You’ve been doing content marketing for years, and your business has produced a lot of content. When was the last time you took a step back to analyze all that you’ve created so far?
The pressures of content marketing mean businesses tend to get caught up in the work of consistently churning out new content. You may feel like you’ll never have time to pause content creation long enough to perform an analysis of your past work. But with content marketing, it’s important to take time to look back as it can help you find more success as you move forward.
That’s why many businesses make a point of performing a content audit once every year or two. If it’s not a practice your business is familiar with, you may wonder if you even really need to do a content audit. If you’re on the fence, here’s what you need to know.
A content audit can be a big task, especially if your business has never performed one before now. That makes it easy to procrastinate or think of all the reasons not to bother. But if you’re considering whether your company needs a content audit, it’s worth thinking through the benefits of doing one, instead of just the work involved.
How many hours do you think you’ve spent working on content? Probably far more than you can reasonably quantify. Between developing a content strategy, creating new content, promoting it, and reviewing your analytics, content marketing is a huge undertaking. And there aren’t really shortcuts you can employ to get better results without doing much work. With something as competitive as content marketing, time and effort are necessary ingredients.
But one thing you can do is make sure the work you’ve already done is accomplishing as much for you as possible. You may have great content that isn’t getting seen as often as it could be if you gave it more of a push. Or maybe you have content that is getting a lot of views but isn’t optimized to get people to take action.
A content audit is how you identify those opportunities and start using the content you already have to more effectively reach your content marketing goals.
At the beginning of your content marketing program, you had to go off of a mix of audience research, competitor analysis and guesswork. When you’re just starting out, you don’t yet have a good way to know for sure what will work for your brand and audience. But once you have a wealth of content published, you gain something important from it beyond the results themselves: data.
It’s probably a normal part of your inbound marketing process now to review your analytics and try to gain key insights from them, but a content audit helps you gain a more thorough look at your past content and how it has performed.
Because you’ll be reviewing both the data and the pieces that produced it, you’ll be in a better position than usual to spot trends in what’s getting results and what’s not. You’ll come away from the experience with a clearer picture of what your audience responds well to, and therefore a more informed idea of how to create content they’ll care about moving forward.
Your content audit will help you identify your top-performing pieces of content, then determine ways you can optimize them for even better results. For example, blog posts that are low on Page 1 of Google, or right at the top of Page 2, are good opportunities to try to claim those top spots by updating the pieces to perform better in the search engines. The content driving the most traffic could be updated with a stronger call-to-action to drive more leads.
And the pieces you already know your audience likes can benefit from more aggressive promotion. They may be a good candidate for including in your paid advertising campaigns. You can add them to your welcome email series for new subscribers, and you may want to focus more of your link building efforts on them.
This can often be the hardest part of a content audit. You (or someone in your company) worked hard on every piece of content you published. But some of those blog posts, videos and whitepapers simply aren’t getting results.
Having content on your website that doesn’t perform well can actually hurt you. Search Engine Journal reported that removing old underperforming content contributed to a 60% increase in traffic. When you have fewer pages that each have a higher authority according to the search engine algorithms, the net result is a website that looks more trustworthy and performs better.
In your content audit, be willing to identify the web pages that receive no traffic. If the content on the page is low-quality, delete it and redirect the URL to a page on a similar topic with more authority. If you’re confident the content on the page is worth something, either combine it with content on a related page to produce a meatier post on the topic, or beef up the page to make it more valuable to your audience and make a concerted effort to promote the new version.
While there aren’t shortcuts that make content marketing easy, there are definitely tactics that make it easier. Repurposing is one of them. Not all of your content needs to be created from scratch. Often, the content you already have can be reworked into something new that’s valuable to your audience in a new way.
That could mean combining blog posts you have on related topics into one big eBook. It could mean creating content in a new format based on content you already have in another. For example, you could create written content based on your webinars or make videos out of your blog posts. Or you could combine some of your best performing content on your main target topics into pillar pages that provide a thorough overview and link back to all your related content.
This is another good way to make the work you’ve already done go further. Google likes fresh content, and your human readers will want to know the information they’re reading is up to date as well. Content that’s mostly still useful, albeit a few years old, can get a new boost with some tweaks to bring it current.
Sometimes that will mean beefing up old content to include more information. If you find a lot of your old blog posts are short and shallow, go deeper into the subject to flesh them out. Other times, it will be more about identifying the information in the piece that’s outdated. If it includes statistics from research, try to find newer studies to cite. If it talks about trends or products that have fallen out of favor or ceased to exist, replace those sections with more current information.
Everything you learn from a content audit equips you with invaluable knowledge about what’s working for your business. The last step of your content audit should be to work out the main takeaways from your analysis to apply to your content strategy moving forward.
Consider which topics your analysis makes clear your audience is the most interested in. Identify which content formats they view and interact with the most. Make note of which content gets the best results in the search engines, which attracts the most attention on social, and which produces the most leads. Use all of that to craft a better strategy for the weeks and months to come — based on actual data that’s specific to your audience.
Now that you have a lot of information on what your audience likes and which types of pieces best meet the different goals you have, you can make sure all the time you give to content marketing moving forward is better spent.
As you can see from the list of benefits, the answer is most likely a resounding yes. Even if you’ve done a content audit in the past, but it’s been a couple of years or longer, then you’re probably due for another one.
A content audit can feel hard to fit in between all the new content you’re feeling pressure to develop, but it’s the best way to make sure the time you spend on those new pieces isn’t wasted. Producing content that you’re confident will perform well based on past data is much more worth your time than creating something based on guesswork.
If the main thing keeping you from a content audit is concern that your company just doesn’t have the resources, it may be time to consider hiring outside help. An experienced inbound marketing agency can help take on much of the work, and bring fresh eyes to the process as well.
Your content marketing will likely always be hit or miss, but a content audit ensures you’ll increase the hit rate.