Making sure that your website’s content is robust and in good shape will drive the right kind of traffic to your site. A content audit will do just that. It’s an achievable goal that every Site Manager should put on their list of things to do.
What is a content audit?
So an “audit” may not exactly be everybody’s definition of fun — but neither are those last few minutes on the treadmill. In the simplest terms, auditing your website means carefully reviewing all the content on your site. You’ll be looking at things such as errors, outdated information, keywords, and other stuff, depending on how comprehensive you want your audit to be. Your audit will give you a picture of what works well, what doesn’t, and what you should change.
Why do a content audit?
As with any exercise, you do it because there are benefits. Once you start making gains, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start auditing sooner!
But seriously, content is at the core of your site. Content is almost everything that visitors see and the reason for coming to your site, so it’s important that you do an audit to ensure that you have a strong foundation.
Boost your search rankings and traffic
Make sure that the people you want to reach are making their way to your website. To do this, your site needs to contain high quality content. This means that the content is consistently relevant, up-to-date, informative, accurate, and interesting. Search engine spiders love high quality sites and will gobble them up — like the desserts you’ve sadly sworn off.
Improve the quality of your content
An audit will allow you to identify areas of weakness on your site. These are pages with outdated information, repetition, duplication, broken links, typos, grammar mistakes, poorly written content, ineffective keywords, or pages that are just plain useless. By identifying the problematic pages, you can then decide whether to fix them, keep them as is, merge them, or get rid of them. Doing this brings more value to your site for the people you’re aiming your content at. It can also make your content more “evergreen” and long-lasting. In other words, content that continues to stay as relevant as the day it was published will continue to drive traffic to your site.
Gain an overall understanding of your site
In the course of your audit, the connections between your content will become clearer. Removing unnecessary content and finding holes that need to be filled will streamline your site and make it leaner and more focused. All the improvements that you make will make it easier for your target audience to find the information that they came for.
Make better strategic decisions for your site
With a better understanding of your site, you’ll be able to make better informed decisions about your site structure, the organization of keywords, and the creation and maintenance of sustainable content.
When should you do a content audit?
The beginning or the end of the year is suggested as a good time to embark on an audit just because symbolically, it’s a time for renewal — but the best time is the one that works for you. Knowing when your peak periods occur during the year, make an effort to put aside time for content auditing within the pockets of “downtime.” Like any exercise regimen, you should be auditing your site’s content regularly. But let’s get real. Sometimes, you’re going to slack off and that’s OK. Auditing should be considered a work in progress and an ongoing task. As long as you keep at it over time, your site should get into better shape. Try to schedule one to two hours at regular intervals to work on auditing.
Who should do a content audit?
If you’re able to navigate your site as a Site Manager, you already have enough technical skills to carry out a content audit. And since misery loves company (just kidding!), you can make auditing a group exercise with the participation of other Site Managers, Site Editors, and individuals who are subject matter experts with in-depth knowledge about the content.
Where should you start a content audit?
Baby steps! Site managers are busy people so a good place to start your audit is on your most visited pages. This will allow you to identify the changes that you need to make ASAP. To determine which pages these are, use Google Analytics. To get a Google Analytics report for your site, contact the friendly folks at Web Communications and they’ll hook you up. Based on the metrics, you can prioritize which pages to tackle first. Look at which pages are most highly ranked and also those that aren’t but should be. What are the problem areas on these pages that need to be addressed? Start with these and then keep expanding your reach. Even if you only address the top 10 most popular pages on your site, you should see an improvement to your search rankings and traffic.
How do you do a content audit?
Meet your friend the spreadsheet.
A basic spreadsheet is all you really need to systematically enter details and keep track of what’s been done. You can keep adding to the spreadsheet as you audit more and more of your site. If it’s a group effort, collaborate with your colleagues by saving the file to a cloud drive so that everyone can contribute to it.
The Resources page of the Web Services site has a ready-to-use Content Audit Worksheet template which you can use instead of creating your own.
Use column headings for the type of information that you’ll be reviewing as part of your audit. There are no set rules for what you need to capture. It depends on how comprehensive you want your audit to be and whether the information is likely to be useful or not.
The following columns are most commonly used:
Keep a history of when each page was audited. When you revisit the spreadsheet in future, you’ll know which pages are due for another audit and which you can skip — yay!
Keep a record of which pages you have audited. Prioritize these based on your analytics metrics. You can also use My Workbench or the information from the Dashboard to identify which content types and pages you want to audit.
Review the URL itself. It should be descriptive text that gives site visitors a good idea of what to expect on the page. If it’s a bunch of nonsense or node numbers, consider changing it to a custom alias; this is easy to do in the WMS thanks to the built-in auto-redirects whenever you make a change to a URL on your site.
A rule of thumb is that an effective page title should accurately describe what the page is about in less than 65 characters. It should also be unique on the site and include some keywords.
If the menu title is different from the page title — likely much shorter — it too, should briefly reflect what the page is about, including a keyword if appropriate.
Time to get down and dirty!
Read through the page carefully. Is it interesting? Are the facts correct? Is it providing useful information? Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes? Is the text well-written? Is it relevant? Record these notes in your spreadsheet including any changes that are needed!
List any keywords being used on the page. Targeted keywords should occur naturally within the text. Aim for a good balance — not too many, not too few. Do any keywords need to be added or removed? Check that they’re spelled correctly. Are they also included as tags on the page? Remember that you can easily manage taxonomy in the WMS.
Review each image on the page. Are all images properly tagged with a descriptive alt tag? This is really important for visitors who use screen readers and will give you brownie points with search engines — even if your new diet doesn’t include brownies.
Review H2 headings especially since they’re the main subheadings that visitors will see on the page. Check if the heading is appropriate for the section of content that it describes. Does it contain any keywords? Would it be relevant as a snippet if it were a search result?
Each page should contain at least two or three internal links. These can be anchor links to specific sections within the same page or links to other pages on the site. Avoid links that point to shallow pages that don’t contain much in-depth information such as the Contact, Home, or About pages. Aim for links that point to deeper, content-heavy, information-rich pages on the site. This gives visitors and search engines a farther reach into your site. Use the Link Checker in the WMS to identify broken links!
Now we’re talking!
Your goal is to make sure that your content stays current and relevant. Each page on your site should be reviewed or updated every two years at the very least. The Moderate tab on most pages in the WMS will indicate when it was last updated. If the content has grown stale, it should be revised. Meanwhile, obsolete pages that don’t provide any useful content anymore or that don’t get any visitors should be eliminated. That’s right, toss those cookies out!
Check the attached files on each page. Are they still valid? Should they be removed or updated?
Who are the de facto owners or subject matter experts (SMEs) with the most knowledge about the information on the page? Contact them to review and update the content.
There are multiple types of content in the WMS so you may want to structure your audit by focusing on a certain content type at a time, e.g., basic pages, profiles, webforms, etc. Filter by content type on My Workbench to locate the pages you want to include in your audit.
Include a column for any miscellaneous notes that you want to record during the audit. For instance, you might want to leave a note about fixing a specific item on the page. If you’re not sure whether you should include certain elements in your audit, record the details here for a few pages until you get an idea of whether or not it would be worthwhile to introduce a new column to the spreadsheet. Or just use the comments column to leave positive affirmations to yourself. You can do it!
Ready, set, go!
Hopefully, you now have an idea of what a site content audit entails. Remember, every marathon begins with the first step. Pledge to keep up with auditing your content on a regular basis and you’ll be rewarded with pay-offs in the form of happy site visitors and higher search rankings.
Video guide on filling out the Content Audit Worksheet:
- Out with the Old: Why & How to Do a New Year Website Content Audit
- How to Conduct a Content Audit on Your Site
- How to Conduct a Content Audit
- Why You Need a Content Audit (And How to Run One)
- What is Evergreen Content? A Guide to Long-Lasting Content That Boosts SEO
- Content Strategy for Website Projects
*These links include valuable tips, but we present them, and the tools they reference, without any particular endorsement.