Content Audit: The Ultimate step by step guide with a Case study.

A properly executed content marketing strategy has been cited as the reason for the growth of many startup companies like Groove, Mailchimp, Shopify, Leadpages and many others.

For this reason, at Humanlytics, creating high-quality content is at the core of the company’s marketing strategy. We not only use content to attract new users but also to engage, educate and convert them.

As the new Marketing manager, I wanted to hit the ground running and start creating awesome content. And that’s when it hit me: there are a lot of questions I couldn’t answer about how to make great content for Humanlytics. Questions like, what type of content to create, how often to produce that content, or how to promote it.

Since Humanlytics has been generating content for about a year, to answer these questions, I decided to conduct an analysis of the performance of published content seemed to be a good first step in figuring out a content plan that would help me meet my monthly KPIs. This is how performing a content audit became one of my first priorities.

In most cases, marketers tend to start creating content right away in an effort to meet their content marketing goals without any analysis of past content analysis, in fact, a recent study shows that 37% of marketers never complete a content audit.

Last week, I completed Humanlytics content audit and in this post, I am going to share the exact steps I took to accomplish this and why you should also think about performing one for your business.

A summary of what I am covering here:

  1. What is a content audit?
  2. Reasons why you need a content audit.
  3. How to set your content audit goals?
  4. Identifying metrics and key performance indicators.
  5. How create your content inventory?
  6. How to analyze the data collected?
  7. Designing an action plan.

Here it goes.

What is a content audit?

A content audit can be defined as a process of assessing all the published content to determine its relative strengths and weaknesses in order to prioritize your future content marketing efforts and resources.

You can’t tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

Whether you are a founder or marketer who is launching a new website, a different type of content, or just taking an annual look at what you have published with the need to determine what is working for you and how to improve. It’s important to understand how what you already have is measuring up to your goals.

Reasons as to why you should perform a content audit.

There could be a number of reasons why you should be carrying out a content audit and the steps you’ll take essentially depend on your reasons for undergoing the process in the first place.

There are two main reasons for conducting a content audit;

  1. Content strategy. Here you look at your contents ability to meet your business goals as well as those of your audience so the metrics tracked include traffic, social share, bounce rate, average time on page and conversion.
  2. SEO. This is where you look for the strengths and weakness of your content’s ability to rank high in search engine results and a few metrics to track are PageRank, links to the page and many more.

For the purpose of the article, we are going to stick with the content strategy option since that was the reason as to why I was doing a content audit in the first place may be later when Humanlytics requires an SEO based audit, we will dive into that.

Now in the world of marketing, everything is dynamic, nothing permanent. Channels that worked in a couple of years can’t work now, content that previously got impressive results now can barely get shared. From keyword stuffed short articles to long-form articles and now videos.

That is why there’s no one correct step by step rule for conducting a content audit, they are all more like guidelines just like the Pirates Code.

Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Set Your Goals.

For such a data-intensive exercise, it’s important to have a specific goal you aim to accomplish with the process. Having a goal will not only help you focus your analysis on the relevant data but also let you determine how successful it all was at the end.

To set your goals, think about your core business goals or to be more specific, your content marketing goals and align those with what you aim to achieve with the audit.

Here are some examples of goals you can set for your content audit campaign.

Goal 1: Increase Audience Engagement

Goal 2: Improve Conversion Rate.

Goal 3: Improve SEO

At Humanlytics, our goal was to identify content that attracted more user, engaged more user and had a high conversion rate so that we could create content that best fit the selected criteria.

Now, this is a lot to track especially for companies with a large data set to analyze, but as you do your own audit, you will find that the content that attracted most users, is the same that engaged more user and also has the highest conversion rate.

Here are some the Humanlytics medium blog post stats to show what I mean.

As you can see in the image above, articles that attracted most views also had the highest number of reads and fans engagement. It’s this type of content that is currently meeting Humanlytics’ content marketing goals. With the content audit, we can learn more about this specific type of content, how we can create more of it and promote it further to generate even better results.

A content audit helps you identify your successes so that you can build on them to attain even more success with your content.

Learn from both your successes and failures. There is content we clearly either need to do away with or figure out a way to make it better.

Step 2: Identify Metrics or Performance Indicators.

After setting your goals, the next step is choosing the relevant metrics to track. These metrics will form the baseline of how you measure the performance of your content relative to your objective.

There is a lot of data you can collect about your content and it’s easy to get lost once you start, that’s why it’s important to have set of metrics that you focus on collecting data about.

As with Humanlytic’s content goals, I considered metrics the measured traffic generated, content relevancy and user engagement.

In my case, the metrics I chose were in three major categories including;

  1. Traffic generated:

Unique visits — How many users it attracted.

2. Content Relevancy

Time on page — How relevant is the content to the visitor.

Bounce rate — How the content best match the visitor’s need

3. User engagement

  1. Likes — Engagement
  2. Shares — Engagement
  3. Comments — Engagement
  4. Claps — Medium engagement

I chose to track metrics within these three categories because they represent the current goals of Humanlytics’ content marketing goals.

Traffic generated: Since we are currently creating top of the funnel content, the success of this content largely depends on how much traffic it’s feeding our funnel.

If the content doesn’t generate worthwhile traffic, you might as well find another marketing channel to focus on. This is the core reason as to why companies create content so choosing the right metrics to measure this for every piece of content is very important. I went with unique page views but you can also include page sessions.

Content Relevancy: Have you heard of the saying that ”You are not your audience”? This is a very interesting topic that you can read more about here.

The content I wanted to create for Humanlytics had to resonate with the target audience and key marketing personas that the team had identified before my time.

Therefore, the ideal content had to be relevant to the visitors’ needs and a few metrics I chose to measure this were Time on page and Bounce rate.

Content that had a high time on page and low bounce rate was considered relevant.

User Engagement: This is more of a derivative of content relevancy because if your target audience finds your content relevant to their needs and pain points, they will most definitely share, like and leave comments on your content. Something they probably wouldn’t do if the content is irrelevant.

For example, Humanlytics has two articles about type interesting topics one about the US Winter Olympics team and the other about Predicting the Oscars. Now, these are generally good topics to write about on Huffington Post or Buzzfeed but not on a marketing focused blog.

As such these articles didn’t resonate with our target audience and have had the lowest engagement as seen below.

The key is to identify content that is already meeting these target and modeling the rest or creating new content that meets these performance standards.

Step 3: Create A Content Inventory.

This is the right time to start collecting data.

To keep this tedious exercise organized, I used a template to easily categorize all the data I collected for analysis.

Depending on the content your company has been creating and the purpose of your audit, all the content published has to be taken into account. That includes onsite content like blog posts, company announcements, educational materials, your product descriptions, and landing pages. The other content to catalog is the offsite content like guest posts, syndicated content, Email content, article published on platforms like medium and interactive content like PDFs.

For the purpose of this article, I keep to what I did for Humanlytics and that is; Articles published. The only challenge was that most of the company’s articles were published on medium rather than the company blog.

In the template, the first item is the URL. If you have a small site or little content less than 200 published articles, you can do this manually by copying and pasting the individual article URLs into the template. Alternatively, you can use tools like Google Analytics to identify all articles on your site though this will only give you results of only the articles that have been indexed by the search engine.

For large content sites, you can use tools like Screaming Frog to crawl your entire website and generate a list of all post URLs, keywords, metadata, and much more it finds. SEMrush’s Content Audit is another good option. This tool can quickly audit your content based on your sitemap data.

Make sure to collect only the data that is relevant to the purpose of your content audit.

Step 4 — Analyze Your Data

Congratulations you have reached the final step of our content audit. This is the most important step because it’s where you begin to make sense of all the hard work you have put in.

With the data collection done, how do you then put all your information to use?

The analysis is very important because the goal of this entire exercise is to define gaps and weakens, as well as to identify your content strengths so that you can build on them and also develop specific recommendations for improvement.

When assessing performance or how good a specific piece of content is, you need to look at all important metrics as a whole so that you can define a clear course of action moving forward. What I mean is that don’t look at specifically unique visitors to a page, its bounce rates or average time on page but instead analyze all these collectively. Here is how I did it.

In the same template, I used to collect the data, is a section about the status of your content with three options for every content:

  1. Good — Content that’s performing well across all metrics tracked.
  2. Needs Update — Relevant content that needs improvement.
  3. Remove — Irrelevant content especially seasonal content or any other content whose improvement would require more resources than creating new and better content.

At Humanlytics, I analyzed data from two different analytics platforms; Medium stats and Google analytics. Since the data relating the content engagement seemed to be limited and inconsistent, I chose to go ahead and drive the necessary conclusions from the remaining traffic data.

  • Traffic generated.

The traffic generated was determined by unique visitors to theses within the period. The metric I used to measure this was the unique visitors in Google analytics. The medium equivalent is “Reads”.

An article is regarded as “Good” if it had brought in >7 unique visitors within the period, “Needs update” < 7 unique visitors and as a new company/website we didn’t really have content to dumb. In Medium, a “Good” article had > 4000 reads, “Needs update” < 4000 reads and the same applied here, nothing to dumb.

  • Content relevancy.

This is the amazing thing about Humanlytics, all its content is really relevant and useful to their readers as seen with its High “Time on Page” durations, meaning that visitor takes a long time on each page. With the number of sessions or each page always more than double the unique visitors to the same page. With a bounce rate of 0% for all articles except one with a bounce rate of 16.67%, (removed article).

In Google analytics, “Good” was > 1 min “Needs update” was < 1 min and “Remove” was < 0:00 mins.

Have performance standards or thresholds across all metrics to determine what content will be in the “Good”, “Needs update” or “Remove” category. This helps you to be more consistent in your analysis.

Step 5 — Design an action plan.

With the analysis done, all that is left is the action plan of how you are to move forward. The action plan should include how you aim to achieve your set goals with the current state of your content.

At Humanlytics, I prepared a report detailing what the company’s best performing content was and how to make sure all the new content we produced was of the same quality and word count.

In the report, the best performing content were those articles that generated the most traffic, had the lowest bounce rates, had the highest time on page and the highest engagement. And as I said in the beginning, this all ended up being articles about the same key topics; digital marketing and tutorials about Google, Augmented and predictive analytics (Expect more of these soon).

When you know the topics you are performing well in, make sure you own them.

This is why a content audit is so important that you can discover your core topics, uncover what you have and what you lack in order a true resource in those topics. This all in the content gap and opportunity, a topic am writing about next.

Your action plan should include how you propose to recreate the best performing content, how to reuse in different content types like EBooks or Videos. How you aim to improve and update all underperforming content so that it can also measure up to the performance targets.

There is no single strategy for carrying out a super content audit, in fact, content audits are often of various types, size, approaches, and scopes. So always try to keep it relevant to your goals and targets or whatever you aim to achieve.

Never settle, your comfort zone is your worst enemy because what drive results today may not be relevant tomorrow, so regular audits will help you more than you think.

I would love to hear about your content audit stories, approaches, questions or even tips on how we can improve. Share in comments.

This article was produced by Humanlytics. Looking for more content just like this? Check us out on Twitter and Medium, and join our Analytics for Humans Facebook community to discuss more ideas and topics like this!

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