If you want to tell strong stories, you need a strong content strategy. And to create the right strategy, you need to take a cold, hard look at your existing content to understand what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and what you could do totally differently. How do you get that particular insight? Do a content audit.
What Is a Content Audit?
When you’re churning out content day in, day out, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. You can quickly lose sight of your larger goals, and how the content you’re creating is connected to them. In a content audit, you take a critical look at your own content, as well as your competitors’ content, to see how you stack up.
By reviewing your content as a whole (and comparing it to others in your space), you can see how you’re presenting your brand to the world. Are you speaking to the right people? Are you delivering stories in the right package? Are you sending the right message at the right stage of your buyer journey?
These answers will help you realign your brand and content, fill missing gaps, craft a more effective strategy, and gain a competitive edge.
How to Do a Content Audit
Whether you’re a new startup with very little content or a legacy brand with thousands of pieces in your archive, don’t worry. Here, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to get the insights you need—without spending days of your life digging through your archives.
Before you work through these steps, download our Content Audit Template, which includes key questions to ask.
You can use the same template and steps for your competitor audit as well. (BTW, as you work through these templates, you don’t have to write a novel for each answer. Keep your answers succinct, simple, and clear.)
Note: You may be a new startup with very little content, or a legacy brand with thousands of pieces in your archive. Either way, don’t worry. Here, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to get the insights you need—without spending days of your life digging through your archives:)
Note: You’ll repeat the following steps for both your own content and your competitors’ content. We recommend completing your own audit first, then doing your competitor audit.
Step 1: Gather your content.
Blog articles, social posts, explainer videos—every brand creates a variety of content across channels and across the buyer journey. This content generally falls into five main categories.
- Brand: This is content about a company specifically (not its product), such as the Brand Heart (purpose, vision, mission, values), events, news, etc. Some of this content may be internal-facing only; some may be external.
- Talent: This is content about a company’s employer brand, company culture, etc.
- Editorial: This is content meant to educate, entertain, inspire, or demonstrate brand expertise or thought leadership, such as articles, guest posts, infographics, blogs, industry-related content, etc.
- Product: This is more informational content related to products or services, such as sales materials, demos, explainer videos, or educational content.
- Performance: This is tactical content used to drive a specific KPI, such as landing pages, CTAs, PPC, etc.
The good news is you don’t have to review every single piece of content you or your competition has ever created—just a sample for each category.
Auditing Your Own Content
Pull a sample batch of 5-10 pieces of your most recent and successful pieces of content per category.
- Successful = top-performing content per your analytics (e.g., highest traffic, conversions, engagement, etc.).
- Recent = content from your last year or two. (While you may have a decade-old post that generates tons of traffic, you want to know how your current efforts are working.)
Frankly, you can pull as many samples as you like, but 5-10 is a healthy amount that won’t overwhelm you. If you create a variety of content formats (e.g., infographics, videos, e-books), include a variety of those most successful pieces too. Your goal is to get a representative sample that will give you a sense of how you’re communicating in each category.
Note: If you don’t have that much content, or don’t have content in every area, that’s OK. Pull what you have.
Auditing Your Competitor’s Content
Pull a similar batch of content. To figure out their most popular/successful content, look at their most popular content on social, content that outranks you in SEO, etc.
Depending on the focus of your content strategy, you may want to focus on particular categories (e.g., their editorial content vs. their talent content). That’s up to you. Just make sure you have a healthy selection of content from your top three competitors. (Again, you can audit as many competitors as you like, but your top 10 are your most relevant.)
Step 2: Review one category of content at a time.
It can be overwhelming to pull insights from 25-50 pieces of content at a time, which is why we recommend focusing on one category at a time and documenting your collective observations. This way you can compare insights from category to category, instead of piece to piece.
Start with your first category (e.g., Brand). Review those 5-10 pieces, and answer the template questions about your observations.
- What stage of buyer journey is it made for? Your content strategy should have a healthy mix of content that spans the buyer journey. If you’re overly focused on one stage, you may need to fill in the gaps across the journey.
- What persona does this content speak to? If one persona is targeted more than others, your content strategy may need to prioritize content for a neglected group.
- Does content come in a variety of formats? Depending on your channel mix, you may want to expand your strategy to include more types of content (think articles, video, infographics, interactives, etc.).
- Does content reflect brand voice/personality/visual Identity? Would someone be able to identify your brand’s content at a glance? Remember: Consistency is key.
- Is there a clear CTA? Do viewers have a clear next step? Is it tailored to the persona?
- What does the most successful content have in common? Consider things like topic, format, etc.
- What channels are used to promote? Is this content well-suited for your distribution channels? Are there other channels to consider?
- Any notable observations? Document anything that stands out to you (good, bad, or interesting).
Step 3: Look for trends across categories.
As you review each category, look for common threads, inconsistencies, messaging gaps, etc. These will shed light on your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
For example, you may create quality content on a variety of interesting subjects but your CTAs are weak. You may find that your copywriting is great but your design is lackluster. Or you may find that your branding is inconsistent across formats.
Step 4: Repeat the process for your competition.
In reviewing your competitors’ content, you will likely see even more opportunities to fill the gap, outrank, and outshine them. You will also probably notice areas where you’re falling short. For example, they may be publishing much more often than you or creating much more in-depth posts that outrank you.
It can be frustrating to shine light on these weak areas, but they can also serve as inspiration.
Step 5: Craft your takeaways.
Having reviewed the insights from your own content audit and your competitors’, you should have the information you need to improve your content strategy.
To make these items actionable, document your biggest opportunities for improvement in…
- Buyer Journey
How to Put Your Content Audit to Use
Now that you’ve done all that work, you’re ready to build a content strategy that gets real results. For next steps…
- See our guide to improve your content strategy.
- Revise your customer journey to make sure you’re saying the right thing at the right time.
- Follow our guide to create strong personas that help you connect with the right people.
- Find out how to choose the right metrics for your content strategy.
And if you need a partner to help you build a strategy (or execute the one you have), find out more about what we do, and what you’ll get when you work on content strategy with us.