There are two words that bring dread to any content marketer: content audit.
Content audits are generally viewed through the prism of refreshing your content strategy—and there’s no shortage of reasons why. Through an audit, you can assess and edit keywords, see what type of content is gaining the most traffic, examine the effects of your social media outreach, and shape your strategy accordingly.
But what about the editorial integrity of your content? Where does that fit into this kind of content analysis? It can be daunting to pore over your past content to assess its viability from an editorial standpoint, but the rewards will make it worth your time.
All the content you’ve produced up to this point can fall into three categories: evergreen, needs updating, and dated. Evergreen content may still need a light touch-up, but these pieces can serve as the foundation for your editorial strategy going forward (more on this a little later).
Content can require an update for a host of reasons: broken links, outdated information, stale language, your copy editor was distracted that day, and so on. Whether they know it or not, your audience is assessing the editorial quality of your content. Anything that negatively impacts that quality can lessen the chance of that person trusting you as a source and returning to your content again.
And there will be cases where you’ll have to consider deleting content entirely. That Pokémon Go post you managed to tie to your brand was cute two years ago, but how has it aged? Do you look dated as a result? Other decisions, such as analyzing content surrounding time-specific trends or news, are even easier to make.
You never know what’s going to pop up in a Google search (hopefully your content!) or who has bookmarked any of your older pieces. But when that content is clicked on, is the viewer still getting the same value as when the piece was first published? If the answer is “no,” you can see how that could negatively impact your marketing outreach and initiatives.
Image attribution: Kyle Glenn
How Your Past Can Shape Your Future
As the old wisdom goes, you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. This can apply to your editorial strategy as it relates to a content audit.
Brands often start conservatively in their approach and then, once they find their voice and their audience, experiment more. You may assess your content to date and appreciate it for where it’s gotten you, but realize it’s not the way forward. Perhaps you need more infographics or video (and if you’ve already been doing these, consider making them part of your audit, too), or your tone and messaging have changed. Either way, the audit process will help spark new ideas.
And, in some ways, an audit will force you to consider your editorial strategy before it even begins. In order for an audit to be successful, according to Content Marketing Institute, you’ll need to establish standards to measure what you’re looking at.
“Without content standards, content can’t be governed—and if you aren’t going to govern your content, there’s no point in auditing it,” says the report.
Repurposing Content, and Minding That Gap
Your CEO marches up to your desk one day and says, “We have to create something around [Topic X]!” We’ve all been there.
If you’ve done a content audit, you can confidently say one of two things: “Actually, we already have, but we can easily repurpose it.” Or, assuming the idea fits your established voice, “We’re on it already!”
An audit can illuminate a couple of opportunities: readapting previous content and discovering gaps in the work you’ve done so far. There’s a fine line between repurposing and simply recycling, but the former can pay dividends. An insight you made or a story you told a year ago may have increased relevance today. You can build on this—often without having to create net new content—to further establish your expertise in your field.
You may also discover some holes in your storybuilding, either via a strategy refresh as outlined above or by simply looking at your past content with a fresh perspective. Regardless of your industry, things are changing constantly. A thorough audit can help you identify any gaps and help shape your editorial strategy going forward.
Your audit could uncover duplicate content, as well. Consolidating duplicate content can help keep your content fresh and help fine-tune your editorial strategy so you’re not repeating yourself more down the road.
Just the Two of Us—We Can Make It If We Try
Having said all of this, editorial and strategy shouldn’t work in silos during your audit. The best content analysis will marry feedback from both perspectives to enhance editorial quality, search engine performance, and your brand’s proposition.
Image attribution: Jared Sluyter
For example, a story may have “401k enrollment” as its keyword, but the search term “how to enroll in 401k” is bringing in more traffic (tools like SEMrush can help you with this). A strategist can detect these trends, and an editor can adjust the content—skillfully, as creativity and quality matter—to further enhance search optimization.
Collaboration can also tie into repurposing content. The strategic side of an audit will provide numbers on traffic and engagement. If certain kinds of content are faring well, you can use that insight to update other pieces and bring them up to speed.
How Often Do I Need to Do This?
It’s probably in your best interest to conduct a content audit at least annually (or now, if you’ve never done one), though that may vary depending on the maturity and cadence of your program. Is it a drag? Yes—no one particularly wants to create and organize spreadsheets, take notes, track keywords and tags, edit, and everything else that comes with a proper audit.
But it’s essential for many reasons, and optimizing your editorial strategy is a big one.
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Featured image attribution: Laura Johnston