With so much pressure to constantly produce high-quality content, it can be easy to overlook the content we already have. When was the last time you stopped to check just how well your site’s content was actually performing? If it’s been a while, it may be time to dig into your site with an SEO content audit.
What Is a Content Audit?
A content audit is a thorough analysis of the content on your website that provides valuable insight into how the pages on your site are performing. The results can help improve your content marketing strategy by identifying the types of content that are performing well and the pages that aren’t driving traffic or conversions so you can replicate your successes and investigate opportunities for improvement.
Pages that the audit finds to be underperforming can be changed, consolidated, updated, or deleted altogether in order to improve the SEO performance of your site. And it isn’t necessarily just pages that aren’t ranking that can benefit from an SEO content audit. Pages that rank well but could rank even higher with a little more work can also benefit.
Additionally, a deeper content audit that analyzes visitor engagement metrics can help identify new opportunities for SEO by providing you with information about what kinds of content your users like and what kinds they don’t. Based on these insights, you can adjust your content strategy to produce more content that attracts your target audience and waste less time and resources producing the kind that doesn’t.
Improving, repurposing, or updating your existing content is a viable and efficient marketing strategy that helps you make the most of what you’ve already got. It’s usually recommended that you audit your site’s content at least once or twice every year. But sites that publish a lot of content may benefit from more frequent audits.
As an SEO agency, Victorious is primarily concerned with the SEO element of a content audit. But in reality, content audits can help more than just your SEO efforts. Analyzing the results of your content audit and improving content may lead to better conversion rates, strengthened branding, higher engagement, and a more robust content funnel.
Is a Content Audit Right for You?
Every website has content — and it’s worth auditing that content regularly to make sure it’s helping you reach your SEO goals. Sites with fewer pages will be quicker to audit and will benefit from a detailed look into each page’s performance.
Larger websites will also benefit from content audits. Depending on the size of the site and your resources, you may want to focus on particular areas of your site. For example, during one content audit, you can look at landing pages or even landing pages for a particular market segment. During another content audit you can look at blog content. This way, you can more easily implement changes before the data goes stale.
Content Audit Tools
Performing an accurate and actionable web content audit without having access to your site’s performance data is next to impossible. Luckily, there are a variety of tools that can provide the data you need to perform thorough SEO content audits.
Here are some of the tools I recommend to collect and organize that data for analysis and optimization. Depending on the scope of your content audit, you may not need all of them, but it’s good to know how each can be used to support your content goals.
Google Analytics (GA) can provide you with tons of valuable information about how visitors are interacting with your site. GA can let you know which of your pages are driving traffic and gaining conversions – and which ones aren’t. Check out our guide to Google Analytics to learn more.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console gives site admins access to a variety of tools and reports that help them accurately measure their site’s search performance and traffic and fix any issues that may be holding them back.
GSC shows which of your site’s pages are appearing in search results, where they’re appearing, and how many clicks and impressions they’re getting in the SERPs. Additionally, you can use GSC’s URL Inspection Tool to get Google to recrawl any pages you have updated or fixed so the new versions can be crawled and indexed.
Our guide to Google Search Console shows how to get the most from this tool.
ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider is a tool specifically designed to audit websites for common SEO issues. The bot uses a sitemap to crawl and index a site’s pages, checking things like links, redirects, metadata, titles, word count, indexation, error codes, and much more. It can also integrate with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights to provide users with even more data, all in one place.
After the crawler is finished, the tool sorts all of the discovered data and makes it easily accessible through its interface.
ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider is free to use for up to 500 URLs but requires a paid subscription to crawl any more pages.
Ahrefs or SEMRush
Like ScreamingFrog, Ahrefs and SEMRush are two paid tools designed to help you better understand how your site is performing and to better optimize it for SEO. You can use either of these tools to help you perform an SEO content audit and identify potential problems.
In the past, Ahrefs used to be primarily focused on links, but today both of these tools can provide you with loads of valuable SEO data about your pages, including how well they’ve been ranking, what their backlink profiles look like, what keywords they’ve captured, and so much more.
Both of these paid tools offer free trials and have similar feature sets when it comes to auditing SEO, but you may find one to be better than the other in certain areas. For example, SEMrush has its own content audit feature that you can connect to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. It’s not as in-depth as using multiple tools, but it provides a quick overview.
Siteliner is a free tool that scans your site to identify duplicate content and broken links, as well as to provide you with an array of metrics that show how your site stacks up against the average website. Even though Google does not issue direct penalties for duplicate content, it can still harm your SEO in several ways and should be avoided whenever possible. Use Siteliner to scan your site for duplicate content and make a note of any pages that it flags, as this may be the cause of their poor SEO performance. This blog post explains how.
How To Do a Website Content Audit
Ready to dive in? Here’s a simple 5-step content audit template you can use to structure the process the next time you want to audit your content.
Step 1. Consider Your Goals
A thorough audit of your site’s content will turn up a lot of data. To make sense of it as efficiently as possible, you should first consider what goals you’re hoping to accomplish with your audit.
For example, you may want to get a good look at all of your site’s content, only analyze content of a certain kind, or find content that can be culled from your site. Not every goal will require the use of the same metrics, the same tools, or same effort. Taking a few minutes to set goals for your audit will smooth out the whole content audit process and allow you to maximize your time.
When I do a content audit, I’m generally looking to see what content could benefit from improvement and what content should be removed from the website.
Step 2. Identify Important Metrics
After determining your goals, you’ll also need to pinpoint the metrics needed to support them. Matching your goals to the appropriate metrics is key to understanding how well a page is working toward achieving its objectives. Depending on your goals, this could mean looking at metrics such as page views, organic traffic, conversion rate, keyword rankings, backlinks, etc.
For example, to identify poorly performing content on a mid-size website, I would look for content that has fewer than 100 page views and less than 10 conversions. If you aren’t sure what your cutoff should be, take a look at your metrics to get a better idea of your current performance. Find the average for your metrics, and then use it as your measuring stick.
Step 3. List the Web Pages You Want To Audit
The third step in performing a content audit for website optimization is deciding which of your site’s pages to audit.
If a page is only a couple of months old, then it’s probably a good idea to exclude it from your audit and avoid taking action prematurely. It takes time for new pages to rank on search engines like Google and making changes to a newer page may be unnecessary, or even counterproductive. It’s up to you how long you really want to give a page before doing something about its unimpressive metrics, but it’s important to give it some time.
With that in mind, build a list of all the URLs you want to include in your audit. If your website is small enough, you can do this step manually by adding the desired URLs directly into a spreadsheet. However, if your site is large and contains many pages of content then I recommend using ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider Website Crawler. Connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console to ScreamingFrog to easily collect all the data you need from one tool.
Using ScreamingFrog, you can scan subdirectories or entire websites and export the collected URLs into a spreadsheet. Alternatively, if you have a paid SEMRush account, you can also use their content audit tool to collect all these URLs and gather data on them.
If you decide to go about it manually, you can also use your site’s XML sitemap as a guide for collecting and listing all of your site’s URLs in a spreadsheet.
Step 4. Add Google Analytics
If you’ve opted to skip ScreamingFrog, you’ll want to gather engagement data from Google Analytics. This guide will help you measure website traffic in GA4. You’ll also want to look at conversion data if it’s related to the goals you set at the beginning of the audit.
Step 5. Add Additional Data
Do you want to see how well your page is ranking or which keywords have the most volume? You can look up this information by URL in Ahrefs and SEMrush and then enter it into your spreadsheet. This step is only necessary if such data supports your content audit goals. You can always look up this information when analyzing the results of your content audit to help in your decision-making process.
Analyzing Your Content Audit Results
With all of our content audit website data in hand, it’s time to dig in to see which pages are performing well and what may be holding others back.
Ensure Appropriate Pages Are Indexed
Auditing your content gives you a chance to make sure the pages you want showing up in SERPs are actually indexed. Make sure pages you want appearing in SERP aren’t blocked by robots.txt or noindex tags.
Check Error Codes
Error codes can let you know which pages are active and which are down, potentially requiring redirects or removal. 200 is the response code for a page that is functioning properly, is accessible to visitors, and is not using a redirect.
Page Optimizations in Place
Check that each page has a meta title, meta description, and h1 that includes your keywords and is the optimal length.
Identify Low-Converting Pages
Highlight pages that have high traffic but aren’t converting. These pages may require a deeper dive and possibly a restructuring of their content to better fit their positions in the buyer’s journey. Check your calls-to-action and consider doing some A-B testing to identify ideal button and CTA wording and placement.
Identify Low Traffic Blog Posts
Which pages aren’t receiving organic traffic? You’ll want to check whether they’ve been properly optimized, if they meet search intent, whether the content is comprehensive, and whether there’s a better keyword you should target.
Identify Low Ranking Posts
If you’ve opted to incorporate Ahrefs or SEMrush into your audit, use them to determine which pages are ranking lower than expected. Are they receiving engagement?
Low-ranking posts that are still getting engagement or shares from their limited audience may simply be suffering from stiff keyword competition and may require further keyword optimization or additional content.
Identify Low Word Count Pages
As confirmed by Google’s John Mueller, Google does not consider word count to be a quality signal when it comes to ranking pages. But just because it isn’t a direct ranking factor doesn’t mean that a thin piece of content is an adequate substitute for a well-written long-form post or informative landing page.
More content means more opportunities for keywords, links, and visitor engagement. If you find you have pages that have a low word count and aren’t performing well, evaluate the word count of the top-ranking pages for your target keyword and see if there’s a gap that you can close with additional content.
See how many backlinks your pages have. If you have quality content that isn’t ranking well, compare your referring domains and backlinks to those of the top-ranking posts. If you have pages with lots of backlinks that aren’t performing well, they may be a good candidate for redirecting.
Make Improvements Based on Audit Findings
If your audit found you have lots of pages that are performing well, great! If not, it’s ok — you can now use the information you’ve gathered to update your existing content, prune content, or merge content.
Low-Hanging Fruit: Page Optimizations
The easiest gains to make are on pages where on-page technical optimizations have been overlooked. For example, pages that are missing metadata or that haven’t been optimized are relatively easy to fix and can be a good starting point for post-audit optimization. If you have the same metadata for multiple pages, take the time to create unique metadata for each.
Implement Redirects and Robot Meta Tags
Any error codes for inactive or inaccessible pages can be fixed with the help of redirects. Pages that return a 404 code are dead ends and should be redirected to a similar page.
Take some time to spot any 302 redirects (temporary redirects) in use and change them to more SEO-friendly 301 redirects (permanent).
Additionally, make sure that robot meta tags have been applied to any pages you previously identified as not wanting to appear in search results.
Improve or Remove?
Not every poorly performing page is worthy of resuscitation. Some pages may fail to provide value — your target audience may simply not be searching for them — and that’s ok.
Carefully consider your SEO goals and whether a specific piece of content can actually meet them with improvement. Some pages may never rank well because of the nature of their content or because the stiff competition they face in the SERP may prevent them from doing so.
On the other hand, pages that are performing poorly and lack strategic value are fair game. If you think a page is unsalvageable or that it would take too much effort to give it the help it needs to rank well, then getting rid of it by either deleting it or merging it with another piece of content may be the best move. Repurposing your content and consolidating it into another page is a good way to make sure your existing work doesn’t simply go to waste – just remember not to force it. If you can’t find another place where it would naturally fit into your website, it’s likely best to just delete it altogether. Redirect any pages you want to remove to preserve any link equity they may have acquired.
Create Further Action Items
Lastly, before you begin the optimization process, think about the order in which you should address pages that need to be removed or optimized. Consider how content can be upgraded, where it can be merged, whether it requires further keyword research, or what other kind of action may be necessary to nudge it closer to where you want it to be.
Ideally, you should focus on the pages where optimizations will have the most impact first, as well as on the pages that only require quick fixes like new metadata. If your audit highlighted a lot of content issues, consider setting up a list or calendar that structures the optimization process and prioritizes the pages that will provide the most benefit first.
Want More Insight Into Your Content?
A content audit can be a time-consuming process and getting it right is crucial for making the most of each page. While the content audit template I’ve laid out above can get you well on your way to improving and optimizing your content, nothing beats the guidance of a trusted SEO professional.
Our content audit service helps customers uncover as many opportunities as possible for SEO gains and optimizations. Book a free consultation with Victorious today to speak with us directly and learn more about how our SEO audit services fit into a larger SEO strategy and can benefit your site’s SEO.