Here's some food for thought: If you don't know where you are, you can't figure out where to head to!
What does this mean in the context of a website content auditing?
It means that if you're clueless about the content existing on a website (or you have some sort of collected data, but you haven't gone deeper with your content analysis) you can't possibly set up any business goals for the given website. Or you might just draft them based on some superficial insights.
How are you supposed to migrate from Joomla to Drupal, for instance, or to apply any improvement-oriented change on a website if you don't know know enough about its whole intricate network of content layers and about  how these can affect your whole performance-boosting strategy?
So, you got our point: it is vital for you to closely evaluate the content on a website before you rush in to put together any sort of content strategy, before you set up any daring business goals. 

And Still: Why Is It Crucial To Run a Content Audit?

More often than not even your client doesn't have an in-depth knowledge of how the whole content “mosaic” on his website looks like.
Therefore, you could see the content audit as the base of the "pyramid” that your whole project is (whether this project implies a redesign, integrating a totally new CMS, migrating the website from an older to a newer version of an CMS, coming up with an SEO strategy etc.).
It's the “diagnosis” that you can put on this website and depending on which you can, later on, come up with the suitable “treatment” (aka business development strategy). 
Here's what you get to “dig up” during this content evaluation process:
  • valuable information about the workflows and content life-cycle
  • certain content patterns
  • “gaps” within the content, that need to be filled up with strategic content
  • you get to identify the “weak” pages on a website, those with low performance 

How Do You Actually Evaluate Content on a Website?

Now that we've pointed out why it is vital for you not to underestimate or, even worse, to skip this preliminary step of every web project, here comes the next legitimate question: how it's done?
Well, you practically set up 2 main “barometers” for evaluating each web page:
  1. performance per page (analyze HTML tags and keywords)
  2. specific business goals
And here we need to stress out this last idea: let your specific business goals guide all your insights throughout this auditing process! 
Note: you should start moving your imaginary magnifying glass across those particular pages of “critical importance” for the given website first! They could be the ones including products/services or the “About Us” page, but it depends greatly on each site's particularities and goals.

But What Does This Audit Include More Precisely?


1. Personas

If your (or your client's) website's content doesn't “talk the language of” or doesn't meet the needs of its persona, then it's as useful as a beach umbrella for an Eskimo.
Therefore, first of all:
  • you need to check whether that persona's profile has already been sketched
  • you need to check whether the already existing content on the website “speaks his/her language”
  • you need to establish, at this point, what content stays as such, what content needs improvements and what content goes, based on whether it's efficiently adapted to that persona's specific profile

2. Content Inventory

At this step you “just” pile up all the content on the website. So, no need to “examine” it yet (take baby steps; “patience is a virtue!”, you know), just make sure you collect all the existing content and put it together in an inventory.

3. Stakeholders Meetings

They are the ones that have been “pumping up” content on the website, so they should be the ones holding the most valuable information regarding the site's target audience. 
Therefore, make your your “investigation” includes chit-chats with these key “content handlers”, too!

4. Content Gaps Evaluation

Compare how the existing content is performing to how it should have or you would like it to perform in the future.
Identify the “weakest links”: on which pages content is less effective than on the rest of the website.
Next, after you've identified the causes, come up with solutions, too! How can you fill in those gaps with proper, strategically crafted content, aimed at meeting your visitors/customers needs?

5. Your Competition's Content Evaluation 

Your competitors' content is “pure gold” for you!
“Spy” on them, examine their own content, their whole content strategies, try to identity their own “weakest links”, too.
Collect as many valuable data as you can regarding their own personas, how much content, what type of content (whether it's high quality or low quality content) they have on their websites etc.
Keeping an eye on competition is a method that will never “grow out of trends”! At least not in matters of content auditing!

6. SEO audit

A content audit without an in-depth SEO audit is pretty much like a diet based on exercise, but not completed by healthy foods, too. Only half efficient!
So, grab on your imaginary magnifying glass and scrutinize the depths of the website from an SEO perspective: examine the meta descriptions, keywords, URL structure, 404 errors, title tags.
Do a little “dirty work”, so to say, which will help you figure out how all mighty Google perceives this website!

What Type of “Content” More Precisely?

By “content” we do refer to both on-site and off-site content, you know.
On-site types of content that you should analyze:
  • homepage
  • category pages
  • product descriptions
  • landing pages
  • blog
  • etc.
Of-site types of content that you should analyze:
  • social media
  • ebooks
  • emails
  • whitepapers
  • etc.
This macro-evaluation will allow you to identify whether the brand message is consistent through all these various types of content.

How Do You “Wrap Up” and Present Your Final Insights?

And here you are now, with an impressive “pile” of valuable findings that you've collected during your content audit process.
How do you present your conclusions to your client now?
Let us give you a few helpful tips:
  1. put them all together in a compelling story (never underestimate the power of storytelling)
  2. put together a strategy: clear goals+ clear means for meeting these goals
  3. select the “key” findings to present
  4. start your presentation with good news and continue with “issues” that you've identified during the audit
And here is how you run a content audit! At least this is how we run it here at our web design company in Toronto!

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