November always seems like an in-between month to me. It’s the last full month of autumn. We’re past Halloween and all the scary marketing and costumes. The shops (and our TV screens) have already been taken over by festive cheer. Christmas catalogues are dropping through our letterboxes, landing in our inboxes, and waiting expectantly by every supermarket door.
Marketing and our minds are focussed on the future. It’s almost as if the collective psyche doesn’t see November as the world pulls up its britches and sucks in a deep breath in readiness for the race uphill to December, Christmas, and the new year.
For many small businesses and freelancers, November can be a quiet month. Clients are speeding up or slowing down for the festive break and communications can therefore be less consistent. Even where the month is busy or just the same as always, November is probably the last chance many of us will have to look back over the last twelve months before the onslaught of Christmas shopping and planning for the new year.
But why choose November for your content audit?
There’s another reason that November is a perfect month to wrap up your content and look back over what’s worked and what hasn’t – the new year blues.
Let’s face it. Putting aside new year resolutions, January can be a grey anti-climax after the effects of Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations have worn off. Most of us are financially challenged (skint) and we’re back to the usual slog.
From a content point of view, starting at such a low point can be a little depressing and lacking in inspiration. On the other hand, starting your 12-month content plan with December and all its joy, sparkle, and opportunity is altogether more satisfying and fun.
It makes sense to look back, measure, and plan ahead in November.
What is a content audit?
So what exactly is this ‘content audit’ malarkey I’ve been blethering on about? A content audit is an assessment of the content you have created, alongside existing content that you have continued to use such as the text on your website. While I’m talking about a yearly audit in this blog post, quarterly audits can prove useful too.
An effective content audit will tell you whether your content had the desired effect, which might be increased sales, fresh business leads, or a bigger online following. That’s a broad explanation of the term because of the wide range of variables involved in the process, including:
- whether you audit all or only a portion of your content
- what period of time the audit covers
- what end effect you wanted your content to have
A content audit will show just how successful – or not – your content has been, which individual pieces of content have worked best, who and where your actual audience are, and whether you are attracting your ideal audience. It will indicate what you should be doing more of and what to avoid.
What type of content is assessed?
This will depend on what you want to achieve from your content audit (more on that in the next section) but here’s the type of content you might include in the audit process:
- website content and landing pages
- blog posts and web articles
- social media posts
- marketing emails
- lead magnets and downloadables
How to carry out a content audit
The key to carrying out an effective content audit is to develop a focussed approach, instead of attempting to assess your entire body of content with no idea of what you want to know or why.
What are your content audit goals?
What purpose do you want the results of your content audit to serve? Do you want to improve your SEO? Do you want to make sure that your social media content is reaching and engaging the right audience? Do you want to improve your website performance with increased traffic or more conversions?
What do you want to know by the end of your content audit?
What content will you include?
Once you know the ‘why’ of your content audit, it should become clear which content to assess to reach your audit goal.
For instance, if you want to improve your website performance, then your audit will definitely include your website content. However, if you want to know which social media posts worked best and which faded away into the online aether with no sign of their demise, the content you assess will be anything you posted to social media platforms.
Choose the content you will include in your audit with your goals in mind.
Gather the relevant content
The easiest way to gather the content you will include in your audit is via a spreadsheet. I love spreadsheets but I know that many people will sigh dejectedly at the mention of them. However, once you’ve set up the first content spreadsheet, you’ll have a template to use for your next content audit.
There are also plenty of free downloadable templates available online. For instance:
- this website content audit template from WordStream
- this social media content audit template from Digital Drum
- and this SEO audit kit from HubSpot
Add each relevant piece of content to your spreadsheet. If possible, add the content URL for quick reference.
Analyse the relevant data
This is the step that tells you what effect your content has had. The exact data you’re looking for will vary depending on the type of content and your audit goals. For instance, if you carry out a website content audit, you’ll be looking at data such as bounce rate, the most popular pages, and where people came to your website from such as a tweet, a podcast episode that you appeared on, or a good old Google search.
This is when you can begin to add relevant column headers to your spreadsheet, such as time spent on page (website) or number of likes/shares/comments (social media post).
Sourcing your analytics data? Your website may offer an analytics tool or plugin. All the major social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn provide a way to view the data for your social media content. Finally, Google Analytics is free to use as long as you have a Gmail account.
Create a plan
Once you have gathered analytics data to your heart’s content, you can begin to build a picture of what has worked well, what requires a tweak, and what should be dropped.
The final step of your content audit is to make a plan of what needs to be done next:
- What content can remain as it is?
- What improvements must be made to existing content?
- What successful content will you replicate, for instance, style of social media post?
- What will you drop because it didn’t perform well?
November is my time to look back over the past twelve months – both in business and my personal life – to find out what was successful. How did I do over the last year? What should I do more of? What will I wave bye-bye to? A content audit serves that purpose well, preparing me – and hopefully you – for the next twelve months.