Part 1: Content marketing audit – What are they and why do you need them?
Is your business building trust with high-impact content that delivers measurable growth in traffic, leads and customers? To improve on your current results and maximise your return on investment in content marketing, we recommend conducting a content audit every three to six months.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is a structured review (using quantitative and qualitative techniques) of the effectiveness of different content types in meeting the needs of your current and future customers.
Many content audits are limited to just reviewing SEO or making a list of current content. We recommend a complete ‘360-degree’ content audit to help you extract more value from your content by improving:
- SEO – increase rankings and technical quality of content for SEO
- Content coverage – an inventory list of the different types of content to identify any gaps
- Effectiveness of content in driving leads and sales by integrating analytics
- Using customer personas and mapping content through the customer journey
- Current and future customer opinions and feedback on the content
- Quality of content for language, e.g. spelling, readability and clarity
- Social media engagement, interactions and sharing.
A content audit is the first step in improving your content marketing strategy. You need to create a baseline of the content types, formats and quality to evaluate how they meet your business goals.
Step 1: Make the case
Before you can decide where to prioritise content improvements across your digital assets, you need to evaluate what needs improving and why.
maxemus digital marketing are analytics specialists, so we will explain how you can see the value of content through your analytics. Measures such as revenue, goal value per visit, page value or conversion rates to lead or sale for landing pages are all measures that should be used as part of a content audit.
Strategy recommendation: Ensure your audit combines quantitative and qualitative assessments
Quantitative assessments should assess the content you serve, how popular it is AND its value to your business. Qualitative assessments should assess users’ perceptions of the quality of the content using surveys and questionnaires.
While content audits are often seen simply as a listing of individual pages like those you’ll see in the templates in this guide, they are more valuable if you’re able to aggregate content into different types and compare their relative value. Then you will get a better feel for the areas in your content strategy that you should invest in in the future.
BEST PRACTICE: Aggregate your content audit report to evaluate different page types
As well as detailed breakdowns of individual pages, you will need a summary of the quality of different types of content and how they will contribute. These will be page templates you can group based on the strings in their URL and customer journey and navigation. Use Content Groups in Google Analytics to produce reports to give you the bigger picture of content types.
Common ways of classifying grouped content in your reports include:
- Company information
- Category pages
- Product pages
- Blog pages
- Landing pages
- Basket and checkout pages (if an E-commerce site)
- Support pages
What’s the benefit? Why do you need an audit?
Below are some of the benefits of a content audit, grouped by different parts of the marketing funnel:
- Boost SEO ranking and visits by A. Creating new content to target keywords and B. Optimising existing content to improve the organic ranking or attract visits from a broader range of keywords.
- Identify opportunities to share accessible content, e.g. PR, Social media or paid media.
- Boost leads from new landing pages by using content mapping to identify and then create new landing pages and content to appeal to different personas or different stages of the buyer journey
- Optimise existing landing pages to reduce bounce rate and increase lead conversion rates
- Improve content quality by A. Removing or B. Consolidating/merging content
- Identifying improvements to User Experience to feature content more clearly on customer journeys using better calls-to-action (CTAs)
- Convert more leads to sales by identifying top content types which influence conversion
- Identifying which content to recommend to nurture prospects via email or on-site personalisation
- Identify content that encourages customer loyalty, engagement and sharing
- Improve content quality which promotes advocacy, engagement and sharing
A business case for investment in content marketing
For a structured business case, you may need more formal benefits. The data and insights from a content audit provide a strong business case to internal stakeholders for initial or further investment in content resources. Investment can be challenging to justify, mainly as much of the contribution made by content to the sales funnel may not be immediate or apparent, particularly in the case of B2B, where sales cycles are lengthy and complicated.
Lack of buy into a weak content marketing business case is often the reason for lack of investment in this digital marketing tactic. The content audit plays a critical part in strengthening the case for content marketing investment. Some of the business benefits of a content audit:
- The baseline for current content. An audit serves as a valuable reference point during the content management and development process.
- Prioritisation priorities can be defined. The content audit provides valuable insights on where you need to prioritise
- Customer journey analysis and mapping. It offers a thorough review of all the more in-depth content, often ignored, where unknown problems in the customer journey may be hidden.
- Valuable content. Content marketing success measures support broader business objectives.
- Useful to your existing and future customers. Quality content educates, entertains and is:
- Relevant and timely
- Compelling: it tells a story that people understand and respond to
- High Quality: It is entertaining, well-produced with substance
- Precise and accurate: it is easy to understand and accurate
- Tip – repurposing existing or out-of-date content can add immediate value to your website
Step 2: Produce a content inventory
The next stage is to produce a quantitative content inventory of all your digital content, starting with your prime digital asset, your website. Here, you need to define WHAT you are auditing for each page, i.e. which fields.
For smaller sites, you could click through every single page of your website and record what you find. For most sites, your time is better spent if you use a tool to crawl the site initially and then add commentary, classification and evaluation.
BEST PRACTICE: Use a service to crawl your content to create your audit
Skip forward to the tools section, to see the options for downloadable tools and online services. We recommend Screaming Frog.
The inventory stage is about identifying the essential pages to improve or gaps in your content, but also being attentive to the more in-depth secondary pages as these insights can often reveal the source of significant roadblocks hampering customer journeys.
At its simplest, a content inventory is nothing more than a spreadsheet that captures content information for each website page URL. Below is a straightforward Excel example of how this might look in practice for a small website.
How much detail you include in Step 1 will depend on the business objectives you have set. Still, the above template is a starting point in which you can add further columns that represent the individual requirements of your business.
BEST PRACTICE: Use Google Sheets for your audit
Either Excel or Google Sheets can be used for the audit. Still, we recommend Google Sheets since it has an add-on, as explained below, which makes ‘pulling in’ Google Analytics data far easier.
Here’s an example from Buffer of the range of content your Google Sheet could contain:
Essential data fields for a content audit
Identify additional fields you want to include in your audit by grouping the types of information. Use this table as a checklist for different fields and sources.
* If you can include categories and tags as included on many websites this can be helpful. For example, a vital content category for audits is Video. Google Analytics might reveal an upward trend in Video content consumption in your business. With a content strategy goal to increase the volume of video content produced, you may wish to include an additional column that lists total % volume of Video and engagement stats. This first step if executed correctly, should answer the critical foundation questions:
How much content does the business currently own?
This is what a traditional content audit will show as a minimum. It includes the total volume of content pages, and types that you have currently visible on your website plus any content saved internally but not visible.
What types of content are you publishing?
Record all different types of content including Text, Images, Video, Data Capture, marketing promotions, press releases, employee biographies, product pages, employee biographies, frequently asked questions and functional commercial pages like purchase pages. Recording content types is easier if you have a CMS with specified content types or you have a tagging system to help group this content.
Who creates the content?
At a high level, it can be useful to note whether each piece of content on a website was created in-house, by a content partner or by your users. For content created by your in-house team, it is often helpful to note who was involved in each step of the workflow. For example, knowing who creates, approves and publishes each piece of content is essential when you begin to ask questions about why the content was done a certain way or when you want to confirm whether it’s OK to change or remove the content.
Where does it currently live?
If you are dealing with an extensive website, which is hosted on many different servers or platforms, take note of where the content lives within your technical infrastructure. In your inventory, for example, you may wish to include a column for content location. For example, is the content in a content management system (CMS) static HTML or a separate blog service?
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