How to do a Content Audit – Step by Step

how-to-do-content-audit-step-by-step

 

Creating a Content Audit is one of the first steps you should take after on-boarding a new client in SEO.  The structure of a Content Audit can often become fairly informal if left later, and is best if produced in a single document within the first month of work, if you happen to be working agency side.

Once you have identified the underlying issues with the existing content this will then provide you with your mandate to improve, change and update the content.

Why do I need to do a Content Audit?

The purpose of the content audit is to:

  • Understand how the content on the site performs.  Which pages are pulling the most traffic and conversions?
  • Understand the quality of the content being produced currently.  Is it 10 times better than their competitors content?  (If it isn’t then Rand Fishkin won’t be happy).
  • Reveal any content gaps or opportunities in the market.  Are there any obvious gaps in their current content strategy that they could be capitalising on.

What exactly is a Content Audit?

A Content Audit is a document that assesses the quality of the content on any given website.  In particular it will examine the specific performance of the pages, to check that it is driving the correct types of traffic, and helping the website convert visitors into conversions.  The Content Audit forms one half of the full SEO Audit.  (The other half being the Technical Audit).

Creating Content in 2016 and beyond: What you need to know

content-2016

  • Your content needs to be longer.  Want to get to page one in the SERPs for your article? Write at least 1800 words!
  • Your content should to answer the visitors questions in a clear, logical and concise way.
  • Your content should be well researched.
  • Your content should look visually impressive.
  • Some level of interactivity in your content will help to keep your visitors engaged.  Quizzes, Polls, (Playbuzz is your friend), Graphs, Animations are just a few of the things you can do go the extra mile to make your content engaging.

Create content that has value

quality-content-value

People value (and link to) sites that are going that extra mile to create something that is useful, entertaining, insightful, challenging or unique.  “.

We need to be creating best-in-class content in 2016 to compete in the modern search landscape.
  If you aren’t creating this standard of content, then you really need to start creating it, otherwise you will be left behind.  One thing is for certain, the search landscape isn’t suddenly going to get any less competitive!

What are the key sections of a Content Audit?

  1. Analysis – Using Google Analytics
  2. Identify the top Performing Landing Pages  (Traffic/Conversions)
  3. Identify the weakest performing landing pages (How can they be improved?)

 

  1. Page Title and Meta data analysis – Using Screaming Frog or other SEO Crawler.
  2. Identify missing, duplicate and poorly optimised titles and meta data

 

  1. Look, Feel Quality and Quantity of the Content

Bordering on the brink of a CRO analysis, this considers the impact of the design of the site, the way the content is written and in whether the content is correctly targeted towards the right audience. 

STEP BY STEP: THE CONTENT AUDIT

The Content Audit – Step 1: Get Google Analytics access

google-analytics-icon

Make sure this is the first thing you request from your client.  Once you have access to their Google Analytics account the fun can start.

The Content Audit – Step 2: Set up a Google Sheets or Excel document

excel-google-sheets

First, simply set up a new Excel or Google Sheets document.

google-sheets-excel

The Content Audit – Step 3: Download the Analytics Data

Next, go to Google Analytics and click on Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages

site-content-ga-all-pages

Once you have clicked on this page, you will see a big list of the most viewed pages on your website.

change-date

Make sure the date is set to the appropriate length.  If you are just auditing the last year, then set it to this in the date selector, if you require to look at the whole website’s history, then set it to the date that the website had Google analytics added and set the last date to the previous month.

organic-traffic

For the purposes of this Content Audit I am just going to look at the Organic Traffic to the site.  So click on the box to select Organic Traffic.  You can however, split your content reporting by channel if you wish.  Click “Apply” and GA will update with the Organic channel results.

export-csv

Now it’s time to export your data.  Export to CSV or Google Sheets if you like, and you will get a spreadsheet that looks fairly similar to the table below.

PagePage ViewsUnique Page ViewsAvg. Time on PageEntrancesBounce Rate% Exit
/85964100:07:1260265.61%64.03%
/news/page1827000:01:246063.33%60.98%
/news/page2796400:01:35837.50%30.38%
/news/page3643800:01:053764.86%46.88%
/news/page4584700:08:063868.42%65.52%
/news/page5494100:03:403680.56%67.35%
/news/page6454100:04:232479.17%64.44%
/news/page7443700:06:002065.00%61.36%
/news/page8383100:02:482075.00%68.42%
/news/page9373000:04:54366.67%32.43%
/news/page10333000:03:422882.14%81.82%

This looks great, but Google Analytics has left us with the tails of the URLs.  We want to make these actual links.

To do this create a new column on the left hand side of your spreadsheet and add your domain name in to cell A2.  For example, https://www.example.com.  Double click on the bottom right hand side of this cell, and the domain should then populate automatically down the full length of your data.

We then need to glue these two columns together.  To do this is very easy: Create another new column on the left hand side and enter:

=Concatenate(B2:C2)

Once you have entered this it should glue the Domain Name and URL together.

Double click on the bottom right hand corner again to paste this down the length of your data set.  You then need to copy this data and paste it on top of itself as values (Rather than formulas).

After you have done this delete columns B and C.  You don’t need these anymore!

The Content Audit – Step 4: Highlight outliers (Top 10% and bottom 10%)

To identify which pages are doing well and which pages are performing less well than they should I tend to use the Conditional Formatting feature in Excel and Google Sheets for each column to establish what data is in the top 10% and bottom 10%, colour code these so you know which is good.  i.e. High bounce rate for example, should be Red, whereas high page views should be Green.

Now that we have established the best and worst performing aspects by simple colours we have instantly made this table a lot more client friendly.

The Content Audit – Step 5: Add Category Column

Now that you have all your Google Analytics data in one spreadsheet, it is often a good idea to segment this data into different categories; so for instance, all your blog pages should be categorised as “Blog”.  All landing pages, meanwhile should be “Landing Page” and so on.  This can seem like a bit of a chore if you have thousands of pages on your site, but you can get around this by using filters.  Filtering by /blog/ or /news/ will generally bring up all the blog content.  You can then create a seperate analysis for this if you think it is necessary for the site.  The two key sections you need to identify are the blog and the landing pages, so you can compare them separately.

The Content Audit – Step 6: Fire up Screaming Frog!

screaming-frog-seo-spider

So remember those URLs we created earlier on?  They are going to come in handy now.  Fire up your copy of Screaming Frog and put it into “List Mode”.  Get it to run a report on the URLs from your Google Analytics data.  (Copy and paste them into Screaming Frog).

Once you have the report you can paste this data next to the Analytics data. Make sure the URLs align properly.  If they don’t match up you can simply set both lists to alphabetically filter, and then change them back once they are matched.

The Content Audit – Step 7: Create new tabs for specific issues

You can download the duplications of page titles, meta descriptions and so on from Screaming Frog and paste these in to their own tabs on your Google Sheets document.  Name each of the tabs after the issue.  This will depend on the specific issue that exists, but the great thing is that Screaming Frog does all the work for you here.  A few things to consider are all the features in Screaming Frog.

Duplications

  • Duplicate Page Titles
  • Duplicate Meta Descriptions

Missing Elements

  • Missing Page Titles
  • Missing Meta Descriptions

Not Fully Optimised Elements 

  • Page Titles over and under 65 characters
  • H1s H2s, Missing, Duplicate, Multiple, over and under 70 characters

Image Optimisation

  • Images over 100kb,
  • Missing Alt Text

Internal Linking Optimisation

  • Internal Linking

The Content Audit – Step 8: Suggesting Rewrites

If the page titles or meta descriptions are lack lustre then it is worth rewriting them.  Remember when rewriting the titles to prioritise keywords and key phrases towards the front of the page titles.  This revised emphasis should be in keeping with your Keyword Research.  Meta descriptions are the windows to your shop, so make sure you provide a compelling reason for people to click on your result in the SERPs.

Pro Tip!

If you are completely stuck for ways to rewrite the titles then have a look at what the leading competitor is doing for their meta data and take influence from it.

The Content Audit – Step 8: Assessing Content Quality vs Competitors

  • The Tone of Voice is appropriate for the audience.  Is the copy clean and consistent and logically organised?  (Many older sites suffer from bolted on content that has been added without much thought to organisation).
Pro Tip!

If you feel that the TOV is not audience appropriate make sure this is highlighted in this section.

  • Make sure the content is accurate and up to date.  There is little relevance for the visitor if the content is out of date.  The website is wasting their time!
  • Does the content support the business goals of the client? Does the content entice the visitor to make a buying decision, or help them understand the products in some way.

The Content Audit – Step 9: Word Counts vs Competitors

Brian Dean has conducted a interesting study analysing a million pages that showed that in general terms, if you want to compete on page one for many terms you need to have around ~1890 words of content.

Ofcourse this doesn’t mean that every blog post you do needs to be 1800 words minimum, but it is food for thought that longer form content is finally starting to have its time in the spotlight.

The Content Audit – Step 10: Next Steps

In the final section of the audit you need to detail your strategy for the next few months.  This should be based on your findings from the content audit – so there is a clear understanding between yourself and the client that you have identified an issue on the site and you are trying to improve it in some way.  This final section is also a chance to talk about the strengths of the website alongside the weaknesses.  Also make sure that you illustrate potential opportunities from the weaknesses to show that these can be fixed with improvement over time.

How to do a Content Audit – Step by Step

About the Author

Chris

Chris is a London SEO Consultant working as an SEO Account Director for Blue 449, part of Publicis Groupe.

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