altogether: This has to be done manually and will take quite a bit of time.

Start by pairing up those keyword and content ideas to the content you already have.

Essentially, you’re copying the entire row from the first sheet that we made and pasting it right beside the keyword it matches.

Here’s a small snapshot of what it might look like:

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What you’ll find at the end of it, in almost all cases, is that for some of the content/keyword ideas, you don’t have any matching content.

That’s a clear problem: you have a gap.

Obviously, you’ll need to fill these gaps, but we’ll get to that later.

Area #2 – See which content is not performing: I mentioned this briefly before. If your current content isn’t generating any traffic, it’s about as useful as if it was missing altogether.

That’s not good enough.

The challenge here is to identify this underperforming content.

Unfortunately, there’s no specific formula I can give you here.

It comes down to what you consider good. For some sites, getting 200 visitors a month to a piece of content is horrible, while for others, that’s great.

On top of the absolute amount of traffic your content gets, you want to consider two other main factors:

  • Its search rankings
  • Its potential search traffic

If a page is ranking in positions #4-10, it’s not getting much traffic.

However, with some extra work, you could easily get it to rank in the top 3 and get more traffic.

But you also have to consider if it’s worth the effort.

If the keyword gets a few thousand searches a month, it probably is. If it gets 20? Probably not.

At this point, you just want to highlight which content isn’t getting much traffic.

Next, we’re going to bring it all together.

Step 5: Create your new content strategy

The final step is to create a content strategy that will address all the weaknesses that have been identified up until this point.

And it requires a lot of manual work and careful consideration.

Step #1 – Create a column for action: It’s time to add another column to your spreadsheet.

I suggest adding it to the very beginning.

In this column, you’ll add a final label reflecting the corresponding action you want to take on it.

Again, choose any labels you want, but you could use these ones if you’d like:

  • Leave” – The post is performing well, no changes are needed.
  • Create” – A default label for any content idea that needs to be filled.
  • Merge” – Sometimes, you might have more than one piece of content for one topic (it happens if your content is not well organized). It’s usually best to merge these together into one best version.
  • Improve” – If your content is underperforming, you’ll want to improve it.

You’ll need to go through each idea, one by one, to do this.

Step #2 – Create a column for priority: There’s one final column you need to make. Put it right next to the action column.

Some gaps are bigger than others.

It makes sense to fill those big gaps first and get to the smallest ones only when you have time.

Here, you’re going to assign each action (other than “leave”) a priority from 1-10 (10 being the highest).

You need to factor in those things we looked at like potential for SEO traffic.

If a piece of content has the potential to generate a ton of new traffic, it gets a high priority and should be edited or created as soon as possible.

Finally, create an action list: Now that your sheet is filled out, sort all the actions based on their priorities.

Then, plan your content marketing goals, tasks, and resources so that you can start filling in these gaps one by one, in order of priority.

Conclusion

No collection of content is ever “complete”—there will always be some gaps.

Conduct a content audit on a regular basis, and identify your biggest weaknesses.

It’s a ton of work and leads to even more work (taking action on your results), but it is an extremely effective way to consistently improve the results from your content marketing.

This can get a little overwhelming if you haven’t done a content audit before, so if you’re confused about any of this, leave me a question below.

Comments

  1. Parampreet Chanana :

    Great Guides as usual. I want your help in Starting Giveaways on website.

    Want to give away gadgets each week!

    So, Please give your suggestions bro!

    Thank you 🙂

  2. Hey Neil, There is a question i’m not sure about and i would be glad if you can clarify it.
    In case there is a existing blog that has been active for several months and has more than 60 characters in the title. Would you recommend to shorten the title? If so, what is the best way to do so without ruining traffic to the blog.

    Thanks in advance,
    Daniel

    • I would leave it as is as it isn’t too long. Especially since the title/page gets good traffic. You should only be adjusting if the page doesn’t do well.

  3. Chris Thompson :

    Great article as always Neil, you always gave us valuable and useful content that helps a lot. thanks for sharing, surely I will apply these tips and will share with my social media networks. 🙂

  4. Kevin Murphy :

    Hi Neal. Articles like yours are great but they depress me because they show me that there is SO MUCH work to be done on my new website—I jst don’t have the passion (or the DNA) to get under the hood and do all of your great advice–much less the time.

    (I just want to sell insurance!!)

    Is there any hope that paying someone to do these things, that they would be anywhere near as diligent as all of your articles teach? And for a small fish like me that doesn’t have the $$ that the professionals charge.

    Thanks for today’s daily dose of depression.

  5. Patricia Browne :

    Hey Neil…great article as usual. I like that you provide actionable steps.

    Idea for a post: how to connect your marketing persona/customer avatar with your keywords. There is a psychology to this, and you probably have access to some good research around this topic.

    I look at Allison Manthey and THINK I know what she wants…where is the hard data on really knowing what she wants?

    I would love to see your usual thorough article on this topic.

    Thanks for the great content.

  6. Michael Mcdonald :

    Ok, now I think you know me better than I know myself. I am just starting an SEO Consultancy and you just brought a lot of my cloudy thoughts into focus. At least I know I’m on track if not a very long hike ahead.
    http://MichaelMcDonaldSEO.com/

    • I’m happy I could help Michael. Let me know if you have any further questions or need clarification with anything.

  7. hi Neil, i love all the in-depth posts you produce. It shows how much i still need to do to take sophlix.com to the top but then nothing comes easy.

    ” Conduct a content audit on a regular basis, and identify your biggest weaknesses,” this was the partying short for me.

    Best regards bro.

  8. Nice tutorial, well explained as always.

  9. Great article, Neil as usual. But what bothers me the most is a cost of all programs you use per month. Seems to me it would be near 500-1000$. Is it possible for you to make an article regarding all the tools you use and free or less expensive alternatives? Because every time i start implementing your ideas i see the price 100$ per month plus another 100$ per months and here my optimisation stops…

  10. I love all your work Neil.

    Q:? Would you agree that people in the service industry will burn themselves out if they never grow year after year with ever decreasing costs? What are are your top five tips to do or not to do for growing with ever decreasing costs in 2016 and 2017 ?

    Thank you.

    • I think this would apply to people in the service industries, marketers, pretty much anyone who is selling online. The environments are constantly changing and it’s a game of being able to adapt and grow to new changes, rather than fearing them. Most important thing is learning how to create high quality content for cheap.

      • Learning how to create high quality content for cheap is a good one. Do you have a post on this Neil?

        Ps. Would you agree that it’s way better to keep video content on the leading sites like YouTube and use the YouTube url for all other sites that come and go over the years? I read in a book that most businesses never last longer than 10 years because of changes and price wars that hit them.

        Talk soon. Marc.

        • Check out this guide Marc https://www.quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-copywriting/

          I’m not 100% sure Marc because youtube became popularized within the last decade or so, hard to tell what the future holds.

  11. Another great article. You mention that often you should merge articles if they both cover the same keywords into one great article. Is this always the case? I was thinking that it would be good to have similar but different articles to essentially have A/B testing for search engine results, but would this cause me issues?

    Thank you,

    Rob

    • I usually like doing that because if 2 articles have backlinks and both are performing somewhat well, they would do extremely well when you combine them as you are also combine the backlinks.

      It makes it easier to rank.

  12. Rajesh Singh :

    Hi Neil!
    Great content as usual! Deep insight on content audit.

    Regards
    http://cashnom.com

  13. Hi Neil,

    This is a great guide on content auditing. Honestly, I never thought of doing a content auditing, but I now can see the value in it. Checking my content through screaming frog and grouping my posts by topics identified a few problems:
    1) Most of my posts don’t target and are not optimized for keyword to target search traffic;
    2) They are my random ideas which are not completly fullfilling my target audiences interests;
    3) I don’t have clearly determined categories for my posts.

    There is a lot of work to do on my existing posts. There are 100 posts on my blog, but very few of them are bringing in search engine traffic.

    I will follow the steps you share in this posts and believe that my search traffic will improve.

    Last question though, is this the way how you do content audit for your consulting clients as well? How do you examine a client’s website when you are hired to improve traffic, conversions, and sales for that client?

    Thanks!

    • I do it the same way when I used to do consulting. But I personally don’t take on many clients… it is rare that I do anything consulting related that is ongoing.

      • I want to consult local businesses how they can market their websites and I want to figure out a process I need to do it. This is why I’m asking :))

        First comes content audit to figure out all the weaknesses, and from there I can start suggesting what needs to be done. Right?

        • Yep, collect as much data as you can, then recommend services and solutions that would be the best fit.

  14. Hey Neil, Once again a great write up ! I am kinda becoming your regular reader now. Keep it up!

    Regards,
    Annie

  15. I would like to see some advance stuff like How to find strength and weakness of content from specific page? Suggestion would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Check out this advanced guide Sunil https://www.quicksprout.com/the-advanced-guide-to-content-marketing/

  16. Michael Cordova :

    Hi Neil,
    If possible, can you provide an estimated number of man-hours it takes to do this entire audit for 500 urls? Collecting 14 columns of data (admittedly 2 or 3 provided by Screaming Frog) for 500 keywords is clearly a daunting task for anyone. Looks like an opportunity for some great software to me.

    Thinking in terms of the Pareto Principle (80-20 rule) I’d probably start with prioritizing my top services or the ones with the biggest margins and go down from there.

    Just trying to get a handle on it.

    Thanks for the great insight and post,

    Michael

    • It depends… it doesn’t take me long but I have been doing this for a while…

      You got it right, prioritize and then go from there.

  17. Rank Tracker :

    Hi Neil,

    A very helpful guide to understand the concept of Content audit. I discovered some really amazing tips through this post and would be implementing them pretty soon.

    Thanks for this amazing insight!!

  18. Hi,

    The persona example is unfortunately highly flawed and risks triggering a lot of assumptions, making it less effective as an analysis tool.

    “I urged people in a tweet to try rewriting their personas without reference to demographics. Demographics can cause assumptions, shortcuts in thinking, and subconscious stereotypes by team members.”

    https://medium.com/@indiyoung/describing-personas-af992e3fc527

  19. Hamza Sheikh :

    Hi Neil,

    Yet another great write up on content audit.

    Personally, I am using similar process to highlight the content which is performing low on my websites. Ahrefs and SEO Yoast helps me in categorizing most of the pages and posts that are performing low over different social networks and Yoast helps me in reminding about the missing things in posts / pages.

    I have been using ScreamingFrog as a third-party auditor to give a deep view of how links are being developed in my WordPress websites.

    Anyways, thanks for the great process tip.

    • Nice, those are all powerful tools that will help you out immensely. If you get stuck or need help with anything, please ask.

  20. Renee groskreutz :

    I just wanted to come back and say how much this post helped me. I recently did my content audit. In the midst of it I wound up removing quite a bit of content and merging content. Thank you for all of tips and motivation in this post and all of your other posts.

    • Perfect timing, glad this was helpful. It’s such a great feeling when everything done, organized, and performing at it’s best.

  21. Vijayalaxmi Hegde :

    I want to try this on a website that has roughly about 2000 pages. Do you think it’s better to get programming help for a website of this size?

    Also wanted to suggest the action ‘Delete’ in addition to what you listed. If there’s random content lying around, it could just serve in attracting unwanted traffic, which will most likely never convert. Pruning down content helps re-focus.

    • I think those number of pages can be done by yourself if you feel comfortable with, you’ll just need to invest a little time.

  22. sonali singh :

    I am really gonna try it with my website

  23. Shashwat Shubha :

    Hello, first of all, I want to say is thank you, your article has really helped me to understand the in-depth meaning and more about my auditing in my contents. Thank you again.

    • Perfect! If you have any trouble with implementation or get confused, please don’t hesitate to ask questions.

  24. Merged two articles yesterday. Thanks for the tip/

  25. You are best Neil.

    Have you written any post about single page website SEO?

  26. outstanding article as constantly Neil, you continually gave us valuable and beneficial content material that helps a lot. thanks for sharing, surely i can practice those hints and will share with my social media networks.

  27. Hi Neil,

    I have more than 350 articles on my blog. After reading your article I did a content audit and found there are many articles that are not receiving any traffic.

    What do you suggest, do I remove those articles or merge the related content into one.

    • Yah you can merge the related pieces into one, that should give it a little boost. Other than that, build both internal links and get more links coming form authority sites.

  28. Hi, Neil. That’s a great guide and definitely it will be helpful for everyone.

  29. Seeing a different between a big big blog vs the small, they just have just so much to manage, but definitely great to learn from.

  30. Sue J. Maselli :

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post Neil … I’ll use it on my website..

  31. soso maximan :

    This awesome informations all very very good for my business!

    Cheers Neil!

  32. Thanks for sharing this post about step by step guide to conducting a content. Your experience had inspired me a lot which you have shared in this wonderful post. As I told u that your awesome post help me a lot in my work. In my next comment, I will told u everything clearly that how can your blog help me, what I had learned from your blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful and awesome idea with us. Keep posting like this helpful post.

  33. Thanks for sharing this post about a step by step guide. This wonderful and awesome article has inspired me a lot which you have shared in this post. As I told you that this awesome post helps me in my work. In my next comment, I will told you everything clearly that how can your blog help me, what I had learned from your blog. Thanks a lot once again for sharing this wonderful and useful idea.

  34. If possible, can you provide an estimated number of man-hours it takes to do this entire audit for 500 urls? Collecting 14 columns of data for 500 keywords is clearly a daunting task for anyone. Looks like an opportunity for some great software to me.

  35. Hi Neil!
    This post is nicely written about the Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit. This awesome article has inspired me a lot which you have shared in this post. As I inform you that this awesome post helps me in my work because, recently; I have joined my new job in IT Sector and this awesome post inspired me a lot.
    In my next comment, I will inform you everything clearly that how can your blog help me, what I had learned from your blog.
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    • Excellent! Glad to hear things are going well for you Raki!

      If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask

  36. This awesome article has inspired me a lot which you have shared in this post. As I inform you that this awesome post helps me in my work because, recently; I have joined my new job in IT Sector and this awesome post inspired me a lot.
    Thanks a lot once again…..!

  37. Kanti Bhushan :

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  38. This awesome article has inspired me a lot which you have shared in this post. As I inform you that this useful post helps me a lot in my work because, recently; I have joined my new job in IT Sector and this awesome post inspired me a lot.
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  39. Hey Neil,

    How do you suggest removing or combining content? Completely removing if it gets very little search traffic, noindexing the pages you want to remove/combine into others or redirecting to the most relevant content (and would you still do this even if there isn’t a perfect fit)?

    Thanks!
    Jenna

    • The best approach is improve what you have if it fits the main subject of your site. If you tend to go off on tangents to much then it will be devalued by Google.

  40. praxis studio :

    Very nice article.Yeah I will try to make my websites to run good on mobile devices.Thanks for the share.

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