Use a content audit to maintain the health of your digital content

The rules of digital content marketing—along with its close companion, SEO—evolve constantly. The content you added during the last website overhaul may have pulled in impressive search rankings and conversion rates two years ago. But what is it doing for you today?

Don’t wait until traffic to your content has slowed to a near standstill. If you suspect your content performance has slipped, it’s time to find out why and make improvements.

Why content performance drops
Even the best, most strategically-curated content requires routine monitoring and maintenance. Many variables outside your control can impact content and dampen its success. Here are some examples:

  • Shifting audience habits: Perhaps your target audience is more interested in hearing from brands through video content, while your website is still copy heavy. As the needs of your audience change, you need to adjust with them.
  • Changing search engine algorithms: Sure, algorithms change frequently. But staying in tune with SEO best practices can make the difference between a user clicking on your site and never seeing it in the first place. Plus, Google’s ever-increasing focus on relevancy makes it especially important to keep users engaged.
  • Shifting competitive landscapes: If a competitor ramps up their digital marketing spend significantly, you may lose the fight for clicks and conversions. You’ll need to find new ways for audiences to discover your brand.
  • Content ROT: Over time, content often becomes redundant, outdated or trivial. If you devote the appropriate time and resources to content governance, you can keep this content ROT to a minimum.

While many of these factors are out of your control, it’s possible to boost performance by conducting a content audit.

Why content audits are important
A content audit allows you to take inventory of the content on your existing website. This is often done to inform a large-scale redesign of a website. But content audits also hold value when done more frequently on a smaller scale. While different than an SEO audit, the two can be layered together for added benefit.

A content audit provides an opportunity to respond to the changing content marketing landscape, address underlying issues and maintain successful performance. Regardless of the variables influencing your content, a lack of maintenance can negatively impact single pieces of content and can snowball to affect your website as a whole.

Consider users who discover your content, but then immediately find it unhelpful. They’ll turn around to find another source, leaving you with declining user engagement statistics, such as:

  • Higher bounce rates
  • Lower time on site
  • Fewer pages visited

In turn, you may witness a drop in search-generated traffic. This lack of traffic will cause conversion rates to suffer over time.

Measuring success with a content audit
A content audit shouldn’t just show you how content is performing. It should lay a foundation for your digital content efforts. A good content audit should check the following boxes:

  • Line up with goals: Key metrics should be defined up-front to determine the performance areas you will evaluate, and how deep you’ll dig in.
  • Take a holistic approach: Don’t just look at sitewide averages. Taking inventory of individual page stats like traffic, SEO details, engagement, relevancy and readability analytics can uncover valuable insights.
  • Identify improvements: What actions will enhance performance on each page? This could entail reorganizing or rewriting existing content, consolidating similar pages or removing some pages completely.

An audit should be a regular exercise to prevent content from lapsing into poor performance.

Expect the unexpected
During a content audit, expect the unexpected. You may identify problems that would never be uncovered without an in-depth look at content data. For example:

  • An errant piece of code within your content management system could be overwriting all of the optimized meta data like titles and descriptions. While this seems like a big issue to tackle, a quick fix from a developer can ensure your optimization strategy is carried out successfully.
  • A single author could be the common thread in poor-performing content on a website. If your content authors don’t understand formatting content for the web, it may be time to revisit best practices and tweak existing content.

Most often, audits give you a new vantage point from which to bolster content marketing programs. You’ll be able to identify drops-offs from the conversion funnel or gaps in the content itself, then use traffic metrics to prioritize improvements based on level of effort and impact.

By routinely monitoring the health of digital content, you can ensure it performs at its best over the long haul.