One of the advantages of working for an agency is the volume of websites we get to evaluate. The majority of clients who sign up for ongoing SEO and/or content services will receive a content audit. Similar to a technical SEO audit, the results of the content audit should drive the strategies and priorities of the next stages of content work. Without the audit, you can’t create an effective strategy because you first need to know what types of content you’ve got, what content you’re missing, and what content you’ve got too much of.
While there are many posts out there about how to perform a content audit (and I encourage you to check out these posts: How to Do a Content Audit and 5 Lessons Learned from a Content Audit), I am going to be focusing on what my common findings have been from recently conducting 15 content audits. My aim is to give you more of a framework on how you can talk to clients about their content or, if you are the client, ways you can improve your website content to keep users on the site longer and, ultimately, convert.
Mistake #1: No clear calls-to-action
I have yet to complete a content audit where creating clearer calls-to-action wasn’t a focus. The goal of a page should be obvious to any visitor (or content auditor). What is it that you want a visitor who lands on this page to do next? Many of our clients are not e-commerce, so it may feel less obvious; however, assuming you want someone to stay on your website, what’s next?
Even if answer is “I want them to visit my store,” make it easy for them. Add a prominent “Visit Our Store” button. If it’s a simple blog page, what are the next blog articles someone should read based on what they just read? Or do you have a relevant e-book you’d like them to download? You got them to the end of your post — don’t lose the visitor because they aren’t sure what to do next!
Mistake #2: A lack of content for all stages of the customer journey
One thing we often do when conducting content audits is track where in the sales funnel each page is aimed (awareness, consideration, purchase, or retention). What we sometimes find is that clients tend to have a disproportionate amount of content aimed at driving a purchase, but not enough for awareness, consideration, and retention. This isn’t always the case, particularly if they have a blog or resources hub; however, the consideration and retention stages are often overlooked. While the buyer cycle is going to be different for every product, it’s still important to have content that addresses each stage, no matter how brief the stage is.
Retention is a big deal too! It is way more cost-efficient and easier to upsell and cross-sell current customers than bring in new. Your customers are also less price-sensitive because they know your brand is worth it. You definitely want to provide content for this audience too to keep them engaged with the brand and find new uses for your products. Plus, you’ve already got their contact information, so delivering content to them is much easier than a prospect.
Here are some examples of content for each stage:
Awareness: Blog posts (explainers, how-tos, etc), e-books, educational webinars, infographics
Consideration: Product comparisons, case studies, videos
Purchase: Product pages, trial offers, demos, coupons
Retention: Blog posts (product applications, success stories, etc), newsletters, social media content
Mistake #3: Testimonials aren’t used to their full potential
There are so many pages dedicated solely to testimonials out there on the Interwebs. It’s painful. Who trusts a testimonials page over reviews on third-party sites like Yelp, Google My Business, or Tripadvisor? No one. That being said, there is a place for testimonials. It’s just not on a testimonials page.
The best way to use a testimonial is to pair it with the appropriate copy. If it’s a testimonial about how easy and fast a customer received their product, use that on a shipping page. If it’s a testimonial about how a product solved a problem they had, use it on that product page. This will enhance your copy and help to alleviate any anxieties a prospective customer has with their decision to purchase.
Testimonials can also help you improve your local relevance in search. If you have a storefront that is targeting particular cities, ask for a customer’s city and state when you gather testimonials. Then, include relevant testimonials along with their city and state on the appropriate location page(s). Even if your store is in Lakewood, Colorado, collecting testimonials from customers who live in Denver and including them on your location page will help both search engines and users recognize that Denver people shop there.
Mistake #4: Not making content locally relevant (if it matters)
If location matters to your business, you should not only use testimonials to boost your local relevance, but your content in general. Take the auto dealership industry, for example. There are over 16,000 car dealerships in the United States and they all (presumably) have websites. Many of them have very similar content because they are all trying to sell the same or similar models of cars.
The best car dealership websites, however, are creating content that matters to their local communities. People who live in Denver, for example, care about what the best cars are for driving in the mountains, whereas people in the Los Angeles area are more likely to want to know which cars get the best highway gas mileage. Having your sales team take note of common questions they get asked and addressing them in your content can go a long way toward improving local relevance and gaining loyal customers.
Mistake #5: Not talking about pricing
Many companies, B2B companies in particular, do not want to list pricing on their website. It’s understandable, especially when the honest answer to “how much does your service cost?” is “it depends.” The problem with shying away from pricing altogether, though, is that people are searching for pricing information. It’s a huge missed opportunity not to have any content related to pricing, and it annoys prospective customers who would rather know your cost range before giving you a call or submitting a form for follow up.
It’s mutually beneficial to have pricing information (or at least information on how you determine pricing) on your website because it’ll help qualify leads. If a prospect knows your price range and they still reach out for more information, they’re going to be a much better lead than someone who is reaching out to get pricing information. This saves your sales team the trouble of wasting their time on bad leads.
Having pricing information on your website also helps establish trust with the prospect. If you aren’t transparent about your pricing, it looks like you charge as much as you can get away with. The more information you provide, the more trustworthy your business looks. And if all of your competitors are also hiding their pricing, you’re the first one they’ll likely reach out to.
Mistake #6: Getting lost in jargon
There are a lot of great companies out there doing great work. And more often than not, their website does not reflect it as well as it could. It isn’t uncommon for those tasked with writing web copy to be quite close to the product. What sometimes happens is jargon and technical language dominates, and the reason why a customer should care gets lost. When it comes to explaining a product or service, Joel Klettke said it best at MozCon 2017. A web page should include:
- What is the product and why should a prospect care about it?
- How will this product make the prospect’s life easier/better?
- What’s the next step? (CTA)
It’s also important to include business results, real use cases, and customer successes with the product on your website too. This establishes more trust and supports your claims about your products. Doing this will speak to your customers in a way that jargon simply will not.
Mistake #7: Page duplication from migration to HTTPS
With more sites getting an SSL certificate and moving to HTTPS, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have 301 redirects set up from the HTTP version to the HTTPS version to prevent unintentional duplication of your entire website. Duplicate content can impact search rankings as search engines struggle to decide which version of a page is more relevant to a particular search query. We’ve been seeing quite a few sites that have an entire duplicate site or some isolated pages that didn’t get redirects in place in their migrations. We also keep seeing sites that have www and non-www versions of pages without 301 redirects as well. Running regular crawls will help you stay on top of this kind of duplicate content.
Here are a couple of good resources to check out when doing an HTTPS migration:
- HTTP to HTTPS Migration: The Ultimate Stress-Free Guide
- Implementing HTTPS: Options to Consider with JR Ridley (podcast)
Mistake #8: Poor internal linking and site architecture
How content is organized on a site can be just as important as what the content is. Without proper organization, users can struggle to surf a website successfully and search engines have a difficult time determining which pages are considered most important. Making sure your most important pages are structured to be easy to find, by listing them in your navigation, for example, is a good user experience and will help those pages perform better.
Part of making important pages easy to find is through internal linking. Web content is often created on an ongoing basis, and being smart about internal linking requires taking the time to look holistically at the site and figuring out which pages make the most sense to link to and from. I keep encountering blog content that does not link back to a core page on the site. While you don’t want product to be the focus of your blog, it should be easy for a user to get to the core pages of your site if they want to do so. As you’re auditing a site, you’ll find pages that relate to one another that don’t link. Make notes of those as you go so you can better connect pages both in copy and with your calls to action.
What I find most interesting about content audits is how subjective they are. Defining what makes content good or bad is gray in a way that identifying whether or not a page has, say, a canonical tag, is not. For that reason, I have found that what content auditors focus most heavily on tend to be a reflection of the background of the person doing the audit. And the most common content mistakes I have touched on here reflect my background perfectly, which is a meld of SEO and content marketing.
So, I’m curious: what do you look for and find in your content audits? What would you add to my list?