Over time, your content may eventually decline in value to your desired audience.
Search engines are getting better at detecting content that does not best serve the user.
Some of your articles will be from your earliest days, and they may not be as detailed or well-written as your more mature pieces.
Some of your content will become outdated. Some of it will simply cease to be relevant to your modern priorities.
Whatever the case, your old articles will no longer bring as much value as they should, and your SEO will suffer.
That’s where a content audit comes into play. With a content audit, you’ll evaluate the current state of your onsite content, including posts from the past and present, then use that information to cull, combine, and improve your content. If done right, it should improve your average visitor’s experience and simultaneously help you increase your search engine rankings.
Let’s start with a brief overview of what a content audit is, and ultimately what it’s meant to help you do. In this guide, we’re going to explore two primary applications for your content audit:
Before you can execute these initiatives, you’ll need to follow three high-level steps:
If this overview seems vague or overwhelming, don’t worry; we’ll use separate sections to explore each of these concepts in detail.
Remember, goal one is cleaning up the “bad” content on your website—the content that’s simply taking up space and not providing any value to your domain or your users. But what, exactly, do we mean when we say “bad” content?
There are many potential definitions, but these are some of the most applicable:
If you find articles that fit many of the above criteria (and many of them do go hand-in-hand), you can be resolute in your decision to cull it.
But why are we doing this in the first place? In the course of your discovery, you’ll likely encounter some posts you just subjectively like; you think they’re educational, or entertaining, or both, yet they don’t have any links or much traffic to speak of. Why would you spend time cleaning these?
At this point, you should understand what constitutes “bad” content, and why you should clean it. In the next section, we’ll discuss one of the best cleaning methods: SEO lensing and content consolidation. From there, we’ll discuss how to prepare for your first content audit, and how to find and analyze the relevant metrics to guide your strategy.
If you’re starting a content audit for the first time, it’s natural to feel a bit intimidated. There’s a lot to consider here, and few obvious “right” or “wrong” answers. You’ll need to dig into your content performance data before you can start making decisions, but before that, you’ll need to understand what you’re trying to achieve in the first place. This section will help you better understand your goals, and give you the tools you need to direct your strategy when you begin executing it.
Let’s start by setting your initial goals. What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish with your content audit? Obviously, you want to improve your content strategy, but what does that really mean?
There are several competing objectives you could potentially be after:
Are you aiming for a combination of all these goals? Are some more important than others? Are there priorities for your business that aren’t on this list? There aren’t any right or wrong answers here, but understanding your goals and motivations can help you substantially if you’re forced to make a hard decision in the near future.
In the next major section, we’ll explore how to gather the data you’ll use to begin the true “audit” process, but during that process, there are a few questions you’ll need to keep at the forefront of your mind:
Once your strategy is conceptually sound, you can start digging into the metrics that will, hopefully, guide you on the rest of your content audit journey. In this section, we’ll explore the most important data that will guide your SEO content audit—and where to find it.
To start, you’ll need to pull some raw data from your own site. Generate a full list of your site URLs; you’ll use this for several different purposes. There are a few easy ways to do this. If your site has fewer than 500 URLs, you can use XML-Sitemaps.com for free to generate an XML sitemap with all your URLs. Otherwise, you can use a tool like ScreamingFrog to generate a list of URLs; this tool (and others like it) will also help you discover broken links, point out duplicate content, and visualize your site architecture.
This is going to be an important high-level tool for you; you might be surprised to see just how many URLs you have, and how few of them are actually bringing value to your site. It’s also going to be useful in helping you set goals; for example, if you have 1,500 URLs, you might try to whittle those down to 700.
While you’re at it, generate a list of all the categories and tags associated with your blog. This can be done manually without much effort. Are there categories or tags that no longer make sense for your content strategy? Are there some that are hardly used? This is your opportunity to evaluate and restructure this system to fall in line with both your SEO goals and your customer experience strategy.
The easiest way to determine how your content is performing is to look at historical data. How has this content performed in the recent past? Has it provided a lot of value to your site, or has it been disappointing? In this endeavor, it’s hard to recommend a tool higher than Google Analytics; Google Analytics is incredibly robust, can help you visualize metrics across different sections of your site and in different time intervals, and best of all—it’s completely free.
With it, you can scope out the following metrics:
With Google’s intuitive search feature, you can also generate on-demand reports for things like “worst pages by bounce rate” using natural language. Experiment to see what you come up with.
Backlinks should also play a heavy role in your content audit evaluations. This is partially because they serve as an indication of value (content that has earned many powerful links is usually high-quality), and partially because they’re existing assets you may wish to preserve. If you set up 301 redirects, you can usually preserve the authority gained and maintained by your incoming links, but the more dependencies you have, the more it makes sense to preserve your existing structure.
There are a few ways to conduct a backlink audit, but the most straightforward is with Google Search Console. Google Search Console has several helpful analytics features, some of which we’ll discuss in detail in an upcoming section, but for now, head to the Search Traffic section, and click “Links to your Site.” Here, you’ll be able to evaluate the number and quality of links pointed to your site. You can also click “Your most linked content” and generate URLs of your best-performing site content (and worst-performing site content).
You can also use a third-party tool like Moz’s Link Explorer, which also gives you the opportunity to scope out competitors’ sites and see how your link profiles stack up.
Search engine rankings can be tricky to track, since Google intentionally tries to keep these metrics opaque (so as not to encourage rank manipulation). However, there are an assortment of third-party tools you can use to see how the pages of your site are ranking for keywords relevant to your brand. Top names in the industry include SEMRush and Ahrefs, though there are many options available.
Most rank tracking tools will give you detailed metrics, including your average visibility, how your rankings are changing over time, how much traffic you’re getting from your positions, and even how your competitors are performing. Use these data to determine which of your pages are providing the most value to you through search engines and which ones leave something to be desired.
Remember when we visited Google Search Console earlier? There are a few more ways you can use this tool to evaluate the performance of your onsite content.
After consulting these sources, you’ll be left with a massive pile of data. You’ll have a long list of URLs, and metrics in multiple dimensions to help you understand the context of those URLs. So what are you supposed to do now?
Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind, and come up with a system of comprehensive evaluation and/or categorization that works for your business. As a generic recommendation, we can tell you to use a marking system to note your best-performing and worst-performing content in several areas. For example, you can use multiple columns in a spreadsheet featuring all your URLs, and mark each URL as “good” (green), “bad” (red), or “neutral” (blank) in each of several categories, one for each column; you can create columns for organic traffic, conversions, links, or any number of other metrics. Eventually, you’ll see patterns emerge, and you’ll be able to mark entire URLs for deletion, retention, or transformation.
Once you have this markup complete, you can refer to our initial sections on discerning “bad” content and SEO content lensing.
As a review, here is a brief review and recap of each action (or inaction) you should take on your page-by-page review of your site:
It’s also important to use this content audit as an opportunity to set new content standards for your brand. You might be efficiently weeding out your worst-performing posts, and stitching them together in much-improved, comprehensive articles, but what are your future onsite posts going to look like?
Take this time to set some new standards for your content moving forward. How long should these posts be? What keywords and phrases will you be targeting? How often will you publish? What steps are you going to take to future proof your work?
Are you ready to conduct a content audit for your own website? You can follow the steps in this guide if you’d like, or you can contact us for a bit more hands-on help.
Either way, after conducting your content audit, you’ll need to take steps to refine your approach to content marketing and SEO. You’ll need professional writers to help edit and polish your existing assets, as well as writers to continue writing excellent content with your new, higher quality standards. If you’re looking for a new partner in your content marketing goals, contact SEO.co today for a free consultation or get in touch for info on SEO pricing.