The Ultimate Guide to Performing a Content Audit

Do you feel like you have a lot of great content, but you’re not putting it to good use? Or you’re just not sure if you have great content at all? If so, then a content audit is the answer. While most people fear the word audit, there’s no need to in this case. It’ simply means you’re going to figure out what content you have, how to organize it, and what to do with it to make it really bring results for your business. In this guide, we’re going to look at various ways to determine your top content, what to do with both your top content and your low quality content, and why you should audit your competitor’s content too.

How to Find and Determine Your Top Content

The starting point for your content audit is to locate and rank the current content on your website. Most businesses will primarily be looking at their blogs, but you can also do separate audits for your support documents, tutorial libraries, and any other content on your website.

In order to have a list of your content that you can work with (make notes, sort, etc.), you will want to have your content listed in an Excel spreadsheet. So how do you get a quick, exportable list of your top content? Let’s look at some tools you can use to get a list of your content with data that will help you determine which pieces of content are the best.

Traffic Data

google-analytics-site-content-all-pages

If you want to know what content is driving the most traffic to your website, the easiest way to find out is Google Analytics. Specifically, you will want to look under your website’s profile in Content > Site Content > All Pages.

You will want to determine the date range of content you want for your audit. For example, do you want to have a listing of traffic data for the lifetime of your website, data from this year, data from 2012, or data from the last month. Select the appropriate date range to work with in Google Analytics.

If you’re just looking for a specific type of content that would have a word in the URL, such as blog, FAQ, support, docs, etc., you can use the search box to narrow the results. (Or you can do this later in your Excel spreadsheet.)

google-analytics-all-pages-search

At the bottom of the page, select the number of rows you want to show.  This will be the number exported to your Excel spreadsheet.

google-analytics-show-rows

Once you have the right date range, content, and number of rows listed in Google Analytics, you will want to export the data using the Export option at the top of the Explorer view.

export-all-pages-excel

In the spreadsheet, you will need to look under the Dataset 1 tab to find all of your website’s content listed in order of pageviews.

google-analytics-all-pages-export

After you prune pages that you do not want in your content audit (your homepage noted with just a “/”, about pages, contact pages, etc.), you will have a listing of your top content that is sortable by pageviews, average time on page, entrances, bounce rate, and exit percentage.

Social Shares

If your content is on a self-hosted WordPress domain, you can quickly find your most popular content based on the number of social shares by using a premium plugin called Social Metrics Pro. This plugin will get the number of tweets, likes, +1’s, pins, stumbles, digs, and LinkedIn shares for each post in your WordPress blog.

social-metrics-sharing-stats

Best of all, you can export your data to a tab or comma separated data file.

export-social-metrics-stats

You will then need to copy and paste the information into an Excel spreadsheet, and then split the information into columns. If you choose the CSV format, you will highlight the first column in your spreadsheet and go to Data > Text to Columns.

excel-text-to-columns

Select Delimited and click Next. Then check the box next to comma under delimiters and click Next. Then click Finish and your posts’ social sharing stats will be separated neatly into columns.

social-metrics-export-file

You can then sort the columns to see your most popular content based on number of shares from a particular social network. This comes in especially handy for businesses that get a lot of conversions off of traffic from a specific social network, such as Facebook. You can use this to see which pieces of content receive the most Facebook likes so you can create more content that Facebook audiences will love.

Incoming Links

If link building with content is your goal, then you will want to find out what types of content receive the most links. Tools like CognitiveSEO will allow you to see a visual representation of your website’s link profile. You can use this to find the pages on your website that have the most links – and the most high quality links – by simply looking for clusters with the most and largest dots around them.

majestic-site-explorer

MajesticSEO will allow you to get the referring external backlink and domains for the top 2,500 pages on your website. To get this report, sign up for a free account. Verify your domain by connecting your account to Google Webmaster Tools (or using other options like adding a meta tag to your website or text file to your server).

Next, go to the Site Explorer and enter your domain. Click on the Pages tab to get detailed backlink information for internal pages on your domain.

majestic-site-explorerScroll all the way down to the bottom of the results and click on the Download Data link to get your Excel export file.

download-majestic-data

Your download will have the top 2,500 pages on your website. You can then sort it by external links, domains, ACrank, and other metrics to find the content on your website with the most links or highest search authority.

gwt-top-pages-csv

Other premium SEO tools that will generate a similar report include Ahrefs (internal and external backlinks using the Site Explorer) and Moz (internal and external backlinks using Open Site Explorer).

Keyword Rankings

Prior to the (not provided) trend that Google Analytics began, you could find out the top content that ranked for specific keywords using the Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic report. But since there are such a high percentage of (not provided) keywords, it’s not as helpful as it once was. Therefore, if you want to know what content on your website ranks for a particular keyword in search, you’ll have to look elsewhere. One place you can try is SEMrush.

When you search for your domain on SEMrush, you will get an overview of your website’s position in search. To find out what content ranks well for a particular keyword, you will want to find the Organic Keywords section. It will show you the number of keywords it has found in relation to your content.

semrush-organic-keywords

When you click on Full Report, you’ll get a sample of ten organic keywords, their rankings in search, and the pages on your website they correspond to, plus the estimated traffic that you are receiving based on the ranking and search volume.

semrush-organic-keywords-report

If you would like to see more, you can upgrade to pro membership, which is $69.95 per month recurring or $79.95 for a month at a time. When you upgrade, you can get the rest of your organic keywords report data. Then, you can return to your organic keywords report and export it to Excel.

semrush-export-report

You can then sort your data by content that ranks the highest for specific keywords, content that generates the most percentage of search traffic, and content that ranks for keywords with high search volumes.

semrush-excel-download

Search Impressions & Clicks

An alternative if you don’t get enough results from SEMrush to make it worth it to sign up for a premium account is to see the content on your website that gets the most impressions and clicks in search rankings using Google Webmaster Tools. If you have set up your website on GWT, go to the Search Traffic > Site Queries section.

gwt-search-queriesSelect the Top pages tab to view your top content in search.

gwt-top-pages

Click the Download this table button to get your content in CSV format. You can then sort your content by number of impressions, clicks, and CTR (click though rate).

gwt-top-pages-csvNote that this only accounts for a default range of 30 days worth of search data. You can only increase the date range to show up to three months worth of data.

Now that you know how to find your top content based on traffic, social shares, keyword rankings, and search impressions, let’s look at what you can do with this information.

Ways to Get More From Your Top Content

The first thing you can do with your newfound information is to compile your top 10, 20, 50, etc. pieces of content (URLs only) from each of the above spreadsheets (if you did more than one) in one spreadsheet. This way, you have your top visited, shared, and searched content in one list. You’ll likely have a lot of duplicates, so sort the column of URLs and delete the duplicates.

 

As an example, I decided to grab my top 25 most visited, shared, and searched pages from the four spreadsheets detailed above. After deleting the duplicates, I ended up with a total of 55 top pieces of content.

Next, go to Buzzstream’s free Meta Tag Extractor tool and paste in your list of URLs to get the title and meta description of each page.

buzzstream-meta-tag-extractor

Scroll to the bottom of the list and click on the download as CSV file to download your new list with titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords.

download-buzzstream-meta-dataOpen your CSV, save it as an Excel file, and then sort your top content by title.

top-content-sorted-by-title

The first thing you will learn from your content audit at this stage is the headline formulas and topics that work best on your website. Note whether your headlines have numbers (Top 10 ____, 25 Ways to ____, etc.), common phrases (how to, learn more about, etc.), or cover specific topics.  This can help give you inspiration for future content ideas.

Next, you will want to add columns for the following ways you can get more from your top content.

  • Update – Is your top content outdated? If so, it might be receiving traffic, but the visitors leave quickly. Use this column to note whether you want to update particular pieces of content to keep visitors on your site long.
  • SEO Optimize – Unless the piece of content is ranking #1 in search for a particular keyword, it can do better. Use this column to note whether you want to perform additional keyword research and optimize the title and meta description for better keyword phrases or do additional link building to the content in order to boost its rankings. Also use your top content to build internal links to other pieces of content to further boost their rankings and traffic.
  • Conversion Optimize – Your top pieces of content need to be optimized to convert traffic, whether it is to convert the traffic for sales, lead form submissions, mailing list opt-ins, or simply blog subscribers. Look at the content topic, think about what you can optimize it for, and note it in this column.
  • Repurpose – Since your top pieces of content have been proven successes in one format, why not give them the chance to do more for your business? Think about whether you can transform your top content into different formats such as infographics, videos, presentations for SlideShare, Kindle books, podcasts, and so forth. This will help you gain new audiences.

Once you work on your first 50 pieces of content, you can move on to the next 50 or start creating new content based on the formulas that you know are going to be successful, thanks to this analysis.

What to Do With Low Quality Content

If you think (or know) that your website was penalized by Google for having low quality content, you can use this audit to root out that content as well. Instead of looking for the top content on your site based on traffic, social shares, most links, and search traffic, look for the content with the least of these things.

When you find it, you have a couple of options. You can remove your low-quality content altogether, assuming it has little to no traffic, links, etc. If it does have a little traffic or links, you will want to redirect it elsewhere. Say you have 20 low quality pieces of content revolving around one topic. Find another piece of content on your site that is related and redirect those pieces to it. Or create a new piece of awesome content that encompasses what your low quality content was meant to cover and then redirect those low quality pieces to the new one.

The overall goal – to remove the lowest hanging fruit on your website without creating a ton of 404 errors, something else Google is not fond of.

Why You Should Audit Competitor’s Content – and How

Have you discovered that you love content auditing? If so, then don’t stop at your website. Get ideas from your competition by auditing their content too! While you can’t get into their Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, or other private data, you can still find out their top content based on links and search traffic.

To find your competitor’s content with the most links, use premium SEO tools like the MajesticSEO, Ahrefs, or Open Site Explorer the same way as you did for your own website. To find your competitor’s content with the best keyword rankings, use SEMrush the same way you did for your own website.

What is the point to doing this? By looking at your competitor’s top content, you will get some additional ideas about headline formulas and topics that you should incorporate on into your own content plan. Don’t copy their ideas exactly though – think of this as an exercise in inspiration.

Have you performed a content audit on your website or your competitors? What other ways do you identify top content? Please share in the comments! 

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  • Mark

    Kristi,
    Very thorough overview! I will keep this one for frequent reference for my content audits.

    Thanks!

    Mark Condell
    http://www.condellgroup.com