If you haven’t ever found yourself deep within a website content audit, you probably think that it is tedious and boring but worth it – no wonder it’s the kind of thing people hate so much. Regardless, this is something you must do and it pays off in the end. Google’s made it crystal clear with so many of their changes that they’re getting better at gauging the relevancy and quality of website’s content. That means performing a content audit this year is even more important. But first – stop and breath in… now out. Great. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be.

Knowing how a content audit works and beginning with a strategy from the start helps you be successful and it makes this dreadful task a little bit more enjoyable. And yes, some of us really enjoy auditing content (guilty as charged…) so don’t count yourself out just yet.

Quick Recap: How Content Audits Work and Why This Matters

Typically content audits are thought of as the way you sift through your blog examining the content, and while yes that is accurate, your content audit could (and should) also focus on other pages of your website. The blog is a great place to start, but remember you aren’t done if you really plan on fully auditing your site. Whichever path you decide works best for you, you will gain lots of major benefits:

  • You will better understand your site and get a feeling for the content that needs to be updated
  • It serves as a 2nd set of eyes if you’ve performed an SEO audit (if you haven’t, this process serves as one)
  • This helps determine where you need help with content the most, which may shift some of the responsibility within your company
  • This is the best first step in developing your content strategy if you don’t have one yet.
  • By examining Google analytics you will see which content is the most popular and discover a trend you never saw before

I have found that sometimes a company may refer to a “content audit” as putting together all that data, then analyzing the data, building/modifying pages and changing content/writing, etc. as something different. Whatever you call it, you’ll need to do something to your data after gathering it, so expect the process to take at least a week, depending on how big your website is.

Beginners Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Content Audit

If you haven’t been through the process of a content audit before, don’t worry. Yes completing it will take you lots of time (this process must be manual, performed by a real human — don’t bother with any automated tools) but it shouldn’t be too much trouble once you really get going. Frustrating and annoying it may be, but it’s not a difficult task.

First there are a couple super basic steps that’ll help ensure your success:

  • Create your plan Like all great projects, yours must begin with a plan. You have to know who’s completing your content audit (my recommendation is at least a 2 person team), what you’ll get from your audit (what you want affects your strategy), and then of course, where you’re going to start
  • Be sure you’ve got a spreadsheet for staying organized. That may sound obvious, but it’s what they should be actually recording in their spreadsheet that gets people confused. Here are a few of the categories I use in my content audit spreadsheets but remember you can add many more columns!Date Published, URL, Title, Author, Category, Audience and Keywords, Timely or Evergreen, Changes Needed, Traffic Volume, Social Shares
  • Remember SEO and what changes occurred. When you’re looking over the site, check your anchor text and try switching some of those so they are not keywords. You’ll also want to know how to set up 301 redirects if you need to (or at least make a note of this so that the changes can be made later on)

So why is the best time now? The answer is simple. Your content is arguably the single most important defining aspect of your company in the upcoming years, and unlike years past, the content strategy must change and respond to Google’s changes in 2013. Hint: Almost all of them focused on the quality of your content.

If you want a lot more detailed step-by-step list detailing every step of a website content audit (only 652 steps), read this guide by Portent.

What to Do After You Finish Your Content Audit

Like many projects, you must keep feeding it data to keep things easy in the future. You’ll have your spreadsheet already, so keep adding new analytic records and blog posts to your spreadsheet as the year goes by.

Did you complete your content audit this year or have you completed one in the past? What was the biggest challenge, and what was the largest benefit? Share your story and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!