I think it would be fair to say that Google’s major algorithm updates in the last couple of years have seen us all asking ourselves some tough questions about the quality of what we’re putting on the web. This soul-searching has seen many reform their link building habits, while others have seen Google’s clamp-downs on web spam as an endorsement of the high-quality link building they’d been doing all along. But the focus hasn’t just been on links: the Panda update in its various iterations has shown that high-quality on-site content is paramount. This has seen the necessary rise of the content audit, and as someone who has long been a stickler for top notch content, I thought I’d share with you the process I go through and the things I include when I audit a site. I’d be really interested to hear how yours differ from mine, so feel free to leave a comment and let me know about the processes you use and the things you look at!
The giant content audit spreadsheet – and why I don’t use it
A question that often comes up when a client wants a content audit is what form it should take. Many consider a content audit to be a giant spreadsheet with every single URL listed, along with marks out of 10 for various quality metrics. Because of the sheer scale, this method often relies to an extent on automation, but that only gets you so far; a true assessment of content quality requires a human eye, and for bigger sites it’s not practical to look through every single page. While the process of content auditing in this way certainly has its merits, the way I like to do it has more of a qualitative focus that I believe gives the client considerably more value.
Look at a representative sample
Most websites follow templates that ensure a uniform design throughout the site – or at least they should! This means that content can be split into content types – for example, homepage, service page, product description page, blog post, and so on. Each content type is there to fulfill its own purpose, and requires its own assessment as to how well it achieves its aims. So why waste time looking at every single URL on the site when the comments you’re going to be making about one page in a particular category are likely to apply to the others in that content group?
I believe that the key to a good and actionable content audit is to look at a representative sample of a site’s content, providing concrete observations and recommendations and exploring in depth the actual experience of people using the site. They are, after all, by far the most important consideration.
The big content audit checklist
I’ll start with a disclaimer: every site is different. I’m not a believer in sticking rigidly to templates, and I typically use the headings below just as a starting point. I will often add or remove sections according to what’s appropriate for the site I’m looking at.
So, here’s what I would look at…