A content audit is kind of like spring cleaning. Once a year (or on another regular schedule), you go through your website and get rid of pages that no longer fit you or your brand. Besides deleting pages that see few visitors, you also need to update, consolidate, keep or redirect other pages. Although there’s no shying away from the fact that it’s a lot of work, a properly performed content audit can send a surprisingly large amount of organic traffic your way. Remember, it's quality website pages offering valuable information, and not the amount of content on a site that search engines look for and reward.
Does Your Website Need a Content Audit?
The size of your website and how long it's existed in cyberspace are both factors to consider when determining how much time and money to set aside for content auditing. Another factor to consider is whether some information published on your website is no longer consistent with your brand imaging and message.Nearly every type of website can benefit from a content audit. One possible exception is a website that you just launched. In this case, you likely don't yet have enough data on organic search traffic to know which pages are the most and least effective.
How to Perform a Content Audit of Your Website Manually
If your website has a blog, start the content audit process by typing in its specific URL into your search engine. This gives you an important visual because it tells you how many of the blog pages Google has indexed and how many come up on page one of the search engine results page (SERP). You'll also want to make sure you have access to your site's analytics on Google or another tool to see how your pages are performing.
1. Decide Whether to Keep, Update, Delete or Redirect a Page
After you decide the order in which to audit your website pages, you'll need to review them one at a time. Here's a list of questions to ask to determine which action to take:
When did you publish the page? If it was less than six months ago, most search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that you should just leave it alone. The page hasn't been live long enough to gather enough meaningful data about its performance.
How much organic traffic does the page receive? If the page has existed for more than six months, look at how much traffic it receives, and determine what percentage of traffic comes from organic search. What constitutes a good amount of organic search traffic can vary from one company to the next, so ensure that everyone in your organization agrees on a percentage when completing this step.
Is the page important to your site? Some pages might never receive meaningful traffic, but that doesn't mean you should delete them. Contact us and terms of service pages fall into this category. Those pages need to be there when people search for them regardless of their performance.
Do you have backlinks to the page? If a page doesn't get meaningful traffic or isn't essential, see if it includes one or more followed backlinks from another site to it. If not, feel free to delete the page and create a redirect to another relevant page on your site because it's not benefiting your website. You can salvage pages that receive low amounts of meaningful traffic, but include at least one backlink by updating them or creating a redirect 301 page to another useful page.
Do you have another page with similar or duplicate content? You might run into situations where you find valuable information on two or more pages that could bring more organic search traffic if you consolidated them. Search engines reward long-form content that keeps visitors on your page longer; they don't reward duplicated content on multiple pages.
2. Update and Improve Content Whenever Possible
Your best bet when auditing a page older than six months that receives a decent amount of organic search traffic is to keep it; however, that doesn't mean you should do nothing to improve it.
Beef Up Short Posts: Long-form, robust content generally performs better because visitors stay longer to browse it. An infrequently viewed post could benefit from supporting graphics, video or high-quality images to attract the attention it deserves.
Update Old Information: Make sure you don't have old dates, deadlines, events or links to broken pages.
Check the Keywords of the Page: Make sure your keywords remain relevant and high-performing. Some search terms may no longer have the volume they once had and should that be the case, you'll want to select a new keyword.
Consider Re-Optimizing the Page: If you created a page that has valuable content but was never optimized for search engines, take the time to do it now. Alternatively, if you optimized it for a search term but it's still not ranking as high as you'd like, consider adding more content and use of that term to the page.
Taking these steps could earn you a higher ranking on the SERP, in addition to an uptick in organic traffic. It is also a good idea to ensure that the pages you decide to redirect end up pointing to another relevant page in order to avoid Google treating it as a 404 rather than a 301.
An Automated Content Audit Is Better for Large Websites
Let’s say that you operate a retail website with thousands of pages of product descriptions. No one in your organization has the time, much less the desire, to audit every page manually. This situation demands an automated solution such as Ahrefs or Screaming Frog. The following is a typical process you can expect to follow when using an automation tool:
- Copy the template for the content audit into your Google drive
- Import all website pages into the template
- Import data from Google Analytics
- Import data from your backlinks
- Review the recommendation in the far right-hand column and take the appropriate action
- Remove all links to deleted or redirected pages
While the process is far more involved than this simple step-by-step explanation, you will receive detailed instructions from the site that you retrieve your content audit automation tool from.
How Does a Content Audit Improve SEO?
While some marketers hesitate to perform their first content audit because they fear that having less content on their website will create a dramatic dip in traffic, typically the opposite happens. By eliminating weak content and optimizing other content, you provide better value for the reader. This leads to better SERP results and more organic traffic. When it comes to Google algorithms, quality always wins over quantity.
Other Tips on How to Improve SEO for Your Site
Aside from the quality of content, Google also considers how often you add new content when determining its relevance. Since you can only make so many changes to the main pages of your website, consider starting a blog if your website does not have one already. This gives you the opportunity to share useful and timely information with your readers. When Google crawls your site, it ranks the new posts as useful, while its algorithm also recognizes that you operate an active website with frequent updates. Additionally, as you review your site, make sure that you aren't keyword stuffing and that you're following best practices for SEO.
Although spring cleaning and content audits are similar, the latter has one big advantage the former will never have: You don’t have to wait until a certain time of year, and you can even do more than one per year, if you think it would benefit your company’s SEO strategy.