The majority of businesses understand the importance of marketing analysis – but in a content-driven world, few understand how to set about their analysis. With hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pages of content, from blog posts to whitepapers, analysing your marketing in a coherent, insightful way can seem impossible.
Enter the content audit.
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A content audit allows you to evaluate your key content across a range of meaningful metrics. You’ll be able to identify the traits of successful content, and apply them to future work; decide which assets need cutting, or repurposing; evaluate the efficacy of your blogging, copywriting, SEO and SMM; and simply take much-needed stock of your progress. Whether you’re a content auditing newbie, or a seasoned content audit pro, this guide is designed to offer actionable advice and best practices.
…and, of course, a free content audit template!
[separator headline=”h2″ title=”Step 1: the Quantitative Analysis”]
An effective content audit should always start out with a quantitative analysis; and that means digging out a dreaded Excel spreadsheet. In order to identify our most successful content, and pinpoint the failed experiments and outliers, we need to dig into our post data and metrics.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by mountains of data, but thankfully, we only need to concern ourselves with a handful of crucial metrics:
[box style=”1″]Views – the number of times a page has been viewed.
Social Media Shares – the number of times a page has been shared across social media. Can be subdivided into individual social media networks.
Conversions – the number of times a visitor has clicked-through a call-to-action (CTA) button, and progressed through the sales funnel. This is open to interpretation – so agree a standardised definition of conversion, and stick to it.[/box]
These 3 metrics can reveal a surprising amount about the efficacy of your content. Views and social media shares reflect the popularity and targeting of your content. Conversions reflect the relevance of your content, and it’s ability to drive your readership to a desired course of action. All three metrics are essential in determining the efficacy of your content. Without popular posts and assets, you have no audience – and without relevant, sales-focused content, your audience has no value.
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If you’ve built your site on the WordPress CMS, you’ll require a couple of extra plugins to get the most out of your content audit. WordPress’ own JetPack plugin offers a ton of post metrics and analysis – but for seriously in-depth information, you can’t beat Google Analytics. GA can be integrated directly into your Dashboard, and doing so will allow you to access super-accurate post metrics.
HubSpot has a handy Reports section, packed-full of invaluable analytical information – but for this part of the audit, we’re most interested in Page Level reports. This allows you to view crucial metrics for each and every page of your website. Sort by the right type of content (e.g. Blog Posts), and export the data to a spreadsheet. If you’re using an up-to-date COS, Conversion Assists is another helpful report to check out.
For a complete look at your social media shares, there’s no substitute for the incredible Social Crawlytics tool. It’s a powerful (and free!) social media analysis tool; and by plugging your blog URL into it’s engine, you can see the social media shares for every single page of your website. It subdivides by specific sites, and it’s perfect for revealing your most popular content and most effective social media networks.
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At this point, you should have a ton of content data. So what the hell do we do with it all?
In order to draw meaningful conclusions from our data, we need to rank our posts for each of our previous metrics. If you can sense a headache coming on, don’t worry – I’ve created a free Excel spreadsheet to take the stress out of this process.
Plug your data into the spreadsheet – even if you’re forced to enter it manually, it shouldn’t take too long. Grab yourself an extra espresso, stick some music on and plow through the tedious (but easy!) task of data entry. Done? Perfect!
Armed with your newly-populated spreadsheet, we can identify the most successful pieces of content, and the less-than-successful posts that are going to need some tweaking. Sort your data by each metric in-turn, and take a note of the best- and worst-performing pages. This can be done by-eye, or with a super-scientific formula of your own choosing.
[box style=”1″]Subjective Ranking: Keep track of the pages which perform best in each category, and use your own judgement (and knowledge of each post) to divide your content into 3 categories: Highly Effective, Effective and Ineffective.
Weighted Average: Rank each page from first to last, for each metric. Devise a weighted average of these rankings, according to the importance of each metric, and score each page based on the sum of its performance. Personally, Conversion is always my primary metric, as it’s most directly-correlated to ROI.[/box]
Congratulations! You’ve now ranked your entire catalogue of content. If you’re looking to cut and repurpose your content, you now have a clear idea of which posts need editing (yep… the Ineffective ones!). If you’re looking to identify the traits of successful content, you also have a clear understanding of your high-flying content.
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Buyer persona mapping is the process of analysing your content, and assigning it to the most relevant buyer persona and sales funnel stage. This process allows you to create a concise and easily-referenced output of content for each of your buyer personas – guiding your hand as you create your next editorial calendar.
If your business has enough material to warrant a content audit, it’s likely that you’ll already have an editorial calendar, and a defined strategy for targeting each of your buyer personas. In this instance, mapping will take a couple of minutes, as you group content into the relevant persona and sales funnel stages for reflection.
If you don’t have a defined buyer persona strategy, this process will allow you to analyse the depth of content available for each persona, and ‘fill-in’ any gaps in your persona’s sales funnel.[box style=”1″]NOTE: Retrospective buyer persona mapping isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be encouraged. Your buyer personas should be at the forefront of all your content creation; and as a result, you should already have a clear idea of which persona each piece of content was targeted at.[/box]
[separator headline=”h3″ title=”Buyer Personas”][two_third]Each of your content assets should be designed to alleviate a particular pain point, or appeal to a particular passion. These pain points and passions should be specific to a single buyer persona, and as a result, it should be relatively easy to match-up blog posts and buyer personas.
Scan through your content, and try and determine a single key theme. Use this key theme to refer back to your buyer personas, and determine which persona can relate to each theme most strongly.[/two_third]
[separator headline=”h3″ title=”Sales Funnel Stage”]
Most content assets can be assigned to one of three sales funnel stages: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.[two_third]Awareness: Content designed to attract your target audience to your website. This ToFu (Top of the Funnel) content should tackle a single question or pain point, and focus on creating value and aiding the reader. There should be no sales focus, and no heavy mention of products, services and promotions. The majority of blog posts are Awareness stage.[/two_third]
It should be relatively easy to assign content to each of the three stages. Anything that directly promotes your business, and its products, is automatically Decision stage content. Content that is primarily problem-solving, but also subtly references your brand as a potential solution to the problem, is Consideration stage – and anything that includes no sales focus resides in the Awareness stage
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At last! The fun part of the content audit. The qualitative analysis is where we put our marketing head back on, and apply our insight and perception to our findings. With our content performance spreadsheet and persona mapping, we’ve categorised our content by efficacy, buyer persona and sales funnel stage. Now, we need to return to our analysis and work out why our content has succeeded and failed; and uncover the steps we can take to improve the efficacy of all our future content.
From my professional experience in creating inbound marketing strategies, and performing effective content audits, I’ve settled on 5 key content areas that we need to analyse. These areas are the most crucial to content’s success, and often, the most overlooked parts of the content creation process.
In other words, this is where our content audit really earns it’s keep. Ready?
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- Content Weighting. In many instances, businesses suffer from an uneven weighting of content, with one or two buyer personas earning the lion’s share of content. For a business with multiple personas, each with impressive spending power, this can be crippling to lead generation efforts. Analyse your buyer personas, and decide which personas are most crucial to the success and growth of your business. If you wish to target all personas equally, make sure that your editorial calendar contains an equally-weighted amount of content for each. If the spending power of your personas is unequal, you can dedicate greater resurces to a particular persona by weighting content creation in their favour. Define a weighted average, and stick to it.
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- Funnel Stage Benchmark. It’s crucial to include all three types of content in your marketing strategy – but the ratios of each should reflect the increased specificity of each stage. Whilst there are no hard and fast rules, I’d suggest aiming for a benchmark ratio:
Awareness 75% | Consideration 15% | Decision 5%[/box]
- CTAs. Every page and post should have a relevant and targeted call-to-action. Without a CTA, your leads will struggle to progress through the sales funnel, significantly limiting your conversion rate.
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- Keyword Targeting and Integration. Each post should tackle a single topic, and target a single keyword. Evaluate your content’s efficacy in integrating keywords into your copy. For help with this, check out 8 Principles of Effective SEO Copywriting.
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- Design Congruence. Your content needs to reflect a central and unifying theme, tying into your brand’s identity and website. Colours, fonts and image choice all need to be consistent, encouraging your readership to relate your quality content with your business.
- Ease of Use. Content should be easy to read, navigate and engage with. Analyse your content for social sharing icons, hyperlinks and navigation.
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- Tone of Voice. Does your content speak to your audience in a tone they can relate to? Does your writing reflect as much empathy as your content?
- Benefits vs. Features. People don’t care about features – they care about the benefits of those features. Instead of reeling off a list of features, promote the time- and cost-benefits of those features.
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Congratulations! You’ve completed your content audit.
I’ve designed this guide to be as actionable as possible, and combined with my free content audit template, any marketing agency or business should be able to conduct a meaningful audit. With that said, it’s going to take time. It’s an involved process, and you’ll need to allocate at least a couple of days to the content audit process – more if you have a wealth of content. Many businesses don’t have the time or manpower to do so – and in that instance, outsourcing your content audit becomes a viable idea.
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