How to Perform a Content Audit (With Free Template)
So you’ve formulated a content strategy and put it into action. What next? If you’re dedicated to the idea of constantly tweaking and refining your strategy to maximise the return on time invested then you need to know what’s working and what isn’t. And that means content audits.
TL;DR Frequent content audits provide insight into which is your most successful content and how to replicate that success. Use our free template to analyse your content metrics.
Why perform content audits?
The positive effects of good content on marketing are obvious – visitor numbers, engagement, social influence and search visibility can all be enhanced, assisting conversions and boosting those all important revenue figures – but producing content is time and resource intensive.
Anyone with a long term content strategy will face the same problem: how to gather and analyse the available data to
- gain insight on what kind of content works best;
- avoid producing poorly performing content;
- identify content to cull;
- identify areas where you have insufficient content.
This becomes more difficult the more pages your website has and past a certain point only a systematic approach is sensible. This is how we go about it.
What data you gather and how you analyse it is of course entirely dependent on the aims and objectives of your content strategy. If the aim of your content is purely to expand your audience you’ll be more interested in new visitors, if it’s to generate as much revenue as possible you’ll want to give more weight to conversion stats or actual revenue data.
In the example that follows we’re looking at a broad range of metrics that are relatively easy to obtain. It should provide a good starting point which you can then tweak to suit your own preferences.
The first thing you’ll need is a list of all your website’s URLs.
If not, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog or Xenu Link Sleuth to generate a list for you (but bear in mind that these tools will only find pages to which you can navigate from your home page – not orphan pages).
Next you’ll need all kinds of data on visitor numbers and engagement. To keep it simple in this example we’re only going to use data from Google Analytics.
Depending on the goals of your content strategy and your available tools you might want to incorporate more data on e.g. social shares or average search rankings.
We created a custom report in GA with the following metrics:
- Unique pageviews
- Avg. time on page
- Bounce rate
- Pages / visit
- % New Visits
- Goal conversion rate
We used page as the primary dimension. Again, you may wish to add more metrics (e.g. for different goals) – this is just an example.
In the absence of third party tools for measuring social shares/mentions or the number of external links pointing to a particular page, a good proxy is the amount of traffic a page receives via referrals which you can download from GA’s Traffic Sources>Sources>Referrals report by switching dimension to Landing Page.
You’ll need to export both these reports for use in Excel (either in .xlsx or .csv formats).
How do you decide the timeframe over which to measure your page metrics?
Whatever timeframe you select there’s going to be a skew but I’d recommend not including anything published very recently so that new content has time to establish itself. I’d also recommend keeping your time frame short to reduce the bias towards older content due to large visit numbers (it might have performed well a long time ago but how is it performing now?)
What counts as ‘very recent’ and ‘older’ all depends on how frequently you publish but I’d recommend auditing your content at least once per quarter.
Once you’ve got all your data together you need to finesse, cajole, squeeze and batter it into the format of the above template.
How do you do this? Here are a few pointers:
- Get your list of URLs into the same format in each data source spreadsheet (e.g. by adding http://yourdomain.com to the front of analytics URLs using the CONCATENATE formula) and then use VLOOKUP to pull in data from various sheets.
- You may find the analytics referral traffic report spits out different URLs carrying data for the same page e.g. the basic URL plus ones with extra URL parameters. Since we’re only interested in visits we can easily combine the totals for all these URLs by using ‘Text to Columns’ (using ? as a delimiter) to get rid of the parameters and then pivoting.
- Select a quality rating from 1-5 for each page as a purely subjective measure of the page’s readability/engagement factor/relevancy etc
- The column marked page type is used to compare different kinds of pages because e.g. comparing blog posts with landing pages or category pages can be misleading. Categorise your pages however you see fit and attribute a page type to each. A good URL system will help with this, allowing you to use conditional formatting to e.g. filter out all pages with /category/ in the URL.
- Populate the reference cells above each column by increasing the ranges of the in-built formulas to incorporate all your data.
Now the fun bit: how to combine all the metrics you’ve selected into a single score that provides an at-a-glance comparison of the performance of hundreds, if not thousands, of pages?
Here’s the formula I’ve opted for in the template.
Content Score = 15% x (Visits/Total Visits) + 10% x (Unique pageviews/Total unique pageviews) + 15% x (Referalls/Total referrals) + 5% x (Avg. Time on Page/Max. Avg. Time on Page) + 5% x (1 - Bounce Rate) + 5% x (Pages per visit/Max. Pages per visit) + 5% x (% New visits) + 10% x (Page Quality/5) + 30% x (Goal conversion rate)
So, for each page it first generates a percentage score against each metric based on the reference value – or, where the metric is already a percentage, it either uses it directly or, as with bounce rate, inverts it.
Each of these percentages are weighted differently depending on the importance of the metric (as determined by your content strategy goals – so there’s plenty of room for customisation).
Finally it returns an overall percentage score for each page.
You can use this score to identify trends in content types which perform well, identify poorly performing pages which are adversely affecting the quality of the site as a whole or to identify old, strongly performing content which needs freshening up for a social media push.
This method isn’t exactly scientific – there are a lot of subjective judgements being made in order to simplify what could otherwise be a gargantuan task.
This subjectivity makes it really important to tailor the process to your own ends. Remember – your goals are probably very different to those of Manifesto.
Other metrics you could include are:
- Social shares, likes, tweets, +1s etc as measured by a third party tool like OpenSiteExplorer
- Links pointing to a page as measured by Majestic SEO
- Average page ranking as measured by Google Webmaster Tools or Authority Labs
- Page Authority as measured by Moz.com
And you could also add page attributes to the spreadsheet like word count, content type, author etc to help identify trends.
The above is just a starting point – I hope it helps you develop your own content audit methodology.