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Content Audit: What You Need to Know

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12 Feb 2020

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Content Audit

So, you’ve SEO’d all your pages and consistently built links to them for years.

Despite all your best efforts, your site still isn’t performing up to scratch.

Sound familiar?

You need to take a hard look at your site and find ways to improve it.

One way to do this is to conduct a content audit.

It’s a surefire way to sync your site with your marketing goals.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself — let’s define what a content audit is first.

What is a Content Audit?

A content audit refers to the process of scrutinizing all of the assets (pages, images, files) on your website.

From here, you can break down the factors that could affect the website rankings of each asset on Google.

Once you complete your content audit, you must determine what steps you can take to enhance the performance of each asset.

Content Audit: What You Need to Know(Source: Page One Power)

The work you do at this stage dictates the overall success of your audit. Take as much time analyzing your assets as you need to get it right.

If you take the right approach with your content audit, you will maximize its results.

Of course, the explanation above is an oversimplification of how a content audit works.

Later, we will discuss the step-by-step process of auditing the content of a website using different tools.

At the end of the article, you should be able to audit your site and understand how to improve its performance.

Why do you need a content audit?

As mentioned, a content audit helps you understand why your site is performing the way it does on SERPs.

But more than that, this process allows you to evaluate your website beyond SEO.

You will uncover assets you need to update or discard to get the best out of your website.

In the end, a content audit should help you create a website that works — plain and simple.

To help you understand further, here are the reasons why we highly recommend auditing your site’s content.

Properly assess content efforts

Think of your website as a house.

As its owner, you put things inside of it — things you need, you don’t need, things you want but have no use for — the list goes on!

Perhaps your site has solid content written years ago that’s badly in need of an update.

At the same time, your website probably has assets you no longer need.

Having content that you no longer have a use for is typical. Over 60% of B2B content ends up going unused.

Creating content is a daunting and often expensive task.

But don’t let this be an excuse to allow content no one is accessing become dead weight on your site.

By conducting a content audit, you’ll find out which pages are working and which aren’t. This can help dictate your content strategy going forward.

Maximize the performance of existing content

I mentioned that there are pages on your site that aren’t optimized enough.

Sure, they may have backlinks and are ranking reasonably high on organic search.

However, they can do much better if you re-optimize them.

For instance, a page is generating tons of organic traffic for a search query that isn’t its target keyword.

With this knowledge, you can simply optimize the page for that keyword to help further increase your organic search position.

Most of the time, small tweaks could do wonders for your site.

For example, Matthew Woodward reached the top position for a very competitive keyword by re-optimizing his post.

All he needed to do was remove 85% of the words in his content.

While that may seem counter-intuitive, you cannot deny the results:

Content Deletion Matthew Woodward(Source: Matthew Woodward)

You could also achieve these results if you audit your site’s content the right way and then take appropriate action.

Implement informed decisions in line with your goals

When optimizing your website’s performance, you should never go in blind.

Don’t update or delete pages on your site based on a whim.

If your actions are not in line with your goals, you’re just wasting time and energy.

Support your actions with data and insight by conducting a thorough content audit.

For example, you’d think a brand like Microsoft has its content strategy figured out.

But when somebody analyzed their site, he found out that people have yet to see 30% of their content.

Microsoft deleted the low performing pages to improve the site’s crawl budget and overall content quality.

It’s often best to narrow the focus of your content to pages that are receiving traffic and jettison those that don’t.

This is just one example of what a content audit can do for your site.

By removing unnecessary content from your website, Google can crawl essential pages faster.

How to do a content audit

Now that I’ve convinced you how valuable conducting a content audit can be to your site, it’s time to put one into action.

Below, you will find how to proceed with auditing a site’s content using Screaming Frog SEO Spider and Google Analytics.

Screaming Frog (SF) is one of the premier website audit tools that deep-crawls your site for all your assets organized into their different factors.

Jarod Spiewak wrote an excellent post for SEOButler on how to automate Screaming Frog.

You can use the tool for free if you audit a site with only 500 URLs.

For bigger sites, you must pay a yearly subscription fee to use it and gain access to premium features.

Google Analytics is a tool you should already be using to analyze your website traffic.

Using it alongside Screaming Frog will help you unearth better insights you otherwise won’t see.

In order to follow the step-by-step instructions below, you need to install Screaming Frog and have a year’s worth of data on Google Analytics ideally.

Ready? Let’s start!

Identify your content goals

Before performing a content audit, you must have a clear goal in mind for your content assets.

For most, the aim of building a site is to build traffic and increase your online visibility. But what’s more important is what you do with the traffic you generate.

You may be attracting tons of visitors — but if they bounce just as fast as they arrived, then the number of your website visitors ultimately doesn’t much matter.

By having a goal in mind, you can fashion your content according to how you want your visitors to engage with your site.

Below are examples of goals you may want to achieve with your content:

  • Build your brand — Educate your audience by providing valuable information about your brand and niche in your content.
  • Turn visitors into clients or customers — Convince them to purchase your products and services.
  • Build your email list — Use content upgrades and other gated content to encourage people to sign up to your email list.
  • To generate links — Present information in content that evokes emotion and is useful to its audience.

Ideally, each page should have a single objective so as not to confuse visitors. This allows you to create deliberate content with a clear purpose in mind.

At the same time, you can use these goals for auditing your website content.

Retroactively edit the content to have a specific goal or purpose so they can contribute to your site’s ROI.

Compile all your web content in a list

Next, you need to collect all the assets on your site and organize them on a sheet.

More importantly, you need to break them down into different factors.

Below are some of the more important ones:

  1. Title — Do all your pages have titles? Do they contain just the right number of characters?
  2. Meta Description — Are your meta descriptions more than 70 and less than 155 characters?
  3. Images — Are each of your images compressed to less than 100kb? (Editor’s note: If you use WordPress, there are many plugins for automating image compression. At SEOButler we use Robin Image Optimizer).

    Do all your images have alt text and is the alt text less than 155 characters?
  4. SiteSpeed – What factors are causing your site to load slower than usual? Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool is an excellent place to find out.
  5. Response Codes – Does your site have broken links? Are your outbound links pointing to 301 or 404 pages?

Manually inputting all of these assets and metrics into a sheet may sound like a nightmare.

That’s where Screaming Frog (SF) comes in.

With just a few clicks, the tool will crawl the site for you and deliver the relevant metrics.

For small sites, Screaming Frog takes only a few minutes to unearth assets. For larger sites with over a thousand pages, the crawling will take much longer — great excuse for a coffee break!

Once done, you should see results similar to this:

Screaming Frog Crawl (Source: Author’s Screenshot)

SF shows you the crawled pages for each tab. In the screenshot above, you will see the internal pages of the crawled site.

Each tab shows you the individual results and factors for each URL.

If you click on any of the URLs from the results, you’ll find additional information about the page.

At this point, the results won’t show you the issues that are dragging down your rankings.

To go straight to any problems, refer to the Overview tab on the right side of the window.

Screaming Frog Overview(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

Scroll down the section to see SEO Elements that need your attention.

For example, under SEO Elements > Page titles, you will see the URLs organized according to their respective issues.

Screaming Frog SEO Elements(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

In the screenshot above, I clicked on “Over 60 Characters,” which shows pages in the site with less than optimal long titles.

Ideally, you want to keep your title length between 30 to 60 characters.

Having a long title will cause Google to truncate it on SERPs. Users then won’t see the entirety of your page’s title, which could result in a lower CTR.

Therefore, collect the list of pages with long titles so you can edit them later.

Keep in mind that the example above of an SEO Element in SF pertains to site pages.

But, as mentioned, we want to audit content assets.

Assets include images, files, links, and even scripts.

For an example of a non-page content asset, SF shows you SEO Elements of images.

Screaming Frog SEO Elements Images(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

I clicked on “Missing Alt Text” to show images that don’t have alt text.

Since search spiders can’t read images, they refer to the alt text to help them understand the content.

If you want to rank images on organic search, then you need to assign alt text to them.

Run through the SEO Elements to see which issues you need to fix on your site.

Make sure to export the data for each so you can compile them for later use.

Screaming Frog SEO Elements(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

For your convenience, combine all of the relevant sheets into one.

Screaming Frog Export(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

Exploring which lists of URLs to export from SF deserves a dedicated article.

Thankfully, Seer Interactive published arguably the most exhaustive guide to getting the most out of the tool.

Here, you will find which SEO factors you must focus on and export into your list.

Monitor your best content

As powerful as Screaming Frog is, it’s not able to determine how proficient your content assets are when it comes to SEO.

You need to measure performance based on how much organic traffic your pages received over time.

For this, you should refer to Google Analytics.

It gives you a bird’s eye view of all your site’s traffic.

In this case, we want to focus on the pages with the most traffic.

Assuming that your primary source of traffic is organic search, click on Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see your best-performing pages

Google Analytics Traffic(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

The first ten results likely comprise 80% of your traffic.

If so, focus on making these pages even better, since they are already proven to rank.

If you want to save the results in the same file where the exported sheets from Screaming Frog are, you can also export the data from Google Analytics

Google Analytics Export(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

If you wish to download more than the first ten results, you can select how many rows you want Google Analytics to show.

Google Analytics Bulk Export(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

Export the data and save it alongside the other sheets.

Take action on all your content

Once you have the necessary information on all your content assets, it’s time to do something about it.

Below are the recommended changes you can make to your content assets based on your audit:

  • Keep it — Retain the page as-is and monitor its performance moving forward.
  • Update it This option mostly applies to pages. If you have one that’s not ranking high enough but still provides value to users, then you should re-optimize it in the hopes of improving its performance.
  • Remove it — Since the page isn’t contributing to your site’s performance, delete them from your website. From here, redirect its link back to a working page on your site.

Determining the most beneficial action to take for each asset is the most critical part of a content audit.

You can create a new column on your sheets to track your decisions.

Audit Worksheet(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

The choice won’t be difficult for assets like images — you can simply compress them to reduce the file size or add alt text where needed.

The same can’t be said for pages.

Where do you set the bar for traffic to poorly performing pages?

Must they meet a certain threshold of page views for you not to remove them?

There are no one-size-fits-all answers to these questions — the solution is unique to each site.

However, there are some rules of thumb to help you decide:

When to Keep

Keeping content is the safe, default answer for most assets.

If the content is relevant to your niche and is generating a decent amount of organic traffic, then it’s often best just to keep it.

Think of these assets as pawns on your site. While they aren’t the focal point — or the organic traffic heroes — they nonetheless serve the purpose of building authority in your niche.

Eventually, you may have to update them, especially once information becomes outdated.

In the meantime, consider keeping existing posts as they are.

When to Update

You need to freshen up pages once they’ve “gone sour.”

And I’m not just referring to old pages. There are many reasons why it pays to update your content.

For instance, in the Google Analytics screenshot above [jump link[, the first page is raking in almost 90% of your traffic.

However, the bounce rate is 92%, meaning only 8% of visitors stay on your site.

Focus on lowering the bounce rate by making the copy more persuasive, moving around on-page elements, and otherwise encouraging visitors to linger.

When to Remove

There are some changes you can’t undo, causing permanent damage to your site’s performance.

For example, say you decide to delete and redirect a page to another similar page.

If you don’t do your due diligence, redirecting the page could backfire and won’t help the current existing page to rank higher.

However, if you follow Smash Digital’s lead as outlined in this case study, you may be able to improve your traffic by over 76%!

After conducting an audit, Smash Digital’s solution was to delete pages:

  • Showing zero traffic
  • With outdated or redundant content
  • Featuring spammy outbound links.

Again, there’s a lot that goes into the decision of deleting pages.

Just to be on the safe side, create a backup of the site in case things go wrong.

Other Website Content Audit Tools to Use

Using Screaming Frog and Google Analytics should provide you with more than enough data to conduct a content audit.

Of course, there are other tools you can use to extract even more actionable insights to improve your site.

Some of the tools below are alternatives to SF and Google Analytics.

Often, the right tool to use is the one you’re most comfortable using.

Below are additional website content audit tools available to you:

Google Search Console

People typically use Google Search Console (GSC) in conjunction with Google Analytics.

Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, GSC provides information about your keyword rankings and how many organic clicks you’re getting from your pages that rank on Google.

Google Search Console(Source: Author’s Screenshot)

From here, you can identify which pages optimized for keywords you must monitor.

For example, find pages that are getting lots of clicks from organic results for a supporting keyword.

To further increase CTR and SERP position, turn the supporting keyword into the main keyword and optimize accordingly. You can then monitor the changes and see whether its ranking and position increased.

The best feature of GSC is the alerts you receive for errors and issues found on your site.

GSC gives you Google data straight from the horse’s mouth.

It’s in your best interest to fix any problems GSC identifies before they get worse.

OnCrawl

OnCrawl is a web-based site audit toolset that analyzes your site’s performance across different channels.

The tool works as a Screaming Frog alternative. Using the SEO Crawler, you can identify content assets and solve any issues and errors for each.

But instead of installing OnCrawl on your device, you can log in online and run the audit from there.

You don’t have to store data on your hard drive since it saves everything on the cloud.

OnCrawl(Source: OnCrawl)

At the same time, OnCrawl has features to help discover actionable SEO insights that Screaming Frog doesn’t.

For example, SEO Impact immediately spots the orphaned pages that bring in the most traffic.

Ensure these pages are accessible from your homepage to increase traffic further.

OnCrawl is a paid tool with the Explorer plan (49 EUR / month) being the most affordable.

Each plan allows you to audit a set number of websites — Explorer lets you crawl only one.

Predictably, the number of sites you can crawl increases as you move up to a higher plan.

Ahrefs Site Audit Tool

If you’re looking for a comprehensive SEO tool, then you might as well get one that has an excellent site auditor.

Ahrefs, known for its extensive link database and powerful filtering options for backlink analysis, fits the bill to a tee.

The tool provides your site with a comprehensive site analysis that examines each content asset for over a hundred pre-defined SEO issues.

Ahrefs(Source: Ahrefs)

As one of Ahrefs’ premium features, its filtering system can return different pages based on the parameters you set.

Using the Site Audit Tool, you can analyze the backlinks of each URL and optimize them from both an on and off-page standpoint.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, performing a content audit is all about getting down and dirty with your content assets.

And as long as you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, your site(s) should be coming up roses in no time!

But here’s the thing about content audits

SEO never sleeps — so the auditing process never stops!

You’ll need to reassess your content assets periodically and determine the necessary actions to optimize them.

Nonetheless, following the steps above should give you a head start on performing this arduous task.

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Content Audit: What You Need to Know

CHRISTOPHER JAN BENITEZChristopher Jan Benitez is a freelance writer for hire who specializes in the digital marketing field. His work has been published on SEO and affiliate marketing-specific niches like Monitor Backlinks, Niche Pursuits, Web Hosting Secrets Revealed, and others. As an online writer for 13 years and counting, he continues to provide his writing services and SEO expertise to organizations and clients from all over the world.

1 Comments

Marty McLeod

A very helpful post.

Thanks, Christopher!

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