Learn how to conduct a website content audit in this step-by-step guide by Mark Alexander using free tools available online.
Long gone are the days when only a handful of household brand names had the resources to create a website. Today everyone can build an eye-catching, all-singing, all-dancing website in just a matter of hours. In fact, there are 380 new website launches every minute and to illustrate the point, here are some more statistics:
- 1.7 billion – active websites on the Internet
- 4.3 billion – active Internet users
- 3.9 billion – active mobile Internet users
- 6.3 hours – average time each Internet user spends online every day
- $4.2 trillion – projected revenue from e-commerce retail for 2020
Indeed, these are impressive numbers but in order to get a slice of that lucrative pie, you need to make sure your website is up for the challenge. It needs to deliver on your promises and meet your customers’ expectations while preserving your authenticity and staying true to your brand.
There is no easy way to achieve that but a thorough examination of your online presence and digital assets is a good starting point. This guide on how to perform a website content audit using free tools will help you to get started. Make sure you read the whole article so that you are familiar with the process and the theory behind it before you start your audit.
- Related: Content services
What is a content audit?
It’s exactly what you expect it to be – a compilation of your existing website content containing key data which can be used as a guide for creating new content. When done correctly, the outcome of your audit should be able to help you define the triple Is:
- Identify the most popular and effective pages, articles, blog posts and other types of content on your website
- Improve weak parts of your website and existing content
- Implement a distribution plan for your new and improved content
Keep the three Is in mind when deciding on what data points to include in your report.
Why do you need to perform an audit?
If you have a website with any content on it, you need to perform regular audits. They are your key to staying up-to-date and relevant. Relevancy is the most valuable currency in the fast-evolving and highly competitive digital world.
If you are not up to the standards of your customers and you fail to meet their expectations, you are not worth considering. Harsh but true because for every product and service you offer, there are at least a dozen websites offering bigger, better, faster and cheaper alternatives which are at least as good as your own.
A website audit will give you an inside of your customers behaviour and the way they interact with your brand. These numbers will help you to create relevant content and develop effective strategies to expand your reach and appeal to more of your target customers.
How to prepare for a website content audit
Before you commence the audit, you need to have a very clear idea about its purpose and the use of your findings. Having a record of how many pages, blog posts and images there are on your website is a pointless tasks and a huge waste of your time. Instead, you need to identify who visits the website and why, how long they spend on each page, do they fill in the contact form, request a consultation etc.
Reasons for conducting it
Most website content audits are done to collect data which can be used to improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and/or marketing campaigns. You can take it a step further and use these findings to develop a strategy to improve customer retention rates.
Reason 1: Improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
A high number of search engine referrals indicates a search engine optimised page. Create fields for content type, word count, title length, media files etc. and use this data to help you improve weak pages.
If Google sends 1,000 visitors a month to a particular page which is 2,500 words long and features 5 images, an audio file and embedded video from YouTube, they like that page. There’s no harm in applying that “formula” to weak pages of your website.
Reason 2: Improve your content marketing
Every piece of content on your website needs to have a purpose. Go through the high performing pages and make sure they contribute to your marketing campaign. Add a Call To Action (CTA) button, newsletter opt-in or an enquiry form etc. Make it easy for your visitors to do what you want them to do and don’t be afraid to spell it out for them.
Reason 3: Increase customer retention rates
Look into the visitors journey. Do they come to your website and exist straight away or they go on to explore other pages? Are they searching for something in particular only to find out that your page is not relevant to their search query?
If so, make sure you give them what they want. Otherwise they are not likely to ever come back on your website. Take into account page speeds as people are not likely to wait too long for a page to load.
Can you afford a DIY content audit?
A content audit is not a certificate which you can print and hang on the wall behind your desk. It’s a living document which needs to be kept updated and used to improve your online presence and/or marketing campaigns. In order to do so, you need to plan, create and ensure a steady stream of relevant content on your website. On its own, the audit is not worth your time and effort.
How to perform a website content audit
The process of conducting a complete website content audit can be broken down into 4 steps:
Step 1: Create a spreadsheet
This is a vital step of the process because the data fields you decide to include will determine the effectiveness of your report.
You don’t have to limit yourself to our spreadsheet. Search the web and see if any of the other free content audit spreadsheets are a better match for your needs.
Step 2: Tailor the data to your needs
When deciding on what type of data to include in your report, keep in mind the end goal to avoid populating your spreadsheet with irrelevant numbers. Remember that the main role of the website is to serve its visitors. It needs to be quick and easy to use as well as provide information which is relevant to their search.
Here’s a cheatsheet to help with your SEO and Content Marketing data collection.
Sample data points for a SEO content audit
- Page URL
- Page title
- Meta description
- Date of last update
- H1, H2, H2 etc.
- Image alt tags
- Inbound links
- Brocken links
- Page visits (last 3 months)
- Page entries
- Page exists
- Page bounce rate
- Average time on page
Sample data points for a Content Marketing audit
- Type of content (sales page, information page, article, blog post etc.)
- Owner (who will edit the page)
- Word count
- Accessibility (desktop, tablet, mobile)
- Social media shares
- Call to action
When deciding on what data to collect, think about these four principals:
That includes anything that prevents your website from working properly. Look for blocked links, images and videos which don’t display properly because they are too large, too small or removed from your server etc.
The reading experience on a website is completely different to that of an offline publication such as a magazine. It’s more straining on the eye and that’s why you need to make sure the font size is suited to the screen resolution. Small text on a larger screen is as bad as large letters on a small screen.
Pay attention to the page layouts and formatting. Make sure there is plenty of white space because the readers’ eyes need to have enough breathing space, otherwise they get overwhelmed and are likely to click away.
If you are using special fonts and formatting, make sure they display properly in different browsers and on different screens – desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile.
Accessing websites on mobile phones is the norm now so you need to make sure your website is optimised for it or else – loose visitors and be snubbed by Google.
Look into your menus and navigation to make sure they are organised in a logical way. Not many people will find your About page if it’s hidden under the Services tab.
The better the user experience your website provides, the longer the visitor will stay. Search engines like Google also take this into account when deciding which pages should go to the top of the search results.
Relevance is a high value currency on the Internet. It’s better to have one page that’s relevant to your target audience’s needs and searches, than 10 pages which are outdated or irrelevant for other reasons.
Look at your social media shares and comments to identify pages which need to be improved and brought up to date.
Step 3: Collect the data
Now that you know what you are looking for, it’s time to start populating the spreadsheet with those important numbers and stats. Depending on the total number of pages on your website, you can do that manually or using one of the free tools in the next section of this post.
The old fashioned way
If you are running a small website with just a few pages, you are better off entering the data manually. It’s a slow and repetitive task but it’s important to stay focussed as you need to enter the correct data in the corresponding field on your spreadsheet.
The easy way
If your website has more than dozen pages, you can save some time running a report using Screaming frog. You can set different parameters and data points but you need to spend some time learning how to use it as it can be an overwhelming experience.
Set aside 20 minutes and watch this video to get a better idea about using Screaming frog for content auditing.
Step 4: Analyse the data and act upon it
As I mentioned earlier, there is no point in going through the hassle of an audit if you don’t act upon the findings from it. These numbers are the difference between your online success and failure. Put your analytical hat on and go through them like your business depends on it because it does and in more ways than you think.
Add an “Action” column to your spreadsheet so that you can keep a track of the things you need to do on each page. Use short actionable words such as: rewrite content, add more media, embed a YouTube video, add an infographic, promote on social media, format page, add metadata, write an image alt tag, add title tags, factcheck, link to internal pages etc.
This is the most important step and you must treat it accordingly. Take your time, go through the numbers and visit each page as you do to get a visual representation of the data and to determine the actions you need to take. Look for links between the numbers on your spreadsheet and the page as it’s displayed on your screen.
Be critical and assess your content through the eyes of your target customer. It makes sense to include a detailed family history in your About page but ask yourself if that’s what your customers expect to find on it. If that’s the case, consider creating a new page about your family history and rewrite the About page to include information which builds your credibility and presents your business in a way that converts a website visitor into a customer. Although it suggests the page is about you, it’s actually about what you can do to help the person who is reading it.
Free website content audit tools
Although the paid-for tools are designed to save you time and frustration trying to work out what data to collect, there are a few free tools which you can use to prepare an accurate website content audit report.
Before you start, you will need a spreadsheet for the data. You can create one yourself or you can download the free one which you can see in the sidebar. Feel free to modify the fields to include or exclude certain types of data to suit your needs.
Free online tools
The tools which help you to keep your website in check on daily basis can also be used to gather relevant data for your audit.
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
If you think that you need more, then consider Screaming frog. It’s a SEO spider software which is used for technical SEO audits. The free version should be sufficient for your needs. Be warned though – using it ca be an overwhelming experience, especially at the beginning.
SharedCount – use it to see the total number of social media shares. In the free version, you have to enter the URLs manually.
If your website uses WordPress as its Content Management System (CMS), you can download a free content audit plugin. You can search for a plugin and choose one based on your research and needs or go ahead and download the WordPress Content Audit Plugin. It’s not as comprehensive as the other tools but it’s easy to use and it saves you a lot of time.
And that’s how you audit your website for free
It’s a lot of work which needs to be done regularly and particularly before and after you plan on making any major changes or setting up campaigns. Your first audit is not going to be the best and most effective one you do but it’s a good practice for the next one. All you need now is to complete the tasks in the “Action” column.