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February 20, 2017
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Learn How to Audit Your Content Marketing Strategy (to See if It’s Working for You or Against You)

Content strategies generally begin life thoughtfully crafted and skillfully executed. Marketers put smart strategies into place and gradually begin cranking out content to achieve specified goals. Over time, some of their efforts get sidelined; others abandoned; and still more stray away from the original intent. This is especially true in larger marketing departments or those with high employee churn rates.

It’s so important to schedule periodic content audits to assure that the content is performing well, meets your goals and objectives, matches your overall brand voice and messaging, isn’t redundant, and covers all your bases in terms of SEO and consumer information.

Bad content doesn’t just fail to perform. It can derail all your other marketing efforts. Outdated, inaccurate, or poorly written content hurts your brand image. An audit removes these obstacles, while streamlining your customer journey, resulting in — cha-ching! — more business and conversions.

There’s a ton of super-useful information out there on content audits of all kinds. Here’s my take, based on learning from others and my own experience, on how to conduct an audit simply and effectively to ensure that your content is working for (rather than against) you.

Start With a Content Inventory

It’s actually quite easy for even a small marketing department to end up with stray and orphan content that got out there without a leash or adult supervision. Somebody starts and then abandons a YouTube channel. Nobody posts to the Twitter account for three months. A blogger strays off topic.

Begin your content audit by tracking down all those stray cats and pups. Create a comprehensive listing of all your content and where it’s hiding. At this point, don’t start pulling anything unless it’s blatantly erroneous or hopelessly outdated. It’s sometimes surprising what content is performing and where the best inbound leads trickle in from. Leave as much as possible in place as a basic infrastructure while you run analytics and determine what’s up.

Include content from:

  • Your website (check to see if you have any abandoned websites from a previous rebranding effort or websites you acquired during a merger)
  • Your blogs
  • Social media accounts (don’t overlook any forgotten accounts on G+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.)
  • SlideShare, YouTube, Quora, and other content distribution platforms
  • Blogs you’ve guest posted to or those your executives have contributed to
  • Ads (paid or free) that you’ve distributed online
  • Any content you’ve created that isn’t yet published

Analyze & Categorize Your Existing Content

With a comprehensive list of all your content, it’s time to analyze it all and find out how well it’s performing. Your website host almost certainly offers analytical tools to do this. Use Google Analytics, too, for a holistic view of your incoming traffic, general visitor demographics, most popular keywords, and related metrics.

The volume of metrics available to marketers today is almost overwhelming. Savvy marketers focus on a few of the most telling key metrics, only turning to the others when it’s time for fine-tuning a content marketing campaign that’s in progress. For now, you’re trying merely to rank your content in order of its relevance, timeliness, quality, and most importantly, performance.

You might start with a focus on:

  • Number of page visits
  • Bounce rates
  • Average time visitors spend on each page
  • Any inbound and outbound links (check especially for broken links or poor quality links that might harm your page rank)

While you’re running analytics, it’s a good idea to get a basic map of your customer journey. This is the typical path buyers take through the marketing funnel: from their awareness of the product through their evaluation of all the available options, to their inevitable decision to buy. Drilling down into your analytics presents a picture of how the typical shopper migrates through your content and converts as a paying customer. You’ll want to keep content in place that’s playing a crucial role in this buyer’s journey.

Categorize your existing content into one of these statuses:

  • Content to scrap (No formal burial necessary. In fact, we don’t even recommend notifying the next of kin.)
  • Content to keep
  • Content to update (or rewrite for quality, timeliness, accuracy, etc.)
  • Content to consolidate (to create longer, higher-quality pieces)
  • Content that needs placed elsewhere (you know it’s good, but it’s under-performing where it is)

During this process, begin making notes on what’s missing from your content. Perhaps a piece you’re putting the ax to gives you an idea for a better piece. Your marketing team needs to keep a list of ideas to use for filling in content gaps or producing something on the fly when another piece falls through.

Check the Technical Stuff

While auditing and categorizing your content, see where content needs improvements from a technical perspective. How does the title appear on a Google search? Too many characters renders a title unreadable. Can the title be adjusted for more pinpointed SEO? Check the meta tags, meta descriptions, inbound links, keywords, keyword frequencies, and URLs. Often, fine-tuning these helps the content perform better even without changing anything else.

Google’s search algorithms improved tremendously over the past couple of years. Content generated according to the SEO rules of 2012, is almost definitely under-performing. Today’s search algorithms punish poor writing and keyword stuffing, rewarding well-written content even when it isn’t laden with keywords.

In reality, most marketing departments struggle to conduct a thorough audit while keeping up with the ongoing demands of marketing a business and managing campaigns. Additionally, it’s difficult to achieve true objectivity when you’ve worked so hard to create and distribute your content. An outside firm usually does a better job, does so more quickly, and hiring a third-party to take down or rewrite that content just doesn’t have the “ouch” factor that euthanizing your own content produces.

Are you ready? Good luck!

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