How to Audit Content Like a Pro in 2021

January 27, 2021

Running a content audit can be hard. Knowing how to crush it for your client shouldn’t be.

Content audit. There it is again.

Creating content is one thing; auditing it is quite another.

Regardless if you work for an agency or for yourself, you likely depend on your clients to provide content for you. But auditing — and editing — that content for maximum SEO (search engine optimization) impact? That’s a whole other ball game. In fact, it’s a game that separates good agencies and creatives from great ones.

More and more businesses are moving content online and expanding their presence beyond social media to include various platforms. As such, the more you learn how to give comprehensive feedback, the stickier your work will be, and the more valuable you will become. Even though the pros typically have had the corner on conducting successful website content audits, it doesn’t mean you can’t become one in no time flat.

We’ll have you up and running with this handy content audit guide specifically designed for you and your client’s overall marketing strategy. Sit back, relax and get ready to wow your clients while you give SEO content feedback like a pro, quickly and easily.

What is a Content Audit?

Simply put, a website content audit—or sometimes called a content review—is a way of strategically and intentionally taking inventory and analysis of all the content on a given website.

The first step is to have a clear understanding of the content and its performance based on key metrics.

Yet, understanding isn’t enough, nor is analyzing.

The purpose is that once you have an understanding of your content and where each piece stands, you can then adjust the content production, distribution and overall strategic plan as needed to meet both your client’s short-term and long-term content marketing goals.

But first…

Why Should You Conduct a Content Audit?

Not only is the purpose to realign production and distribution of your content to ensure it matches the overall content marketing goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of your client, but it makes you invaluable as a digital marketing agency contributor, no matter where, when or how you touch the content. Your role could be that of a designer, marketer, copywriter or PPC specialist, or more.

Yet, conducting and executing a thorough audit of the website content moves you from being a contributor to an invaluable trusted advisor.

Since not all content is created equal, this process allows you to give valuable feedback on the direction of the website’s copy, pages and content strategy, based on the data the content audit gives you, not guessing about confusing algorithms.

Side note: Giving website content and design feedback is critical to your success as an agency or even as a freelancer. And, not just in the way you give it, but in how you give it and the tool you use. But, more on that later.

The Basics of a Content Audit

Depending on your resources, time and goals, content audits can range from extremely time-consuming and in-depth to a more general overview — and everywhere in between.

While there’s no one way to conduct an audit, there are four main areas that should be addressed during the audit, no matter how deep or wide your client’s needs are.

  1. Strategy: Establish your persona, messaging, goals, KPIs and metrics
  2. Inventory: Create an in-depth listing of all content currently on your client’s site
  3. Analyze: Assess key data on all existing content
  4. Action: Depending on your strategy (see step 1), you are now ready to create an action plan for each piece of content

Let’s dig in.

1. Strategy

Now that you have a roadmap, you are off to the races. Right?

Not so fast.

You’ll need to pump your breaks and make sure you have access to the following from your client before you begin your audit:

  • ICP: The ICP is the Ideal Client Profile (personas / avatars). This is a way of saying who your client has identified as the ideal buyer of their product or service. They may still be in the early stages of this, but it’s a must that this is nailed down as much as possible before you begin your content audit strategy.
  • Competitors: A list of competing products or services.
  • Message Positioning: This may be one of the areas of improvement, but it’s important to have a baseline of what is currently being communicated.
  • Tutorials / Demos: This will help you understand what the product or service does, as well as how the sales team is positioning the value prop(s).
  • Product / Service Benefit Summary: This will help you understand what problems the product or service solves.
  • Goals/Metrics/KPIs: Last but not least, you need to get crystal clear on what success means to your client both in the near-term as well as the long term, when it comes to their website content. Are they trying to convert traffic? Increase traffic? Do they want an in-depth SEO audit? Increase leads? While it all points to revenue, ultimately, your strategy will need to pivot so it directly meets your client’s current overall marketing goals.

Now that you have all of this information handy and a clear understanding of what your client wants its website content to accomplish, you can get to work on the next stage of the content audit: Inventory.

2. Inventory

This next piece is exactly what it sounds like: Taking a complete inventory of existing content on your client’s website.

Keep your client’s sitemap close in case you need to double-check to ensure all content is accounted for. Additionally, some tools can report what pages on your site Google has indexed, which is an important piece in how your content is performing in searches.

This inventory needs to include a URL crawl / searcher, which should detail all links and pages. If it sounds like a beast of a task, it usually is. But, there are a few tools out there that can help.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Website Crawler
Screaming Frog: SEO Spider Tool

…and many more.

After you perform the web pages index, be sure to ask the client to double check for anything not included in the URL inventory, as some content can miss the web crawl.

Note: As an alternative to an Excel spreadsheet, you could opt for a WordPress Content Audit plugin instead.

Regardless of what you use to capture and house the data, your next step?

Making sense of it all.

3. Analyze

Now that the heavy lifting is finished and the data is in one place in your spreadsheet, it’s time to spend time sorting through the metadata and comparing it with your client’s desired goals to come up with a game plan.

Here is a list of possible metrics you may want to analyze:

  • URL
  • URL Rank
  • Title Tag
  • Organic Traffic
  • Organic Search
  • Header
  • External Links
  • Internal Links
  • Click-Through Rates
  • Page Title
  • On-page SEO
  • Overall Traffic
  • Broken Links
  • Meta Description
  • Bounce Rate
  • Target Keyword Rank
  • Volume of Main Keyword
  • Backlinks
  • Publish date
  • Landing Page URLs
  • Time-On-Site
  • Title of content
  • Length of title
  • Category

Pro tip: Make a copy of your Excel spreadsheet and delete all data, duplicate content, rows and columns you don’t need.

Again, you can do the heavy lifting of manually organizing the contents of your URL crawl and spreadsheet, or you can work with a couple of SEO tools to analyze the keyword research and content strategy data for you. Here are two that are regarded as top choices:

Content Analyzer: Full and Detailed Audit of Your Site's Content | SEMrush
SEMrush: Content Analyzer

Now is a great time to revisit the goals of your content audit. There is an endless variety of options and metrics you can report back to the client, but if this doesn’t help them meet their goals, you have wasted valuable time.

However, before you go slicing and dicing the client’s website, take time to think through the content you want to protect based on how it is performing. Some site rebuilds get quickly reverted simply because the lead engine was not protected.

Some possible goals:

  • Increase traffic
  • Optimize homepage
  • Rank higher for keywords
  • Improve domain authority
  • Identify which pages or pieces of content perform best
  • Create new content based on those high-performing pieces
  • Locate content gaps
  • Discover low-converting pages
  • Eliminate low-performing pages and content
  • From here, you can spot trends and make your move to improve your client’s content as it relates to their goals.

You are finally ready to get to the good stuff: Taking action.

4. Action

You have your client’s goals in mind and the data collected and analyzed, you are ready to get back to the client and offer a plan of action.

This is where feedback becomes your friend.

Based on the results of your client’s website content audit, you can make informed recommendations on:

  • The overall user experience of the client’s potential customers.
  • What content and website pages need to stay.
  • Take an axe to the content and website pages that need to go.
  • Suggest what content your client should double down to create.
  • Make a list of what content or website pages should receive lead magnets, etc.
  • What content isn’t bad or great—but may need to be tweaked, rewritten, optimized or refreshed.

Congratulations! You have now become a valuable asset to your client and an indispensable part of the team.

But, your job isn’t quite finished…

Giving Website Content Audit Feedback in a Digestible Way

Regardless of your role, the way in which you give and receive feedback for your client’s website content audit matters.

You do not want to drop the ball after all this work only to deliver your suggestions, changes and edits in a way that serves to confuse the client rather than solve a problem for them.

So, what to do next? You have a ton of choices at this point. Should you send a report? Hop on a call? Try to explain over email or Slack? Schedule yet another meeting — and then another after?

The answer is… None of the above.

The problem with giving feedback this way is that it lacks clarity, leading to silly follow-up questions that waste valuable time, often ending in frustration and a wedge in relationships.

That is the not-so-good news.

But, the good news is there are tools you can use to communicate effectively, especially when giving feedback, recommendations and suggestions.

In fact, according to authors Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory in their book Agile Testing, feedback is absolutely critical to the success of teams and projects: “Feedback is a core agile value. The short iterations of agile are designed to provide constant feedback to keep the team on track.”

And not just any feedback, but fast feedback that is clearly communicated.

So, while you can easily provide your content audit feedback in a variety of ways, you can work faster and smarter by using a tool such as Punchlist to collaborate on this feedback, either internally with your team or externally with your client.

Take Control of Feedback

By using a tool designed for agencies, designers, project managers, teams and more, you can take control of the feedback loops and not rely on your team or clients to send you their comments back via Word docs, Slack messages, PDFs with red lines, text messages…

You get the point.

Using a tool such as Punchlist to give your content audit feedback will allow you to quickly and easily give the feedback you need in a way you can easily collect, gather and update website content on your terms, and in one place.

It’s simply not enough to complete the audit and wait for others to send back their suggestions to your suggestions, resulting in an endless and confusing back-and-forth.

Imagine making a video of each page that needs refreshing, explaining succinctly what the client should provide and why.

Imagine giving feedback on all text and copy changes in a way the client can clearly see it and accept it.

Imagine getting to “finished” faster and being able to move forward with your content audit plan of action, resulting in a happier client, more clarity internally and projects being completed quickly and easily.

Be the Hero

We all want to be the hero at the end of a content audit, so don’t drop the ball after your hard work and get lost in a sea of feedback.