Content is growing to become one of the hallmarks of the digital marketing world. As the sheer volume of content expands, it becomes more important to ensure existing content is effective and new content is aligned with your overall goals.
A content audit is the most powerful way to do it.
Compelling content – the kind that drives sales – is only possible when you know your audience inside and out. Over time, however, trends and preferences change. Inevitably, prospects’ needs change with them. This is as true in B2B as it is in B2C.
With a content audit, you can ensure your content always lands with maximum impact, no matter if you’re starting a completely new project or adapting an existing one to the shifts in your market.
What is a Content Audit, Exactly?
In a content audit, you analyze your existing content and compare it to key trends in your market and customer base. This helps you determine where you could benefit from additional content and what existing content might need to be improved.
There are two major benefits to a content audit:
- It helps you ensure your content is relevant, timely, and helpful for your audience.
- It gives you a clear way to prioritize your efforts in an ocean of potential content.
When Should You Perform a Content Audit?
A content audit should be performed whenever a new product or service is being offered.
This initial step can be done hand in hand with your early keyword research and on-page SEO. That’s sometimes called a competitive content audit since content on other sites will serve as a jumping off point for your own content strategy and development.
Secondary content audits can be done on a regular basis after a site has all of its base content done. A content audit is a strategic step, not something that should usually force your team to turn on a dime – performing one audit each quarter or twice a year is enough.
Naturally, if there’s a seismic shift in how things are done in your industry, you should take stock of things with a content audit. One example: With rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft siphoning business from taxi services, they should consider what content will make them more visible, accessible, and useful to their core customers.
All in all, if you don’t know when your last audit was, it’s usually time!
How Do You Perform a Content Audit?
A content audit consists of some basic steps:
Take Stock of Your Content, Its Topic, and Its Keywords
To get started, you want to know what assets you already have. If your site consists of only a few content pages, then you can analyze the topics and target keywords of each one. If you have dozens or hundreds of blogs, then you should triage to focus on your most effective content.
Not surprisingly, your Web analytics suite will come in handy here.
With analytics, you can find which blog posts or other content is attracting traffic. If you have a huge body of content, then you can start by focusing on the 30 leaders in terms of organic traffic. This gives you a sense of which content already seems to resonate with your audience.
Identify Your Un-Served Long Tail Keywords
Google Webmaster Tools, now known as Google Search Console, provides you with plenty of insight when it comes to your under-served keywords. Look for keyword phrases of three words or more that are drawing organic search traffic to an article not optimized for them.
Larger sites may have dozens of long tail keywords adding hundreds or even thousands of hits per month. Even smaller sites, though, tend to have opportunities that have not yet been tapped.
Pull these out of your analytics and look at these factors:
- Organic traffic received for the long tail keyword;
- Search results page rank for the long tail keyword;
- Difficulty of ranking a new page for the keyword.
If organic traffic is strong and the search result rank is not in the top three, consider whether new content optimized for the long tail keyword might serve your customers better. If so, take note: You’ve just identified one “content gap” to be filled out.
If ranking a new page for the keyword does not seem likely for whatever reason, cross-linking content can help visitors to the page find the exact content they seek. Cross-linking also helps to surface older content so it can continue providing value.
Compare Your Existing Content to Your Buyer Journeys
Keywords provide some insight into how you can expand your content, but they usually help most with Web visitors who are close to the top of the sales funnel. To make sure you are serving those moving toward a purchase, it’s critical to look closely at your buyer journeys.
A buyers journey, of course, is the set of steps someone takes as they progress from prospect to qualified lead and finally to customer. Although a lot is said about how nonlinear and mysterious this journey can be, good content helps steer Web visitors from one step to the next.
Developing buyer journeys goes outside the scope of this post, but they serve an immensely valuable role when it comes time for a content audit – think of them as a compass for content.
To match up your content production efforts with your buyer journey:
- Break down each one of your buyer journeys or sales funnels into their individual steps;
- Identify the key piece of content intended to move the buyer forward to the next step;
- Determine whether those key pieces of content are performing as you expected;
- Tag any under-performing or non-existent content as a priority project.
You might find that it’s time to revise or rebuild a buyers journey or even that there are certain use cases not yet covered by your content. Each journey in need of attention might call for another 5-10 pieces of content; it’s usually best to focus first on repairing existing ones rather than building new ones.
Infuse Your Content Audit With Outside Expertise
So far, you’ve been able to perform an audit using in-house data. This is not only convenient, but provides you with lots of quantifiable information that you can act on right away. Still, you have plenty of opportunities to go deeper – and it’ll boost your strategy to the next level.
Be sure to consult these valuable sources of knowledge:
Your Sales Team
Since your sales team interacts with leads day in and day out, they are usually the first to deal with big shifts in how people think. These changes often become noticeable as sales pros encounter new objections they have to overcome to successfully close the sale.
Content must adapt to these objections, as well as novel and unexpected uses of your offerings and changes in the characteristics of the final decision-maker. Interviewing sales pros to get their take on trends will clarify what new content you need and tell you how to make current content better.
Market research is essential to both knowing when an audit is necessary and carrying it out. The demographics of your customers may shift, as well as how your product relates to their goals. In each case, a new buyer journey may be needed – and with it, new content.
Strategic market research can be conducted internally with focus groups, surveys, and other methods. When these methods aren’t attainable, thought leadership publications in your industry can give you a good sense of trends you should respond to with fresh content.
No matter what size your company or how successful it is, competitor research can help you get insight into what you could be doing better. Competitors naturally have different priorities and resources than you do, but pursue many of the same goals – so, anything they’re doing well can inspire your thinking.
It’s a good idea to identify a handful of four or five direct competitors so your research offers you a broad enough perspective. Generally, you want to pick out market rivals who vie with you for the same audience so you can take lessons directly from their content.
Once your content audit is done, you can empower your content team with their priorities and directions for creation. In a future post, we’ll be discussing exactly how you can leverage the info from your audit to ignite content success for months to come.
These days, a business needs to embrace its role as a publisher to be truly successful online. A content audit provides the framework you need to ensure your content creation efforts are truly on target to help you reach your goals faster.
It may seem complex, but it gets easier after the first time ... and the results are worth it. To supercharge organic traffic and conversions, dive into a content audit!