Content Audits – Why They’re So Important and How to Do Them
Content audits of websites can be a real drudgery; about as exciting as watching paint dry. I hear you yawning. I feel your pain.
But before you shudder and move on, be aware—your website is absolutely key to your business and if it is out of date, full of broken links or badly structured, it could be losing you valuable clients. In other words, content audits may not be essential, but if you’re serious about your business succeeding, you should be carrying them out on a regular basis.
Fortunately, content audits don’t have to be a drudgery. In fact, they can be systematized to a level where they become a regular fixture in your business administration, rather than an esoteric task that seems far more complicated than it actually is.
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In this article we’re going to take you through a step-by-step approach to content auditing. By the time we’re done you’ll know exactly what you need to do to ensure that your content is performing as best as it possibly can to secure future customers in the coming weeks, months and years.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Look at Your Website Structure
Every website has a homepage, but how you lead people to the pages beyond is fundamental. The structure of a ‘useable’ website should be logical and lead your customers easily into the sections that allow them to find, discover information about, and purchase your goods or services.
You need to start with a comprehensive map of your website, representing the home page as well as the main sections and all their subsidiary pages in order to identify the entire physical structure (directory). Tools such as Screaming Frog and the free XML Sitemap Generator can identify every page on a large, complex website, and save a great deal of time – you don’t want to be looking at a whiteboard covered in sticky notes!
How can you tell if the current structure is good or needs to be improved? Look at your home page and its onward links. These top-level links must reflect the main subject areas of your website.
These links are there to power sales, commitment and contact. They should be short, snappy phrases that take customers easily to where they want to be and need to be simple, direct and easy to identify.
Group your pages under these main subject areas, and if something really doesn’t fit, ask whether it needs its own link or whether it should be on the website at all.
Step 2: Check for Broken Links
There are few things more aggravating than clicking on a website link only to find the dreaded ‘404 Not Found’ message. It’s one of the main reasons why people bounce off websites quickly, which is a factor that Google Analytics keeps a keen eye on.
Checking your website for ‘broken’ links is a must, and if you use an online service like Broken Link Check (or the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress), you can automate the process. Each link, whether to an outside resource or another page, must work. Going forward, get into the habit of thinking about the repercussions whenever you delete a product, service, offer or page.
In fact, you should never just delete a page; at the least you should set up a redirect, so that users are (you guessed it) redirected to an appropriate location if a page no longer exists. If you’re using WordPress, you can easily set up redirects using a plugin like Redirection.
Step 3: Edit Headlines for SEO and ‘Clickability’
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is something every online business owner should take an interest in. To rank on Google you need to ensure your page content – and particularly your headlines – are totally sales-relevant and contain the types of keywords that your clients are likely to use when searching for your services (within reason).
One way to find this out is to ask, either by creating a website questionnaire, possibly with a prize of some sort to encourage participation, or by asking clients that you know well what phrases they use.
Google also has a paid-for service, Google AdWords, if you’re prepared to advertise when customers make keyword searches. One of its free tools is a keyword planner, which lets you search for keywords and ad group ideas.
Step 4: Search Out Duplicate Copy
It’s easy to duplicate copy without realising, but sorting this out can be relatively painless. If your website has a search facility you have a great way of looking for duplicate copy, just input keywords for your services and compare the pages that are shown in the results.
If you can’t directly search the site, and haven’t invested in helpful software like Similar Page Checker or Virante, the manual option is to go through every page and write a brief summary of what’s on it in a searchable document. Don’t go into detail. Then you can go through the same process of searching keywords, and make a direct comparison.
It sounds painful, and is only possible manually for a compact website. But not only does duplicate copy take up space and leave a bad impression, Google penalises it, so it’s worth getting straight.
Step 5: Prioritise Content
You need to prioritise content based on metrics such as the number of visits and conversions (which you can find out using Google Analytics; there is a free basic version). Your most popular pages, and those that lead to the most sales, must be the easiest to reach. Consider homepage links for the pages your clients visit most, but remember not to over-clutter your page.
Commercial tools such as urlprofiler or the Content Analysis Tool (CAT) can be very helpful if you feel like investing money as well as time in your project, and can shorten some of the above processes dramatically.
Grade pages as you audit, depending on whether they need change, need updating, or should be deleted.
Your main pages need to be monitored often – at least on a monthly basis, and every time you make a change you should consider the effects on the rest of the website.
A full content audit is a very time-consuming process, so a complete audit every six months should be sufficient unless you have the resources to devote the time and energy you need on a more regular basis.
Bearing all of the above in mind, here are the basics for a DIY content audit:
- Map your website structure and make sure it powers sales, commitment and contact
- Check for missing links
- Make sure all your pages link to the Home page
- Make sure your headlines and text are SEO friendly
- Get rid of redundant, outdated and trivial content, and anything that’s duplicated or irrelevant
- Prioritize content to ensure key pages are easy to find
- Grade your pages for change, updating or deletion
Once you’ve done this, your website should be engaging, user-friendly and hopefully generating significantly more conversions than before.
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