Content Audits: How to Perform a Content Audit For SEO

Blog, Marketing, SEO June 4th, 2019

Welcome to Inseev’s first video series post! Today we are focusing on content audits and how a team can work to understand why content audits are needed, what type of content to keep, what to consolidate, and what to kill.

Check out the video and write up below!

How to Perform a Content Audit

Welcome to How to Do a Content Audit. This is going to be the process for how we actually go about doing content audits.

The purpose of a content audit is generally to locate low-quality or thin content and remove or improve it. Generally, when we’re doing a content audit, we are doing so because we have a perception that content is causing problems on a website. We’re thinking we need to make sure that we get rid of outdated content or old content. Maybe an algorithm update was negatively impacting a site and we decide that this is an action item. It also might just be something good to do proactively, rather than having to go back when you’re lost visibility—rather than doing it at the beginning when we’re finishing the audit phase.

When we notice there’s a lot of old, low-quality content—make it an action item then to do this audit process.

If you’re watching this, you are probably already in the process of knowing you have to do a content audit for SEO and you’re trying to figure out how we actually do it. I’ll walk you through that right now. I’m going to use an example here. I’ve already set my content audit up, almost all the way. I’ll show you each individual item.

Step 1 in the Content Audit: Find URLs

The first thing I like to do—the first step overall—is aggregating all the URLs basically.

We need to get every single content URL that we actually want to audit and make sure that we have a comprehensive view of that. First and foremost, I just pop over to the GA. In this case, I’m looking at year-to-date pages. That’s what I want to assess. Now you’d want to go further than that. It really depends. You probably want to work with… If you’re not an SEO strategist, work with the strategist to understand that or do some digging into how many pages you think are actually indexed. If you’re looking at only blog pages—look at slash blog, do a site search for a URL, a blog—to see how many pages there are. For this, really, I’m just looking at content that’s in sessions this year.

Example of a GA landing page report
Example landing page report

They have thousands and thousands of content pages. We’re working on auditing them slowly, but I wanna look what’s actually getting traffic right now for purposes of this project.

I’ve just segmented it quickly by content. That’s in the landing page report, which will give me what I need. You can use the advanced filter. You don’t even need to. It’s very, very simple—content driving some revenue, about 47 thousand dollars, year to date. In comparison to their total site organic revenue, not that much. I make sure I get all these out. You can get five thousand out and just export them. If you have more than five thousand URLs, you’re gonna have to click through and export them that way. That gets me all the data that is from users. I hit all the other stuff, like new users and sessions. I have users, transactions, and revenue, which are my KPIs for this client. Make sure you’ve got your KPIs within this. Make sure that you can clearly see them and you know what’s going on.

Step 2: Find Backlinks Pointing to Content

The next thing you need to do is get backlinks out. Luckily for me, all of the really old content that I want to audit—other than their blog content—all use the same content URL structure, which is a really, really shitty URL structure. But, it is what it is. They can’t fix that.

One of the problems you’ll run into—and I actually have it up here—is that you have a lot of backlinks from the site. I think it’s three million or something that’s happening and being reported in Ahrefs. That’s way too many to try to get out. Right? Luckily, they have a great filtering tool that you can just select here—URLs and backlink-contained content.

If you’re looking only at blog pages, do that. Only use blog here, export it, and you’ll have that data. That’s what I did. I put all my backlinks into a single file, into a single tab (I should say). Then, I just pivoted them to understand. I did a couple of things. I had to use slugs here because it was HTTP.

A while ago they (the client) switched—like a year ago—so a lot of links were going to HTTP. I had to use the slug rather than the full URL because my VLookup wasn’t working here. I can then update and then I had to repivot it. I used that to look up against my slug here to see how many URLs there are. I just use the Vlookup with an if-error function on it. This one doesn’t actually have zero keywords. It doesn’t have zero backlinks. It’s a weird example. It’s just a reporting error within Google analytics. Don’t take that one seriously. It’s just a couple other pages. If you do notice a page that is getting a ton of revenue like this one, and users, saying it has zero keywords and zero backlinks—something is different with the tracking in GA than it is on what is happening on Google, and what’s happening within different tracking tools. This is an interesting one again, but we can use it as an example here because I think it has some unique stuff in it that can help you learn. Looking for more ways to build backlinks? Check out our backlinks services page.

Step 3: Pull Rankings for Pages

After you get backlinks, get SEMrush rankings. Export them. I did the same thing. Go into SEMrush and use the advanced filters here. Include URL-containing content. One thing I wanna call out here is actually pretty interesting. It looks like they actually had some of this content in 2016-2017 producing a lot of traffic, and now it’s producing even less. It just got hit by this algorithm update, producing even less. This is interesting because, in an example like this, where I know content performance has degraded over time, it would be very interesting to understand the total estimated traffic and the total estimated number of keywords that were available in this database in 2017.

example SEMRush Keywords report
SEMrush keyword report example

Compare that over to what’s happening now. If I was doing this—I’m not going to do it right now because it’s gonna take a while—but if I was thinking about, OK. What’s happened to the content over time? Because that’s gonna answer a big question for me. Right? We’re gonna get into that in a second. But if we’re looking at refreshing content versus killing content, versus 301-ing content, versus consolidating content—which are some of the very similar things—when you’re looking at what to do, you wanna be refreshing content that is used to be performing really well and now it’s not. Maybe it’s outdated content. Maybe it’s not written how you think we should be writing it now

In this example, a lot of great content was written in 2010. I’ll show you some of this older content. Let’s just take one. Maybe this was producing a couple of years ago, and as Google changed the algorithm, things happened. This is an absolutely fantastic example of a completely blank page to google. These are images. There’s nothing on this. It is the definition of a thin, blank page. Now, I will look at it. There are thousands of these across the website. That’s just because they don’t maintain this at all. They don’t ever look at pages after they make them and delete them. It’s interesting that this page actually has transactions and revenue in 2019. That’s a very interesting consideration. Because this has that in here, it looks like it was probably part of a sale that happened at that time. Again, I just have to make sure of that before I make recommendations. We’ll get into that in a second. I also like to pull in the head keywords. I like to get my SEMrush rankings. I like to say, OK. I’m going to sort by position so that my number one position is at the top.

Then, I look it up here into the content audit for the URL so that I get the number one position for search volume. If they are all sorted by search volume, it will pull for the URL the largest search volume in position one. That’s what we can call our head keyword. It’s not perfect. You’re not gonna get actually the head keyword, but then you can dig into this if you want to.

Another way to look at this is you could pivot it. You could just be like—URL, keywords underneath, collapse those, make this little smaller. You could dig in by doing a position view. You could see positions ranking in the top ten. You can add on search volume here. If you’re assessing on a page level, let’s say you’re not sure about… You’re doing the content audit and you’re actually looking at it and you say, OK. I don’t know about this URL. You can go to your SEMrush rankings quickly, find that page pivoted. Do a find for it. Find that page. Look at what it’s ranking for and say, Is this ranking for anything good? Is it branded terms? Is it overlapping with another page? We’re going back to this.

Step 4: Check Against Timefames

If you’re doing a content audit because you think content once performed well and it’s not performing well anymore due to algorithm updates or changes in the website, or whatever, you need to make sure that you are comparing the two timeframes to understand where the loss is coming from so that when you make recommendations, you have that information. I’m not gonna do that right now because it’s gonna take a little bit. I would have to go and look it up against this and all this other stuff—add a bunch of more data in—but you should always have that there.

Step 5: Decide to Kill, Keep, or 301

I’ve got all of my URLs. I’ve got my rankings data. I’ve got my KPI data. I’ve got my backlink data. Everything’s combined now into a single, beautiful file that I can use to complete this project. What I’m gonna do is create another column, recommendation, and then maybe notes over here so I can add in the notes to myself as I go through this. I’m gonna start with some content that’s way at the bottom so I’m not looking at underperforming or higher-performing content that probably needs to stay. Let’s look at this one. This actually says start with lowest-performing content. If you’re really looking at it from an opportunity standpoint, you actually probably wanna look at it from the opposite way. Look at the highest-opportunity content being stuff that’s already ranking and then saying, This already has a hundred rankings. If we refreshed and updated the meta title and everything like that, we can get a ton more traffic to it. But if you’re looking at it from a performance standpoint and you’re thinking performance has gotten badly—definitely go to the pages that got one hit all year long.

example of a blank page
Example of a blank page

This example page has gotten one hit so far. It looks like it links out to a bunch of other content pages and it looks like it’s probably from 2004 or something even earlier. This is the type of content that I would probably just say, Alright, let’s kill it. There are no backlinks. There are no ranking keywords. It got one user to it from a search engine last year. Screw it. We don’t need it. That’s it in general. Another one of these same type of pages. It just looks like it was a little hub. Maybe they were using it on Facebook or whatever when they wanted to. Maybe this was MySpace or who knows. It’s low quality. Get rid of it. Kill it.

example of a semi-blank page
What should we do here?

Those are some of the examples of some lower stuff. Let’s check out this one. It’s got an order on it. Let’s see what this is. Non-VIP standard shipping available—interesting.  Don’t think this page has anything important going on. They have a shipping page. That probably explains all of this stuff hopefully, which is a pretty shitty page in general too.

I would say maybe 301. If you have it 301, you probably want to—310 recommendation.

Don’t forget about Content Refreshes!

When you’re looking at a page, you’re just kind of watching through this process, but here’s the things to think about. This is actually in the process doc too. I’ll talk through it. When you’re thinking through what you’ll do with a page, you want to be refreshing pages that are performing pretty well already or used to perform pretty well—and rank for terms, but maybe do not rank on page three for those same terms—that’s an opportunity to refresh. Is it not ranking on those pages… Is it not ranking for the terms they used to because another page is now ranking for them or something? If that’s the case, then you need to be 301-ing, consolidating that content through that other page.

Even though a page was ranking well in the past, it doesn’t mean that you just automatically refresh it. You need to make sure that another page isn’t now what’s ranking well for the terms that it’s also ranking for, or similar terms. Sometimes what you can do is consolidate it to post onto a single post that covers a larger net of terms. When one of them is kind of ranking and one of them is also like okay, ranking a little better or something like that—refreshing content usually has that.

Kill content with no value and no backlinks!

We can then kill content with no backlinks. You never kill content that has backlinks. You 301 content that has backlinks or a URL that has backlinks. In general, the lowest quality stuff. It’s not driving any business. It’s irrelevant. It doesn’t have any backlinks. Get rid of it. Kill it. You don’t even need to 301 it. Let it 404. If you’re trying to get it out of the index quickly, you can reference the How to Get Pages out of the Index. You can throw the no index on it and then force crawl it, or you can 301 it and then force crawl it. There’s all kinds of ways you can do that. If you want to get a lot of pages out of index quickly, reference that video.

When do you consolidate content?

I kind of talked through this. If you start to notice that when you look at the rankings for a page and you say, Okay, this page ranks for

Best Energy Bars for Runners, you find the page that ranks best for Best Energy Bars for Runners at position 58. But you’ve also been doing this content audit and you’ve been going through hundreds of pages and you remember, Oh, I had a page about Energy Bars for Runners but it only ranked for Runner Energy Bars or something like that. That would be a situation when you could consolidate the content. If there was valuable content on this page and you say, OK, let’s say combine both pages of content and rework that. Really, you’re just refreshing the other page with some of the content on another page. If you’re consolidating two pages that are really ranking.

Let’s say that both pages are ranking on page two for very similar groups of terms, you wanna be smart about how you do that. That’s a little bit of a different situation. Sometimes you even wanna consolidate pages that are both on page one, if they are really, really similar and fluctuating a lot in the surf because it’s kind of swapping them out and it doesn’t know how to rank. More on consolidating pages in a different training session, but in general you wanna just be thinking about—are these pages overlapping in a keyword intent and if they are what do you do.

What about 301 recommendations?

Lastly, the 301 recommendation is generally—you’ve found the overlapping intent or you’ve found a page that has backlinks and those backlinks are going to a page about energy bars, and you find the category page that has energy bars. You wanna try to preserve some of that, so 301 the page over. It needs to be highly relevant or else you lose the backlink value coming in. You saw 404 for the page that is 301-ing to. Try to think about relevance when you’re making 301 recommendations.

Ultimately, that’s really the process. You’re just kind of going through a list of URLs, looking at those pages, and using what you know about what Google thinks about a high-quality page, what you think about a high-quality page, what you know about the site, what you know about the rankings, what you know about all kind of stuff. You can make recommendations based on that.

Thanks for watching. Let us know if you have any questions.

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