I’ve been blogging for 15 years now, and in that time I’ve learned that the last two weeks of every year is when traffic to my site drops about 30-40%. Pretty much like clockwork, traffic begins to fall on the Friday before Christmas, it rises a bit the week after Christmas, then returns to normal levels the first week or so of January. Because of this, I typically don’t publish posts in that last 2 weeks of the year. I use that time to write posts for January, and I also use it to audit my content. So this year, I got the clever idea to do both; Audit my content, and as I am, write a post about my process!
So this is how I audit my content.
First, what is a content audit?
A content audit is the process of reviewing the content on your site, periodically. I know a lot of content creators hate auditing their content. Personally, I love auditing content, because I know that when I have finished auditing an individual post, it will be a better post. I know that every post I audit will be improved, so that’s why I enjoy the auditing process.
Now my process for auditing content is a bit different, which is why I wanted to talk about it. I go by the Greatest Hits model that I talk about in this post on the Rock Star’s Guide to Content Creation, Content Marketing and Promotion. I look to develop roughly 10 posts which will be my signature content or Greatest Hits. These will be the pieces of content that I want to be successful. This is the content I will continue to promote, and continue to audit and work to improve. These are the 10 posts I want to be known for, my Greatest Hits. Think about a rock star; When you go to their concert, you want to hear their Greatest Hits.
Keep in mind that these 10 Greatest Hits posts should ideally cover the same or very similar topics. If you have 10 posts covering 10 different topics, that’s a problem. But if you have 10 posts covering 3 related topics, that’s much better. Think of it this way; These 10 posts will be the content you want to be known for. Just like a rock star is known for their Greatest Hits. It’s the same thing here, this will be your signature content. So choose wisely.
A content audit sounds like a lot of work, is it worth it?
My experience is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Posts that I have audited and improved have seen up to a 300% increase in traffic! There are two keys to seeing an increase in traffic when you o a content audit. The first is you much IMPROVE THE CONTENT. You have to make the post better. This post will walk you through the process for improving the post, but it must be improved upon. After you have improved the post, then change the date to make the post more recent. For instance, if you are auditing a post from 2017, and you significantly change and improve the post, then you can change the date to say 2020. Search engines want to refer users to relevant and recent content. Use your content audit to improve the quality of the content and to make it a more recent post by changing the date. Doing both of these things together will result in a nice improvement in traffic to your audited post.
How often should you do a content audit, and what’s included?
So every 6 months or so, I first audit my current 10 or so Greatest Hits posts. I look at how each is performing. I track them through Google Analytics and maybe even with Webmaster Tools. So I get that list of my current 10 or so Greatest Hits posts, and set them aside for now.
Then I look at all my other posts, paying close attention to the posts I have published in the last 6 months or so. What I want to do is find at least one post I’ve written in the last 6 months that I can move into my group of 10 or so Greatest Hits posts. I want to keep my Greatest Hits fresh, plus I want to force myself to continue to create content that is good enough to be worthy of being included in my Greatest Hits.
But I also look at past posts as well. Who knows, there could be a post I wrote in 2015 that’s suddenly taken off in search results. I want to check and make sure my older posts aren’t showing signs of life. If any of them are, I then put them in my list of potentials for my Greatest Hits, along with any new posts I have written in the last 6 months.
I take my current 10 Greatest Hits posts. Then I take any potential posts written in the last 6 months that could be added to my Greatest Hits, as well as any former posts I’ve identified that could be included. That will likely give me a list of 12-15 posts that are candidates to be my 10 Greatest Hits posts.
So the final step is to whittle those 12-15 posts down to a group of 10. What’s my criteria for which posts I remove from Greatest Hits consideration? First, I look at the 10 posts I have as my current Greatest Hits. Are there any posts that aren’t performing as well as the rest of the group? Then I look at the 2-5 posts that are my candidates for adding to the Greatest Hits list. For these 2-5 posts, the first thing I look at is the topic. Are these posts covering a topic that isn’t well-represented in my current 10 Greatest Hits posts? If so, and if it is a topic that I want to be known for, then there’s a great chance I will move that post into my 10 Greatest Hits list.
I have my group of 10 Greatest Hits posts that I will audit, what now?
Ok, I’ve finally settled on my group of 10 posts that will be my Greatest Hits posts. Now I’m ready to begin the actual audit and improvement process for these 10 posts. Here’s what I want to review for each post:
- Readability. Is the post easy to read? Clear takeaways. Can the reader easily find and understand the key lessons from the post?
- Does the post have the latest information?
- Search Keywords and Phrases. What are the target keywords and phrases for each post?
- Visually appealing. Is there visual elements that are pleasing to the eye? No walls of text!
- Clear calls to action. Is there a clear and obvious way to keep the reader engaged with my content?
The first area I look at for my 10 Greatest Hits posts when auditing them is readability. For me, that means first scanning the post quickly to see how pleasing it is to the eye. I don’t want to see a wall of text. I want to see smaller blocks of text, organized with headings and callouts to point the reader toward key points that I want them to understand. Also, I identify the key lessons I want the reader to take from reading this post. I make sure each lesson is clear and succinct. To be honest, a lot of brutal editing needs to happen to each post. You have to remember, every 6 months or so, I will do this process again. Every time a post is involved in that auditing process, it will likely have changes made to it, maybe additional text will be added. So if I’m not careful, I could end up with 10 posts that are bloated 5,000 word monstrosities! I have to add what makes sense, and take out what doesn’t. And if I only add, then I need to make sure that the post’s readability isn’t negatively impacted.
Does the post have the latest information?
This is where I can typically make the biggest positive impact on a post. I might write a post on a topic, then 3 months later come across a research study that confirms what I wrote. I can then go back and add the research to my post, to improve the quality of the post, and also give more credence to the claims I made in the post. I may also come across a case study that is an example that I can add to the post, which will also greatly improve the quality of the post. By the way, this is why I tend to avoid dated content like ‘Here’s Your 2020 Guide to Creating An Amazing Content Strategy’ in my Greatest Hits collection. I would rather write ‘Your Guide to Creating An Amazing Content Strategy’ and work to refine and improve that post every 6 months via my content audit.
What search keywords and phrases am I targeting?
This is important for two reasons. First, it helps me make sure I am focused on the right keywords and phrases, and throughout the post. In fact, as I was ending the previous paragraph, I changed it from ‘and work to refine and improve that post every 6 months’ to add ‘via my content audit’ at the end, simply to get the phrase ‘content audit’ in the post again to help search engines understand what this post is about.
Second, making sure I am targeting the right keywords and phrases also helps me with the overall structure and content of the post. Its almost like a double-check of all the other areas like readability, key takeaways, etc. Notice also that I purposely handle the other areas such as readability and latest research first, then keywords. I write for people first, search engines second.
Make every post visually appealing.
We love visuals. Pictures, video, anything visual catches our eye and refocuses our attention. Also, visuals help break up walls of text. In general, I try to add visual content from three different categories to my Greatest Hits posts; Images, Video, and Infographics or Callout boxes.
Images are self-explanatory, as are videos. In both cases, you want to choose images and/or videos that help illustrate your content’s key points and concepts. For instance, if I were doing a case study of a brand ambassador program that Chick Fil-A was doing, I might want to add a video of the company’s CMO talking about why the program is working for the brand. Keep in mind that if you can show key concepts using different formats (text, audio, video, etc), that it helps the reader learn those concepts.
Also, think about adding infographics or callout boxes to highlight and illustrate key takeaways and concepts. Tools like Canva and Thrive Architect (affiliate link) can help you create infographics and callout boxes.
Adding clear Calls to Action to your posts
This is where a lot of us falter. We fail to add good Calls to Action on our Greatest Hits posts. Which is really unfortunate, because our Greatest Hits posts will ideally be the posts that are our most popular. A lot of people will be reading these posts, and if they are arriving from a search engine, it will likely be the first time they are exposed to your content. So at a minimum, you want to make sure they know how to stay engaged with your content.
How many of you have watched PBS during their famous ‘pledge weeks’ where they ask viewers for donations? Typically, during these pledge weeks, PBS offers its best programming. It will debut a new series by an acclaimed filmmaker like Ken Burns, or it will show a live concert by The Highwaymen, or other special events. PBS will show its best content, and during the airing of these shows, it will ask for money. It’s the same concept with your Greatest Hits content. These are your 10 best posts, so you’ve earned the right to ask for something from your readers. It can be as simple as asking for a comment, or asking for a subscription, or asking for a sale. The point is, your best content should have clear calls to action included.
So what type of call to action should your Greatest Hits posts include? Let’s go back to the Buyer’s Journey:
When a visitor arrives at one of your Greatest Hits posts, you need to understand where they are in the Buyer’s Journey. That will help determine what type of call to action they should receive. For the purposes of your content audit, there are two main factors to consider when deciding where the visitor is on the Buyer’s Journey:
1 – The post itself. Which of the four groups above is the post aimed at? Whatever group it is aimed at, your call to action should be focused on moving the visitor to the next step in the process.
2 – Referral sources of traffic. If the post is getting a lot of traffic from search engines, that likely means those visitors will be arriving at your site for the first time. So your call to action would likely be focused on encouraging them to subscribe to your content, or download a white paper, or sign up for your newsletter. You want to extend the interactions with this person. On the other hand, if the primary sources of referrals for your post are sources like social media or email, that suggests that the visitors are familiar with you and your work. So your call to action would likely be further along the Buyer’s Journey.
So that wraps up our content audit, now let’s put it into action!
Originally. I had planned on ending this post here. We’re already over the 2,000 word mark, and I’ve covered all the key points I wanted to make. But, I think it would be helpful to see this process in action. I want to now walk you through how I audit and improve one post.
Here’s the post; Great Customer Loyalty Programs Are Built On Offering Great Experiences. This post has some potential, but it also needs a lot of work. It has 1165 words, and one image, of a Ferrari. The main keyword phrase this post is targeting is ‘loyalty programs’. While this post needs work, I like the two hypothetical stories about the cereal loyalty program and the one for Ferrari. But the post doesn’t have much more than that. So I wanted to walk you through my process for improving the quality of this post.
First, let’s tackle readability. Let’s start with the title; “Great Customer Loyalty Programs Are Built on Offering Great Experiences”. We need to improve it, I like that the keyword phrase ‘customer loyalty programs’ is in the title, but we need to jazz it up a bit. The new title will be “Here’s How the Best Customer Loyalty Programs Create Happy Customers’. This makes the title more interesting, but it also means the title is now making a specific claim that the post has to back up. The post has to now show you how a customer loyalty program can create happy customers.
Let’s also add new information. Now I want to keep most of the post as it is, but I do want to add new content to support it. Specifically, I want to add content that explains and justifies the claim made in the title. So I want to show how offering great experiences leads to happy customers. I have some research to support that claim, so I will add it to the post. I will also add a couple examples of great customer loyalty programs that offer members great experiences as a reward Pairing these actual examples with the hypothetical ones the post already has, will help facilitate learning and retention of the post’s core concepts.
Revisit targeted keywords and phrases. Now I will review the post and make sure that I have focused on the correct keywords and phrases, and have them placed in the post in a way that will make sense to both the reader, and search engines which will be crawling the post. Also, note that I addressed readability for the READER first, then move to the search engines. Write for the humans first, then the machines.
Adding visual elements. For now, I want to add at least a screenshot of the new customer loyalty programs I am adding as examples. If I can find video of an executive at these companies talking about how their loyalty programs work, I may add that. If nothing else, the screenshots will help break up the text and give the reader visual information that supports the text.
Adding Calls to Action. For this post, I will add an email link so readers can contact me if they have questions about their own loyalty programs. I will also add links to other posts I have written on loyalty programs. The assumption is that over time, most of the traffic to this post will come from search engines, and those people will likely be first-time visitors to my site.
So that’s the process! You can view the audited post on Here’s How the Best Customer Loyalty Programs Create Happy Customers here.