January 8, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
It’s easy to get caught up in the content creation process and never look back at the pieces you already shared. When you have deadlines to meet on your editorial calendar, you can’t stop everything to review content from two or three years ago. However, this content could be holding you back. All of your best forward-facing efforts to improve your SEO could get stuck because of poor content haunting you from the past.
A content audit and improvement strategy doesn’t have to be a lengthy and time-consuming process. If you conduct a thorough audit and build site improvements into your weekly calendar, then you could see significant improvements to your SEO results without growing your budget or content production schedule.
A content audit is a complete review of indexable pages on your websites. Through audit tools and manual evaluation, site managers typically sort pages into three categories: good, acceptable, and needs improvement. These tags help SEO managers prioritize content upgrades for maximum effect.
Additionally, some people take this filtering process a step further. After sorting pages by the quality of content, they will list them by the number of visitors and links to the page. This sorting also provides clarity as content managers can see where the business stands to gain the most from improving weak content. Without this clarity, site managers might spend their time improving decent pages that get an average amount of traffic instead of terrible pages that should get more traffic than they do.
Upon completing the audit, website managers can start rewriting content, improving formatting, and updating links and images. An e-commerce website with thousands of product pages or a blog with years of archives could take years to improve. Auditing prioritizes the most important work for the greatest results.
Some people use the terms content audit and SEO audit interchangeably, especially if the content is a major part of your SEO strategy and your company is completing both tasks at the same time. While an SEO audit focuses on broken links, poor descriptions, and a lack of keyword targeting, content audits analyze the quality of writing and value to customers. Moz has created a detailed list of items that brands should look for when they conduct content audits, a few of which include:
Some website managers find valuable content in their archives, but realize it was poorly written or is too short to catch the attention of search engines. Other content pieces tout best practices or data from five years ago and are now outdated. What might have been a high-traffic piece when it debuted is now stale and holding your website back.
As you conduct your content audit and label your pages as “good,” “poor,” or “needs work,” make note of the work that needs to be done. A complete rewrite of a 150-word blog post will require more effort and time than simply updating a few statistics in a piece or targeting better keywords.
Your content audit doesn’t have to be a manual process. Some blog managers prefer to simply download the data into a spreadsheet and work through their URLs, however, larger websites with more advanced navigational structures will probably want something that analyzes and filters pages for them. It’s also possible to do a hybrid of both. To get you started, here are three of our favorite auditing tools that help us sort content and look for SEO opportunities.
When you submit a URL to Blaze, it crawls your pages and generates a list of URLs. Webmasters can also plug in analytics to align with the pages for better analysis of what needs to be improved. Users can understand the scale of their projects, flag content for archiving or integrating, and make note of upcoming opportunities or gaps. It’s one of the most cohesive tools for content improvement.
Dyno Mapper specializes in weekly content audits and alerts site managers of problems with your pages. If you plan to make content improvements a long-term strategy for your brand, then this tool is ideal. You can watch your progress every week as your pages get better and then prevent a massive backlog from forming again once you complete the audit. Your content will always improve as long as you follow your weekly reports.
The Screaming Frog SEO Spider runs an SEO audit and checks more than 40 different parameters on your website. This tool is ideal if you want to look beyond content for your website and also improve dead links and poor ranking practices. On the content side, Screaming Frog identifies duplicate content, poor titles and metadata, and broken links. It also integrates Google Analytics data in the paid version so you can see which pages aren’t converting or keeping users on your website.
Once you complete a content audit, the next step is to improve the site content for better traffic and SEO. By following these steps, you can take what seems like a massive project and break it down into smaller pieces, and content victories.
Analytics tools are key for content audits and upgrades because they show you which pages need the most work. As you continue auditing your pages quarterly, you can track URL metrics to see how your SEO improves through your auditing edits. These improvements will motivate you through the most grueling website upgrades.
Content improvements are often a long-term project. Consider evaluating your URLs and creating batches for upgrades. Set aside pages that need complete rewrites into groups of three and pages that need minor tweaks into groups of five or 10. Then schedule a few hours each week to work on them. You only have to do a batch per week to see major improvements to your pages.
If you haven’t performed a content audit for several years, then your first review may seem overwhelming. However, it gets easier. Continue auditing your website biannually or even quarterly for necessary upgrades. If you use one of the tools above, you could even receive weekly updates on what needs to be changed.
Furthermore, anytime the website changes hands, either with a new manager or SEO team, let them run an audit to determine what they think needs to be done.
Many content managers think audits are exclusively reactive and most of the time is spent rewriting old pieces and improving SEO just to please the search crawlers. However, content audits as purely reactive processes is a myth. As you comb through your archives, there are multiple content ideas you can glean for future use.
Instead of rewriting pages and creating entirely new blog articles from pages that don’t have high traffic levels, consider condensing a cluster of short articles into an expert e-book or white paper. You can combine the sources and edit them for improved content, and then set up redirects on the old pages to the better content. This prevents broken links and helps your brand create a library of valuable, in-depth content without the effort of starting from scratch.
Even the best editors get stuck in their bubbles with content ideas. Looking back at past topics can give you ideas for articles or keywords that you haven’t completely touched on. Many content managers use word clouds during their audits or keyword lists to see where there are opportunities for improvement. Based on those keywords, editors can create a few ideas per term and fill in knowledge gaps on the website.
Reviewing content might help you discover weekly or monthly pieces that were part of a series or used to share the news. Busy seasons or changes in blog management might have caused these series to fall off the calendar, leaving gaps that need to be filled. You might decide to resurrect a series or bring back weekly news updates if they performed well in the past.
The act of conducting a content audit can fill your content calendar with series ideas, white paper launches, and keyword-targeted posts for several weeks or months. While the audit might require looking at the past, it helps generate ideas for the future.
Any website that regularly creates content needs to conduct an audit at regular intervals. Otherwise, any content you publish moving forward will be limited by the muck or poor links and bad articles from years past.
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