How to Make Sure You’re Not Wasting Money on Content

Posted by
David Zheng
Date
 April 7, 2014
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Things change fast. The content strategy that you put together a few years ago probably isn’t working as well now as it did then. Heck, the content strategy you built six months ago might not be working as well now as it was then. You know things are slipping but you aren’t sure exactly why or exactly where the changes need to be made.
 
This is why content audits are important.
 

A Quick Vocabulary Lesson

Before we dig into the “meat” of auditing your content, let’s take a minute for a quick vocabulary lesson. A lot of people use the terms “content” and “copy” interchangeably but they are very different things. It is important to know exactly what each thing you publish is designed to do.
 

Copy

Copy is, to keep things simple: content that has a definite goal. You want your copy to be informative and entertaining, sure. But you want your copy to persuade. That’s the main goal of copy. Good copy will persuade the reader to do whatever it is you want them to do.  Maybe you want people to buy a subscription to your newsletter. Perhaps you want people to buy a specific product. The end goal doesn’t matter here. What matters is that it is your copy that will get you there.
 

Content

Content is site material that is meant to inform and entertain your site traffic. That’s it. You’re sharing information because you want to share it and you hope that they appreciate what you’ve shared enough to not just stay on your site but to return to your site and to recommend your site (and, by extension, your products to others). It is the “giver” in the relationship you share with your audience. Great content gives value to readers, and in return readers give you traffic,  good reviews, and eventually, as you become a trusted source of information, they may buy your products. 
 

Internal and External Content

Internal content is content that is published directly on your site and, often, links out to other things (like your products or services page, etc). Your company’s blog or article databases are good examples of internal content.
 
External content is content that you publish elsewhere that links in and that helps you build your reputation and sends traffic back to your site. For example, a press release that you distribute around the web is external content.
 
It is important to evaluate both your internal and your external content when you conduct your content audit.
 

How to Audit Your Content

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A content audit is sort of like a brand audit, but it focuses solely on the content (and by extension your content marketing) that you are publishing. It is also how you figure out if what you’re paying for all of this content has been worthy of the cost or if you need to make changes to your budget.
 
There are several steps to a content audit and make no mistake—this isn’t going to be fun. It is a lot of meticulous and detailed work, but the payoff is a nice, shiny website with lots of traffic and happy visitors.
 
Before you do anything, create a spreadsheet to gather information about every page and piece of content on your website. The categories are up to you, but consider breaking your spreadsheet into the following categories:
 
Page name – the displayed page title
URL – display the url of the page
Page navigation title – the title of the main navigation link to that page
Notes – write down any notes you may have about the page/content
Content type – is this content a news story, blog, FAQ, etc.
Description of content – give a basic overview of what the content is about
Attached files – how many and what type of files are attached to this page?
ID/numbering system – give each page a number to make it easier to see where each page fits in relation to your website – example:

Page ID          Navigation Title
1.0                  Home
2.0                  About Us
3.0                  Blogs
3.1                  Blog Post 1
3.2                  Blog Post 2
Shares – how many shares, likes, tweets, etc. does this page have
Page AuthorityMOZ.com’s indicator of how likely your page is to rank in Google’s search results
 
Add any other category you feel is relevant to your content audit.
 

Evaluate Your Links

Check for broken links. The easiest way to do this is with a site-crawling widget (Moz has a good one). Send the crawler through your site and then, based on the data it sends back, fix or remove any broken links in your site.
 
Google penalizes sites for broken links and broken pages. It also penalizes them for shared content like YouTube videos that have been taken down and social media accounts that are no longer active.
 
Check out all of the links that point to you from content you’ve published elsewhere. Are those links still active? Is the site on which they were originally published still live?
 
With the Hummingbird update, it is important that your link platform have only active and relevant links. Take down any link wheels you might have put up and definitely ask any paid links to be taken down. You don’t want Google to see you as another RapGenius.
 

Look at Every Page of Your Website

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Go page by page through your website’s content and try to see it objectively. Is it still serving your brand? Is it still relevant? For example, if an old blog post talks about a service that is no longer offered, you’ll want to update that post. This accomplishes a variety of things but the most important for our purposes here are these:
 
It keeps site visitors up to date with the best and most relevant information, which they’ll appreciate.
 
It gives the Google spiders “new food.” Google’s spiders love new food.
 

What Sort of Numbers Do You Have?

Look at your numbers. How is the traffic flowing to and through your site’s content? Do you have a lot of older content that isn’t relevant anymore and that hasn’t seen a blip of traffic in weeks? It is okay to take that stuff down. Keeping it up isn’t really helping you, is it?
 
The best way to check your traffic numbers is through an analytics tool. Your hosting provider likely offers at least some basic tracking but it’s better to work through a more robust system like Google Analytics.
 
You can set up your Analytics to track everything from basic site traffic levels to how individual users navigate through your site. What you want to look for here is how well your content is converting to your copy.
 
In other words, use Analytics to figure out how many users jump from a content page to a copy or sales-centric page and then, ultimately, do what you want them to do. There is a great tutorial on how to set up your Analytics to track this information on the KISSmetrics blog. You can set up Analytics to track behavior on social media accounts as well.
 
In addition to your traffic’s numbers and behavior, other numbers need to be evaluated too:
 
The word count of your articles matters: In depth, comprehensive content tends to do better, both from a Google rank perspective and from a user perspective. The more relevant, detailed, and original the content, the better your content will do.
 
How has your page rank changed as content has been published and drawn traffic?
What kind of authority does your domain name enjoy (or not)? Are you easily confused with someone else?
 
It is also worth noting that if you are pressed for time or if you aren’t sure you can be as objective as a content audit requires, there is no shame in hiring someone to do the work for you. It’s better to be thorough than thrifty.
 

Let’s Talk Profits

Really, your content audit is primarily about math. Namely—is the money you’re shelling out for your content earning a good return? The best way to figure this out is to evaluate the amount of traffic you’re getting against what you’re spending. While copy can be evaluated based on sales, content is evaluated more on behavior. Let’s do some math now!
 
Here is a simplified example: Let’s say you paid a writer $100 to compose a post about a new item in your niche.
 
You then published that blog post on another site and linked back to your site in the post’s byline.
 
That link generates 1,000 page views in one week, and averages 400 or so for the following three weeks until the post falls off the front page of the site.
 
Of those 2200 people who visited your site, 700 kept exploring your site and 400 of those became regular readers of your site’s blog.
 
Of those 400 regular readers, 150 of them were inspired enough by the content to check out your products and 60 of them actually bought something.
 
Those 60 sales generated $1,500 in revenue. That’s a pretty good ROI!
 
On the other hand if that $100 blog post results in only a few hundred visitors who spend less than a few minutes on your site—it didn’t serve you well and you need to figure out why.
 
Is it the content? Was the content placed poorly? Do you need to tweak your landing page? You get the idea. Did the content not relate to what was on your site? The content was obviously good enough to warrant a click through but then the visitor’s curiosity and desire fizzled. Why?
 

Conclusion

Content audits can be tedious but well worth the effort once you’ve figured out what’s paying off and what’s not. You need to make sure you earn a profit and one of the best ways to do this is to ensure that your content is actively working for you. Take the time to systematically check every page and page link, keeping notes on what content is working for you and which is not. Check those links, analyze those numbers, and you’ll be happy with the payoff you see in profits.

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