A Content Audit (or Website Content Audit) is verifying if all your website content pieces are doing what you exactly need them to do. In other words, auditing your website content means evaluating it to make sure it’s fulfilling SEO requirements, driving traffic and boosting the conversion rate.
Just an Appetizer…
This post is a step-by-step guide to a successful website content audit. At the end, you will feel great with adequate knowledge on:
- How to Accomplish a Website Content Audit
- Why a Content Audit is Important
- Different post-audit Benefits for your Website, and of course much more if you’re really serious about your website.
So, let’s start with knowing the different purposes of a Website Content Audit first.
Purposes of a Website Content Audit
- A Website Content Audit helps accomplish a number of different things like:
- Effectively escaping a Panda penalty
- Finding pages that need copywriting or editing or updating
- Finding the pages that have overlapping topics and bringing them together
- Determining undesirable content pieces and finding the best way to clear them of
- Prioritizing content based on certain metrics like Visits, Conversions, Page Authority (PA) and Copyscape score etc.
- Determining top keywords that help pages rank higher
- Finding out the best and most productive content units and their concerned pages
- Finding several effective Content Marketing opportunities
- Generating an Inventory of valuable content units when selling or buying the website domain
- And a lot more…
The Step-by-Step Guide
An effective Content Audit is intended to leverage all your content pieces and respective pages, and help your website bring amazing results. Here is the step-by-step approach to an effective and successful Content Audit.
Step 1: Choose a Particular Scenario
Though there are many different content situations and scenarios, you can find two factors common in almost all possible content scenarios – (i) The site’s size, and (ii) its content-related penalty risk. Here we’ve got an amazing screenshot showing the different recommended strategies for common content auditing scenarios.
Talking about the size of the site, smaller sites with relatively less number of pages generally require less pruning, i.e. you have lesser content to be improved or removed.
Next, when it comes to content-based penalties there are a number of different causes affecting the Content Audit. All content-related penalties are basically of three main kinds such as Quality, Duplication and Relevancy. Let’s discuss them in detail.
- Low-quality Content
The content that’s written only for search engines, not for human readers, is said to be low-quality. The entire body of the content is stuffed with keywords, and the grammar is poor too.
- Irrelevant Content
Linkbait pieces are the best example of irrelevant content that hardly make any difference to the value of the page if they are removed.
- Short / Thin Content
Content pieces having too less words that barely describe the title or heading of the post are said to be thin content. Next, if the entire content is full of images and no words to tell what those images are all about, that’s worthless and gets penalized.
- Copied or Duplicate Content with NO Extra Value
If you take content in bits and pieces from somewhere else and curate a new piece of content for your website without putting any extra value into that post, that’s just a copied or duplicate form of content and search engines are strictly against it.
- Stub Pages
A Stub Page is a page that has little to no content on it to make it a useful page. Stub pages are created with the hope that others in the community will add content to the page.
- Excessive Indexable Blog tag
If you use too many indexable blog tag or category pages for your blog, it won’t help boost your website anyway because search engines are smart enough to detect all marketing tactics.
- Black-hat Optimization
Black-hat optimization means that you create content only to target keywords, not to provide genuine information and value to the readers. Limit the use of keywords and distribute them uniformly across the entire content body. Create meaningful titles, and that exact meaning should be reflected on the whole content. In turn, it becomes a relevant piece.
Step 2: Scan the Website
This step is all about scanning your website that involves crawling and indexing. During your Content Audit it’s pretty much essential to get all your content units crawled and indexed by web crawlers. Go through all the recommendations here to know how you should use “meta robots noindex”, “rel = canonical” and robots.txt.
Crawling images, CSS, JS, Flash content and External links is optional in case of website content audit. However, in a technical SEO audit, these are extremely important. At end of this step, you should have a complete list of URLs and export the list into a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file.
Step 3: Import the URLs and Start Using the Auditing Tool
Import the list of URLs and allow each of them to get audited with the help of the Content Auditing tool. The job of this tool is to take URLs and data from Web Crawlers, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster tools, Moz, Social Count and Copyscape for each of the URLs. URL Profiler is a quite handy tool to help accomplish this.
This screenshot shows what you get after downloading the tool from their site. The selected boxes are user-controlled. You can check different boxes as per your requirements.
Next, you need to right click on the URL list box and choose “Import From File” option to import the URLs. You can also have options to import URLs from XML sitemap or clipboard. Following two screenshots are what you get in results (the output differs based on what APIs you access and which boxes you check).
Step 4: Import the Output to the Dashboard
After getting the URL Profiler tool output import it into “Content Audit” tab of the dashboard. Here Action and Strategy are very much important even though Page Type and URL Source are optional.
If yours is a big site with high content penalty risks, you don’t require keyword research, so you may move straight to “Step 8 – Analysis and Decision Making” without going through steps 5-7. However, for smaller sites steps 5-7 are highly recommended.
Step 5: Import Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) Data
In this step you need to match the existing URLs from the Content Audit to the keywords that help rank those URLs in GWTs.
How to Import Top Pages from GWT:
- Log into GWT from your browser (Chrome is preferable)
- Go to Search Traffic à Search Queries
- Switch to “Top Pages” (“Top Queries” is default)
- Set the date range to a date fell 3 months back
- Change s=500 in the URL to s=10000 or as many rows of data as available, and see bottom of GWT page (1-500 of ####).
- In the Console window, you have to copy the code and press Enter.
- After this you will see all the drop-downs show all the keywords under each page URL, and a dialog window opens up asking you to save a CSV file. Click here for more information.
Ignore if any dialog windows pop up. Check “Prevent this page from creating additional dialogs” box (Ref: Below screenshot).
Then import the download.csv file from GWT to “GWT Top Pages” tab in the Content Auditing Dashboard.
How to Import Top Queries from GWT:
- Switch the view from Top Pages back to “Top Queries”
- Set a previous date (3 months back date)
- Just like you did in the previous setting, change s=500 to s=10000 or the number of rows of data available. See if the bottom of GWT page has something like 1-500 of ####.
- Select “Download this table” as a CSV file.
- Finally, import the resulting TopSearchQueries.csv file from GWT into the “GWT Top Queries” in the Content Auditing Dashboard. Below is the screenshot.
Step 6: Keyword Research
Perform an effective Keyword Research by using any of the methods available for collecting keywords like Brainstorming, SEMRush, Google Trends, Uber Suggest, GWT, Google Adwords (GA) etc. Remove all the irrelevant and unhelpful keywords from the list and run the remaining ones through a single tool that can collect search volume and competition metrics. Here are the steps of the keyword research using Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Let’s take a look.
- Log into your Google email account associated Adwords and go to www.google.com/sktool/
- Then, select “Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups”, paste in the keywords list and click “Get Search Volume”. This copy/paste works up to 1000 keywords. For getting more than 1000 keywords you need to upload your simple .txt file.
- Go to “Keyword Ideas” tab on the next screen and Add All keywords to the plan.
- Similarly, go to “Add Group Ideas” tab and select to Add All of the ad groups to the plan.
- Download the plan (Ref: Below screenshot)
- Import the data into the Adwords Data tab of the Content Auditing Dashboard.
When downloading the plan use the setting as per the below screenshot
Step 7: Putting the Keyword Data Together
As we said earlier, this is an optional step especially when you are auditing a larger website, but for a smaller site it’s important to put all the keyword data provided by the previous steps together. Develop a “Keyword Matrix” (KWM). The KWM is quite effective when you have to remove a penalty from your client’s website. Since it is SEO 101 you can perform it using any tools you like.
Put the data you got from GA and GWT into the “Keyword Research” tab with the help of Vlookups. Here’s the result.
Step 8: Analysis and Decision Making
Here you need to analyze the scenarios using the Content Audit Scenarios Tool and come up with some important decisions for your site’s future reputation. The decision making process is described in detail below.
As per Copyscape Risk Score:
- Important pages such as home page, categories, exclusive products/services/offers etc.
- Pages with valuable Social Metrics and Links
- Pages with high traffic
- Select “Improve” in the Action column and in the Strategy column, elaborate:
- “Improve these pages by designing unique and relevant content that would boost Copyscape risk score”
- Guest posts that were already published
- Plagiarized content
- Content not having any external links or social shares
Select “Remove” from Action column, and in the strategy column mention: “Prune from site and remove duplicate content. Allow this URL to return 404 or 410 response code since it has no external links or shares. Also, remove all internal links including sitemap.”
- None of these pages would be consolidated into others since they are already duplicated externally.
- Pages that have had their content stolen should be marked “Leave As-Is”
Next, in the Strategy column provide a link to the CopyScape report and instructions for filing a DMCA / Copyright complaint with Google.
As per Entrances or Visits
- Pages with high entrances / visits but low conversion, page views per session, time-on-site etc. should be marked as “Improve”.
- Consolidate pages that have overlapping topics, which can serve as a valuable resource when combined.
- Mark the page in the set with the best metrics as “Improve” and mention the pages in the Strategy Column that would be consolidated into it. This is otherwise called as the Canonical page.
- The pages that would be consolidated into the Canonical page should be marked as “Consolidate”, and elaborate in the Strategy column: “Use portions of this content to round out /canonicalpage/ and then 301 redirect this page into /canonicalpage/ Update all internal links”.
- Consolidate campaign-related or seasonal pages into one “Evergreen” landing page (For example: Consolidate “Best Products in 2013 and Best Products in 2014” into Best Products)
- Pages which have very poor traffic, links and social metrics. These pages are said to be containing low-quality or worthless content, and will be allowed to 404/410.
- Unhelpful or useless content that uses link equity strategy.
- Out-of-date content that cannot be improved by updating or consolidating.
- Mark the pages as “Leave As-Is”, which bring good traffic and conversions.
Step 9: Content Gap Analysis
Simply put, Content Gap Analysis is analyzing which steps website owners have to take in order to move from the present content quality to the desired quality. The aim is to keep quality and useful content pieces and discard the unhelpful ones.
Why this is an important step in the entire Content Audit process is because it incorporates a number of boosting techniques into the process. Primary concern is effective SEO and no bad tactics.
Step 10: Documenting the Whole Content Audit Strategy
Recalling the definition of Content Audit, it solely aims at evaluating the Performance of all your website content. Therefore, during auditing your website content pieces you should come up with an effective strategy to help boost your content so that they build up the conversion. This strategy is extremely helpful when you need to audit your website and its content the next time, so prepare an executive summary of what you actually did during the entire Content Audit, and what benefits you got. The summary should also dictate what your next actions should be.
So, have a well-written and easily understandable documented summary and get ready for better and quick results in future.