The 5-Minute Content Audit

Examining your content strategy

“Content strategy” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, and gets associated with scary words like taxonomies, CMSs, and APIs. It often gets polluted by marketing people who want to call everything they make “content” to the point that it doesn’t really mean anything.

If we get back to the idea that “content” is stuff people actually seek out themselves, was created first and foremost to be consumed by real people, and has some shelf life, then it becomes pretty clear that all a “content strategy” does is help you figure out what kind of interesting/useful/entertaining stuff your brand should be making, for whom, how they get it, and what they should do with it.

“That’s cool and all,” you might be saying, “but how the hell do I know what kind of stuff my brand should be making? I’ve got a meeting with the client tomorrow and no clue where to start.”

Every good content strategy starts with a “content audit,” which is a fancy term for figuring out what you’ve got, what the other guys have, and most importantly what opportunities you’re missing out on. If you don’t know a whole lot about SEO and don’t have time to read a dozen content strategy books, try these quick and dirty tips to get a feel for what your current content situation is.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a content strategist for Cheerios, the classic cereal brand from General Mills. Pop open an “incognito window” in your browser that’s detached from all of your personal search history.

1. Find out what people associate with your brand, who they compare you to by “not hitting enter” on Google

When you’re searching on Google, the search bar automatically fills in text based on what it thinks you’re looking for, based on what billions of other people have actually searched for. Sometimes it’s more insightful to know what people were looking for than what content already exists. Props to SEER Interactive’s Wil Reynolds for this one.

Type “cheerios” to get a sense of top associations with the brand. Also helpful are “is cheerios” and “cheerios is”

Another especially interesting one is to type a space in front of your brand name, and then delete to get more associations.

From there, you can also find out who people compare your brand to with “cheerios vs”

One storyline that emerges from this is that people are clearly thinking about how healthy Cheerios are, which makes sense given their recent transition to be completely gluten-free. What’s interesting is that the number-one cereal compared to Cheerios is “puffs.” Dig one-click deeper and you find moms trying to figure out if Cheerios is better for their baby than Gerber Puffs, from the more popular baby brand. This could be a content opportunity to own for Cheerios.

2. See how much you own a topic with [ “topic”] in Google

If you search for “baby” in Google, you’ll get a list of how many pages on talk about babies.

If you run the same search against Gerber with “puffs” “baby” (adding “puffs” in there to make the comparison strictly between products, since Gerber as a whole is dedicated to babies and will obviously have much more baby content), you’ll get the respective number for Gerber Puffs.

This comparison shows that Gerber is publishing about three times as much content about their puffs for babies than Cheerios is about babies. While Cheerios is currently missing an opportunity to own this debate, Gerber doesn’t have an insurmountable advantage (only about 140 pages, site-wise).

3. Discover when people are interested in different topics with Google Trends

If you decide more content needs to be made for Cheerios around babies, a great way in to owning this topic is publishing content at the right time. Head over to to look at search interest over time, like when people search most for baby food in a typical month. Look at a couple of months to see consistent results.

Maybe intuitively, moms are doing most of their searches around baby food on Sundays — aka shopping days. The insight there is that moms make baby food decisions just moments before they buy. With that, you know you can win by deploying your Cheerios baby content on platforms with day-by-day targeting and where my moms will be looking for content in their “found time,” like scrolling through Facebook on Sunday morning. Paid social content on Facebook would make a lot of sense for Cheerios.

4. More inspiration for content story themes for your brand with Google AutoComplete

More love to the guys at SEER Interactive. Once you’ve got a feel for your content opportunities, playing with Google AutoComplete can help you with some interesting springboards for more content topics.

Appending one of the five Ws (or H) to the front of your search.

Or, trying different letters of the alphabet with your search.

Making awesome, effective content starts with a smart content strategy. What are some other quick ways you help guide your content?