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 few 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.
Plus, with Google’s Helpful Content Update reiterating this point of creating content that’s engaging and people-first even further, now’s never been a better time to be brutal with your site’s content.
So, whilst you might think it’s OK to leave current content that’s sitting on your site, it could actually be detrimental to the rest of your website. After all, if Google looks at your content and sees that it’s littered with keywords that’s driving your bounce rates through the roof, or you’ve written a ton of articles that have no relevance to your brand, it could result in all of your pages ranking lower for relevant keywords. And that means that even if your new content is super engaging, it’s not going to perform well.
Whenever a new client comes to me asking for an on-page content strategy, the first thing we’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; whilst ensuring that we don’t accidentally propose writing a blog that’s already been done
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.
Google says that word count isn’t a ranking factor, but we all know that it favours engaging and authoritative content. So, whilst all waffle needs to be cut, ultimately, if you’re going to be an authority in the area you’re talking about, you need to have words on the page, so it’s always worth looking at word count when you’re auditing your content.
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.
How to lay out your content audit
So, now you know the metrics you need to be looking at when you’re auditing your content, how do you lay it out?
We’ve created a handy template that you can use to conduct your audits, but essentially, we recommend pasting all of the URLs into a spreadsheet once you’ve crawled your site through Screaming Frog, with a column for each metric.
We’d also recommend creating a column labelled ‘category’, so that you can easily filter relevant pages/blogs. The category could relate to a blog category (e.g. lifestyle or inspiration), or it could refer to a selection of landing and sub-landing pages.
Then, create one final column for your recommendations, with all keyword research housed in separate tabs, with each tab relating to a category (so all keyword research for blogs that fall under ‘lifestyle’ would be in one tab).
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?