Today we will discuss the basics of content curation and content audit and how employing techniques from both processes can help your site become better, content-wise. In our previous article, we talked about how link building, and particularly broken link-building, can help you achieve a greater audience and a greater standing in the ranks of search engines.

We said that even though having high-quality content is the only valid way of improving your site’s importance, it is not enough. You need to work towards having as many links to your site as possible, and from as well-rated sites as possible; to promote that good content properly and not let it go to waste.

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In spite of this, there is still a great need to monitor the quality of your content as carefully as you can and to never stop striving to improve it. A good way of achieving an overview look on the quality of your content, or the quality of the content belonging to a whole niche, is by performing an overall evaluation of it. Such an evaluation can take two forms: content curation and content audit. Some web sources will indicate that

Some web sources will indicate that content audit is a part of the broader process of content curation, but it isn’t the case. Don’t be confused by information you might run into which implies or directly says that. Here is what these to processes consist of and why you should consider using them to improve your content’s quality.

What Is Content Curation?

content curation hand sketch infographic

We spoke above about an overall evaluation of the content in a place. Content curation should be regarded as the broader range version of that evaluation. To summarize it in a definition, content curation consists of the process of sorting through vast amounts of content and information regarding a specific niche, from many websites relevant to that niche or theme, and presenting the findings in an organized and meaningful way. Therefore, the process allows you to get an accurate and detailed report about the state of things in your field of interest, as well as valuable information on what your direct competitors are up to.

There are plenty of things to be learned from a well-done content curation, and if you plan to be a professional about providing meaningful content and employing SEO techniques, content curation is a must. You shouldn’t even begin to create more content for your site before you get a good look at what others are doing on theirs, in order to learn a trick or two and make your content be able to stand comparison to the best in the niche. This is why your first step should be content curation before anything else.

What Is Content Audit?

content audit template chart

Just like content curation evaluates the content on various relevant sites in order to create a final list-organized report, content audit is basically the same thing but on a smaller scale, focused on a single website or on some parts of it. As far as a definition goes, content audit consists of evaluating content elements and information assets on part of a website or all of it, in order to build a report which accounts for all the published web content on that site and its highs and lows. This process has a strong qualitative analysis component, as it is meant not only to report on exactly what a site contains, but also on how good some parts of the content are and why, and how other weak parts of the content are and why.

If the content audit is performed on only one part of the site being evaluated, it obviously needs to be focused on certain sub-categories of that site’s content. Otherwise, if the specifics that are being covered aren’t properly defined, the content audit risks being chaotic and the final report not relevant enough. Considering it takes quite an amount of time, you need to make sure the time invested doesn’t become a waste and that the report obtained is as efficient as possible. For the sake of this accuracy, the goals of a content audit also need to be pre-defined in as specific details as possible before the audit begins.

content audit meme

A content audit is also closely related to another concept, included in it, called content inventory. A content inventory is a technique employed while performing an extensive content audit and it can be summarized as the quantitative analysis part of it. A content inventory will simply create an account of everything which can be found on the website which is being evaluated, thus responding to the question “what?”, while the remainder of the content audit will be left to answer the question “is it any good?” about the content identified and listed.

Why are Content Audit & Content Curation Important?

If you want to improve the content quality of your site in order to make sure your link building strategies have the best odds of success possible, you should seriously consider performing both a content curation and a content audit. In our previous article, we said that before writing a piece which you will then pitch to as many sites possible in the process of link building, you first need to check out what others in your niche are writing about in order to top whatever they offer. We also spoke about finding a content gap within the niche, in order to write a very good post to fill it, and then write a lot of emails to let others know about your new post (in the hopes to obtaining links to your site).

demand generation content audit example

Well, the best way to do that as professionally as possible is by performing a content curation on the niche your site is in, or on the specific theme or subject you’re preparing to write on. This way, you can get a very accurate picture on what the overall internet community relevant to your site’s content is up to. Browsing the internet without the strict methodology that a content curation requires would only give you a few hints and semi-informed guesses at what’s going on. Since the content industry is already very competitive and professional, you can’t just grasp at straws if you want to do a job that has a chance of standing out.

After getting the report obtained through a content curation of the niche or of the theme you plan to write about, it’s time to move on to the next step, which is the content audit of your site. If you’re a beginner in info analysis and SEO tools in general, it would be a good enough idea to limit your audit to a few categories. You can choose the categories on your site which you can already guess intuitively to be a bit behind the rest of your site’s content, the ones which are probably a bit weaker or problematic. Or, if you feel brave enough (and you should), you can go all the way and include the whole site as the target of the content audit. Trust us, you will still need to perform the whole content audit sooner or later, so it’s best to just get it over with and benefit from the results as early on as possible, to increase your site’s chances on the long run.

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According to Derek Slater, there are five steps or five main questions which a good content audit needs to answer. These are: “What content exists already?”; “Who is making this content?”; “How do people come to it?”; “How is this content faring – is it popular or not and how much?”; and “Is the content still accurate or outdated?”. The content audit you make should first of all deliver a list of all the content (posts) on your site, organized by category or theme or whichever criteria you consider beneficial; this would answer the first question in Slater’s list. Then, the audit should provide you with a series of charts responding to the other questions, for the content identified and listed while answering to the first question. It’s ideal if you organize these subsequent answers as charts and info-graphics, to keep a more meaningful track of everything.

After wrapping up the first content audit of the complete site, further audits can be smaller in scope and easier to perform once in a while just too keep the initial one updated. This kind of partial content audit is called a rolling content audit, and it consists of reviewing and listing only the content which is new from the previous audit. If you’re giving a member of your team the specific task of acting like a content manager, you can then schedule these rolling audits to be performed weekly or monthly. The more often you do them, the easier it will be to scan the changes in the overall state of your site.

content audit spreadsheet example

Content audit made in a spreadsheet

After using an extensive content curation to take the pulse of the field, and an equally extensive content audit to take the pulse of your own site, you should have a way better idea about what to improve about existing content, and what kind of content you should strive to deliver in the future. Doing a thorough content curation and a content audit would also be required before attempting to develop a content strategy for your site. A detailed content strategy can make it easier for the members of your team to “speak the same language”, for you to compare the style elements of your site to the ideal content you’ve set as a model, and so on.

Another strategy you could consider is to use content curation not just for evaluating the competition and thus helping you deliver better content for your own site, but as a content strategy in itself. A site or a blog which uses content curation and publishes frequent updates about what’s new in that niche around the web (like rounding up relevant news, for example), has a high chance of ranking high in search engines.

There are quite a number of experts – like Eric Savitz of Forbes – who say that many sites are winning the SEO battle through content curation in that way. A sound strategy is to combine content curation with your own original content, since a site that only does content curation can be seen as curation failure. And anyway, don’t forget that content curation is also something which can and should be done even without planning to publish all that accumulated content, just for getting a feel of what’s successful out there and what is not.

Whatever strategy you choose for your site, remember that content curation and content audit are always useful to improve the quality of your content and a better understanding of your niche and its keys to a successful standing within it.

Professional Tools Vs. Manual Curation and Audit

If you’re new to this whole topic and would like to try doing some of your own content curation and content audit, you’re probably wondering where to start from. Another thing which you’re probably wondering is whether there are some professional tools out there which can make the whole process more automated and smooth. To answer this question, we should state that while there is always the option of doing things manually, there are also some tools which can help, and some of them are even available for free. Here is a brief look into the tools you could consider trying.

pearltrees content curation tool screenshot

Screenshot of how PearlTrees works.

Pearltrees is a free tool that helps you discover and organize new content, as well as presenting it in a powerful visual way. A diagram tree is custom built for you by the interface each time you search for new content centered on a keyword or theme, and you can easily hover over it in order to discover things which might interest you. If you’re trying to keep up with the content delivered by your competitors, this is the content curation tool you should start with.

Another curation tool you should consider if you plan to share the curated content on your own site is BagTheWeb. As the name implies, it creates a virtual “bag” that allows users to collect various content on the web in order to make it easier to share later. Each bag can be built around a certain topic, and the bags can be organized in networks. When working with a large amount of data, this is one of the best tools to try.

screenshot of bag the web content tool

This is how the BagTheWeb tool looks like.

For content audit, the best free tool you can use to speed up the process is Google Analytics. You can find countless online tutorials on how to use it and you will obtain a complete list of all the links on your site in no time when using it. After getting the content list, you can proceed to compare views, average views per day, shares and so on right from your WordPress editor, by setting some keyboard shortcuts to make the process faster. If you want to use a more professional aid, you need an SEO crawling tool, such as Moz Pro’s Crawl Test, which comes with a one month free trial. The advantage of such a tool is that it identifies any broken link you may have right away and reports them, so you can fix them before proceeding with the rest of your audit.

screenshot of moz crawl test

Nevertheless, when doing an audit on your own site, you should never dismiss the option of doing things manually if your site isn’t huge yet (and it probably isn’t since you’re reading an SEO guide for beginners). Manual indexing of your content and its characteristics (like page view count, number of shares and so on) has the advantage of avoiding errors and of allowing you to get to know your content better through direct contact, while also putting each piece into perspective. An automated content audit may give you a report with the main conclusions, but you may fail to see how exactly the program (or your contracted audit team, if you employed one) arrived to those conclusions.

You now have the basics on what content curation and content audit are and how you could get started with them in order to improve your website. Good luck with the evaluations and with your soon to be new content strategy. If you have any questions, let us know, we’d be happy to help you further.

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