Crafting new content requires making use of existing content in one form or another. Whether you want to create something new from scratch or improve existing assets, you just can’t jump right in without a solid- plan. Instead, you need to kick things off by performing a content analysis.
Conventional content analysis is basically a research method used in social sciences.
However, it can also be applied to the world of content marketing.
If you’re a marketer who wants to perform a complete overhaul of your website’s content but don’t know where to begin—keep reading.
In this article, I’ll go over:
- The basics of content analysis (what it actually is)
- How it works in the context of content marketing and SEO
- Conducting a complete content audit
- Running a content gap analysis
Let’s get started.
What is Content Analysis? [A Research Technique]
Content analysis is actually a tool that’s used in communication research.
To elaborate, basic content analysis is a popular technique used in qualitative research to analyze the text and other qualitative data of a content asset (which could be anything, including printed documents, newspapers, photos, videos, and of course, blog posts, to name a few).
This is done by examining the usage/frequency of certain words, themes, and concepts, and splitting them into different “coding categories” or “coding schemes” to perform the qualitative content analysis process and looking at how everything is related.
Don’t be alarmed—we’ll discuss shortly that it’s actually quite a straightforward process (at least for marketers).
But for now, what exactly are the uses of content analysis?
Here are a few:
- Understanding the context in which the main concept is discussed
- Identifying the underlying intent behind the piece of communication content in question (why it was created)
- Making educated guesses about the target audience (who it was created for)
- Pin-pointing the sentiments, mood, and the type of language used in the content
In that sense, content analysis is a non-invasive qualitative research method that eliminates the use of other more hands-on tools like research questions/open-ended questions, focus groups, and interviews to study the content.
Content Analysis in the Context of Content Marketing and SEO
Coding? Statistical analysis? Quantitative data analysis?
You might be wondering: “What the hell do any of these things have to do with content marketing?”
I know—you’re not working on a research project.
But the content analysis that marketers perform is more or less, the exact same thing that we just discussed.
However, it’s not necessarily as in-depth, the end-goals might vary, and no, you certainly don’t have to be a coder.
With the specifics out of the way, let’s get one thing straight: Search engine optimization revolves around content.
To make that content count (i.e., have a shot at ranking in the SERPs), it needs to:
- Effectively target a specific user-intent
- Be written for the right target audience (not slipping in New York-related facts on a page that’s actually meant for people in Beverly Hills, unless the intent fits)
- Help answer the right questions or solve the right problem
- Deliver the maximum value through being in-depth, engaging, and/or entertaining
However, as mentioned earlier, crafting content that ticks all of those boxes requires a little planning.
That’s where content analysis comes into the picture.
The good news is, with all the software programs at your disposal, it won’t require much legwork.
Depending on your goals, content analysis, in the context of content marketing and SEO, could entail either of the following:
- Performing a Complete Content Audit – for a complete holistic view, meant for improving the existing content assets and getting rid of the underperforming ones.
- Running a Content Gap Analysis – meant to identify the shortcomings or “gaps” (by comparing with your competitors) and identifying opportunities for new assets.
Both involve in-depth qualitative study, of course.
With that out of the way, let’s take a more in-depth look at both.
Performing a Complete Content Audit [A 4-Step Process]
A content audit is a complete qualitative assessment of all the online content published on a brand’s website.
The goal of running a content audit is to identify under-performing content and decide whether to improve it or remove it altogether.
Depending on your goal(s), this could involve looking at:
- Rankings in the SERPs
- Inbound web traffic
- Bounce rate
- Average time spent on the page
- Unique page views
- Social media engagement
However, for simplicity, we’ll be looking at organic traffic and backlinks in this content analysis guidebook.
Depending on how much content needs to be assessed, a content audit can be a time-consuming process (sometimes taking more than a few days), since it entails individually looking at content assets, performing text analysis, and making strategic decisions regarding the online content.
Furthermore, there’s no one “correct” way to perform a content audit.
However, I personally prefer breaking down the entire process into the following steps:
1. Get a 360-Degree Report of All the Content Ever Published
Before anything else, you’ll need a complete list of all the content (blog posts and other landing pages) published on your website.
There are two ways you can go about doing this:
- Manually creating a list of all the pages and checking the metrics (not recommended, unless the website only has a few pages)
- Downloading the complete list with all the data you need
In both cases, you’ll need a content marketing/SEO analysis software, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush (or at least access to Google Analytics).
For Google Analytics, follow these steps:
- In the side-panel, click on Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
- Add the metrics (or segments) you want to look at. By default, GA provides data for “All Users.” At the top, you can set it up for organic traffic, bounced sessions, and even returning traffic, to name a few.
- Click on “Export” towards the top-right corner to download the data in whichever format you want.
For SEMrush, follow these steps:
- On your dashboard, click on “Content Audit” in the left panel after selecting “Content Marketing Toolkit” from the drop-down menu.
- Type in the domain name in the given field (or select from the list of existing projects).
- SEMrush will then generate a list of folders for you to conveniently download.
Ahrefs doesn’t have an option to download information for all pages at once. However, you can download the top-performing pages (more on that later).
2. Identify Top-Performing and Under-Performing Content Assets
With the complete list of content assets at your disposal, it’s time to look at how they’re doing.
It’s only a matter of sorting your content based on certain KPIs.
For instance, if you’re performing content analysis based on how much organic traffic you’re getting (the usual), set a benchmark.
Create a separate list for the links that don’t meet the benchmark, and another one for those that do (the well-performing content assets).
3. Decide What to Do with the Low-Performing Content
There are three things you can do when tackling low-quality content:
- Update it
- Redirect it
- Remove it
Let’s look at the different scenarios and the best ways to go about it all:
- The Page Gets Traffic but Has No Backlinks – in such a case, the best thing to do would be to either update the content or combine it with a well-performing asset.
- The Page Gets Traffic and Has At least 1 Backlink – in this case, if you decide to combine your content with another page, use a 301 redirect to divert the inbound traffic from the backlink(s) to the new destination.
- It Gets No Traffic and Has No Backlinks – remove the content. There’s nothing else left to do.
Of course, you should also consider the age of the content. If it’s less than 6 months old, don’t give up on it just yet.
4. Learn from the Top Content
We’re still not done yet.
The only thing left to do is to perform a quick qualitative analysis of the top-performing content and find out what it is that makes it so great.
Apart from the number of backlinks, which is an obvious factor, look for other details, such as:
- The depth of the content (how detailed everything is, if it uses any infographics or videos, etc.)
- Type of language used (the words and tone that might have resonated with the audience).
- The angle taken to discuss the topic at hand (was it unique?).
This might take some time, and what works for one piece of content may not necessarily work for another, but make a list of all the variables and try to incorporate them into all future content pieces.
Side note: As mentioned earlier, you can get a separate list of your best-performing content on Ahrefs (based on traffic, value, and positions of top keywords). On site explorer (with your website’s URL plugged in), simply click on “Top pages” in the side-panel to conveniently view and export the list.
Performing a Content Gap Analysis [A 3-Stage Blueprint]
Apart from running a detailed audit, content analysis could also refer to running a gap analysis in the context of SEO.
But what does that mean?
Content gap analysis is a way to evaluate the shortcomings of your content efforts (or the content efforts of your competitors), and identify opportunities to create something better.
The end-goal of performing a content gap analysis is to improve (by creating something better). One might even say that it’s a part of the content audit process.
There are three main steps involved when running a content gap analysis:
1. See Which Topics You Haven’t Covered (or Which Keywords You Don’t Rank for)
If you don’t have a specific topic or keyword in mind, you can start the process by looking at the topics that you still haven’t covered (but your competitors have).
There are two ways to do this.
You can manually scour through the blogs of your competitors and start making a list (if you have all the time in the world, that is).
Or you can use an SEO tool, like Ahrefs, to do all the heavy lifting for you.
Simply follow these steps:
- Go to “Site explorer” and plug in your URL (or simply select your website from the list of the projects if you’ve been using Ahrefs).
- In the left panel, click on Organic search > Content gap
- In the fields at the top (under where it says “Show keywords that the below targets rank for”) plug in the domains of your top competitors (you can add as many as you want).
- Click on the “Show keywords” button below the field that has your website’s domain already plugged in.
You’ll get a list of all the keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t (or haven’t written any content on, for that matter).
2. Evaluate Your Competitor’s Content and Look for Potential Shortcomings
This next step would require some old fashioned qualitative data analysis.
Run a simple Google search for the topic you’re interested in writing about and check out the top 10 pages.
Open them one at a time and skim through them, and then ask yourself the following questions:
- What questions would readers have while going through this content or topic?
- How can I answer those questions in the most concise manner?
- What do all these assets have in common?
- What did they do well?
- Are there any shortcomings that I can capitalize on?
- What information here is generic knowledge and doesn’t need to be covered?
- What should I expand and provide more unique insights on?
- Is it worth creating new content on? (based on the traffic they’re receiving)
- What is a unique angle or perspective I can take while creating my own content on this subject?
After taking a quick look at what you’re up against, it’s time to buckle down and create the best content on that new topic/keyword.
3. Create Better Content
While this may vary, there are a few best practices that you should implement in every piece of content you publish.
- Making it More In-Depth – cover your topic from every angle and capitalize on the important information that your competitors missed out on. As long as something fits within the scope of the topic, talk about it (your readers will never mind getting some extra information).
- Making it a Delightful Read – make your content easy to skim-through. Use proper headings (H2, H3, and so on) and break down your paragraphs into shorter sentences.
- Leveraging Visuals – to make your content more appealing, add visuals. This could include infographics, screenshots, memes, illustrations, GIFs, and even videos. Just make sure that you compress them to avoid page speed issues (on-page SEO 101).
- Using Relevant Terminology – optimize your content with the most commonly-used words found in the top-ranking pages. Manually, this would take forever, so we use Clearscope (a tool that generates a list of relevant terms by analyzing top-ranking pages for a target keyword).
Don’t just stop there—do whatever else you can to make your content the best there is (i.e., the one that delivers the most value and is, therefore, the most linkable asset out there).
And that wraps up my in-depth guide on content analysis.
From evaluating qualitative elements to performing quantitative analysis, content analysis (in the context of marketing) involves pretty much everything.
Is it a time-consuming process? Yes.
Is it supposed to be difficult? Not really.
By knowing where to look, what to evaluate, and using the right tools, running a content analysis can be really easy.
And most importantly—it’s all worth it since it can help you boost your website traffic, rank higher in the SERPs, get more leads, and most importantly, improve conversions.
Once you’ve gotten your content analysis down, the next step is to create amazing content using an idea-driven content development process.