As content marketers, we can get swept up in the frenzy of creating new content and rarely revisit what’s already on our site. But conducting a content audit is tremendously helpful to our users and a big boon to our content goals. (Here’s just one case study on the Moz blog, where Inflow’s content audit resulted in 8x more leads per month!)
Beyond that, a content audit is just common sense. If you’re already getting traffic to old pages…great. But won’t those content consumers be even happier if you improve their user experience and the quality of that content? And if people aren’t visiting sections of your site, shouldn’t you figure out why?
Even if you’re completely sold on a content audit, it can be a daunting task. That’s why we combined forces with content marketers from Moz, Wordstream, and Skyword to answer your pressing content audit questions.
Moz, Wordstream, Conductor & Skyword on the Art of the Content Audit
Conductor hosted a lively content audit panel of whip-smart content marketers from Moz, Wordstream, and Skyword last week.
If you didn’t hear the webinar, start there! We talk about everything from what a content audit is to tricky technical snafus you should avoid. Download it before you forget:
During the webinar, we got a slew of interesting questions. Since we couldn’t get to them all in our Q&A, we are answering a few more in this post.
Here’s the list we’ll dive into — jump to your question of choice by clicking on the link.
- We’re entering a site migration/consolidation (2 sites down to 1). What are some ways I can prioritize my pages during a content audit? How can we avoid losing page authority post migration?
- We’re entering a site redesign. Should we consider starting fresh with new content instead of migrating old content?
- Do you ever look at competitors’ data and incorporate that into your content audit? How did you do it, if so?
- Let’s say you have a huge website with hundreds of pages. Do you have to go through each page to audit it for accuracy and consistency? How much time should you reasonably devote to that project?
- Have you ever audited content and had that have a negative impact on SEO or other marketing objectives?
- When you audit and update your content, is it all in one fell swoop or do you do it incrementally?
- How much content do you feel comfortable getting rid of in a single content audit?
- Most of my top-performing posts are over a year old. How depressed should I be?
- I work for a massive governmental site with mostly informational pages. Should my strategy for content marketing be fundamentally different?
- What content KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are most important to you? How to you measure content conversions?
1. We’re entering a site migration/consolidation (2 sites down to 1). What are some ways I can prioritize my pages? How can we avoid losing page authority post migration?
Isla Mcketta (IM): Look to see which pages are getting the most traffic, social shares, and conversions. Keep (and update) those pages or use 301 redirects to route viewers to new pages that perform fundamentally the same function (e.g. if you have two separate shipping policies pages and now only need one).
Elisa Gabbert (EG): Start with your top-level pages – your home page and the pages that are easily accessible from the home page (such as your blog, product pages, “About Us” page, etc.). Once you have those mapped out, two easy ways to prioritize are by traffic and by conversion rate.
In general, to avoid losing page authority during a migration, you want to make sure that your pages’ URLs don’t change. So don’t change the URL structure if possible – for example, if the old site didn’t have dates in the blog URLs, don’t add them in the migration. If you absolutely have to change an existing URL, use a permanent, server-side 301 redirect to preserve the value of the original page.
Your case is unique because you’re consolidating two sites into one. Be sure you use the higher-authority site as your main domain. Does one of the sites get a lot more links? Does it tend to get higher rankings in search? If so, definitely consolidate onto that domain.
Whenever possible, consolidate content on the other site into existing pages on the main site, so you’re not introducing a ton of brand-new pages and so you can avoid unintentional duplication. And be aware of the SEO issues around redirecting content to a new domain; here are some tips from Aleyda Solis on Moz.
Whenever possible, consolidate content on the other site into existing pages on the main site, so you’re not introducing a ton of brand-new pages and so you can avoid unintentional duplication.
After the migration, do a thorough check to make sure that you haven’t introduced broken links. Also, consider adding a search box to your 404 page, so if users do hit a broken link, they can more easily find where they wanted to go.
2. We’re entering a site migration/redesign. Should we consider starting fresh with new content instead of migrating old content?
IM: That would depend on what you have to lose. If you don’t have much traffic or many social shares and your content doesn’t seem to be converting, then starting over is one option. But as a writer, I find starting from scratch pretty intimidating and I bet your content team would too.
So even if you decide to scrap everything, audit what you have now first so your team at least has some idea of what is and is not working to build off of for that new site.
EG: If you have a small site and the resources to completely start fresh, it’s worth considering, but (see my answer in the question above) you don’t want to start with all new URLs. You also don’t want to dump old content that may be driving organic traffic.
I would be wary of this approach unless what you’re doing now just really isn’t working at all. You can always migrate the existing content and then update it in batches, taking stock of performance changes as you go.
3. Do you ever look at competitors’ data and incorporate that into your content audit? How did you do it, if so?
Charity Stebbins (CS): Yes! If your competitor is ranking for terms you want to rank for, look to see what they’ve created. You’ll get a better understanding of what kind of content search engines want to serve up for that query. It’s a good idea to mimic the structure (not the actual content) of how they lay their ideas out, and to improve upon them.
If your competitor’s content is hosted on a site like Twitter or Pinterest, you’ll want to make a point to create content on those sites. (This will be happening more and more given Twitter’s recent agreement with Google.)
When you’ve identified competitive content, check out its back link profile to help guide your promotion strategy; consider reaching out to those or similar publications with your newer, better content asset once it’s live to attract conversation and link equity.
As far as tools and process, you may want to start by getting a big picture and conduct a competitor SEO analysis to understand who your real content competitors are. So often, these are different than competitors who create similar products and services.
As far as tools and process, you may want to start by getting a big picture and conduct a competitor SEO analysis to understand who your real content competitors are.
That said, once you’ve decided what search queries you’re going to create content for, a competitive content audit becomes manual. Nothing beats going from site to site and really analyzing what is going on and how it’s performing.
It’s a good reality check — if the content you’re planning isn’t as good as what’s ranking on top, go back to the drawing board!
4. When you audit and update your content, is it all in one fell swoop or do you do it incrementally?
Ted Karczewski (TK): Don’t feel like you have to do this all at once. If you have hundreds to thousands of pages to go through, you’re bound to miss something along the way if you try and get everything done at once. Set realistic goals, and meet your deadlines. There’s no harm in being patient and making sure you get everything right.
IM: I absolutely audit and update content incrementally. If you have a tiny site, you can audit and update all your content all at once, but in most cases you’ll drive yourself up a very tall, scratchy tree if you try that approach. Instead, select a sample of your content and perform an audit on that sample to figure out what major issues you’re seeing over and over.
You can then go through your content (starting with most-visited pages or the ones from which you see the most conversions) and update for those top issues. That’s your triage step.
Then you get to decide whether you want to update the rest of your content for those same issues or do a deeper audit to uncover problems that might be lurking in the shadows and update your top pages for those problems.
Whichever route you choose, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. A comprehensive content overhaul is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
5. How much content do you feel comfortable eliminating/redirecting in a single content audit?
CS: Depends on why you’re conducting a content audit. If you are consolidating a site and combining pages, you just have to make sure the redirects are in place to transfer the link equity to try and retain your current rankings. When you consolidate, be prepared for some traffic loss. If it’s something you are testing, then do it in small batches at first and see how it affects your site.
If you are consolidating a site and combining pages, you just have to make sure the redirects are in place to transfer the link equity to try and retain your current rankings.
If you are getting rid of pages that haven’t gotten any traffic in the last year, then feel free to get rid of them all in one shot. You will lose rankings for the keywords those pages were targeting, but they weren’t sending any traffic any way so it won’t affect you one way or the other.
6. Let’s say you have a huge website with hundreds of pages. Do you have to go through each page to audit it for accuracy and consistency? How much time should you reasonably devote to that project?
IM: First of all, anything is achievable if you break it down into small enough chunks. Remember that potential customers can use search engines to land on any page of your site that isn’t blocked. Which means you do want to update all of your content, especially if you’re facing the possibility of duplicate content or factual errors. What it doesn’t mean, though, is that you have to update everything all at once.
Start with your highest traffic pages or the ones that result in the most conversions and work your way down the list. It’s also okay to prioritize one issue and work all the way through the list fixing that issue (for example, if your prices changed and your designers tweaked a font color, it makes perfect sense to fix all the pricing issues first and get to the font color when you can).
Start with your highest traffic pages or the ones that result in the most conversions and work your way down the list.
The amount of time you devote to the project will vary greatly depending on what you’re fixing and how much you plan to fix at a time, but I suggest you determine how much time you can devote to the project and use that as a guide to how deep your first (and maybe second) rounds of fixes should go. Then keep the project alive by fixing the less important pages or issues when you have another window of time.
7. Have you ever audited content and had that have a negative impact on SEO or other marketing objectives?
EG: We’ve run tests that turned out to have a negative impact. For example, we offer a free tool that runs a free audit of your Google AdWords account. When you hit the page, you get some information about the tool is and how it works, plus a form to start entering your account information. There’s also a long text FAQ under the fold.
We tried killing that below-the-fold content, thinking it might be overwhelming to visitors who noticed it. But removing all that content actually hurt our conversion rates! We were surprised, but we rolled it back. It’s always a good idea to have a rollback plan if you’re making substantial changes.
CS: It can backfire to redirect or get rid of things wholesale, so do things in batches. Planning and testing is always the best practice!
But don’t be discouraged too early, either. A content audit, like any other marketing campaign, should have pre-established goals.
A content audit, like any other marketing campaign, should have pre-established goals.
And sometimes, you have to make small sacrifices on the way to a bigger win. What looks like a set back can be a step towards achieving your goal. For more on that, read William Reed’s post on losing traffic in order to ultimately gain more revenue.
8. Most of my top-performing posts are over a year old. How depressed should I be?
IM: That depends. Is that older content top-performing because it’s had a chance to get noticed and the new stuff hasn’t? Or is there something fundamentally different about the new content (change of topic, voice, design, other)?
In the first case, your new content might benefit from some promotion (paid or otherwise). In the second, you might have just learned a valuable lesson about what your audience wants. It’s never too late to make adjustments to your content based on what’s performing well.
No matter what, don’t be too depressed. You’re learning valuable lessons by auditing your content and making adjustments based on that audit. What would be depressing is if your traffic just fell slowly away and you couldn’t tell why.
EG: Don’t be depressed at all! If by “top-performing” you mean they are driving the most organic traffic week over week, then it’s not too surprising. It takes time to earn rankings. And if the content is evergreen, the fact that it’s a year old shouldn’t turn people off.
Just make sure you’re creating new evergreen, keyword-targeted posts of a similar quality that could be your new top performers in six months to a year.
9. I work for a massive governmental site with mostly informational pages. Should my strategy for content marketing be fundamentally different?
TK: There can be many different angles to your content strategy, but I don’t think it should be fundamentally different. You need to work with your legal team to develop guardrails upfront so you know how much room you have to operate in thematically. From there, it comes down to telling convincing and emotional stories.
…It comes down to telling convincing and emotional stories.
Your main goal should still be to connect with people as people so keep that at the forefront of your editorial mission and you’ll notice your task isn’t that much different than a more traditional B2B or B2C organization.
10. What content KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are most important to you? How to you measure content conversions?
CS: I’m sure this varies from business to business, but I consider top-of-the-funnel content conversions either content downloads or email sign ups. I want to understand who it is that’s reading my content, so I can learn and improve my content strategy by analyzing how users interact with my content.
I’m also looking at how those initial conversions go down the marketing funnel and ultimately convert into customers. Regardless of how you do it, it’s a good idea for content marketers to have a few different conversion metrics that correspond to different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Regardless of how you do it, it’s a good idea for content marketers to have a few different conversion metrics that correspond to different stages of the buyer’s journey.
But by no means are content conversions my only content KPI! I want to build brand awareness and community, so I care about organic traffic, social engagement, and bounce rates, to name a few others.
TK: Content measurement is a subjective process. What matters to your content program might not matter to mine, so first start by defining your goals.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, it’s time to start thinking about launching a newsletter and acquiring subscribers through on-site CTAs, retargeting, paid posts, etc. I’m a big believer in building community via subscriptions, educating readers through consistent and regular publishing, and then passing leaned in subscribers on to my sales team if there’s a good fit. I know a lot of people like to think of subscribers and leads as separate, but at some point, the two cross over pretty smoothly.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, it’s time to start thinking about launching a newsletter and acquiring subscribers through on-site CTAs, retargeting, paid posts, etc.
If conversions are your top priority, you can head in a few directions. First, are you providing readers with numerous ways to convert? Think about integrating your long-form content (eBooks, white papers) into your publishing strategy, add contact us forms, in-line CTAs, subscription widgets, personalization options by way of user logins.
Once you have those forms and conversion points up, make sure you’re using a marketing automation platform and customer relationship management system in place so you can effectively monitor reader activity. Skyword uses Marketo and Salesforce to understand which leads/subscribers read what articles, and then we automate reports to various sales reps based on activity. So we go a step further by not just measuring conversions, but also activity post-conversion.