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How To Do A Content Audit: The Ultimate Checklist

Based on what your original content goals are, you need to decide whether your content is working. Here's how with our ultimate checklist.

How To Do A Content Audit: The Ultimate Checklist

How long has it been since the last time you did a complete inventory and analysis of your content?

This is known as a content audit, and most content creators are so focused on creating new content that they forget to audit what they’ve already created.

If it’s been over twelve months, you may be basing your content strategy on out-of-date information.

Here are a few reasons why you need to audit your content on a regular basis:

  • Goals: Is your content achieving its goals? What is your ROI from the content you’ve produced? You won’t know unless you measure your content’s performance and track it through regular audits.
  • Staleness: Your content can become stale or even outdated over time. Don’t beat yourself up, though. Stale content isn’t always your fault. What was relevant two years ago may simply need updating now.
  • Accuracy: As your content ages, facts and data that once were true can become inaccurate. Running an audit through your content regularly will ensure your post’s accuracy, helping to protect both your brand’s reputation and your search rankings.
  • Know What’s Working: How will you ever know what type of content or which blog post is your most successful if you never go back to audit all of your content pieces? Perhaps pumping out three blog posts a week is really just tiring, and not actually producing any results. You’ll never know if you don’t go back and do a content audit to see which pieces perform best, and which were the worst.

Hopefully one, if not all, of those bullets spoke to you and you now understand why it’s so important to audit your content regularly.

Now, let’s get into the audit breakdown.

Content Details Audit

The first part of a content audit dissects the basics for each piece of content and is a one-time entry on your audit.

Look at how the content was created, how many people it took to create the content, and the basic publishing information.

Content Details Audit ChecklistScreenshot from Google Sheets, December 2021

You’ll want to track the following for each piece of content in a separate content details audit spreadsheet:

  • URL.
  • Author.
  • Which team produced it (content team, social team, SEO team, etc.).
  • Total Time (how long did it take to produce the content in its entirety).
  • Title.
  • Date.
  • Content Type (is it a blog post, infographic, case study, etc.).
  • Content Goal (what was the point of producing the content: backlinks, traffic, conversions, etc.).
  • Word count.
  • Comments.
  • Shares (break this down by social network and total).

Content Data Audit

Here comes the fun part. The content data portion of your audit needs to come with its own handy dandy excel doc, just like this one I created for you.

Perform A Past Audit

Before we get into the data, you need to backtrack and audit your past produced content.

Knowing how the content you’ve published performs will help you gauge what kind of content you need to create in the future — and what kind not to create.

This part of your content audit is going to be time-consuming, at least in the beginning.

You’ll need to decide how far back you want to begin your content audit and then gather all of the content URLs for that time period.

I recommend going back at least one year and gathering data for how your content performed the year before.

Collecting all of your past content URLs doesn’t have to be a manual process, though.

Luckily, there are plenty of website analytics tools like Google Analytics or SEMrush’s Content Audit tool that can quickly inventory your content based on your sitemap data. These can provide you with a list of content URLs to audit.

Content AnalyzerScreenshot from SEMrush, December 2021

Prepare Yourself For Ongoing Audits

Once you’ve caught up and added all of last year’s content into your Excel doc, you can repeat this audit activity for new content on a weekly basis.

It will be much easier to keep track of your content and audit it regularly when you’re only having to go back one week to input data.

Add the data from the next section to your Excel doc and upload the most recent numbers and stats on a weekly basis.

Over time, take note of any drastic changes.

Sometimes content, especially evergreen content, can take months before it really takes off.

Metrics To Track

Here are the metrics you’ll want to track for your content data audit:

Comments

A properly moderated comments section can add valuable user-generated content to your blog posts and articles. If one of your content goals is to build a community on your website, you will want to know what content types and topics generate conversation.

Use the UGC link attribute to ensure you’re compliant with Google’s requirements for link markup.

If you don’t allow comments on your blog, check for comments on your social media posts about your content.

Social Shares

Some marketers brush off social shares as vanity metrics. However, monitoring your content’s social popularity can help you discover the topics most likely to intrigue specific social audiences.

Businesses that know most of their conversions come from Facebook, for example, would want to create content popular with Facebook audiences.

An analysis of which posts had the most social shares on Facebook in the past is a good way to find out what topics may do well in the future.

Organic Traffic

Ideally, your content will receive a lot of organic traffic.

If you aren’t getting organic traffic, that could be a potential red flag.

Perhaps there is something wrong with:

  • Your content strategy.
  • How you’re distributing the content.
  • The content type.
  • The content itself.

By evaluating the organic traffic metrics regularly in your audit, you’ll know when you can pat yourself on the back or when you need to start over.

Bounce Rate

Are website visitors arriving on your webpages and exiting without engaging with your content? If Google Analytics cannot detect scrolling, clicks, or other interactions with your content before a user leaves, it is considered a bounce.

And if you have a high bounce rate, that could be a sign of bad content.

Ideally, your content is a gateway that leads a user from a search to your website, entertains or informs them, and then guides them to more content, depending on their needs.

An extended time on page in conjunction with a low bounce rate signals “sticky” content that keeps users intrigued enough to continue on to more of your content.

Unsure of what a good bounce rate is?

A range of 26% to 40% is what many consider to be optimal, though on average it could even go up to 55%.

Backlinks

Bring on the backlinks – but only the good backlinks that give us a lot of boost and credibility, please!

You need to track the backlinks that your content produces on a regular basis for two big reasons:

  • Your backlinks will change over time. The first day you publish a new piece of content, you may gain 2–3 backlinks. Let a week go by and maybe now 10-12 backlinks have appeared. A year down the road, you could have 589 backlinks to one piece of content as it is promoted, discovered, and shared.
  • Not all backlinks are good. Sure, 589 backlinks might sound like a good thing, but not if 500 of those backlinks are potentially dangerous to your website, lead to spam, paid, or lead to a poor website, you may want to consider removing those unnatural backlinks.

Time On Page

If your content is a long-form blog post of 2,500 words and the average time on page is 18 seconds, something is wrong.

This metric will inform you if your content just isn’t right for your audience, or if it is and you need to create more content focusing on topics just like it.

Unique Visitors

We want lots of unique visitors viewing our content and increasing the amount of views the piece of content gets.

The more views, the more chances of ROI from content like conversions, engagement, shares, and backlinks.

Pages Per Session

How many pages is the user looking at after they have viewed your content?

What pages are they going to?

A blog post about the best winter coats to have can encourage a user to then click on links within the blog post and shop around on your website for different coats. Heck, maybe they’ll even make a purchase (<– goal!).

New Vs. Returning Users

Are you attracting a new audience with this piece of content?

Returning users are great. Returning customers are even better.

But we also need to aim to attract new users with our content. Ideally, you want to see a good mix of both.

Traffic Sources

Learn where your traffic is coming from by defining your main traffic sources.

If a majority of your content’s traffic is coming from Facebook, post more of your content on your Facebook page.

If hardly any is coming from your email newsletters, it may be time to restructure your emails.

Conversions

If your goal for a new piece of content is to generate 100 conversions in the first quarter (let’s say, email opt-ins for your email newsletter), you need to add a column and track the number of conversions coming in from that piece of content.

Perhaps the first week, there are only two conversions and you begin to doubt the content entirely.

Let two months go by and continue to audit each week. You may notice that now, the content has produced 140 total conversions, not only hitting your goal but surpassing it.

Auditing on an ongoing basis helps to give the figures you’re seeing valuable context, enabling you to make smarter, data-backed decisions.

Additional Information To Track

If you want to add more details about your content, here are some ideas of what to track.

SEO Title & Meta Description

Add columns to your spreadsheet for these SEO fields on each piece of content.

It will help when optimizing your content in the future to see all of the SEO titles and meta descriptions you’ve used in one place.

UTM Parameters

Keep track of specific promotional campaigns for each piece of content by logging any custom UTM parameters you used to track your content.

These may come in handy when you’re creating UTM parameters for new content or when you’re looking for data on past content in Google Analytics.

Leads / Sales

If you have conversion events set up in Google Analytics, you can see which landing pages generate the most revenue. Visit the Pages and screens report under Engagement to see which pages on your website are leading to conversions.

This will give you insight into the types of content and content topics that make a positive impact on your ROI.

Email Metrics

How well did your content perform when you shared it with your email list?

If email engagement is an important goal for your content, you’ll want to keep track of your opens, clicks, and forwards to see which content performs best.

Repurposed Content

Have you taken a collection of posts and turned them into an ebook, or vice versa? Keep track of the content you’ve repurposed.

Combine metrics from the main content and additional pieces of related content to see how repurposing benefits your content strategy.

Top Keyword Ranking

Did a particular piece of content stay at the top of the SERPs for its target keyword phrase?

Note the best keyword rankings and how long they lasted to determine which types of content have long-term search wins and which types have short-term search wins.

Influencer Reach

Did you work with any influencers to get the word out about your content? Note the influencers that generated the most traffic or social shares for content.

You may want to work with them again in the future for similar types of content.

Measure Results

Based on what your original content goals are, you need to decide whether your content is working for you.

Each piece of content you audit will have several data metrics attached to it. These metrics will tell you if you’re hitting the mark or missing it drastically.

For the content that does well, take note of what the details in the audit are telling you. Analyze what type of content it was, the topic, who produced it, and when it was published.

Repeating your successes can help you create similarly high-performing content.

For the content pieces that don’t hit your goals, take extra note of their metrics.

Sometimes it’s the channels the content was published on. Other times it’s a mixture of things such as the author, timeframe of publication, and/or the content type.

You may be able to apply some of the teachings learned from your top performers to the underdogs to get them ranking better, as well.

Don’t be afraid to try new content types, as long as you’re willing to measure their effectiveness through regular auditing.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Category SEO
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VIP CONTRIBUTOR

Ashley Segura (Ward)

VP of Operations at TopHatRank

Ashley is an international speaker and VP of Operations at TopHatRank, an SEO and social media marketing agency. She has ...

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