7 steps for conducting a content strategy audit
When working with a startup, everything you do needs to bring value to the business. Every initiative, campaign or task – whether it falls under product, sales or marketing – should be approached with a data-driven mindset. And when the numbers aren’t where you need them, it’s time to change up your approach.
Because we look at our analytics at least weekly, we knew our content had plateaued and that it was time to run an audit. Our team retreat in Santa Cruz last month was the perfect opportunity to explore how our content was performing. Although we communicate daily on Slack and Asana as a remote team, it’s good to periodically meet in person to tackle some of these loftier, more strategic projects. That’s why we have retreats every few months – to collaborate on getting shit done while spending time on big-picture ideas and concepts.
The audit allowed us to dig deeper into what was happening and what our audience wanted. Here’s how we ran the audit and the tools we used.
How to run an audit on your content strategy audit
We wanted to explore why our traffic had slowed and why our audience wasn’t growing as fast as we hoped. But the real question we needed to answer was what does our audience want? More specifically, we wanted to know:
- What type of content resonates with our audience
- What voice and tone our audience relates to
- What type of content gets cut-through in our newsletter
- What motivates readers to open and share our newsletter
Check out the process we used to do our content audit below:
- Choose the tools to use
- Revisit your goals
- Review top-performing blog posts
- Survey your community for feedback
- Analyze your social and newsletter data
- Get inspired by your competitors
- Establish your editorial voice and tone
Step 1: Choose the tools to use
There are many tools out there to measure your content efforts, here are the ones we found most helpful for our goals:
- Google Analytics for blog traffic stats
- Google Forms or Typeform for surveys
- Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider for post and headline character count
- SEOCentro.com to identify who’s ranking for our target key terms
- Campaign Monitor to measure the performance of our newsletters
- Sharedcount.com to measure social shares and reach
- Facebook Insights to measure engagement and reach with content on Facebook
- Twitter Analytics to measure engagement and reach with content on Twitter
- Buffer Analytics for a cohesive view of social media performance
Step 2: Revisit your goals
It’s time to revisit the goals you defined when developing the strategy you’ve been executing on as you review your metrics. You should really be looking at these each morning, or at least once a week (that’s what we do!). Some of your goals will be quantitative metrics that are easy to measure, such as:
- Unique visits of 10,000 (increase of x%)
- Conversion rate of 15% (blog visits to signups)
- Twitter followers of 5,000 (increase of x%)
- 5 comments per blog post
- Increase in newsletter open rate of 20%
Other will be more abstract and harder to measure, such as:
- Increased brand mentions
- More inbound press inquiries
- Positive replies to weekly newsletter
Although these goals may be harder to forecast, but they should still be tracked as they’ll have an impact on your analysis. You’re going to use these goals to benchmark against your actual data.
Step 3: Review top-performing blog posts
Start your content audit by pulling your top performing blog posts. We were specifically looking for:
- What topics drove the most traffic and click-throughs?
- What keywords performed the best?
- What referral sources drove the most traffic?
- What type of posts were most popular on social media?
- If there was any correlation between title or post length and shares or visits?
Go to Google Analytics → Select your date range (we measured three months) → Behavior → Site Content → All Pages.
In addition to unique pageviews, we made note of average time on site, entrances, bounce rate and % exit.
To know why these posts performed best, we started by looking at top referrers of each individual post.
From the page above, select “Secondary dimension” drop down → Acquisition → Source.
To see all sources of a single post, click on the post link, then go through the same drop down process.
We now know where people visited one of our most popular blog post from and the behavior from each of these sources. We then repeated this process for all ten top posts, noting top drivers of traffic for each.
We can conclude that visitors from Facebook, bootsrappers.io, inbound.org and Google (organic search) were more likely to click through to other posts because of the lower % exit and bounce rate. Whereas visitors from Twitter were more likely to bounce after reading the post, which isn’t surprising as Twitter visitors were likely drawn in by the subject of the interview and didn’t have much interest past that.
Note that direct traffic is tricky to measure. This traffic come from a variety of sources that you’re left to guess on. In this case, we know that several visits came from email — as this post was featured in Startup Digest and other newsletters. Other sources of direct traffic can be shortened URLs (through Buffer or bit.ly) and organic search.
Because we still don’t have a complete, comprehensive picture of why these posts were top performers, we compiled this data into a spreadsheet and moved onto the next step.
To learn more about our top posts, we pulled post categories and focus key terms from our WordPress admin. This is a bit manual of a process – to go to the blog’s admin, look at each post and make note of the category and key term from Yoast – but it took less than ten minutes.
We also gathered social shares from the Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress plugin. Sharedcount.com is a handy tool for pulling share numbers if you don’t have a counter plugin.
We tore a page out from Crew and Buffer’s book and used Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider tool to determine post and headline length in order to draw any correlations between word count and popularity. We didn’t have enough data necessary to draw any real conclusions here, but Crew did if you want to check out their post on how they determined that the ideal length for them is over 1,500 words.
To run a Screaming Frog report, simply download the program for your OS and enter the URL, export the spreadsheet, then delete any columns with data that you don’t need.
Step 4: Survey your community for feedback
Because we set out to learn what our audience wanted from our content — how we could add the most value to them — it made sense to go straight to the source and ask. We created a CloudPeeps Content survey using Google Forms that helped us identify:
- Readers’ motivation for consuming our content
- Topics they find most interesting
- Reader behavior – how often they’re consuming our content
- Type of posts (i.e. how tos, interviews, etc.) they find most valuable
We focused on the newsletter because it’s easier to ask questions about a single entity, and because we use the newsletter to share our content. What works for the newsletter should drive our content strategy.
To distribute the survey, we sent individual emails to our active Peeps – those currently working with a CloudPeeps customer – and shared the link in our private Facebook group, our Peeps-only Jobs Digest, and in our newsletter. We then compiled the findings into our master spreadsheet, and later incorporated this into our conclusions.
Step 5: Analyze your social and newsletter data
If you manage a newsletter, pulling analytics is going to look different depending on what email marketing software you use. No matter how you pull newsletter analytics, the metrics you’ll want to look at are:
- Open rate over time
- Click rate over time
- Subject lines with the best open rate
- Links with the most clicks
- Churn rate (unsubscribes)
If you’ve done any a/b testing, other considerations include send date and time, types of subject lines and from name and email (for deliverability).
We determined that the majority of our readers are members of our freelancer community – and that’s who are content needs to be geared towards. In addition to “how to freelance” tips, they were very interested in marketing trends, tips and tools.
Social media stats
Social media plays an important part in our content and engagement strategy, so we took a great pulse of our social performance. For Facebook, we used Facebook Insights to determine top posts.
Go to your Facebook Page → Insights → Posts
You can see your most successful posts in terms of reach and engagement (clicks, likes, comments and shares). We sorted ours by reach to get a quick glimpse of which types of posts have been most successful.
To see what format performs the best on Facebook (since they’re always changing the algorithm, click “post types” in the Posts section of Insights.
With this, we’re able to determine that aspirational quotes and stories from the community – links and photos – perform the best on Facebook.
Twitter is an important component to our strategy as well – being our second highest driver of traffic. We used both Buffer Analytics and Twitter Analytics to determine what type of content was resonated the most with our Twitter fans.
We used Twitter Analytics to help us identify our top tweets by engagement. Here’s where to find that data:
We then compared this to the top tweets measured by clicks in Buffer Analytics.
If you already have an account, go to buffer.com → select the account you’d like to measure → Analytics → select the date range you’re measuring → select Most Popular (which shows a drop down) → Most Clicks.
We now have our top Facebook posts and tweets, and determine what type of content performed the best.
Step 6: Get inspired by competitors
If ranking high in search is your goal, it’s good to know how other sites are competing for your audience’s organic (and paid) search visits. Use SEOCentro’s Keyword Position tool to determine where your site ranks and who is ranking the highest.
Simply input your target key term – for us, if we’re targeting customers this might be “hire community managers” – and your domain for results:
From here, visit these blog posts, take note of the terms they use throughout and what the headlines are. Add the sites that are the most relevant to your audience to your spreadsheet as potential places for you to guest write for and to link to within your content. Linking to valuable, high-ranking and relevant content will help improve your ranking.
Step 7: Establish your editorial voice and tone
As we waded through all of this data, one thing became evident: your voice and tone matter. For us, we learned that our audience wants to be talked to like humans (duh). They want to learn more about the inner workings of CloudPeeps and see our personalities through all that we share. With that in mind, we set a new rule to “only write things you would say out loud,” and developed new voice and tone guidelines:
Our voice is… smart, sharp, and witty while being fun and engaging; casual and conversational; authoritative and confident.
Our tone is… direct, friendly, humble and authentic. We believe in the power of sarcasm and using words to make an impact. We’re obsessed with happiness and that resonates through every communication.
Our content is… a resource to help people be better and happier at their jobs. It provides direct and actionable advice with case studies and data to back it up. It’s educational and tactical. It’s forward-thinking and trends-focused, providing relevant information to help people make smarter and faster decisions as freelancers, business owners and marketers.
Our audience should walk away from a piece of content and be able to immediately apply what they learned to the work that they’re doing.
In your content, talk to your audience as you would in person. Your content marketing is your opportunity to build your brand identity – have some fun with it!
Though this might seem like a labor-intensive exercise, it’s really only about a half day’s worth of work, and totally worth it. Conducting a content audit helped us realize that our content wasn’t having the impact we expected and wasn’t seeing the reach we hoped for. Specifically, we found that:
- Our audience is most interested in marketing and community trends, tools and tips
- Educational content on the nuts and bolt of freelancing is a close second
- They prefer aspirational messages combined with casual, conversational tone
- They’re interested in updates and insights from CloudPeeps HQ
- They want tips they can immediately apply to work and life
With this, we identified topics to write about that will meet the needs of our audience and made changes to our voice and tone that we feel will not only resonate more with our audience but also better reflect our brand. Aaaannnnddd we’re really excited about what we have planned for the rest of the year!
Have you conducted a content audit? What did you find or what changes did you make? Share your story in the comments below!
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