We’ve all been there. You know you have a ton of content, but you don’t know 1) what everything is, 2) where it is, or 3) if it’s even still any good. When your content management hinges on going to that one person you know did that one thing that one time to find it, it’s time for a content audit.
Let’s be real. Conducting a website content audit can be a little intense. A lot intense, actually, if you have a lot of content or it’s been a really long time since someone did one. But they’re important—critical even—to your ongoing content marketing success. And I promise: they aren’t really that hard. Just time-consuming.
David Brown, Knotch
“Content audits help you assess objectively how well your content meets your audience needs, at various levels—page URL, topics, metadata, and categories. It will remind you of the parts of your content strategy that are effective. It may even inspire new user experiences. Typically 5% of content generates 90% of all engagement. The content audit gets you to your 5%.“
In this article we’re going to talk about two types of website content audits, and when and why to do them. We’ll also offer simple, step-by-step instructions to complete your content audit(s), and give you a few website content audit tools and resources, including a website content audit template you can use to get started. Ready? Let’s dig in.
There are two types of website content audits, and each provides a different type of useful information.
This is a list of every piece of content you have on your website, and where it lives. It gives you baseline content performance data that will help you make simple decisions about what web pages you should keep, what you should clean up, and what you should kill.
It’s the lowest-effort-plus-broadest-insight content audit you can do. But it doesn’t give you insights into the strategic or brand value of your content.
The quantitative content inventory will show you all the content you have on your website—just like inventory at a store. Do a quantitative inventory when:
Pro tip! The average website lifespan is 2 years and 7 months, so if you haven’t done a solid audit in 3+ years, it’s probably time.
This does two big things for you.
The only downside is, it takes more time, effort, and brainpower.
Qualitative audits help you prioritize content efforts, find low-quality content to kill or clean up and find bright spots to learn from. They also help you make sure that your content meets your audience needs and business goals. Do a qualitative audit when:
If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a presentation I gave on website content audits. It’s the same step-by-step process that I go through below. Enjoy!
To start a quantitative inventory, export all your website pages and views for a period of time (at least one year) from your Google Analytics account. Pull data up to the date you’re doing the audit.
Now expand the number of rows you can see in the bottom right to show as many rows as possible.
Finally, use the export feature in the top right to export the data into a spreadsheet.
Now you have a spreadsheet with all the pages on your site that have been viewed at least once in the timeline you selected.
Note: If your Analytics account showed that more than 5,000 rows exist, you’ll need to pull this again and combine the exports to get a complete data set.
Get rid of the first few rows, and sort the sheet by range to display pages by pageviews, highest to lowest.
You’re probably going to see something like this and scratch your head a bit.
Don’t worry about that. At the end of the data, Google Analytics appends total pageviews by date for your full date range. Just get rid of this information—we don’t need it.
Sort your sheet to find and remove obvious non-pages like search queries, website back-end pages, etc. I typically look at 1-page views and also page URLs for this information.
Create a tab for each website section. Your navigation is probably a good place to start, especially if your site architecture follows the navigation, and uses subfolders based on main navigation paths.
Notice the “blog” subfolder in the URL?
Create tabs for meaningful website sections like services, products, industries, blog, case studies, about, etc. Depending on your business’ complexity and volume of content, you might want to get more granular, breaking out individual services, product types, industries, and others.
Your goal is to get like content with like content. This way, you can do an at-a-glance analysis of standout high and low content performance. Visitors interact with different types of content differently, so you don’t want to compare the performance of a service page to a blog post, for example.
Having individual tabs means it’s also easier for you to manage and delegate the audit work. You should have someone familiar with the content in a particular tab look at it. So for example, you might get your industry marketing lead to look at the industry tab, your blog manager to look at the blog tab, etc.
If it’s only you doing the audit, creating individual tabs makes the process more manageable by breaking it into chunks. If you don’t have a tight deadline, keep yourself sane by doing a rolling audit. Audit blog posts this month, and service and product pages next!
Now you’re going to enlist your helpers (hopefully). Sort tabs by columns like pageviews, time on page, entrances, and page value, and start to color-code outliers.
After you’ve color-coded the sheet, you now have a simple visual snapshot of content performance, by page type. Align with your colleagues and mark some content to kill:
If you’re only doing a quantitative inventory, I’d suggest also using these insights to see what content might need a little cleanup.
Doesn’t that feel good? Getting rid of old, outdated, irrelevant, low-quality content helps you:
If you’ve already done a quantitative inventory, a qualitative audit is super simple to add to your existing spreadsheet.
If you haven’t already done a quantitative inventory, follow steps 1-3 there. Now you have a tabbed spreadsheet with all your current website pages, organized by page type.
No need to create your own, steal our website content audit template instead.
Enlist your helpers (hopefully) and have everyone rate their content on best practice and strategic factors. Some factors will be evaluated with a yes/no, some with a rating scale of 1-5, and some will use company-specific dropdowns.
These are all set up in the template for you, at least with placeholders, though you’ll need to customize a few. The template is also set up so that everything will color-code as you go, giving you a nice, at-a-glance visual on page performance when you’re done.
Feel free to add any factors that are important to you, but here (and on the audit template linked above) are some to start with.
Start the strategic assessment by evaluating content quality and value.
Now we’ll get into some factors that are specific to content marketing.
From your qualitative website content audit, you have strategic insights to guide what content you keep, kill and clean up.
June, Pinyo, Paylocity
“Be as thoughtful about what you keep and delete as you are about what you use resources to create. Even things that don’t have the numbers may hold value for repurposing. Remember that the goal is curation, not just clean-up.“
Doesn’t that feel good? Now you know your content is positioned to perform, on-brand, current, and valuable to your audience.
Before removing anything on your kill list, you want to be sure that there aren’t any unexpected and negative consequences to your content cleanup efforts.
That’s where a content auditing tool like Moz comes in handy.
Use a keyword ranking tool to see what terms your site pages are ranking for. Look at the root domain report which shows you all the keywords your site is ranking for. (Note: To get the full report, we use Moz Pro the paid version)
Click on “see all ranking keywords” to get the full list.
Now export your keywords.
If a page on your “kill” list is ranking for meaningful terms, you don’t want to lose those rankings and organic traffic. Either:
Pro tip! Doing a website relaunch for a high-ranking site? Check out our post on how to relaunch a high-ranking website without losing its SEO value.
Here’s a link to a sample audience journey and content map. You can copy and use this as you please. It’s intended to be filled out per audience type or persona. It’s also depicted below.
Using a table like this helps you map your content within your content marketing strategy. Simply map your “keep” items to your audience personas throughout their buyer journey, in the “Content available” row.
Any holes you have left are places for your “clean up” and new content. Putting only your “keep” items in first can give you insights on how to best approach your “clean up” content.
You can also find insights on gaps to fill from your in-site search data. Go to Google Analytics into the report for Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.
Any terms that are highly searched and have a high exit rate means that’s content your audience is actively searching for and they can’t find. (Note, this report only works if you’ve enabled it. See instructions here.)
Lastly, your FAQ pages might also offer some insights on content gaps. Using heatmap software like Hotjar can show you where on FAQ pages people click. Any hotspots are possible content gaps, and areas to improve on audience value.
Remember how the quantitative inventory didn’t show us any pages so old out of date that no one has seen them in a while? Tools like ScreamingFrog will. Particularly if you’ve done your audit(s) in prep for a website relaunch, you’re going to want this information—and a bunch of other useful data ScreamingFrog provides.
Just put in your website and export it. (Again, I know … but worth it!)
The resulting report will tell you a ton of information about your website pages, like:
Some of this is meaningful and super useful to you as a content marketer, right?
The content details in this export, paired with your audits, can be the foundation of your brand new sitemap.
Some of this data is a bit more on the technical side. If that’s not your jam—share the insights with your website team or partner. Errors in this report are often worth cleaning up. That will make your site more technically stable; a solid foundation with minimal errors. This is important because:
Just like a home with cracks in the foundation, if your website isn’t technically sound, the content you put on it won’t be as strong.
Performing a website content audit can be exhaustive. And exhausting. But they are insanely useful to you as a content marketer, digital marketer, or website content manager. And they are crucial to your success if you’re launching a new website.
Follow the steps above and I promise, you’ll feel great when you’re done. And, and a bonus, you now have nice clean documentation of all your site content to work with from here on out. Keep that documentation going!
If you keep up with this as part of your day-to-day, your next website content audit will be smooth sailing.