The Ultimate Checklist for Your Year End SEO Audit
With 2015 almost behind us and 2016 already offering some interesting twists and turns in the content marketing game, now’s the perfect time to run a content audit and see where your brand stacks up. Even the best-laid content plans can go awry, especially if you haven’t touched base with your original vision from the beginning of the year, but it’s not a problem unless you allow it to keep getting worse. This is your chance to evaluate your performance, take note of possibilities for improvement, and start the new year off with a bold new approach.
The problem for most people is scale—“content marketing” refers to a lot of different moving parts, so how can you run an audit of everything all at once? That’s why I came up with this checklist. It’s not perfect, but it will help you touch on the most important points of your campaign and figure out exactly what you need to do to improve in the coming year:
Recall the Big Picture
First, you’ll want to get a good idea of where you were at the start of the year, as a basis for comparison.
- What were your main goals? Were you trying to build more traffic alone or were you hoping for more engagements onsite?
- What were your secondary goals? Were you interested in building more relationships with influencers? Achieving a higher ranking in search engines? The more specific you are here, the better, but if your goals started vague, they’ll have to remain vague.
- What changed this year over last year? Where were you at the end of last year, and what made you choose those goals? What strategic changes did you make?
Evaluate Your Overall Efforts
Next, take a look at the efforts you made to achieve those goals.
- How often did you publish content?
- What types of content did you publish? For most goals, the more variety you have the better.
- Where did you publish content? Make a list of your primary and secondary syndication channels, and whether you syndicated older material in addition to new features.
- Were there any gaps or missteps in your strategy?
- Did your strategy align with your objectives?
- Did you adjust your strategy throughout the year? This is crucial; if your strategy remained stagnant, you could have missed out on some serious opportunities for growth.
- What could you have done better? This is a broad question, and one we’ll answer in more detail with the other sections, but make a preliminary list.
Evaluate Your Overall Performance
With the efforts behind you, take a look at how well your campaign performed overall.
- How did traffic change over the course of the last year? Look at organic, social, and even direct traffic. Obviously, more is better, regardless of your other goals.
- How did engagement change over the course of the last year? Consider comments, user behavior, social shares, links, and meaningful site engagements.
- How did conversions change over the course of the last year? Again, more is always better, and can be a good indication of how much users trust your brand.
- Did you meet your main goals? Why or why not?
- Did you meet your secondary goals? Why or why not?
Evaluate a Sample
Now, take out the microscope. Take a piece—or several pieces—of content you’ve written recently, and evaluate them for quality.
- Is your content useful? All your content should be valuable, if not practical, to your audience.
- Is your content unique? Do a quick search—did anyone do this before you did?
- Is your content timely? Evergreen content is always good, but what about your news articles?
- Is your content accurate and well-researched? How many sources do you cite? Can you verify every fact you claim?
- Is your content logically organized and coherent?
- Is your content supplemented with visual material? Visuals are becoming more important than ever. Images and video can make any piece of content more engaging.
- Does your content feature any filler? These include “fluff” content or unnecessary tangents.
- Is your content written for people or search engines? This is subjective, but you should be able to tell almost immediately.
- Does your content adhere to a consistent brand voice? You’ll have to look at multiple pieces to determine the answer.
- Does your content sell too hard, not at all, or a respectable amount? This is somewhat subjective, but it should stand out to you if you have no calls to action of if you’re too salesy.
- Is your content scannable? Readers should be able to get the gist of your content at a glance.
Redefine Your Goals
You now have a solid understanding of what you wanted to do, the effort you put forth, and the results of those efforts. Hopefully, you’ve uncovered some weaknesses to improve and some successful areas to replicate, so let’s formalize those with some questions:
- What new main goals do you want to achieve? Are you updating your older goals or heading in a new direction?
- What new secondary goals do you want to achieve? What short-term and lower-priority goals are going to lead you to your main vision?
- How are you going to do it? Think about all the strategic changes you’ll need to make to produce better content and achieve your goals.
Now that you’ve answered every question in this list and come up with at least a few new conclusions about your content marketing campaign, you should be in a good position to start the new year off right. Remember, year-end audits are nice, but if you want to enjoy continually growing success in any way, you’ll need to monitor your performance and make adjustments throughout the year. Trends, technologies, and user behaviors change too quickly to be ignored, so prioritize your attention to detail and flexibility.
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