The A-Z of Content Audits

Max Reinhardt wrote this article. It will take about 6 minutes to read.

Baseball cards. Such a simple concept. Or so that’s what many (sane) people think of them. How many kids like me feverishly collected baseball cards decades ago and have them collecting dust in the basement of their parent’s house today? 

Okay, that’s a very specific example. But say there’s a 1950’s Mickey Mantle card, gifted to me by my grandfather, in that same shoebox that I was too young and scatterbrained to remember was in my possession? That card could literally be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars today (honestly). 

This isn’t a reminder to dig up your old collectibles. This serves as a reminder to dig into your own existing content before you begin a brand new content strategy. You never know what potential goldmine you may find hidden deep in your website or collecting dust on your desktop. 

What is a “Content Audit”

A content audit, also referred to as a “content inventory,” describes the process of identifying and organizing previously created content into distinct topic areas. 

A content inventory is a necessary step in the content planning process if you have done any content marketing in the past, whether it be blog posts, videos, or gated resources like webinars, guides and white papers. 

Through the content auditing process, marketers are encouraged to evaluate each piece of content for topical relevance and think of ways to update or repurpose that content into more high-quality pieces. 

Two co-workers checking laptop for their content audits

Why Content Audits

Setting off on a content marketing strategy without conducting a content inventory may seem like a time-saver, but it could potentially set you back days, if not weeks. 

Inbound marketing principles would dictate content to be organized around topics that are of interest to your target buyer persona when planning new content. Relevant topics are chosen via cumulative results of persona, keyword, and competitor research. 

The most important result of a content inventory exercise is you’ll know exactly what content you do and don't have for a target topic. 

Conducting a Content Audit

Depending on how much content you have and how disjointed your efforts have been in the past, the process of actually collecting and organizing your content can take minutes, or it can take days. Either way, the next step on your content journey is knowing where you’ve already been. 

To help organize all of your content in a central location, keep a spreadsheet where you can easily answer key questions and provide essential information about your content. Spreadsheets are advantageous because they allow simple visualization into the weighting of your past content efforts. Curious your ratio of gated/ungated pieces? Just look at column D. What percentage of your content is video? Column F will tell you in a blink. 

During your audit, fill in the following information for each piece of content you identify. 

Content Title

This one’s easy, but remember also to hyperlink the title so you can easily link out to the location of that piece of content for future reference. 

Content-Type (blog, video, infographic, etc)

The first step when identifying content opportunities for repurposing is understanding how that content lives in its original form. 

Gated or Ungated

A gated offer sits behind an “information wall.” It is content that is so valuable it can only be accessed by giving up something of value in return, such as an email address. Are there any high-performing ungated pieces of content you could explore “gating” and vice versa? 

Buyer’s Journey Stage

According to inbound marketing principles, each piece of content you create should be marketed specifically at an audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey. 

“Awareness” stage content is informative in nature. It serves to be educational and aims to address an issue a reader is experiencing. Awareness content should sparsely mention your brand and avoid sales pitches. 

“Consideration” stage content comes in when a reader has learned about some of the available options to solve their issue, and now they’re beginning to vet potential solutions. This is where you throw your hat in the ring. 

“Decision” stage content is aimed at leads who are on the cusp of a purchase decision. Decision content is usually very sales and customer-experience focused. Collateral in this stage should allow the customer to put themselves in the shoes of a customer. Common decision stage pieces include pricing pages, case studies, technical docs, etc. 

Buyer's Journey

Performance (low, medium, high)

Utilizing KPIs identified with your marketing team, you can easily assess each content piece’s performance on your website. Metrics like traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and conversion rate are all high-level, important metrics to gauge past performance. 

High-performing pieces are prime candidates for repurposing, while low and medium performance indicates a review of topical relevance and the quality of the piece itself. Not every piece of content ever authored on your website is going to be relevant today, but there will be pieces of content that would benefit from additional value add to be more engaging, no matter what its past performance has been like. 

Buyer Persona 

Once you know who your buyer personas are, it should be simple to understand what content you’ve already created fits your different target audiences. 

Most businesses target more than one type of customer. You may sell to different markets with varying needs. Alternatively, you may have different approaches to make inroads at a target company based on the role occupied by the person you’re contacting (i.e., Procurement vs. Engineering). 

This is all to say it’s important to understand which buyer persona each piece of content you create is intended. 

Organizing your content by buyer persona can be a huge indicator for which persona to target moving forward. Have you seen higher performance for pieces aimed at a “procurement” persona rather than an engineer? Are you missing content for some personas at various points along the buyer’s journey? 

Topic

By collecting all the content you’ve created in one place, it’s easy to begin grouping pieces around shared topics and see what “campaigns” you’ve already started, even ones you haven’t consciously planned for. 

Similar to organizing content for buyer personas, organizing for “topic” is one of the most enlightening steps towards conducting a gap analysis, which we will cover shortly. 

Recommendations

Should a highly successful blog article be repurposed into a gated “Guide to X?” Do you need to update old how-to articles to reflect changed processes? Does your FAQ page need to be revamped? 

Force yourself to offer recommendations to improve the performance of every piece of content you’ve created, even if it’s as simple as “promote to internal database” or “take data points and promote on social media.”

Tie it all Together with a Gap Analysis 

So, you’ve done the discovery work. You have all the content you’ve created neatly and thoughtfully organized in your Content Audit Spreadsheet. 

Now what? Where do you go from here? 

Enter the Content Gap Analysis. You can use free tools like Google Keyword Planner or paid tools for extra functionality and effectiveness like HubSpot, SEMRush and MOZ to research topics and keywords relevant to your audience. Look for keywords and topics that are experiencing high search volume and low-medium traffic. This will set you up to rank for searches as quickly as possible. 

Once you’ve identified 8-10 subtopics around larger “pillar topics,” make sure you have either:

  1. Content already written and optimized around these subtopics
  2. Plans to create content around them

By conducting a gap analysis in this way, you’ve essentially created a "topic cluster" which is the gold-standard inbound marketing approach to ranking in SERPs for target keywords and phrases today. 

A Productive Example

Let’s look at an example of how you might use information from your Content Audit and Gap Analysis to fill out a “topic cluster.” Say you’re an office furniture dealership trying to educate your customer base on how to optimize their open office for productivity. Their topic cluster could look as follows: 

Open-Office-Productivity-Topic-Cluster

You’ve identified eight key subtopics around “open office productivity” your target customers search for from your keyword and topic research. By creating relevant content around each of these topics, you’ll have showcased the topical expertise that Google now requires to rank for a particular topic. 

Luckily for this hypothetical office furniture dealership, they could look back into their content audit and identify four of eight topics already existed! Sure, they may need refreshing and updating, but the key to knowing where you need to go next in your content journey — and saving time and resources — is by knowing where you’ve been.

Max Reinhardt

As Beacons Point’s lead Content Strategist, Max leads the development of campaigns across several industries ranging from industrial, to tech, to education. Max has a diverse background with experience in copywriting, SEO, and PPC. This broad skill set allows him to put the puzzle pieces of client campaigns together effectively. When he’s not working with clients to optimize their content marketing efforts, you can find Max applying too much sunscreen on the golf course, lounging at the beach, or camping with friends and family.