If you run a blog, if your business website has a blog, or if you have ever toyed with the idea of starting a blog, you have likely adopted the maxim of “publish quality and publish often”. Which comes as no surprise, as the world wide web is simply teeming with articles instructing you to do just that: publish blog posts regularly, so as to always have something new to offer readers and potential customers.
Don’t get me wrong – publishing quality content on a regular basis is something we all should be striving for, in one form or another, but in reality, this is never easy, is sometimes very challenging, and at times neigh-on impossible. Especially if you are the only one writing for said blog.
Luckily, there is something else you can do to boost the quality of your blog posts, and increase the reach and value of your blog.
Rachel has already done a great job explaining why you need to have good content – so let me just expand on the topic and talk a bit about content audits, and why you need to deploy them before embarking on your next writing spree.
What Is A Content Audit and Why Should I Do One?
A content audit is just what you think it is – an analysis of all the content you have up on your website. However, there is a slight difference between auditing your services or product pages and your blog.
When doing the former, you are asking yourself questions like “how likely is this page to convert someone?”, “does this page explain what our product does and how it can help users?”, “are we using the right keywords?”, “are we missing some keywords?” and so on.
When auditing your blog (and that is what we are focusing on here) you are working with a slightly different set of questions. The purpose of this exercise is to uncover the following:
- Which blog posts are performing well, and which are underperforming
- Which posts could use an update, in terms of information and data, layout, point of view etc.
- Which posts might not be in line with your brand message anymore
- Which posts might spark additional interest if republished
- Which posts have the most backlinks
What Will I Get Out Of A Content Audit?
The blog audit should give you both a general and specific overview of the state of your content and, at the end of it, you should be left with a long list of things to do; posts to rewrite or repackage, posts to take down, posts to update, keyword research to do, blog posts to promote etc. All of which should help you attract more readers and get your message across.
Most of us invest quite a bit of time and effort into our content. We try to be witty, informative, provide actual value to our readers. Once the post is up, we promote it vigorously, build a few links to it, add it to our newsletter and put it up on our social networks.
But as soon as we need to focus on the next piece (and this can be the very next week, or even sooner) it will inevitably become a thing of the past, and we will rarely think about it again.
Yet, all that content we have written and published is still just as, if not more, valuable as it was on the day we hit the publish button. Which is precisely why you should sit down once every year or so (never sooner) and uncover the state of your blog.
The blog content audit can then inform all of your upcoming blogging tasks – your editorial calendar, social media posts, keyword research, promotion tactics, everything.
Instead of focusing on new pieces, which will cost you more in every resource department, including time, brainpower and actual moneys, you can cut your expenses down by giving old pieces a new life. Not only is this tactic cost-effective, you will also learn how well what you have been doing is performing, and if you might need to change your overall content strategy.
I’m sure you already track the performance of each individual post, but looking at the entire picture will provide quite a fresh perspective.
How Do I Perform A Content Audit?
Here is my abbreviated guide to running a content audit and the lessons you can learn from the endeavour:
Step One: Define Your Goals
Every piece of content you publish needs to serve a purpose. This purpose can be anything from acquiring a lot of Twitter shares (thus expanding your reach) to serving as a target for your next link building campaign (we call this type of post a linkable asset).
Whenever you sit down to write, you need to have an end goal in mind, not just write a piece you find interesting. Of course, you should write about the things you find interesting and know a lot about – you should just also find a way to use these posts to better your business.
Before you head into the content audit, you should have a goal set for every post. If you don’t, you can write down a set of goals now, and categorise your posts as you go along.
For each category, find a metric you want to focus on. Are you measuring conversions on a page, or shares, or backlinks? How can your blog posts help you achieve what you have set out to do? Is there something missing from your posts can could help them perform better at their goal?
Once you have your goals, make sure to list them clearly and refer back to them all the time. This is the foundation of your audit.
Step Two: Compile An Inventory
Your next step is to actually list all of the blog posts you have published, from the beginning of time until right now.
What you need is a list of URLs, and there are several tools that can help you do this. There is no need to go about this manually, unless you have two posts to date. SEMRush has a content audit tool that you may find useful, or you can use Screaming Frog to do it for you.
The former will run an actual audit for you and provide a list of recommendations along with raw data, while the latter will provide a list of URLs and the info you might need, like word count, title tags and so on.
Another important step is to export all of your important stats from Google Analytics – things like bounce rate, page visits, visit sources, etc.
You will now need to compile all of this data in a spreadsheet, so that you can have a clear overview of everything. You can keep it as minimalistic or as big data-esque as you like, but here are some of the columns I recommend having:
- Post URL
- Date of publication and date last modified
- Word count
- Author, if you have more than one
- Page title
- Meta description
- Primary, secondary and tertiary keyword
- Page visits
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Ranking in Google (or any other search engine)
- Conversion rate
- Number of social shares
- Number of inbound links
- Number of outbound links
You could also add a “status” column, which will note your final verdict for the post – whether you are keeping it as is, updating it, or deleting it.
Once you have this all set, you can filter your data any way you like – and instantly gain insight into what is working and what might not be.
Step Three: Dive In And Analyse
While putting together all of this can take a bit of time, especially if you have never used a spider like ScreamingFrog before, the hard part is yet to ensue. Now you have to gleam some sense from this pile of raw data!
There are countless ways to go about this; you can start from your best performing pages (in terms of visits, or even shares, or even backlinks) and see how you can re-promote and update them. Can you perhaps add fresh data to these posts? Has new research been published in the field you can now refer to? Can you add some new tips you had not thought of previously? Can you update the images and outbound links?
You should do some keyword research for these pages as well, and see if you can perhaps try to rank for some that were not popular at the time you posted them.
Make sure to also note how the page is ranking. Your Search Console will tell you what search terms are attracting people to your pages and how many impressions they have, but I also recommend using a tool like Ahrefs to see how similar pages are ranking and if you can do better. Just add the post’s URL to the Ahrefs Site Explorer and then click on competing pages. You can also use the tool’s keyword explorer feature to do some additional research.
Once you have updated your page, or decided to leave it as is, you should add it to your social media calendar and share it again – or to your link building target list – and try to acquire some additional links.
Just don’t do everything at once. Pace your efforts – they should last you for a while.
Alternatively, you could start from the worst performing pages and try to see what went wrong. Did you not promote the page at all? Is it ranking for all the wrong keywords and not matching user intent? Is it too short and not well-written? Is it extremely outdated? Can you update it and try and salvage it, or are you better off deleting it?
Opinions differ when it comes to deleting underperforming posts. There are those who will tell you to only keep useful content on your blog, but there is no particular harm in hosting a piece that does not actually drive any traffic.
Unless it is a very poor piece of content of course, in which case you should part with it forthwith!
There are numerous other situations to focus on, but the most important thing when doing a content audit is using your logic and your imagination. Look at the numbers and try to guess what is behind them.
For example, you may have a page that is attracting quite a lot of traffic, but also has a high bounce rate. What this means is that people want to hear what you have to say and are exhibiting interest in the subject, but your page is not giving them the answers they are looking for. This is a page you should definitely try to improve and make it more informative.
Your videos might be performing better than your written content. Can you make more videos, and perhaps turn some of your best written content into a video? How costly is it to do this and what kind of yield can you expect, based on the data you have?
You may have a post that is rather short, but which could be nicely incorporated into another post and thus add value to it.
You will come across many different situations during your research, and the way you choose to approach them is entirely up to you. You could even try several different tactics and see what works best for your audience. Every blog is different, and there is no magic formula for getting it right. As long as you stay true to the voice and message you already have, you will be just fine.
Step Four: Come Up With The Next Step
While you are working on step three, you should be compiling a list of tasks that await you: taking down content, updating images, checking keywords, rewriting content. You will also likely come up with new content ideas you would like to work on in the coming months.
Make sure to note down everything that you think of and then turn these ideas into actionable steps.
Give yourself a timeline and organise things into tasks and fit them into your existing schedule. These can be tasks like:
- Share post X on Twitter tomorrow
- Find new images for post Y
- Check the keywords post Z could also rank for
- Add fresh links to post A
- Rewrite the title tags on posts C, F, G and H
- Update statistics to include 2017 in post P
… and so on.
What you want to have in your hand at the end of the day is a list of tasks and an idea how to structure future posts.
Now that you know what performs well and what is not meeting your reader’s standards, you can make informed decisions about the next post you write.
Step Five: Repeat Ad Lib
Don’t let the amount of work involved in a content audit frighten you.
It may seem like a lot of numbers and data you can make neither head nor tail of, but remember that what you are actually looking at is user behaviour. You are trying to gauge what your readers and customers like – and what they don’t – and thus how you can reach them.
You blog is, after all, a tool to bring in new customers and hold on to existing ones. You are not writing all of this great content just to let people know you are still alive and give Google something to crawl. No. Your blog is an amazing asset, one that can help you tell your story, make connections and boost sales. How well you use it is up to you.
Get In Touch
If you’d like to find out more about how to carry out a content audit on your website, or why you should have one, then you can contact GrowTraffic via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a bell on 0161 706 0012.
About The Author
Andrea Gombos is a content marketing manager at Cube Digital by day, and a writer by night. She also has bouts of creative writing, when short stories are born by the dozen, and you can always find a book or two in her handbag.
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