Website Content Audit: A kick-arse guide.

Designing a replacement website?

Here’s a 10-step plan on what should be covered in a content audit to help you pull together an awesome content marketing strategy.

Nice. Got a live example?

Imagine building a house without an engineer’s report, an architect or builder’s plan, and all the proper consents – you’re dicing with disaster. The same goes for a website refresh or new build.

It might seem time-consuming, but you must do the mahi before you even think about investing in a new site. As specialists in website content creation, we’ve overhauled hundreds of enterprise websites and this content checklist is a must-have for us to deliver on stringent budget and deadline expectations.

A detailed website content audit will uncover valuable insights, get everyone in your company on board, help you formulate a roadmap (content strategy), and keep your development budget on track (and who doesn't like that!).

1. Metrics speak for themselves: gather the data

First and foremost, we recommend a deep dive into current site data. Then gather data, and then... gather more data.

Get into your customers’ heads using tools like Google Analytics that assess how they’re interacting with your content. There are free or cheap tools out there to assess how audiences use your site (such as heat maps).

You’re probably already recording the basic metrics like page views, internal links, backlinks, average time on site and bounce rates. Check meta descriptions (and all metadata like page title tags and image alt descriptions).

Look outside Google Analytics as well – like your CRM measurements, conversion rates and any other digital engagement channels like online forms, social shares, social media journeys, or video views. What are the most common queries from your knowledge base, internal search or call centre?

And of course, search engine optimisation (SEO) must play a central role in measuring existing site performance (as well as contributing to a plan for the new site content strategy). Remember, SEO content performance is not all about keyword rankings (see below for more on SEO). Weed out any duplicate content and analyse content pieces with a high bounce rate or low engagement – you may need to cut them.

You should be ‘getting under the hood’ and doing regular content audits (on a smaller scale) at least twice a year on your current site anyway, to understand the performance of your efforts, identify gaps in your content offering and make informed decisions on how to improve the user experience.

You can download content audit templates easily enough online to give you an idea of what to cover.

2. Quickfire content inventory: what content to keep, delete or create

This is a simple Excel spreadsheet detailing every type of content (web pages and assets like imagery and PDFs), with some basic traffic data, that will immediately allow you to make decisions to either cull (obvious out-of-date information), amalgamate/ repurpose, do a light-touch rewrite, or full rewrite.

It’s helpful also to make note of obvious missing calls to action (CTA’s).

A website content inventory gives everyone on the planning team an idea of the scope of change required, and how many pages / new pieces of content to budget for – as a ballpark. (It’s always tricky to do quotes for clients so we find this a really good way to do a ballpark estimate or prioritise pages for WIP as a ‘light touch or ‘the full monty’.)

We’ve done this exercise numerous times with corporate enterprises, and we always find outdated content - so it’s helpful even just for this reason.

3. Business goals: get the inside word

One-on-one or in groups, we recommend interviewing internal stakeholders across your business at all levels and even running email surveys. This is one of the most beneficial parts of a content audit, for two reasons.

First, your product or business owners know loads about their products/services and customers and can give you invaluable details. And second, it brings them on the journey, so you get more buy-in, from the get-go.

Record all interviews or save transcripts. These conversations can really help when you jump into the detail of new content development, in the next phase.

Recently, we did this for one of New Zealand’s most trusted charities and ended up getting so much value out of chatting to over 50 stakeholders, at all levels /specialties.

It gave us, and their internal teams, some insightful (and often surprising) macro and micro-objectives. It also helped to quote a future re-dev project.

4. Look beyond your nose with an SEO-lead competitor analysis

You should always have an eye on your most direct competitor sites and brands that are aligned to yours – and your Google search rankings. Provided your website is technically sound, it’s your on-page SEO that you’ll need to work on.

Searching incognito for who is ranking and then looking at competitors for new content, designs, and digital sales approaches is helpful – but using SEO software (like Semirush , AHREFS, and Screaming Frog to do an SEO audit and analyse key metrics is one of the most powerful things to have up your sleeve.

SEO tools will give you insights on your competitors. For example, what new target keywords are in your sector, how other sites are ranking (so you can analyse any content gaps), what kind of content is ranking well (think: infographics vs blog posts), and the ideal word count for your chosen target keywords. You can also use these tools to watch trends and changes in search features like highlighted snippets.

Your business may not always have the time or the know-how to perform an in-depth SEO competitor analysis (the Google search console is super complex). This is an area where you might get the professionals in.

5. Get to know your audience(s) and the full ’user experience’ deeply

A Miro online whiteboard is such a simple effective online tool to perform user research and journey maps.

Understand your users intimately by gathering qualitative insights. This work can help to feed into creating some written personas too.

With stakeholders' help, work through each of your audience groups to set up some casual meetings. Face-to-face (or over Zoom) can help to wrap your head around their needs and drill down on the details. These looser conversations will unearth surprises.

This is especially important for business-to-business websites where the audience is very specific.

For example,  we worked on the B2B website of a global dairy nutrition co-operative that exports to 100 countries. In the audit, we talked to food manufacturers in Europe, Asia, The Middle East and U.S.A. Each country and each company had very different geological, cultural and distribution pain points. And the decision-makers were entirely different depending on size and region! This informed the personas, the tone of voice and navigation.

If you don’t have direct access to people, consider a digital survey.  Or talk to your sales reps - they are at the coalface.

Furthermore, one of the most practical ways to understand your audience is by mapping out the ‘flow’ of how they get from A to B – otherwise known as a user journey. The website is only part of the whole journey.

‘Journey Maps’ are a great marketing tool for this. It’s all about capturing the experience of a customer as they interact with your product/service from start to finish (starting outside of your site). Doing this with your product managers can be super helpful too.

The format might be a journal, where a client/customer/user notes their pain points and their moments of delight on their path to purchasing something from you. Or via an interview.  Then you can take the info and make some simple ‘UX flows’ – a hybrid between traditional flow charts with some visual elements. They focus on a task to be accomplished by the user and eventual alternative paths to get there.

Finding this useful? If you're on the cusp of re-doing your enterprise website, drop us a line. We can take you through a few live case stories.

6.     Mind your tone - assess your copy

The right ‘tone’ and feel of the words on each page makes your website sing – so considering your existing (or any future) copy should not be taken lightly.

Do you have a current Tone of Voice (TOV) guide? If so – great. Use it to assess what’s on every page. You can also use some helpful AI tools like ContentShake to measure your copy’s readability too.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that general brand tone of voice guidelines will do. You need a specific online guide because website copywriting has become highly specialised.

If it’s clear that the existing copy is not hitting the mark and you might need new text (a likely outcome if the new website page components and structure change), there are a few options to plan for.

If you’re able to invest in experienced copywriters to pull together new content and a TOV, that’s going to set you ahead leaps and bounds. But if you can’t afford this option and need to write everything in-house, make sure you have some clear writing style guidelines on paper, with clear examples of before and after.

For writing, we see more clients leaning on AI chatbots like Bard or ChatGPT – which can work for some pieces of factual content. We often use them here at BOW to give us a starting point. But frankly - and the wider advertising industry agrees - the big issue is their clunky tone of voice.

7.     Tell your story visually

Subtle retouching of stock images reinforces your brand's look and feel. This was for a big, red, Australasian bank!

An audio-visual guide needs to be part of your content audit and your entire content marketing strategy, so shouldn’t be an afterthought.

We recommend setting up a mood board early with stills or video styles. Then consider – do your current content assets fit the mould?

PhotoshopFrom a SERP perspective, images and video can help boost on-site engagement and increase your chances of ranking. A recent Semrush study found that articles with at least one video generate 70% more organic traffic than those without.

Adding imagery/visuals can also increase your chances of appearing in SERP features.

There are loads of free photography sites out there, but paying a subscription-based site is often the best bet – otherwise you risk choosing cheesy, contrived imagery that doesn’t have a local flavour. Plus, there’s a lot more choice.

Consider featuring a colour palette/blend of your brand colours in your imagery, so everything has a cohesive feel. Often, graphic designers can help with these adjustments, too.

When you pull together guidelines, remember to add loads of best practice visual examples to build your case.

8.     Define your objectives on a page

When you ask stakeholders, ‘What do you expect the website to actually do?’ you may find you get a few different answers. Awareness, high-quality lead gen, conversion (sales), optimisation of the brand experience? In large organisations, there are often competing prerogatives.

Get aligned early on, write it down in a few bullet points, and make sure it’s upfront in your strategic documentation. It can really help you understand priorities and invest accordingly.

For example, the website mantra for one enterprise website was, “Mobile first, brutally simple”. And it was brutal! Our writers had strict character counts and the litmus test was always viewing work on a mobile phone – even presentations to the board!

9.  Guiding principles that get people engaged

Agree on 5-10 design principles. These pointers will become like a mantra to the planning and design team and can be great talking point for getting stakeholders invested in your plans.

Common principles might be, ‘Be data lead’, ‘Mobile first’ or ‘Less is more’.

Everything should come back to these principles when you’re assessing old content and designing your new site (and come in useful when you’re debating unnecessary detail in long-form pages with product managers!).

10.  Decide where the buck stops

Marketing, product, digital or general managers? There are many players making decisions across big and small aspects of the existing and new site: like the structure, landing page detail, design, budgets and, inevitably, what should go at the top of the homepage.

Deciding on who will have a say on section-level strategy, versus ultimate ownership and sign off, is imperative. At the strategy stage – decide on who these people are and start taking them on the journey.

It often avoids going in circles in feedback loops and keeps things consistent – especially in the next design, write and build phase.

If you’re literally dreaming about your new IA (information architecture) and already talking with developers – and all that exciting stuff – take a breather and do the hard yards above.

With all these steps well-considered and noted down succinctly in a stylish PDF – you’ll have a great strategic blueprint to kick off the next dev phase, or to showcase to management as a kick-arse business case for funding.

By Sarah Davies, our Big on Writing Content Strategist

Sarah won't say this herself but she's brilliant at content strategy. That's because she's learnt her craft from the ground up, working on large enterprise websites, content hubs, social media and PR client-side and then for us, for over 15 years as a writer and strategist.

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