In my previous post SMART goals for websites and marketing I introduced the SMART framework that we’ve adapted for websites and marketing. In this post we’re going to dive deep into creating a Website Content Audit before you undertake a website redesign.

The first question to ask when facing a website redesign is: Why? Why? and Why? No, that’s not a typo. The 3 whys are a great way to drill down to the root cause that is driving the change. Too often companies change their websites on a whim or out of boredom. Considering that a redesign can cost even more than the initial build its prudent to consider your goals carefully before proceeding.

Identify your goals

Before you embark on a website redesign you should identify your goals: First, identify the key business driver for the redesign. It’s unlikely that the purpose of the whole business has changed. If a new product or service is being launched, is it possible to redesign only a section of the site or add new sections to the site? Is it possible to get away with a design refresh with a change of logo, fonts and colour palette? (assuming you are rebranding your business).

Startups

If you’re a startup though, it may be that you’ve completely realigned your business and are targeting a new audience and even have a new value proposition and new products.

Getting clear on your goals is really important: Check out my post SMART goals for websites and marketing first and then come back to this post. Right, let’s crack on with that website audit!

5 steps to performing a successful Website Content Audit

We recommend the following 5 step process to help you evaluate your existing website content:

  1. Audit your existing website content
  2. Review your site analytics
  3. Plan your redirects
  4. Cull your content
  5. Check for broken links

1. Audit your existing website content

The first step is to take stock of all the content on your existing website. This includes pages, landing pages and your blog posts. With your new goals in mind what content do you currently have that can be repurposed and tweaked? You’ll need a spreadsheet for this task, fortunately we have just the thing!

The Website Content Audit spreadsheet serves two purposes. Firstly, it shows in black and white (green, amber and red actually) what content you currently have. Secondly you can use it as a basis for creating a new site structure. Armed with this information you’ll be able to create a sitemap for your redesigned site which can be used as part of a brief for a freelance web designer or web design agency.

2. Review your current site analytics

It’s a good idea as part of your audit to review your website analytics over a 3, 6 and 12 month period before culling your pages. The metrics you should be looking at are:

  • What content has had the most visits?
  • What are the top landing pages?
  • What content has brought the most repeat visits?
  • What content has had the longest visit duration?
  • What content has brought the most referrals from other sites?

You’ll need to make an informed decision about what to do with this content. If it’s no longer relevant for your business then you can confidently remove these pages but bear in mind this will affect the volume of traffic to your site and depending on how radical a shift your business is going through – you could risk losing a lot of your traffic.

Visitors are not customers

This is not as alarming as it sounds because visitors that are not looking for what your business sells are just that: visitors, and visitors are not customers. You will have to have a solid conversion strategy in place to convert website visitors into customers. But it’s just a fact of life that only a small % of visitors will convert to customers.

A planned drop in traffic is quite acceptable and at this point it’s worth having a think about a relaunch strategy so you can use it to drive new and relevant visitors to your updated site when it goes live. Because that’s actually when the real work starts!

3. Plan your redirects

If you’re getting a lot of referred traffic from pages that are no longer relevant and have decided to remove those pages permanently then it’s best practice to make sure that these pages redirect in a way that is as seamless as possible.

This is so that visitors are not faced with a ‘404 page not found’ error. There is a column in our Website Content Audit worksheet for this exact purpose. If you have a WordPress site then install the plugin Broken Link Checker before you cull your content – this will enable you to see the current state of broken links on your site.

But let’s back track for a moment, what do I mean by referred traffic? Referred traffic are visitors to your pages from other sites. These could be via a google search or someone linking to your content from a page or blog post on your website or a link from social media or email campaigns. It’s worth noting that you have little control over who links to your site content or where they link from. This is another very good reason to review your website analytics before your content cull.

4. Cull your content

If you’ve been running your site for a while or have been creating a lot of content you’ll want to do some housekeeping and cull your content in preparation for your website redesign. Again, use our Website Content Audit spreadsheet to record redundant content first. Then, if you’re using a content management system like WordPress you should unpublish the content by switching its status to draft first (rather than deleting it permanently immediately) and also set up your redirects.

5. Check for broken links

screen grab of WordPress plugin: Broken Link Checker

Once you’ve removed the redundant content you’ll want to check for those broken links on your site to these pages. This will cover any redirects that you’ve missed. Use the WordPress Plugin Broken Link Checker to do this. It’s way more thorough than trawling through your site manually especially if you’ve written several hundred blogs over the years.

Forms

Your website probably has some signup forms for people to subscribe to your blog or download content. (If it doesn’t it should!) You’ll need to check that any confirmation or thank you pages still exist in the new site to avoid those nasty 404 pages.

Social Media Accounts

Your business likely has a presence on multiple social media channels. You’ll need to check that these all link to existing pages on your redesigned site.

How to conduct your Website Content Audit

There are two ways to approach this. First, login to your website content management system. If it’s a WordPress site you’ll see a list of pages in 3 different categories at the top of the pages section.

Screengrab of WordPress Pages

Go through all the pages starting with draft pages first – delete any drafts that you don’t plan on making live. Next scan your list of pages for ones that are redundant or duplicates.

The second approach is to browse your site in the normal way, clicking your way through the main navigation and sub-pages and sections you have. Add all the pages you currently have to the Website Content Audit Spreadsheet.

Using the Website Content Audit Spreadsheet

Screengrab of the Website Content Audit Spreadsheet

There are 3 worksheets:

  1. (Example) Existing site pages
  2. Existing site pages – for your pages
  3. Existing site posts – for your posts

As you can see from the image we’re using colour coding.
Green is for pages you want to keep in their entirety.
Amber is for pages that have content you’d like to repurpose.
Red is for pages you don’t want to keep (bear in mind those URL redirects here). If you hover your cursor over the column headings in the spreadsheet you’ll find some useful comments to explain what goes in each column.

What next?

The whole point of this exercise is to have a good hard look at what content you currently have, but this blog should raise more questions than it answers… In fact the content audit deliberately makes obvious what you don’t have. What sections are missing? How will you relaunch the site? What will your content strategy be moving forward? And the most important question of all: How will you convert visitors into customers?

All of these topics will be covered in our upcoming blog posts. So if you haven’t already, sign up using the form above and get your free Website Content Audit download, plus our monthly blogs delivered straight to your inbox.