Let’s be honest: not all content on your site is useful. In fact, you’ve probably got a fair few number of blogs that haven’t been read by anyone in over a year.
A couple of years ago, it seemed like brands were just pushing out content for the sake of content, thinking that the more pages they had, the higher they would magically rank – regardless of whether the topic was something their readers were actually interested in.
Now that (nearly) everyone understands that content is about quality and not quantity; (most) brands aren’t just churning out content because they feel like they have to.
But even now you’ve adapted your strategy, and you’re only be creating content when there’s a need for it, chances are those old articles are still on your website.
And whilst that content might not be doing anything that’s actively detrimental to your website, it could still be low-key harming it. After all, Google looks at the quality of your content to determine whether you’re an authority in your industry. If it sees you’ve got 100 blogs that are all under 200 words, or old pages that have really high bounce rates; that’s going to impact your performance – and your keyword rankings – regardless of how great your new content is.
Whenever a new client comes to me asking for an on-page content strategy, the first thing I’ll do is audit their current content. Before we can start creating new, relevant content, we need to see if there is any duplicated (or near-duplicated) pages that can merged or redirected; or if there are pages with really irrelevant information that their audience would never read.
Doing a content audit also means we can identify pieces that perform really well, meaning we can shape new ideas around them.
There’s no getting around the fact that content audits are time-consuming, but they need to be, because only by getting into the granular details of each page, can you really understand what content works well – and what doesn’t – for a particular brand.
Whilst everyone probably has their own way of carrying out a content audit, I’m going to share some of the metrics and factors I look at, when carrying out audits for my clients.
If you’re doing an on-page content audit for SEO purposes, then include the organic stats in your audit. Otherwise, how can you make recommendations if you don’t know how many people are clicking through to your pages organically?
I always pull through six months’ worth of organic traffic, and then compare it YoY to see the increase or decrease.
You can also compare organic performance to overall traffic, or drill-down to other channels like direct, PPC or social, to see where each piece of content performs best.
Organic goal completions
For auditing blog articles, this probably isn’t relevant; but if you’re looking at landing pages where you have CTAs or forms to fill out, then it’s definitely worth including in your audit.
You could have thousands of hits coming through to your page each month, but if you’re not getting the conversions, then there’s something wrong with your content.
I always add in referring domains to my content audits. I’ll look at backlinks too, but adding those in alone can skew your potential recommendations, because one site might link through to one of your pages 20 times.
Chances are, that the better performing pages are the ones that will have external links through to them, but it’s always worth checking.
But links shouldn’t be the only thing that sways you when making a decision whether to keep or redirect. For example, if one of your articles has virtually no traffic, and the content isn’t strong, but it has five referring domains; run it through Ahrefs. If the links are spammy and from low DRs, they won’t be helping your content to rank, so it’s still best to redirect.
Adding in the word count of pages to your audit means you’ll instantly be able to tell whether or not a page is thin on content.
If you have three or four articles that are really similar and have a low word count, it’s best to merge them together to create an in-depth guide. If you leave them separately and optimise them for keywords, they’ll just compete with each other – and probably not rank very well at all, because of the lack of information on them.
If there are questions that are left unanswered in your content, add them in, but at the same time, don’t force the extra words. If one page only has 150 words and you can’t think of any more information to add, then it’ll need redirecting to a more relevant page.
I left arguably the most important factor until last. Whilst there’s talk around just how relevant keywords are – they are still relevant. If you’re writing about a specific topic, then you’ll naturally be dropping in keywords your audience is searching for.
Ultimately, a page might not be optimised at all for keywords – and that’ll be the reason why there’s no organic traffic, because people can’t find it.
Just because the other stats are low, it doesn’t mean there’s not potential. Check first to see if the page is ranking for any relevant keywords, and then do additional keyword research to see if there are any new ones it could rank for.
Low ranking keywords and new keywords always mean there’s potential – so in these cases, don’t just redirect an article because it’s the easy thing to do: rewrite the copy so it can be optimised for people to find.
Carrying out a content audit, and determining whether pages should be kept, optimised or redirected based on these stats is only one step. You’ll then need to look deeper into the content to review the layout, and internal linking.
If you find that your content is optimised but isn’t ranking, there could be a bigger underlying issue. Do a larger technical SEO audit to see why your website isn’t ranking, as solving the root issue could lead to you seeing a huge uplift in your traffic in the long term.
Also, don’t feel like your future content always has to be a blog. Lots of people don’t have the time to read through long articles (sorry), but if what you’re trying to convey can be done so in bite-size chunks, then why not test out videos, how-to tutorials or podcasts?