If there is one word in the English language that’s virtually guaranteed to strike fear into your heart, it’s “audit.” Usually, just the mention of an audit conjures up images of hours spent painstakingly reviewing the books line-by-line, providing documentation for every expenditure, and essentially justifying your entire existence.
IRS audits aren’t the only type of audits, though, and as a business owner, you cannot overlook the necessity of auditing your content on a regular basis. You must know exactly what you have on your website(s) at all times, why it is there, and how it’s performing. If you don’t, you run the risk of keeping low quality content that does nothing to improve your page rankings, engage your audience, or lead to conversions. You might have broken links or outdated information that frustrate your audience and drive them away. You might have duplicate content, or content that needs optimization. In other words, it’s not enough to simply place your content and assume that it’s done. You need to keep it fresh, and the only way to do that is to perform regular content audits.
In fact, there are a few times when it’s vital to perform an audit.
1. You’ve Never Done an Audit
If you haven’t run a content audit on your site since launch day — or it’s been a while, like a year or more — stop what you are doing and start building your audit spreadsheet. Even if your site is just a few years old, there’s a good chance that you have broken links, information that’s out-of-date (Do you really need the announcement of your Black Friday 2012 sale on the events page anymore?), and other content that needs updating.
2. You’ve Re-Branded
Few companies maintain the same branding for decades; even those with long histories make subtle tweaks to their brands over time, designing new logos, introducing new colors or fonts, and developing new taglines. Most rebranding efforts also include key messages to guide content creation as well as a new style guide. If you’ve invested the time and money in a rebranding effort, old content created under the old standards can feel inconsistent and confusing. Incorporate a content audit as part of your rebranding efforts to ensure that all of your content meets the new standards.
3. You’ve Learned More About Your Audience
When you launched your site, you had an idea of who your customers are and what they want, based on your market research and, undoubtedly, a few assumptions. As your business has grown, you’ve learned more, and spent some time analyzing your customers to meet their needs more effectively. You may have even discovered new and unexpected markets. All of this new knowledge about your customers should guide your content creation, but it might also call for tweaks to your existing posts. A content audit with an eye toward better serving your customers’ needs will allow you to identify those areas where changes are necessary; perhaps you need to adjust your keywords to maximize SEO or rework some of your content to better meet a new target audience’s needs.
4. You Are Losing Traffic
Have you noticed a sudden decrease in traffic? Are your bounce rates skyrocketing? Are people checking out your site, but not converting? You can speculate about the reasons all day long, maybe try some A/B testing or customer surveys, but a content audit is your most effective means of pinpointing the issue. When you manually check every page on your site, you can easily see where things are falling apart. Maybe a page with a high bounce rate has the wrong keywords. Maybe a broken link on the sales page is driving customers away. Whatever the reason, a content audit can be invaluable for identifying possible causes — and showing you how to fix them.
5. You Need Content Ideas
Coming up with a steady stream of fresh content can be challenging. Looking at what you already have, though, can help you develop new ideas and a comprehensive content calendar. An audit will show you where you have gaps in your content, content that can be repurposed or updated, trends that you can use for curated posts or e-books, and most importantly, which posts and topics don’t work. When you see what you’ve already done and how it’s performed, you can more effectively plan.
Because a content audit can take several days or weeks to complete, depending on how large your site is, it’s not something you need to do on a weekly or even monthly basis. However, plan to perform an audit at least once a year to ensure the success of your content marketing efforts.