By Amanda Gallucci published March 25, 2014

4 Major Problems You Can Solve with an Online Content Audit

hand holding ball-auditIf your content department is operating in a silo, your online content simply isn’t reaching its full potential. You’ll find that opening the lines of communication among different departments not only helps you create better content, but also helps other teams in your organization do their respective jobs better.

By looking at the right metrics in a content audit, you’ll be able to find solutions to the following problems commonly faced by SEOs, social media strategists, and UX designers. 

1. A disengaged audience

Before you start actually auditing your content, you’ll want to have a strong understanding of the different buyer personas that make up your target audience. Hopefully this is something you’ve already researched and put in place; but if not, make sure you have a manageable number of personas to track — four to eight would be a good start.

Next, decide the level of importance of each persona. Let’s say, for example, you have four personas. Each persona doesn’t necessarily make up 25 percent of your audience. For example, if Persona A is likely to spend the most money on your business, whereas Persona D has influence in your space but is not a potential customer, Persona A might deserve 40 percent of the focus of your online content, while Persona D would only be the target of 10 percent of your content.

Once you have your handy list of personas, add columns in your audit spreadsheet to keep track of what content relates to which persona(s). For every single page on your site, mark down which persona(s) would likely read it to find the information they are looking for. You may also want to include a column where you numerically rank (on a scale from 1 to 5, for example) how engaged that persona would likely be by that content based on the medium used, the complexity of the content versus their knowledge level, their interest in the material, and other factors relevant to your brand.

At the end of the audit you can find insight in answering two important questions:

  • Was your content written in proportion to your audience breakdown? In other words, if Persona A makes up 40 percent of your audience but only 20 percent of your content is actually relevant for that persona, you’ll know why that persona doesn’t seem to be returning on a regular basis. Similarly, you might discover that almost all of your content is geared at one persona and neglects another, or that most content is geared toward a persona that shouldn’t be a top priority. Afterwards you’ll know what type of content to produce more of and what content you might scale back on.
  • Is your content capitalizing on all the data you have about each persona? You may find that you are producing enough content to satisfy each party’s basic need for information, but that the content quality is not high enough to hold their attention. If the engagement factor is low because you neglected to write in a way that appeals to the experience level of the persona (or a similar factor), you know what to focus your improvement efforts on in the future.

2. Unclear site structure

When conducting an online content audit, each page on your website should be organized according to a consistent, numerical format. This will help you visualize what content you have available, and where it fits in the hierarchy of your site’s infrastructure.

One example of how this could look would be:

site structure-home page, blog

If your site doesn’t have a clean layout and clear user paths, you might find this labeling exercise quite difficult. And this is exactly what you will want to uncover. As you’re taking the time to go through your site, you’ll notice patterns that may be inconsistent in flow from one page to the next, find pages that have been unnecessarily buried, or realize that some pages have too many outbound links, leading to possible user confusion. The audit is your big opportunity to figure out how pages can fit together more cohesively.

Further, viewing your online content in its entirety can also help determine if there are pages that need to be added or taken away. If you don’t feel that there is enough content geared toward a certain persona, or if that persona might need more hand-holding in the navigation, you can make a note of that. The same way, if there are pages that you find have low social shares, few or no links, and don’t seem to particularly engage your target audience, you might consider removing these pages or updating them to better serve your users’ needs.

3. Low social shares

Social analytics are extremely important if you’re serious about using social media content to connect with your community. They’re not nearly as insightful, however, when they are viewed outside the context of your other content metrics.

Including social share count for each of the major social media platforms you use alongside each page in your audit will allow you to draw important comparisons between these numbers and other information you’re keeping track of, such as number of inbound links or audience engagement metrics.

Let’s take a look at both of these in more depth:

  • Inbound links: Ideally, you would see a positive correlation between the number of social shares and links each post gets because, in theory, a really outstanding piece of content would be heavily shared socially and also naturally build links.

If you find that content garnered hundreds of social shares but very few links, the reason could be that people found it newsworthy or trendy, but didn’t consider it to be a valuable resource that they would want to return to. You might want to go back and see what content can be revised so that it’s more evergreen and provides value for your audience on a more long-term basis.

On the other hand, if a piece of content was linked to, but not shared, on social networks, you can try a few different things to address the problem. First, make sure that the social buttons are prominent and, if possible, are located at both the top and bottom of the page. Including a call to action to share could potentially help as well. If the content format could be altered to make it more easily digestible, or visuals can be added to make it more appealing, these factors could also contribute to its share-worthiness.

  • Audience engagement: Take a look at which of your personas seems most and least engaged on social. For the most engaged, note what types of content and topics seem to be resonating with them. Then, be sure to produce more of these types of content — and promote each piece heavily on the platforms that seem most relevant to this group of people.

For the least engaged persona, dig deeper into this persona’s traits. Is it possible that this group is more active on a niche social network that you’re not currently utilizing? It can also be possible that this is a demographic that isn’t typically active on social media and prefers engaging with content in another way — such as through an email newsletter, for example. If your persona research tells you that this may be the case, make sure you are focusing your content creation efforts toward delivering on their preferences, and don’t worry about the lower share count on these posts — in cases like these, the numbers are likely just vanity metrics.

4. Insufficient back-links

Whether your back-link portfolio needs to be built up from scratch or your audit reveals that your online content is exploding with low quality links and needs retooling, you’ll need to know what type of content has the potential to bring in the most links — and which of your personas are most likely to link to this content.

Start by listing out the sections of your site that you believe should be getting quality links. This could include any resource materials you have, an About Us section full of information, or thorough blog posts and guides. Check out how many links these pages received, and make a note of pages that seem to be underperforming in this category. You can then go back and evaluate why people may not consider the page link-worthy and test various changes until you see the results you want.

Then, similarly to how you matched up personas to social shares, see what conclusions you can draw about the groups of people who tend to link to your pages and what types of pages they find most worthy of a link.

During this process you should also be on the lookout for any mediocre pages that have an exorbitant amount of links. You may have to follow SEO best practices to recover from spammy links. If the links are not necessarily harming you but just link to a page that you aren’t particularly proud of, decide what you can do to get that content up to par.

What are you waiting for?

If you aren’t already tracking these metrics, start adding them to your next report. Make sure you call a meeting that involves all the necessary parties and have an open conversation about how you can all work together more closely in the future. With all this great information at your fingertips, you can’t be afraid to share it. 

For more ways to make the most of what your content audit reveals, check out CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Amanda Gallucci

Amanda Gallucci is an Associate Content Strategist at iAcquire, a content marketing agency with roots in market research and SEO. For a more in-depth walk through on why you need to perform a content audit, the right tools to do it, and what steps to take next, follow along with my latest eBook on Content Strategy for Digital Marketers: A Six Week Guide to Creating, Promoting, & Measuring Great Content.

Other posts by Amanda Gallucci

  • http://businessallstar.com Paul Serwin

    Great article Amanda.

    I think a lot of content marketers lose sight of what they’re intentions or goals are when developing a marketing strategy. It’s important to keep your eyes on the KPIs to make sure that all your effort isn’t wasted.

    • Amanda Gallucci

      Thanks for your comment, Paul.

      I agree — tying every part of your strategy back to your goals maximizes effectiveness.

  • http://tarletonecampus.blogspot.com Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    I really liked that this article made content the standard for link building. While it might be easier to reduce SEO to a list of tips and tricks, it seems more productive to focus on creating content that others deem link worthy and shareable.

    • Amanda Gallucci

      Absolutely! Optimized content isn’t necessarily always link worthy or shareable; creating fantastic content can’t be an afterthought to SEO.

  • http://www.squirrly.co/ Alexandra Petean-Nicola

    An audit can any time give a clear idea what are the areas in which you need to work more effectively and efficiently. A great reference for understanding why an on-line audit would do a lot of good for a any site.

    • Amanda Gallucci

      Thanks Alexandra. You’re right — an audit can be helpful at any time and should be revisited periodically.

  • Storewars News

    Nice read! Very informative. Did you know that Productivity push gains traction in retail industry? Read it here: http://goo.gl/dPGrg4

  • AJ Davis

    This was a great read. I know with most sites, human review is attainable, but for much larger sites or ones with multiple posts daily, anyone have recommended web tools specifically for a content inventory audit to report quantitative values and metrics of a site?

    • Amanda Gallucci

      I would always recommend a manual review, but using a sample size of pages for massive sites. There are certain categories that need a human review, such as how well content fits with its intended target audience.

      On the other hand, there are plenty of sections that can always be automated. I use Social Crawlytics for social metrics and Screaming Frog for SEO metrics.

      • AJ Davis

        Thanks for the feedback. I’m familiar with using ScreamingFrog for the metrics and totally agree that for qualitative elements in the audit, you need human review. I’ve been told that with most websites, unless it’s a HUGE site with thousands of blog posts and pages, it’s humanly possible to do a manual review. Loved this and am excited to really dive into the eBook.

        • Amanda Gallucci

          Yes, it’s possible :) Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy it!

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