To figure out what content your company should be creating in 2014 to maximize its exposure, you should consider conducting a content audit for the past year to gather intelligence about what works, what doesn’t, and what opportunities you haven’t capitalized on as much as you could. A content audit can sometimes be a time-consuming process, but it’s also one that provides a tremendous amount of insight and therefore ought to be done once a year to organize your content, find material that needs to be updated or removed, and to determine which pieces of content are bringing in the most traffic so you can replicate them in the future.

Here are the three steps to conducting a content audit:

Step 1: Create a Spreadsheet with All Your URLs

We say all your URLs because you need to include your normal web pages as well as blog posts and landing pages, eBooks, white papers, and other downloadable content. The easiest way to get your URLs is to pull them from your sitemap or Google Analytics account, which is particularly helpful because these will show you if you have old URLs that need to be removed or redirected. Otherwise, you will have to do it manually.

By creating the spreadsheet, you can get a sense of the scale of your website at a glance, which is critical for the rest of the content audit. Using a spreadsheet is also necessary since the additional columns will be used for other information such as page title, keywords, and traffic data, which is easier to do on a spreadsheet than on a piece of paper or Word document. For blog posts and downloadable content, you may also want to add information like date, targeted audience/buyer persona, and topic.

Step 2: Look at Traffic Data to Determine Overachievers and Underachievers

With your web traffic data (taken from Google Analytics, WordPress stats, or another program), find out which pages are the most popular and the least popular with visitors. Look at data for the past year, since the traffic from the past 12 months will give you best idea of which pages are consistently bringing in traffic and which aren’t. Also make sure to note where traffic is coming from for each of your pages. A blog post that got a lot of traffic from social media may have been promoted well, while a blog post with a lot of search engine traffic may mean that the keywords you targeted were popular, or not very competitive, or both. This information will be helpful later when you try to replicate the success of these posts when creating new content.

Step 3: Analyze Content for New Topics and Updates

Once your overachievers and underachiever are determined, you need to analyze why they are doing well (or not so well) and decide on any necessary changes to your content strategy for the coming year. For example, underachieving blog posts may not be optimized for search engines very well or may need to be updated with more current data. In contrast, for a blog post that’s a top achiever and continues to generate traffic, you might want to create a downloadable offer to match the post topic so you can convert all that traffic into leads. For more about how to leverage free content to capture leads, see our post “Drive Up Conversion Rates with Gated Content.”

Finding an overachieving blog post could also mean that you should write a follow-up article or use keywords associated with that post in additional pages and content. Ultimately, each page needs to be assessed individually and should have its own course of action to make sure you are getting the most value out of all of your site’s content, both past and present.

Once your pages are sorted by overachievers and underachievers, you also need to think about the subject matter, the audience, and the keywords. These three factors illustrate what topics you have covered in detail with your current content marketing as well as what you may have neglected, and can help you pinpoint topics for future material. For example, your content audit could reveal that you have three eBooks about web design, but you don’t have any on social media marketing or online reputation management. If the latter two are services your company provides or topics your audience is interested in, then creating eBooks on those topics should be a priority in your 2014 content marketing strategy.

Continuing with this example, even though web design is currently covered thoroughly by your eBooks, you could still write about relevant web design topics in your blog if your analysis of overachievers, underachievers, and traffic sources indicates that there are keywords about web design that are worth targeting. These could be keywords driving traffic to your site even though you don’t have any pages dedicated to ranking for them, for example. Just because you’ve covered web design in a number of eBooks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address the topic at all for the next 12 months. It just means you probably don’t need another eBook on web design, especially if there are other topics that would be interesting for your audience that you haven’t created eBooks for yet.

This is the value of performing a content audit, though. It makes it easy to see how web design is covered in your content marketing strategy, as well as its performance, so you can decide how the topic should fit into your strategy for the coming year.

Depending on the size of your website and the amount of content you have, a content audit could take some time. But ultimately a content audit is a worthwhile process because it will be the key to planning your marketing for the next year and to knowing that you are creating content that your site and your audience needs. Instead of relying on luck and chance that you are covering the right topics in the right format for your brand and audience, you will know you are on the right track because of the intelligence you collected from your audit.

When was the last time you did a content audit on your website? What insights did you gain from the process? Share your experience in the comments!