We’re all in agreement that content is king (right? RIGHT?). One of the oft-overlooked keys to crowning our content is making sure it’s also nice and tidy—useful, findable, relevant, sharable and up to date. How often your site requires an audit will vary by how much you have and how often you update it, but in a Google Hummingbird age when keyword optimization is starting to take a backseat to quality content, having outdated or useless content is certain to harm your search engine rankings.
Jumbo Helping of Spreadsheet
What’s involved in a content audit? A giant and often mind-numbing spreadsheet! It starts with listing every single page on your site in a spreadsheet. While various tools can be used to compile this list, a quality audit often involves finding the links on your own—accessing the content just as a visitor to your site would. This can help you put all of that content in the context in which it’s being presented to outsiders. If you have resources for a broader scope, use online tools and services to help you gather some of the more technical data, such as metadata, page size, attached media assets, analytics and more.
What Am I Looking For?
For a basic audit, you’ll list elements found on each page: URL, page title, type/template (e.g.: article, event, slideshow, etc.). The notes column is where things get exciting: That’s where you put your action items.
Here are some questions to consider answering there:
- Do broken links need fixing?
- Are any details out of date? (event dates and details, mention of a restaurant that has closed, pricing that has changed)
- Is this content duplicated on another page?
- What can be done to make the content more useful and actionable for the reader? (add call to action? write a more descriptive lead? break up uninterrupted blocks of content and add H2 tags to help user scan for what’s relevant to them? does the whole thing need to be rewritten or just removed from the site?)
- Are all metadata fields filled in properly? (title tag too long? missing keywords? unrelated meta description?)
- Do images have captions and alt text?
- Does the text reflect changes to your style guide and is there a consistent use of terms?
Oh, This’ll Just Take a Minute to Fix
For many, the temptation will be to fix the issues on each page as you go along. If you don’t resist, you’ll never make it through the audit. It’s more efficient to gather all the data, identify your biggest areas of weakness and set priorities for tackling different issues, starting with those that will have most impact in the shortest amount of time.
The information gathered and the results of every content audit will be different; set your scope based on your site’s goals. There are many content audit examples online that can help you get started, as well as consultants who can advise or do the whole thing for you, so you should never find yourself without the resources needed to conduct an audit—well, except for that little issue of having the time to do it.
Stay in the Light
There’s no question a content audit will be extremely time consuming, but the value of knowing what assets you’ve got and what content you need to create can be the difference between having a site users are able to find and one that lurks in the dark alleyways of search pages two and beyond.