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The Best Content Audit Process: Revisit, Refresh, Rewrite

Content doesn’t always age well. It gets old. You know that. And Google definitely knows that. A comprehensive content audit will solve this problem; you need to make sure your website content is still working for you and actively make it work if it isn’t. The goals of this process are to improve your SEO and user experience — or, more accurately, your prospects’ experience.

Go to your website. Navigate to your insights page. Go back to page 5. Or 10. Click on the first piece of content that catches your eye. What do you see? I’m willing to wager your content falls into one of the following categories:

  • The article is outdated.
  • The article is irrelevant.
  • The article doesn’t adhere to your content marketing strategy.

Take a moment to ask yourself the following question: Would I email this to my contacts? If you answered no, why is this content still on your website?

It’s probably still there because you figure it can’t hurt you (and in a lot of ways that’s not an incorrect assumption — you definitely don’t want to be removing pages from your site that are garnering organic traffic), but auditing your content is all about maximizing your opportunity. Your opportunity to grow organic traffic to your site. Your opportunity to attract the right clients. Your opportunity to revisit and optimize previous content rather than brainstorm new ideas.

The reality is, you’re missing out on your older content’s potential while you’re stuck in the cycle of constantly focusing on fresh content ideas and writing new blog articles. Don’t fall for that common content marketing trap. A strong content marketing strategy balances new content with old.

What is a Content Audit?

For our purposes, we’re focusing on your website’s content marketing — your insights page with all of its blog articles, videos, podcasts, white papers, webinars, etc. We aren’t taking into account your home page, your capabilities landing page, your services landing pages, your case studies, or any other copy on your site. We are recommending a qualitative and quantitative review of your thought-leadership content.

Download our content audit worksheet for a streamlined, organized approach to assessing your content.

A qualitative content audit focuses on editorial and strategic measures, such as assessing your content against your brand guidelines, its applicability to your current services and business goals, and consistent messaging. Whether you’re new to an organization or were the impetus for your firm’s first article 15 years ago, it’s important to take a look back and see what’s at your fingertips — it may surprise you.

The quantitative part of this process involves using your Google Analytics (and any other tools at your disposal that you’ve used to gauge the success of your digital marketing tactics, such as HubSpot) to objectively assess content performance. This is a more technical step of the audit, but that doesn’t mean it is difficult. You can focus on a few key performance indicators to really gauge where each piece of content currently stands and the best path for its optimization moving forward. Each KPI is detailed below for your audit’s purposes.

These combined approaches will allow you to build off the existing search authority your content already possesses rather than starting anew. Remember, your site has a finite amount of ranking potential. You want to be credible, and having content that no one is visiting, isn’t linked to other assets on your site, or is duplicative is hurting your potential to establish a solid reputation and build trust with prospects.

How to Conduct a Content Audit

Your content audit doesn’t need to be a massive undertaking. Obviously the size of your content library is going to impact how long this endeavor takes, but keep in mind that your audit can also be a longer term project. Because every article or eBook or podcast page that you improve is a step in the right direction.

There are five components to our recommended audit. We will go into detail about each of the following components:

  • Content’s current performance
  • Original positioning strategy
  • Updated positioning strategy
  • Next steps: updating your content
  • SEO updates

Assessing Your Content’s Current Performance

Make note of your content’s URL and title. Then pare down the plethora of data at your fingertips to two main metrics: page views and time on page. Look at these stats in the time since your content was published compared to the past 6 months. Did visitors peak right after publication and all but disappear after that? Or do you see generally consistent trends over time?

If your content has had essentially no visitors (we’re honestly talking about less than 10 here) since its publication, it may be on the chopping block. Time on page can help you determine that as well — low visitors and very low time on page likely mean this page is useless for your site. But before making a decision about it, consider the next areas of your audit.

Original Positioning Strategy

Ask yourself what this content was originally slated to do. If you have no recollection or are newer to the organization, give it a quick read. Was this content meant to promote a specific service? If so, does your firm still offer that service? Or maybe you’re evaluating a piece of content that doesn’t connect to your firm’s positioning but rather highlighted an event, anniversary, or special milestone for your team.

These are the qualitative questions you need to start asking yourself in order to get a holistic assessment of each content item. It’s not about page views or copy in a vacuum — it’s about considering your content pages’ performance, intentions, and future goals. Perhaps that event or anniversary piece can still serve a purpose in your current strategy, but that possibility needs to be assessed as part of your content audit.

Updated Positioning Strategy

My guess is that you’re considering a content audit in the first place because something has changed. You may be launching a new site, updating your market positioning, or embarking on a new content strategy. Whatever your reason for examining your content more closely, it’s important to place the content you’re auditing into that new realm. Only then will you be able to assess its future performance accurately.

During this part of your content audit, you should force yourself to critically consider the goals of your content: what aspect of your business it speaks to, which segments of your target audience it is geared toward, at what point that audience would find it useful during your sales cycle, etc. These are all questions we recommend using to inform your content strategy. And your best bet for evaluating new content or new site success is by knowing what you had before and how it fits into your current strategy.

Next Steps: Updating Your Content

Once you’ve assessed a specific content item’s general performance and placed those KPIs into the context of its original intentions and how it fits into your current positioning strategy, you can easily decide how to move forward.

We recommend taking one of the following three actions with your content:

  1. Remove the content from your site. This action is only recommended for content with very few page views, minimal time on page, and that is no longer relevant for your business. If you decide to remove content, make sure to set up a 301 redirect so that anyone with the old link is brought to a new page — ideally a page that makes sense or would prove useful to the viewer based on the original page.
  2. Refresh the content item. You will find content that is performing well and still applicable to your current goals. In this case, the content likely just needs a bit of a refresh. Think about whether there is any new content that’s been added to your site since this piece’s publication that could now be added as an in-line link (even if it’s showing up as related content elsewhere on the page). Take this time to consider if you have a new case study that could provide supporting evidence, need to check for missing links, could boost your content with images or videos, etc. This is also the place to consider SEO components.
  3. Rewrite the content item. If your content is old and not well-positioned but still receiving visitors, it’s time for a rewrite. You may be questioning the worth of this exercise, but older content pages are often some of your site’s best sources of SEO equity and improvements to these content items may be some of your best chances for great search rankings. Thus, you definitely should not remove these pages. Instead, slate them into your upcoming editorial plans as major revisions to older content. Rewrite them to fit your current content strategy and see how they perform compared to newly published items. Just make sure not to change your URL (more on that to come in SEO details below).

SEO Updates

In the previous steps, you’ve taken a look at your title, made note of your URL details for organizational purposes, and assessed your content’s performance and quality side-by-side, and determined what to do as a next step with each existing piece of content. Now it’s time to take a closer look at how your content is optimized for SERPs. For all content that you are refreshing or rewriting, you should determine whether or not you need to update your metadata.

This is going to vary by each piece of content (largely based on how much the content copy itself is changing) and also simply based on what your legacy optimization practices were. Regardless, this is your opportunity to adjust your SEO title and meta description to best match your content and its purpose.

**While making these updates, do NOT change your URL. You’re refreshing and rewriting this content to take advantage of its existing equity. Changing the URL will take you back to square one.

Remember to be Open & Honest with Your Content Changes

Performing a content audit to improve your SEO and your prospects’ experience on your site doesn’t mean trying to trick search engines or your readers.

Instead, provide full closure about the updates you’re making to your insights pages by adding an editor’s note. This is a brief statement that makes it clear the content was originally published on xx/xx date and updated on xx/xx. You can provide as much detail as you’d like here, but don’t feel like you have to map out every change for your viewers — they’re not comparing your revisions. You can let them know it was edited for consistency, accuracy, new data, etc, or simply that it’s been updated.

Then republish the page. With the same URL.

Revisit the next page and remove, refresh, or rewrite.

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