The first instinct in content marketing is the continual production of new, fresh content. Businesses will often invest huge sums into ensuring a steady flow of blogs, whitepapers and other content to cover current trending topics. There is no disputing that this strategy is effective and rewarding, however, many site owners neglect the effect their existing site content may be having on performance, which can be a significant missed opportunity
Valuable site content can get buried, become outdated or be duplicated, due to a lack of reviewing existing site content. This ultimately results in a content strategy that is not meeting its full potential, negating the effects of investment into content production. A site content audit is a key SEO process that can often be overlooked, but can actually help identify this content, and establish the next steps to deliver the most value. At Semetrical, we have seen large and small sites across industries fall into these traps, and have seen extremely positive results off the back of streamlining a site’s content using the audit process. Read on to find out how your site can benefit from investigating and understanding your site’s existing assets.
A content audit refers to the process of using data to methodically review your site’s content to establish pages current value and future potential. The audit helps to establish what content can be updated, re-optimised, deleted, or where new articles are needed. The primary aim is to reveal gaps in site’s content strategies, to ensure plans and roadmaps are best optimised to meet business goals.
There are a multitude of benefits associated with conducting a content audit, with the primary ones including:
Conducting a content audit on your site is a proven way to improve your SEO performance, removing dead weight and helping you optimise your strategy to improve your metrics.
Quite simply, analysing and accounting for all your content can help you better understand your site. If the site you’re working on has been live for years, with various writers and teams coming in and out over time, it can be difficult to know what content actually exists on the site. Running an audit can help you and your team understand the assets your site already has.
Similarly to above, you can surface the hidden gems of content, possibly written some time ago, that can be re-optimised in order to rank. This reduces time in comparison to writing a whole new blog. Sometimes, changes as simple as updating title tags, bringing key facts into the present and refreshing your target keywords can be the factor that increases rankings.
If you haven’t recently undertaken a backlink or link profile audit, then a content audit can be a great step in identifying your posts that have gained you the most links. This can help inform future content and PR strategies to gain similar links.
Overall, conducting a content audit can help streamline your site, to get your existing content and future strategy to where you want it to be!
The primary steps in undertaking a content audit include:
The first thing to consider when conducting a content audit, is establishing the results you hope to gain from it. Therefore, understanding your goals, roadmap and available resources to invest into your content is an important first step.
Some of the most common goals include:
Goal 1: Improve Rankings
Goal 2: Upgrade Your Content Strategy
Goal 3: Increase Conversions & Engagement
Goal 4: Grow Your Traffic
Goal 5: Remove Your Site’s Dead-weight
Once you have established which goals you wish to achieve, this can help guide the data points you choose to focus on during your audit, and the fate of content. For example, if you wish to remove the dead weight from your site, you may want to focus on heavily reducing the amount of content. However, if your primary goal is to refresh your content strategy, searching for opportunities for content re-opitmisaiton should be a primary focus.
The second stage is to actually identify all the content on your site. There are a few ways to do this, including manually reviewing your site. However, the easiest way is to use a site crawler software such as Deepcrawl or Screaming Frog. These tools will systematically crawl your site, identifying every page. From this, you can download a list of all your site’s content, and organise it into a spreadsheet ready to pull in the metrics.
In order to make an informed decision regarding the future of your site’s content, multiple data points must be taken into account. At Semetrical, we recommend reviewing a multitude of data from various channels to ensure we are not removing content that has value. The data points to focus on include:
This approach may appear extensive, however, the more data you can collect about your site, the best decision you will make for your strategy going forward.
Google Analytics (GA) Data
Google Analytics will provide the session, social traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic and organic lead data needed for the project. Taking data from multiple channels, including social, direct and referrals means you are not only analysing a URL’s SEO performance, but also accounting for success on other channels. This prevents the removal of content that may not rank, however, does receive other traffic.
Taking 3 and 12 months of data helps pinpoint content that is outdated, no longer performs well, or is up and coming. Taking this approach can further inform your strategy.
For example, if a blog post does not rank for anything, and we make decisions purely from organic sessions data, this may result in the removal of content that performs very well through direct traffic on the site.
Search Console Data
Overlapping Google Analytics and Search Console data, allows for any discrepancies between the tools.
As many marketers will know, the search console only presents the top 1000 pages. On smaller sites, this isn’t an issue. However, if you are analysing a large number of pages, this may result in insufficient data. At Semetrical, we use in-house tools to overcome this issue, as well as using it to provide us with the potential to view multiple Search Console data points, such as keywords and URLs within the same spreadsheet.
Overall, We would recommend bringing in these additional data points. However, if it is not possible, then GA data will suffice.
Backlink data is a key element often overlooked when conducting a content audit. Content may have not had many views organically, or performed well on platforms such as social, however, if it was created with the purpose of link building, and was successful, we do not want to remove it. We can also learn from these pieces of content, taking note of them to inform the digital PR strategy, Breaking up URLs into links and referring domains, and adding the additional level of granularity with the Domain Authority views, presents the opportunity to further understand the value of these pages.
Keyword Ranking Data
A further metric of interest to analyse is whether your keywords are ranking highly for any keywords. This suggests that they could be kept if there is some evergreen traffic and ranking potential. Additionally, this provides an opportunity to identify URLs that could benefit from optimisations. If URLs are ranking in positions 4-20 for keywords, there may be an opportunity to increase these rankings for their target keywords. These URLs should be identified and mapped into your content strategy for reoptimisation.
Once you have collected all your desired data points, we would suggest undertaking v-lookups between your URL lists and the data points, to match your content with its data. Semetrical have a specially designed template to automate this process. However, a regular spreadsheet will do fine. The most important step is to ensure all your metrics have been pulled through correctly, and you’re ready to analyse!
The next step of the audit is to analyse your URLs to establish what to remove and what to keep, the following questions should be asked during this process:
These questions will allow you to determine the overall value of a URL to a site.
Overall, a URL which has no traffic across platforms, minimal backlinks, does not rank for any keywords and does not have any organic leads or conversions can likely be removed.
Ensure you set a “Criteria List” for the metric levels you want to focus on. This should be a judgement call based on the site. If a site has millions of page views a month, then 1000 clicks may be very few, however, if a site only has a few hundred views a month, then 10 clicks may be substantial enough to keep a URL.
Some examples of the analysis process are below:
“A site has no traffic or organic leads, but does have 10 backlinks with a 40+ domain authority. We can suggest removing it as the link equity could be transferred to a new URL when redirected. “
“A URL has no traffic, backlinks or leads. However, it was only written last month. We would suggest keeping this URL as it may have not had a chance to gain clicks yet. “
“A URL has had only 10 visitors in the last 3 months, however, it has produced 5 organic leads. We would suggest keeping this page as it may be good for conversions. “
“A URL has average traffic and no backlinks but ranks highly for relevant keywords based on the data in the page and query data. We suggest keeping this URL as there may be potential to optimise this URL to rank higher for its target keywords, therefore getting more traffic. “
As mentioned, the analysis will differ hugely depending on the size of the site, but all metrics should be considered when deciding to remove a URL or to keep it. Ensure you utilise the data you have created to its full potential, by filtering and using pivot tables to hone in on certain metrics.
Once you have performed your analysis, and identified those URLs that are underperforming, the next stage is to decide on what to be removed, re-optimised, updated, re-shared or linked to.
If content has little to no value, hasn’t received much traffic and has no ranking potential it can be considered for removal. This content can be 301 redirected to a blog on a similar topic, or to the site’s homepage or blog hubpage.
If content ranks for keywords, and has potential to be optimised this should be considered for optimizations. These pieces should be incorporated into a content strategy roadmap, to be optimised using SEO best practices.
If content once received a lot of traffic, but has died down in clicks and rankings recently, this may suggest it need updating. This could be as simple as ensuring the metadata of the article is referring to the correct year, making slight updates to content to keep it relevant to the current time period, or, including additional information that has arisen recently.
If articles have been updated or unitised with new media, or refreshed for new time periods, consider re-sharing this on social media. Particularly, if an article received traffic previously, when re-optimised it may be able to see similar success. Content amplification can help boost content performance across various channels.
A content audit is a great opportunity to assess the internal linking structure of your site. Once you fully understand the content that exists, you can ensure your most valuable pieces are linked together, to help build up their authority in your site’s hierarchy.
Once you have established the fate of your site’s content, update your strategy with an action plan to get your content audit findings delivered! Once you have started your implementation, begin to review your results, continually monitor their progress and update your strategy in line with any changes or further optimisations.
As a summary, a content audit can be undertaken using a range of different methods and data points, however, some of Semetrical’s key tools for audits include:
The use of the tools above allows multiple data points to be pulled, ensuring you are making decisions based on the best possible information.
Use your keyword ranking data to establish whether URLs are suffering from cannibalisation. If URLs are ranking for similar keywords consistently and are on very similar topics, where they are in the lower half on the SERP, positions 5-10, they may be cannibalising. As they are both ranking lower in the SERP, it suggests that Google may be struggling to establish which URL should rank, therefore, harming the rankings of both.
These URLs can either be redirected to one another, or, one can be de-optimised for the cannibalising keywords.
As mentioned above, a great next step to your content audit is to action an internal linking strategy. Within your content you’ve probably realised there are groups of content topics, or entities. With this data strong in the mind, this is the perfect opportunity to organise this content to its maximum ranking potential.
A pillar page strategy is an effective way to organise this content into a hierarchy and establish your site in a particular niche. For example, if you have an ultimate guide on your key service area topic, which ranks well and receives a multitude of traffic, does this link to your niche guide about the benefits? What about the explainer on yearly trends within the topic area? Ensuring your content is organised into this hierarchy is a key method of consolidating your authority, organising your content and streamlining your site.
It can also help inform gaps in the strategy – is there keyword potential you’re not tapping into for your primary topic of interest? Could you update your articles to help them meet the right niche in your strategy?
Running an internal linking investigation off the back of a content audit is the perfect opportunity to take your strategy to the next level!
In summary, a content audit is the perfect first step to updating and streamlining your site’s content strategy. There are various methods you can use to carry out the audit, however, the most important thing is taking a data-driven approach to ensure you are making the most informed decisions possible.
Here is a summary checklist to ensure your process is as smooth as possible
At Semetrical we use an in-depth audit process, pulling together multiple data sources to ensure we are making data driven decisions. Using a multi-channel approach, we combine expertise from the SEO, Content and Social teams to ensure we are providing the best possible strategies across channels. We use in-house tools to streamline the process, and use our experience to perform expert decisions when it comes to analysing content’s value and potential. We have content audit experience across B2B, B2C and publisher clients, cultivating a unique strategy for every type of industry.