The word “audit” in general tends to put us all on edge. But don’t freak out—because we’re not talking about an IRS inspection. No, we’re talking about a content audit, which should be far less intimidating as it doesn’t involve a government employee combing through every debit and deposit you’ve made. Instead, it involves pulling out your Sherlock Holmes issue magnifying glass and carefully examining your website’s existing content. What’s the goal? According to Search Engine Journal, it is to determine whether your content is doing what you want it to and if not, fix it.
If it’s Broke, Prepare To Fix It
You’ll never find out if something is broken unless you inspect it. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, but if it is, you’d better fix it before Google does it for you. So just how do you conduct one of these frightening sounding tasks? What resources will you need, and how much time should you cordon off? While the extent of the audit depends largely on the size of your website and what you find, it doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience. In fact, it can be just the opposite if you prepare well. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Time: It typically takes one to two hours to complete an audit.
- Tools: Search Engine Journal recommends using Google Drive Spreadsheet and Google Analytics, and they provide a handy how-to in case you’re unfamiliar with these tools.
- Personnel: The only personnel you’ll need is you, but if you’re staring at a large amount of content, recruiting a few assistants with moderate skill and language facility is useful.
- A list of target keywords: You must have created one before content creation. Dust it off! If you have multiple lists, consolidate them into a master to make the job a bit easier.
- Technical skill: You don’t need to be tech guru, but moderate to low tech skills are required. If you’re on the low end, don’t fret. Once you tackle the first few pages, you’ll catch on. We promise it’s not brain surgery!
- Writing skill: You need at least an average ability in the target language.
- Patience: So, we’d be lying if we said this isn’t semi-boring work, but we swear it’s worth every moderately mind-numbing minute.
The Nitty-Gritty Guide To A Content Audit
Now that you’re prepped and ready for surgery, it’s time to understand exactly what you’re looking for and how to fix it. Search Engine Journal points out that this process will vary for every CMS. Instead of giving detailed instructions, we’re opting to give you a guide, which you can apply to your preferred CMS:
- Check page titles and URLs: Your page titles should be 70 or fewer characters, unique, and contain keywords. URLs should be text. Avoid numbers or unintelligible gibberish. If you see a need to change a URL, be sure to have a 301 redirect in place.
- Appraise descriptions: We’re talking about Meta descriptions. They should be 160 characters or less and written with appeal not mechanics (i.e. for humans, not search engines).
- Assess content: It’s time to stare through that magnifying glass at your content. Is it readable, interesting, engaging, and helpful? How’s the grammar? You’re shooting for perfection. Each page should have at least 300 words.
- Review keywords: Pull out your keyword list. It’s time to review your keywords for each page. The idea is to determine whether a sufficient number of targeted long tail keywords are present while also ensuring no keyword stuffing is sneaking in. Long tail keywords should never appear more than five times on any given page.
- Evaluate Alt tags: Every image throughout your website should be properly tagged. If the “alternative” text is blank, it should be added. You goal is for every image to contain alt tags and titles. The tags should include relevant long tail keywords and strong descriptions.
- Value internal links: All of your pages should include internal links excluding navigation menus, headers, and/or footers. At minimum, you should have two to three links per page, and they should point to other deeper pages, such as content-rich blogs or articles. Home, About, and Contact Us links don’t count and shouldn’t be linked unless necessary.
- Check Updates: Investigate when your pages were last revised. Each one should be reviewed and/or edited at least every 2 years, but the more often you can do so, the better.
Once you’ve completed your first audit, you’ll want to schedule time to rinse and repeat regularly. How often is really up to you. Some perform an audit quarterly, bi-annually, or more frequently.
Regular content audits can help ensure your website stays fresh. They can improve rankings and encourage new traffic generation. Neglecting frequent reviews could cause your website to slip down the rankings, and that’s a consequence none of us want!