You might be wondering, what is a content audit? If you don't know what I'm talking about, your marketing team is likely not being as thorough as they could be in developing your brand's content strategy.
A content audit is the process of rereading all the content on your site to evaluate where you have gaps in your overall content strategy. Yes, it's as tedious as it sounds. However, it's a process that has extreme payoff.
The Benefits of a Content Audit
Dominate organic search. Essentially, it allows you to make sure your content is hitting every possible topic your target market is looking for. We're not going to rehash the importance of organic search, but you want your brand to be in the top position of search engines as much as possible. If you aren't writing about topics that your audience is searching for, you are missing a huge slice of the organic pie.
We're not talking about link building or other tactics to manipulate search engines. Rather, we are leveraging the "make it and they will come" philosophy. Search engines favor unique quality content. Believe it or not, there's a lot of crappy content out there. Oftentimes there aren't enough sites covering a specific subject, forcing search engines to deliver sub-par results to users. However, if, say, you created better content, your brand could move up the SERPs, getting your brand in front of new potential customers.
Deliver a holistic user experience. Chances are the content on your site was developed over many years by many different people. We'd also double-down on the chance that none of these people communicated in order to create a consistent brand voice.
You should think of every piece of content on your site as a unique opportunity to leave a lasting first impression on your audience. Remember, most site visitors aren't coming in from your home page or know everything about your brand. Rather, they are new customers stumbling across your site via search engines. If you only have one chance to leave a mark, what do you want that to be?
Your content should be created following detailed editorial guidelines and it should always be as good as possible. A content audit allows you to identify inconsistencies and recreate content that otherwise is turning potential customers away.
Improve your brand. This one is easy: make good content and it reflects well on your brand. If you churn out consistently epic content, you will slowly become known as an expert in your niche. Experts build trust, which results in sales, and a content audit enables you to overhaul your content in order to position your brand as the place to go for topical information.
How to Conduct a Content Audit
Actions speak louder than words. Rather than just telling you the benefits, let's show you by going through how to conduct a successful content audit. In the end, you will have a clear picture of where your content stands and a road map for moving forward and dominating the Internet.
Define your target audience. Describing your audience as "women ages 25 to 35 with a lot of money" doesn't cut it these days. Rather, marketers are creating detailed persona stories to better understand their brand's audience. Not only do these detailed stories allow for better content catering to your audience's needs, it also creates a sticky concept internally that your employees are more likely to adopt. Internal adoption equates to more consistency, so don't overlook the importance of internally selling this idea.
If you haven't developed personas yet, here is a guide to developing your buyer personas.
Understand the conversion funnel. The conversion funnel refers to a customer's purchasing path.
The typical path starts at the trigger phase, which is when a customer recognizes a need. However, sometimes it starts even earlier than that, when a customer discovers a new product before she commits to the thought that she needs it.
The search and buy phase is self-explanatory, but the stay phase sometimes causes confusion. This refers to the actions a customer takes after she purchases a product. For example, does she become a loyal customer or advocate? Does she write a bad review? This stage is heavily used by your sales team to improve retention, but it's equally as important in your content strategy.
Know what these stages are and learn how to apply them to content. In the age of the Internet, we live in a world where we're presented with content throughout a purchasing process. For example, what piece of content caused us to click "add to cart" after countless hours of research? That piece of content can be categorized by the buy phase, because it caused a customer to convert.
Content is present at each stage, and it's up to your content marketing team to determine what that content should be for your brand.
Get reading and stay organized. From the content on your blog (and you should have a business blog!) to conversion pages, go through every piece of content on your site and reread. While reading, answer these three questions:
Use Excel to document the answers to these questions, making each a separate column. For the "Is your content epic" question, we suggest defining a numerical scale with clear statements that can add up to a total score. This allows for consistency if multiple people are reviewing the content. It also makes the scoring system as concrete as possible, eliminating personal prejudice during the review process.
Pro tip: Keep detailed notes by inserting a comment on the "epic score" cell, explaining why you gave it the score you did. This will enable you to quickly re-jog your memory if you need to refer back to the content, eliminating the need to reread.
Other content you will probably want to include in the file is:
Note: The metrics you document will be dependent on your content goals.
You will also want a column with a dropdown that tells you what to do with that content. The three choices are keep, repurpose, or trash. We suggest color-coding these (we'll talk more about why later).
In the end, you should have an Excel file that organizes your content into something like this:
Create a visual matrix. When you finish going through all your content, you should have a very nifty Excel file. Utilize pivot tables to create a visual matrix of your content. Warning: there is some Excel manipulation needed to present text instead of counts in a pivot table value column. Here is an excellent resource for Excel manipulation, in addition to an overview of pivot tables.
Generally, the two axes will be your personas vs. the stage in the conversion funnel. The plotted points will be each piece of content. Remember that color-coding tip from above? It comes into play here because you can visually see which content pieces should be repurposed, trashed, or kept. When all is said and done, you should have a visual content map that looks something like this:
Recreated without using Excel because not enough data points to illustrate.
Develop an editorial calendar (and dominate the Internet). With the content matrix in place, you will now be able to visually see where your content is weak and where you are missing content altogether. Your content team can use this as a guide for filling in an editorial calendar.
When this content gap analysis is paired with keyword research and questions typically asked by your personas during their decision-making journey, your content will address every possible topic that is relevant to your audience. And that is how you capture every possible opportunity to attract new visitors using organic search, dominating the Internet, and leaving your competition in the dust.
Audit image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Adria Saracino is the head of outreach at Distilled, a creative online marketing agency. When not consulting on content strategy or leading her team of outreach warriors, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT