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Susie Hood

Why Your Website Needs a Qualitative Content Audit | Hitsearch

If you’ve been in the digital marketing industry for any real length of time, then you’ll probably have carried out at least one content audit or content performance review on a website. It’s something that has long been acknowledged as a useful activity to look at how your existing web pages are performing from a traffic and conversions point of view and can provide useful insight into what isn’t working as well as it perhaps should be.

The tricky part is working out why some pages aren’t performing well and what you can do about it. The data you get from Google Analytics (GA), Google Search Console (GSC) and other site analytics or plugins can give some indications, but the only way to properly evaluate website pages is to manually qualitatively review them, alongside the other data, to get the full picture. This won’t just tell you how pages are performing from a landing page point of view, but can also highlight the role they play (or don’t yet play) in the conversion journey of your site visitors.

Some of the questions that a qualitative content audit can look at that a data scrape can’t include:

  • Does the page content appeal to, resonate with and meet the needs of the specific target audience at the point of their customer journey when they would come across it?
  • Is there a clear path forward for users once this page has been viewed?
  • What is the page’s main objective and is it achieving this?
  • What could the reasons be if not?
  • If another page on the site performs the same objective better, what are the differences between the two?

For some websites, where pages are in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, manually reviewing each of this clearly isn’t a realistic path to take, so a priority plan needs to be put in place to tackle the most important pages first. Not every business will have the resource to manually review hundreds of web pages, but most can manage the top 10, 20, 30 or 50 pages that mean the most to their bottom line. For businesses that have quite a long buying cycle, this kind of process can make a world of difference to how effective the website is at converting visitors to customers.

This article looks at how you can combine a page performance data scrape with a qualitative review to produce a content audit that not only provides a data-driven case for changing or improving your existing content, but also shows the content path to help you reach the objectives that really matter for your business.

Everything stems from understanding your audience qualitative content audit 1.jpg

It’s something we’re very passionate about at Hitsearch, because understanding your target audience properly and tailoring the strategy to their needs makes a world of difference to how effective your website and marketing activity is.

Developing buyer personas is the first stage in the process, but this needs to be taken to a much deeper level in order to become truly useful for strategy development. Getting an idea of what each of your target audience segments is looking for at each stage of their buyer journey (awareness, consideration, conversion) and how they can be moved down to the next stage, means that you can tailor your website content to offer what will be most effective in maximising conversions.

What channels can your personas be reached via? What types of content do they prefer e.g. short, visual pieces or deep-dive blogs and guides? How would they search for the information they want? What or who influences them?

Having landing pages and in-depth content aimed at specific audience segments with the types of information they are looking for at these various points enables you to tailor the journey to relevant potential customers. Finding out how well (or otherwise) your current site content does this is an important part of a qualitative content audit.

Using analytics data to find top priority content to audit qualitatively

It common practice to either export Google Analytics data directly or use it in combinaton (via API) with a scraping tool such as Screaming Frog when looking for the starting point with a content audit. This can be a great idea for larger websites, where you need to determine the pages that have the most influence (or potential influence) on your bottom line.

Determining what the most important metrics are for your business will help you determine page priority to review and work on content-wise. High performing pages should be fairly clear – high traffic or high conversion rates. How do you spot the pages which might not be as obvious, or are really underperforming at present, but could make a big difference if you get the content right?

With Screaming Frog, and using APIs linked to other tools, you can export data like traffic and user actions on your pages from not only GA, but also link tools like Ahrefs or Majestic, which will show the pages on your website that are linked to by external sites. Export the data into Excel or Google Sheets so that you can analyse it more effectively. qualitative content audit 2

Taking factors like this into account, as well as standard metrics like page sessions, is important. A page might be linked to by other sites because it contains information that is really useful to a certain group of people, regardless of where it appears in terms of traffic, so you could miss it’s potential importance if page views is the only metric you use to determine how valuable a page is to your website.

Along with traffic and links, other factors you may want to include to sort page priority to review manually could be:

  • Average time on page – to highlight pages where people clearly spend a lot of time but don’t necessarily convert
  • Pages with high traffic but a high bounce or exit rate – to show the pages where the content isn’t encouraging people to continue their journey on your site

You now have priority pages to review qualitatively… what next?

The easiest way we have found to conduct the next part is to expand on the spreadsheet that we already have from the data analysis. We add in extra columns and fill in the fields as each page is looked at manually. The qualitative measures we commonly use for this part of the process (and therefore the columns we add to the spreadsheet) include:

  • Persona – which persona is this page aimed at specifically? It might be all of them, but if it’s underperforming, it could be that the page content is too generic because it’s trying to have such a broad appeal
  • Journey stage – which stage of the buyer journey for that persona is the content aimed at? Awareness, consideration or conversion?
  • Objective – what should be the outcome when someone visits this page?
  • CTA – what primary call to action is used on the page?
  • Search terms – what search terms are being used to find this page organically? (data from GSC) and do they match the intent of the persona it’s aimed at for this stage of their journey?
  • Underperformance details – the main issue that has flagged this page as a priority to review e.g. high volume but low conversion rate and high bounce rate.

You will soon start to see any patterns that emerge e.g. a high proportion of pages are aimed at the consideration stage and not the conversion stage, some personas are under-represented in the content e.g. content is not technical enough, or too technical, for them to engage with, page objectives are unclear, or it might be difficult for users to work out where to go next on the site.

Once these aspects have been reviewed, it should start to become clearer why a particular page isn’t performing well in the light of its objective or how it can do better to reach its full potential. You can then start to determine what needs to go into the next columns:

  • Action needed – what needs to be changed in order for this page to reach its potential? E.g. break up blocks of text with visuals to better suit reading habits of XXX persona, more information on XXX needed, CTA not compelling enough for this audience segment, page should be conversion focused rather than consideration focused etc.
  • Details – a detailed brief on what is required for whoever will be reworking the content e.g. the new keywords to optimise for, specific format changes, the need for it to be aimed at a different persona, the new CTA that is required, create specific visuals/graphs to break up blocks of text etc. qualitative content audit 3

The end result of this page by page analysis will give you a content roadmap to boost the performance of your existing content, plus flag up where additional new content may be needed to fill any gaps in the user journey.

There is no effective short cut for a qualitative content audit; there will always be manual page reviews needed in order to get the human side of things right, but this can be combined with the helpful data from tools to back up your findings and provide a robust case for change to business stakeholders.

This review will also provide you with benchmarks from which you can show improvements and growth over time, once the content recommendations are implemented. Once the proof of concept is there for your top priority pages, the same process can be applied to more of the website over time to eventually make sure that all the necessary pages are there for your target users and performing as they should.

If you would like more information about content audits or strategy, get in touch with the Hitsearch team today to see how we can help your business.

If you have a business in the retail, finance or legal sector and would like to up your marketing game or receive some expert information about digital marketing services, then get in touch with a member of our team!

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