Alastair Kane Search Marketing, Search Marketing Partner 1200 627

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19 February 2023


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Setting your strategy
  3. Now you’re ready to audit!

Do you have that one cupboard in your home that’s so full of stuff you’re not even sure what’s at the back any more? Having a website can be a bit like that.

With new content being published all the time, it can be easy to lose sight of what content you already have.

A foundational part of any content strategy, a content audit is simply the process of pulling together and analysing all of your existing content assets – such as web pages, blogs and even offline content – so that you can make decisions about what you want to do with this content.

If you’re a seasoned B2B marketer then you’ll likely have conducted a few content audits in your time – these usually take the form of unwieldy, but incredibly valuable, spreadsheets that inventory every single piece of content your business has ever created, mapping it to a number of useful categories like funnel stage, content type, results, and the all-important actions column.

You’ve probably seen something that looks a bit like this but with a lot more content listed:

Seems like it could get time consuming right?

It is. And the enormity of the task means it can be tempting to just dive straight in…

But, like anything in marketing, making sure you’ve got a clear strategy for your audit will ensure you get the maximum value from it and make it more efficient.

So whether you’re new to conducting content audits or a seasoned pro, make sure you ask yourself these three questions before you start to audit any content (or to continue the analogy from earlier – before you start clearing out your cupboard).

How to set your strategy before conducting your audit

1. What is the goal of the audit?

Before diving in, you need to be clear on what you want the outputs of your content audit to be. Sometimes there will be multiple challenges you’re looking to address.

A common goal is to review a bloated site and trim outdated content. The Content Marketing Institute refers to this as weeding out ROT – content that’s ‘redundant, outdated or trivial’.

Whilst strong content builds trust with your audience, outdated or irrelevant content can have the opposite effect. Trimming ROT from your site makes it easier for your prospects to find the content that will provide them with the most value!

Other goals include (but are not limited to):

  • SEO – understanding which areas of your website aren’t well optimised to rank in search and what actions you can take to improve.
  • Preparing for a website update or migration and ensuring you only keep the relevant pages.
  • Evaluating your messaging as part of a brand refresh.
  • Understanding any gaps in your content strategy to help you focus your content production.
  • Reviewing whether you have appropriate content for each audience segment and buyer journey stage. Is your content helping you move your audience further down the funnel?
  • Getting an in depth overview of what kinds of content your audience is engaging with (and what they aren’t).
  • Mapping content to USPs to support an ABM programme.

To keep you focused, make sure you document your goals and keep referring back to them as you go through the audit process and start acting on the results.

2. Do you need to audit everything?

For small websites with just a couple of hundred pages, it’s not too much of a tall order to audit everything that’s ever been published. But when sites have thousands of pages, it becomes a lot more challenging and time consuming – not to mention daunting for the person doing the audit.

As a general rule, the more of your content you audit, the clearer picture you’ll get. Then you can filter down your sheet to assess different areas and focus on what’s important to you.

However, the answer to this question really comes back to your goals.

If you’re doing an SEO audit then you’ll want to audit the entire site but don’t need to worry about offline content collateral.

But if you want to assess how your content is supporting your different product propositions, you’ll need to consider other assets like guides, brochures and sales decks in addition to the website.

And if your objectives are really specific, you might be able to tackle the audit in stages – for example, focusing on your blog or product pages first.

Determine what you need to include in your audit, and then do some research into what tools can help you make the process easier. For example, Screaming Frog is an absolute essential for a web audit – it crawls the site, and assembles a dashboard of URLs and the data that relates to them so that you can identify technical SEO issues.

3. What information do you need to track?

The answers to this question will make up the columns of your audit spreadsheet.

And – you probably guessed it – the information you include also comes back to your goals.

Although you can find plenty of templates online, make sure you customise your audit document to suit your needs

As standard, you’ll likely want your content audit document to include:

  • Content title
  • Link to the web page or document
  • Content format – e.g. blog, product page, eBook etc.
  • Buyer stage – is it at the top, middle or bottom of the funnel? (also known as awareness, consideration and decision stages – and don’t forget existing customers/customer advocacy)
  • Buyer persona – most B2B businesses have a number of different buyer personas who have different challenges
  • Product – if you’ve got multiple products and services, make sure they’re each getting the attention they deserve (the ratio of content for each should reflect the revenue each one generates)
  • Content objective – is the content aiming to generate awareness or leads?
  • Results – is it delivering on the content objective? Use tools like Google Analytics, and your CRM and CMS to pull this data together. Remember that low results don’t necessarily mean the content is bad; it might just be that it’s been hidden in your system and needs updating and some more promotion.

For a more SEO-focused content audit, the columns will look quite different. HubSpot suggests including columns for canonical tags, pagination, focus keywords, headlines, meta descriptions, images, internal and outbound links, page speed, and much more.

And finally, EVERY type of content audit should have an outputs column.

This is the action you’re going to take once you’ve assessed the content, it’s relevancy to your criteria, and the results it’s driven. Personally I find the ‘Keep, Kill, Combine’ method works best – I’ll either leave it as is, remove it or repurpose and update it.

I also heard a great acronym for the process of combining existing content into a ‘superblog’ at HubSpot’s Inbound conference a few years ago: ‘MOPS’. This stands for ‘Merge, Optimise, Publish and Share’ and can help give new life to content that’s been lying unread on your website but can still provide value to your customers.

Now you’re ready!

Once you’ve defined the goal(s) of your audit, what content you need to include, and what information you’re looking for, you can finally begin the audit.

Even with the help of various tools, there’s no getting away from the fact that auditing and mapping your content is a manual and time-intensive process.

But the sense of organisation it will bring to your content strategy is very much worth the effort.

And, as with any good clear-out, you’ll undoubtedly find some treasures at the back of the cupboard that you can shine up and move to the front.

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