Some parts of your job are exciting — interviewing customers, developing creative, watching a campaign perform even better than you expected. . . . Content audits are usually not on the Fun List.
When I worked as an in-house marketing manager, our team (like every marketing team) had a running agenda of projects to implement. While other projects got done quickly, the “complete content audit” box took months to get checked off. We had a lot of content, and it was just too overwhelming to even think about.
But a content audit is extremely valuable. It can tell you what content types perform best, which topics generate the most interest, and whether you’re missing content for a certain persona at a particular stage of the buyer’s journey. Ultimately, if you act on what you uncover in your content audit, you can significantly boost the performance of your marketing efforts.
A content audit doesn’t have to be complicated or take double-digit hours to complete. I’ll share a simple, 7-step process I now use with my clients to help them check off this important to-do item in a day.
1. Identify your 5-7 most valuable data points
Sure, it would be ideal to document every little detail about each piece of content to provide an HD view of anything and everything you could possibly want to know. But if your goal is to take action, this isn’t practical. It makes more sense to choose a set of high-value data. For example, your list might look like the following:
- Format (long form, short form, PDF, infographic, video, etc.)
- Type (gated or ungated)
- Stage in the buyer’s journey
- Goal conversions
2. Pull a list of your content
You can quickly generate a list of URLs for all your content (blog posts and landing pages for gated content) using Google Analytics, a WordPress plugin, your CMS, or your all-in-one marketing platform (HubSpot, Marketo, etc.). When you export the data, depending on the tool you’re using to generate your report, you will be able to see page views and various other data points. Export your URLs into a spreadsheet and associated data points into a spreadsheet.
Note: For this express-edition content audit, I recommend focusing on the URLs to your blog posts and landing pages only, rather than including the direct URLs for gated content. Diving into landing page conversion rates will require more time, and while optimizing your landing pages is hugely important, you’ll want to do that as a separate project.
3. Set up your spreadsheet
If you auto-generated a spreadsheet using Google Analytics or another tool, you’ll have a bunch of columns with data you don’t need for this audit. Delete these unnecessary columns, and add new ones for each of the data points you identified in Step 1. (Want a spreadsheet that’s ready to go with the data points I recommend tracking? Here’s the template I use — it’s ungated, woot!)
4. Fill in the missing data
Even if you’re using a robust tool to pull your list of content, you’ll have a few items to fill in. Go down the list of URLs in your spreadsheet, and quickly fill in the missing data. (No need to spend a lot of time on this — do the best you can by clicking on each URL and doing a quick scan.)
I recommend adding one additional column to your spreadsheet, labeled Score. As you’re looking at each content item, give it a score. Is the writing poor quality or the design wonky? Give it an F. Quality makes a big impact on content performance, so you’ll want to know which content requires improvement.
5. Identify patterns
Now, quickly scan your spreadsheet, looking for patterns that you can take action on. For example:
- Do certain topics or content formats generate a lot of pageviews? Maybe you should create more content that goes deeper on the topic or that covers related topics. Or maybe you should create more content of the format that’s performing especially well.
- Are gated pieces for a certain persona or stage in the buyer’s journey not getting many views? Maybe that persona or people in that stage of the buyer’s journey really dislike filling forms. Consider ungating content for that persona or people in that journey stage (controversial, I know!).
- Do you notice that certain formats of content for a particular persona or journey stage are getting a high number of views? Maybe that persona or people in that stage prefer that format, so you should focus there.
6. Create your action items
Add one more column to your spreadsheet labeled Action Item. Now look at each row in your spreadsheet and identify one action you should take based on the data. Use the insights you gained in Step 5 and look at the scores you gave each piece of content.
7. Identify additional action items
Finally, create a separate tab in your spreadsheet labeled Additional Action Items. As you went through Steps 1-6, you likely realized that you’re missing content for certain personas at certain stages of the buyer’s journey. Consider content topics and types when you’re analyzing what’s missing. Also, think in terms of content that engages reason and content that activates emotion — you need both.
In your Additional Action Items tab, create a list of additional action items that you need to take to fill out your content library. Maybe you need more case studies for a particular industry. Maybe your case studies need to dig into the pain points more concretely. Maybe you need more blog posts for one of your personas.
Now that you’re done with your express content audit, you have a list of practical action items that you know will boost your content’s performance. At some point, you may want to go deeper and look at social shares, CTA conversions, and other data that will allow you to further optimize. But the express version will give you the biggest bang for your time-investment buck.
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