This article was originally published on Toolbox Marketing.
For many, a new year is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s about forging ahead to boldly discover all the wonderful possibilities of 2022 without the weight of the past year holding you back. But while this clean-slate approach might work well for more personal resolutions, it’s not such a great fit for your content marketing strategy.
After all, your yearly content strategies don’t exist in a vacuum. How can you be sure you’re maximizing the potential of your website and the content that populates it without taking a step back and reviewing your work? The short answer: you can’t. To build a content marketing strategy that works for your business, you need to comb through your current on-site content to see what’s working (and what isn’t).
In other words, you need to perform a content audit.
If the words “content audit” provoke an involuntary groan, you’re not alone. There’s no way around it: conducting a content audit is time-consuming and tedious, but that doesn’t make the work less business-critical. A thorough audit will help you understand your website. It will tell you where to focus your future efforts to enhance the relevancy and success of your content. Done right, a content audit can help your business generate better leads, close more sales, and boost your content marketing ROI.
Just look at Microsoft. It uncovered that 3 million of its 10 million pieces of content weren’t even being read. Because Microsoft performed a content audit, it was equipped to remove irrelevant content, restructure its website, and repurpose its existing content. The result? Visitors were actually able to find the content they were looking for, and Microsoft could identify what types of content its audience was really looking to engage with.
Here are four steps you can take to perform a content audit:
To make the content audit process less stressful and more efficient, decide who should be involved up front. Like any company project, nothing can derail a content audit more quickly than a bloated, aimless team. So make sure you’re choosing team members wisely. Don’t just select a handful of people across departments and call it a day. Instead, deliberately gather people involved in creating and polishing content and those responsible for measuring the results. And don’t forget to consult an SEO expert. In total, your team doesn’t need to be bigger than four or five people.
If you don’t have the human resources to run an audit internally, consider joining forces with a partner that can perform a content audit on your behalf. You might be hesitant to relinquish control, but in reality, bringing in a third party can result in a more insightful audit. After all, who better to identify gaps or misalignment in your content marketing strategy than an unbiased outsider?
Now that you have your content audit team in place, the real work can begin. First up is gathering and organizing the content on your website, and I don’t just mean blog posts. Include content from your homepage, sign-up page, and even thank-you pages. Then, begin populating a spreadsheet with data about each piece.
Start with the content’s URL and page title and add more details from there. For SEO purposes, record the number of keywords ranking on Page 1 and the total number of ranking keywords for each piece of content. You can use a tool like Moz or Semrush to find this information. For website performance, comb through your content management system so you can include metrics like page views, bounce rate, average visit duration, call-to-action click rate, etc. And don’t forget about general details like meta descriptions, word count, backlinks, and page speed. All these details, when examined together, tell the story of your on-site content’s performance.
Any marketing professional worth their salt knows that you derive real business value not from the data itself but from the insights that can be mined from it. So once you’ve completed your content inventory, you need to analyze the data to determine how current on-site content is performing.
How you go about doing that depends on your unique content marketing goals. For instance, if you’re focused on improving site visibility and increasing traffic, examine what content drives traffic to your site. Conversion rates, bounce rates, and traffic sources also help you identify where your website visitors are coming from (and which pieces of content they found the most persuasive). Ask as many questions as you can during this process; then, look to the corresponding metrics for answers. For instance:
In this case, you’d look at organic traffic in your CMS or Google Analytics and keyword rankings using a tool like Semrush or Moz.
Review data in your CMS to answer questions about specific on-site metrics, like “What was the bounce rate?” and “What about the conversion rate?”
Reviewing the CTA click rate in your CMS will help you answer this query. You can also observe the submission rate or the number of people who filled out a form after viewing the blog post.
The whole point of a content audit is to figure out how you can do better next time, so now you need to take action according to what the data tells you. You’ll find that some content is fine as-is, while other content might require minor updates or even a complete overhaul. Perhaps some pieces need to be consolidated, while others need to be archived because they’ve gone out of date or no longer align with your strategy. Whatever the case may be, remember to document any next steps and who’s in charge of implementing them in your spreadsheet.
For example, after conducting a content audit last January, our marketing team learned that a previously high-performing blog post had lost steam as keyword rankings dropped over time. Organic traffic had plunged significantly, and the little traffic the post was generating didn’t stick around long, much less engage with the CTAs or other blog content. Clearly, a few adjustments were in order.
Our content audit indicated that we had three blog posts covering roughly the same topic. So we decided to combine the blog posts into one piece and redirect the other URLs to the new one. We also updated the blog post’s content to be more timely, added new links, revised the keywords, and optimized the CTAs. The results were astounding. Between February and July 2021, the modified blog post amassed 7,600 page views, resulted in 32 form submissions and netted 26 new contacts. The bounce rate and exits per page view also decreased, and the average reader spent about six minutes on the page.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and when it comes to your content marketing strategy, this aphorism couldn’t be any more fitting. As you map out your 2022 strategy, you’d be wise to pause and take inventory of your existing content to ensure it’s driving the content marketing results you desire. Armed with that information, you’ll be able to identify and execute lucrative content opportunities in the year ahead.