How to do a comprehensive SEO content audit.
The idea of conducting a content audit may sound intimidating. But the process reveals valuable insight that pushes your marketing objectives forward. If you have yet to conduct an extensive audit of your website content, then don’t delay any further.
Here we’ll be covering the following:
- What is a Content Audit?
- How to Perform a Content Audit
- Create a Spreadsheet
- Compile Asset Data
- Assign a Rating
- Implement an Action Plan
- Analyse Competing Sites
Let’s get started.
What is a Content Audit?
A content audit is an in-depth analysis of your site’s existing content. By looking at key metrics, you’re able to pinpoint the strengths of your marketing strategy and the areas that are lacking. The whole process uncovers hidden opportunities you can leverage to make your marketing efforts far more effective.
Content audits are valuable for the following reasons:
Protects Your Site From Algorithm Updates
Your site could be ranking at the top of the search results one day and nowhere to be found the next. All search engine traffic essentially gone in an instant and sales along with it.
The dreaded algorithm update.
Google is constantly refining its ranking algorithm to combat webspam and deliver more relevant results. The Panda update in particular targets low quality sites or sites with “thin” content. Practices such as keyword stuffing or content scraping may have worked in the past but are now likely to do more harm than good.
Even a few pages of low quality content is enough to affect rankings for the entire site. Conducting an audit allows you to address weak pieces of content, thus potentially recovering any lost rankings and protecting your site against future updates.
Keeps Your Content Fresh
Unlike print, content that lives on a website can be easily updated and even repurposed to meet the growing demands of today’s consumers. But too often content is published and then never updated again. What ends up happening is the content becomes outdated and completely irrelevant.
Content “freshness” or how recently a post was updated has been a ranking signal for a while now. This makes sense as online users want results that are both relevant and recent.
Here are the types of content that Google checks for freshness:
- Recent events: Examples of recent events include anything that starts trending on the web (e.g. major news stories).
- Recurring events: Users want the most recent information for recurring events like upcoming sporting events, not from years ago.
- Frequent updates: Certain product categories like tech gadgets and car manufacturers are frequently updated. Users in the market for either are looking for accurate and updated information.
Updating your content not only benefits your users but also offers a clear signal to Google that your site is fresh and kept relevant. Conducting an audit lets you pinpoint parts of your site that are in desperate need of an overhaul.
Provides a Content Roadmap
Data shows that online users typically leave a page in 10 to 20 seconds:
The graph shows that the probability of a user leaving is highest in the first few seconds.
The key to driving user engagement then lies in the quality of your content. If users aren’t able to find what they’re looking for right away, the chances of them leaving are significantly higher. But in-depth content can hold their attention for much longer.
The value of a content audit should not be underestimated as the process provides a roadmap that makes your content strategy more effective and aligned with your business objectives.
How to Perform a Content Audit
Make no mistake: Content audits are a lengthy and complicated process. But the sooner you get started, the sooner you’re able to put together an effective content strategy for your business.
Follow these steps to perform a content audit:
1. Create a Spreadsheet
The first part of the content audit is to catalog all the URLs on your site. Use either Excel or Google Sheets to track your efforts. The spreadsheet will also include other details such as page titles, meta descriptions, bounce rates, and conversions.
Here’s an example of what your spreadsheet might look like:
Then you can easily customise the headings to include the metrics that are important to you.
2. Compile Asset Data
Collecting data is the most lengthy part of the process and entails entering data into your spreadsheet from multiple sources. Start by gathering the URLs for each page. From Google Analytics, click on Behavior and Site Content on the left side. Then click All Pages:
From here you’ll see a complete overview of all indexable content on your site along with other key metrics like average time on page, bounce rates, and even page values if you have that setup. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors are leaving your site without visiting other pages. So you could sort your spreadsheet by the highest bounce rates and prioritise those pages.
Optimising on-page factors of your site gives a clear signal to Google that your content is relevant for its target keywords. So your spreadsheet should also include titles, meta descriptions, headers, and target keywords for each page.
If you use WordPress as your primary CMS, navigate to All Posts under Posts and click the “Edit” link. If you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, simply scroll down and open the snippet editor to grab your titles and meta descriptions. Be sure to install the plugin if you haven’t already as it makes it effortless to improve your on-page SEO.
Simply copy those details for each page and paste them into your spreadsheet. If you have a relatively small site, this process shouldn’t take too long. But if you have a larger site you might want to use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog to speed up the process.
Screaming Frog provides summaries of your:
- Page titles
- Meta descriptions
- Word counts
- H1 and H2 tags
- External links
- Anchor text
And much more.
Here’s an example of what it looks like while crawling a site:
The tool is also capable of compiling other metrics but for now we’re mostly concerned with on-page factors for each page. Once the tool finishes gathering the data, you can then download that data as a CSV file. Having all these details at your fingertips makes it easier to evaluate on-page factors of each page and address any issues that need fixing (e.g. duplicate content, etc.).
Your spreadsheet should now include details like title tags, meta descriptions, word counts, bounce rates, and values for each page. Other metrics like social shares can also be helpful when assessing your content. For example, a blog post with a lot of shares on Facebook indicates a popular topic while a low number of shares indicates that users aren’t engaging with that particular topic.
To find out how many social shares your pages have, head to Shares Count and enter in the page URL. The tool will then display the number of shares for each major platform:
There is also a WordPress plugin you can install to view those details right from your dashboard instead of having to manually check each URL.
3.0 Assign a Rating
Gathering all that data gives you a much clearer picture of the current state of your content. The next step is to conduct an honest assessment and assign a rating for each page. It can either be in the form of a grade or on a scale from 1 to 10. Giving a rating will help you better organise your content strategy as you prepare to implement an action plan.
If you want your pages ranking for competitive keywords, your content needs to be high quality. But “quality” is certainly a subjective metric that is difficult to assess. Google provides some guidance on how to evaluate your content based on the following questions:
These questions should provide more insight on the kind of content that Google ranks. Go through each page and assign a quality score. Those with the highest scores might be pages that perform well or have a positive effect on conversions while those with the lowest scores might be pages that convert poorly.
Assigning a score will make it much easier to establish recommended actions for each piece of content. Here are some examples you can assign:
- Keep: If a piece of content performs well and is already ranking for its target keywords (e.g. 8 – 10), you likely don’t need to do anything else to it. For top assets with a high score, simply keep them or consider exporting them into different content formats (e.g. videos, guides, infographics, podcasts, etc.) to further expand your content marketing.
- Update: For pages that are clearly outdated or poorly optimised (e.g. 4 – 7) consider overhauling the content to make them more engaging. Optimise the content for your target keywords and include other resources for your target audience. Other pages worth looking at are those with high bounce rates or low conversions.
- Remove: If you are unable to improve a piece of content (e.g. 1 – 3) or if doing so would take too much effort, then consider removing them altogether. Other examples might include content that is duplicated elsewhere or seasonal landing pages that are no longer used.
- Consolidate: Another option you have is to consolidate your content. For example, if you have a few short pieces of related content, you could combine and make them more in-depth. You may have fewer pages but your overall content quality will improve considerably.
Some patterns may immediately jump out while reviewing your spreadsheet. Here are some examples of observations you might have made:
- User engagement is higher for in-depth content. If you notice a correlation between more in-depth content and user engagement, you might consider investing more into creating comprehensive guides.
- Conversions are higher for landing pages. If conversions are highest on landing pages, making more can drive even more sales and revenue to your bottom line.
- Infographics have the highest social shares. If social metrics indicate that infographics are the most popular, you can use that information to invest in more infographics or similar types of content.
Every situation is different but analysing your spreadsheet will yield interesting insight that may not have been immediately obvious before.
Implement an Action Plan
The next step is to take what you’ve learned so far and put everything into an action plan.
But with such a staggering amount of data, where do you even start? It can be overwhelming to the point that you find yourself seemingly stuck in an endless loop. This is a classic example of analysis paralysis which is defined here:
“Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed especially if you’re dealing with a large site.
By assigning a rating for each page, you’ll know which ones to prioritise first and which ones can be left for later. One approach is to follow the recommended actions you input for pages with the lowest ratings. Another is to group actions together. For example, you could start by removing low quality pages and then move on to updating any stale content.
Blocking out time each day and setting a deadline for recommended actions is another effective way to keep you on track. If you use Google Sheets, you can even share and assign certain tasks to other team members to make the process more efficient.
The key is to make an action plan and stick to it.
Here are actionable tips you can include while implementing your content plan:
1. Make it Longer
Over the past few years there has been a steady progression of longer content pieces ranking well in the search results. But search engines aren’t just ranking pages simply for their length. Longer content does well because it tends to cover a topic more comprehensively.
There is also data to suggest that Google is looking for more depth. Data from Searchmetrics found that the average word count of top ranking pages increased by 25% since 2014.
Identify any pages that are low in wordcount and aim to make them longer. But don’t spam or stuff your content with content either as doing so could lead to a ranking penalty.
2. Improve On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is a key ranking factor. A better optimised page could mean the difference between ranking on the first page or losing that position to a competitor.
As mentioned previously, Screaming Frog is a highly recommended crawling tool that fetches and compiles onsite elements such as page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, and even content length. If certain onsite elements are missing or poorly optimised, you’ll want to make those pages a priority.
Here’s an example of a perfectly optimised page:
Optimise the metadata for your target keywords and include related phrases to improve the overall relevance of your content. Avoid over optimising your content and focus instead on providing a great user experience.
3. Include Images
Images not only add more life to a page but they also improve readability by breaking up blocks of text and even have a positive impact on user engagement. In an analysis of over 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with images once every 75-100 words received double the number of shares than articles with fewer images.
But you’ll want to use images that are relevant to the topic to connect with your audience. Eye tracking studies from the Nielsen Norman Group have shown that users pay more attention to information-carrying images than those don’t provide any value.
If your content audit reveals pages with high bounce rates, adding images can help make those pages more engaging and even drive more traffic from Google Images.
4. Add a CTA
A call to action (CTA) prompts visitors on what you want them to do next. Examples include adding a product to a shopping cart, signing up for a newsletter, or filling out a lead form. Without a CTA, prospective customers may leave your site without taking any action.
Here’s an example of a CTA that Shopify uses on its homepage to increase signups:
From your spreadsheet, you’re able to quickly identify poor performing pages. Consider adding a CTA to pages with low conversion rates to boost their overall value. You can even take your efforts a step further by implementing A/B testing to test the effectiveness of your CTAs.
Break your content action plan into chunks and start making those changes.
Analyse Competing Sites
Conducting an SEO site audit provides an extensive evaluation of your own content. But there’s still one more thing to take into consideration: Your competitors.
Analysing competing sites can also provide a wealth of information that you can leverage to drive better results with yours. For example, if several sites on the first page for your target keywords are lacking in content quality, you could publish even better content and outrank those sites.
Of course, you won’t be able to get certain metrics like bounce rates or page values for competing sites. But there are other metrics you can track such as social shares with BuzzSumo’s Most Shared tool.
Here’s an example of the most shared content on a site in the wellness industry:
Just by looking at the data you can quickly identify pages that are doing well for your competitors and can contribute similar but better content for your own site.
Content audits are incredibly valuable for the insight they provide but they aren’t a one-time ordeal. What works today may not work in the future. Conducting regular audits then of your site’s content is strongly recommended to stay current with the latest best practices. Follow the strategies here to assess your content or get in touch with our team to learn more about our content auditing services.