Without a clear plan, a content audit can become a complicated, arduous task. Use these tips to lead an audit that works.

Before you can give your website a redesign, cleanup, or total overhaul, you need to know what content you have. Enter the content audit: a systematic, strategic analysis of what your website already holds, so that you can determine what you’re missing, where you’re being duplicative, and what your baseline is before you make your website as strong as it can be.

While useful, a content audit is hardly glamorous, and it can get complicated, depending on how deeply you analyze your pages. So where do you start? And how do you stay on track?

Consider these tips from Carrie Hane, coauthor of Designing Connected Content and Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, to get started on your own audit.

DEFINE YOUR GOALS

What do you want to accomplish with a content audit? Are you trying to analyze your content’s SEO effectiveness, evaluate its messaging, or figure out if it’s redundant or outdated? Determine your goals so you know what data to look for when auditing your content.

“I like to figure out where we’re going first and then map that to an audit,” Hane says. “I’m a big proponent of content modeling, which helps you figure out what content you need, regardless of what you have now.”

Content modeling is the process of determining what content you need and how your content should be structured, which helps you further solidify your goals. With a content model, you’ll be able to identify gaps in your existing content more easily during your audit.

Create a set of criteria to help you assess the quality of each page; how you evaluate your content depends on your goals. There are a variety of ways to evaluate content, both quantitatively and qualitatively:

Quantitative

  • Content category
  • Page views
  • Number of shares, likes, and comments
  • Bounce rate
  • Average time on page
  • SEO score

Qualitative

  • Is this content we need?
  • Does it overlap with other content?
  • Is it outdated?
  • Does it still have an audience?
  • Does it map to an organizational goal?
  • Does it match our brand voice?

As an organization, set parameters for each metric. For example, what does “outdated’” mean in your content strategy? How many pages need to repeat information before those pages become redundant? How little traffic does a page need to have to be considered trivial?

You can define those criteria before the audit. “Does outdated mean it hasn’t been updated for over two years?” Hane says. “Is it trivial because fewer than 50 people have accessed it in the last six months?”

TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR CONTENT

Now that you’ve selected criteria, it’s time to gather data on your pages. Depending on how many pieces of content live on your site, you could audit each page manually. But if you’re categorizing hundreds or even thousands of links, you can take advantage of software tools that automate the inventory process.

Website crawlers such as Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider and Semrush automatically pull all URLs from your website and put them in a spreadsheet with data that includes a page’s title; meta description; content category; length, traffic; keywords; and inbound, outbound, or canonical links.

Once you have your data, you are ready to audit your inventory of content.

ASSESS YOUR CONTENT’S VALUE

Measure your content against your selected criteria to determine whether you’ll keep, revise, or remove a page. Then make note of that decision in your spreadsheet. Do you feel you’re labeling too much content as removable? Hane says not to worry.

“I would say that most websites would benefit by cutting their inventory by at least 75 percent,” she says. “While there’s no real benchmark, if you’re doing an audit and you’re keeping most of your pages, you’ve probably missed an opportunity to cut back.”

This is part 1 of our series on website optimization. You can read part 2, about decluttering your website, here; stay tuned for part 3, about SEO.

MICHAEL HICKEY

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE »