What's a content audit, and do I need to do one?
Updated: Feb 25
What is a content audit?
Relax, it's nowhere near as scary as it sounds.
A content audit allows you to record the details of all the content you produce (including images, blog posts, articles, press releases, e-books, how-to guides, templates and downloads) where it's kept, how it's distributed and how successful it has been.
You can then analyse each piece of content by content type, keywords, topics, engagement metrics and campaign.
Think of a content audit as a CRM or customer database, but for your content. It's a simple way to record and access information about your content to keep your marketing efforts on track.
Top tip: Download my FREE content audit template to help you get started.
Why do I need to do a content audit now?
An article on Contently notes a study by Accenture Interactive which found that 50% of marketers have more content than they can effectively manage. So, if you don’t have a true idea of how much, what type, and how effective the content you have is, that task becomes even more difficult.
The solution is to begin a healthy habit of conducting a regular content audit or content analysis.
Below are my three top reasons why doing a content audit will help you better manage your content.
1. A content audit gives you a bird’s eye view of all of your content so you can see the gaps, come up with new ideas and polish what you’ve got.
By content I mean EVERYTHING you have created – every web page, landing page, blog post, FAQ, infographic, podcast, video, image, meme, presentation, brochure, flyer, postcard, sales letter, newsletter and email. The whole shebang.
It’s very easy to forget what you’ve created - you’ll be very surprised and feel quite accomplished when you get to the end when you see how much you’ve done. Not only that, this overview helps you to:
See what topics you’ve covered and where the gaps are. Having an audit document that you can refer back to will ensure you don’t create duplicate content, which isn’t great for SEO and is boring for your audience. You can then involve your team (or a group of friends) in plugging content holes via a fun sugar and caffeine-fueled brainstorming session.
Unclog writer’s block. If you’re stuck for ideas, looking back at what you have can spark your creativity.
See what gems you’ve got that you can re-distribute and re-share. Social media posts have quite short lives (see this infographic on social media life-spans for details), so if you have great content – re-post it regularly so new followers don’t miss out.
Make a plan for reviewing, refreshing, consolidating and deleting content. This is one situation where reinventing the wheel isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes your content might need a little updating to include revised SEO keywords, new testimonials and customer stories, new contact details or better images. Equally, you can see what needs to be deleted (yes, deleted) and slimline your content down to focus on quality over quantity.
See where you can re-purpose content. People have preferences for how they like to consume content, so presenting a topic from different angles in different formats is a great way to expand your reach. Could your blog be made into a video? Could that podcast be made into a chapter of an e-book? Could you summarise that report into an infographic?
Evaluate how consistently you’ve applied your branding, tone of voice and key messages.
2. A content audit assesses what’s working and what’s not so you don’t spend time creating content that doesn’t work.
A content audit isn’t just about creating an inventory – it involves conducting a thorough performance analysis. You get to step back and see how effective the topics, content formats and distribution channels you’ve chosen are.
Time is of the essence in small businesses, so knowing what works will save you from wasting this precious resource on creating poorly performing content. By analysing reports from a range of sources (e.g. Google Analytics, Bitly, Hootsuite, your individual social media accounts insights page) you glean real insights into your content’s performance, such as:
The popularity of different types of content on different channels. This is your basic visits and views. It’s not particularly deep – but it’s still important. It can tell you whether you need to invest more in one format than another.
How engaged your audience is. This is where click-through rates, shares, likes, responses, comments and queries are valuable. If the content is on your website, take a look at what pages they are visiting before and after that piece of content, how long they are spending on it and what they do next. They might like the content but unless they are acting on it by making contact with you or visiting more pages, it isn’t converting.
If your content is being delivered at the right stage in the customer journey. This is particularly important if they are part of an automated nurturing funnel. Is the content offering enough detail and proof toward the end of the funnel?
If your distribution channels are effective and whether you need to concentrate your efforts elsewhere. Take a look at which social channels are driving the most traffic to your website. There may be channels that your customers are using for information that you are ignoring.
3. Doing a content audit now will get you into good record keeping and reporting habits.
A content audit should be considered an ongoing organising or 'housekeeping' process and is far less onerous if you keep on top of recording each piece of content as you create it. Set up a spreadsheet (here's a free template) and record the type of content, topic, keywords, date of distribution and file location. That way you can:
Jump straight to the analysis at the end of the year rather than starting from scratch each time.
Quickly look up what content you have by topic, type or date of distribution.
Have a consistent format for recording, auditing and analysing content that you can compare across years. Apples with apples and all that!
When should I do a content audit?
It doesn’t matter if you run your business solo or with a small (but no doubt talented) team, if you’ve been producing content for over a year, it’s time for an audit. I generally advise my small to medium-sized business clients to do an audit annually, but if you are a large company, it's worth doing one every six months.
I’m the first to admit that it’s an overwhelming task (this article by the Content Marketing Institute is a great guide). But, if you get into the habit of doing an annual audit, your content strategy, and subsequently your audience, will be much richer for it.
If you aren’t sure where to start or need a helping hand, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.