Nick is the Founder and CEO of From The Future. When he's not elbow deep in data, he's spending time with his wife, his dogs, or his cars.
Content is the glue that binds cross channel marketing together (SEO, social, paid, email…everything).
However, so many marketing teams are misinformed about what good content is due to — ahem — “advice”.
Because of this, companies are cranking out content at an alarming rate – 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day.
Here at From The Future, we love content – it’s the backbone of our brand strategy (and our clients’).
I’m not telling you to create less content, I’m telling you to create better content.
More importantly, take an inventory of the content you have before creating more.
That’s what we’re going to discuss in this post – how to clean up and improve your website’s existing assets by running a content audit.
|HUGE shoutout to our amazing consultants, Matt DiMenno and Matt Schickling for putting this together.|
When I say “content”, I don’t mean just blog posts – I mean your entire website:
OK…But WHY does cleaning up “bad” content matter?
Having dated, irrelevant and flat out bad content can negatively impact your SEO
Let’s unpack this a little more…
This happens all the time with clients, and it could be for a number of reasons:
This is a simplistic view, but we often see trends in our client’s content campaigns that point to diminishing returns of content over time:
The bottom line: content marketing and SEO performance is an ongoing task. Your content needs to be regularly reviewed (yearly) to ensure peak performance.
A content audit will identify content that needs to be removed, improved, optimized or rewritten. If executed properly, a content audit will greatly improve the performance of your existing assets and lay the groundwork for future creation as well.
At the macro level, a content audit will answer:
And at the micro:
Usually, when you publish a post or create content, there’s a lot of marketing that goes into that. As a result, there’s usually stages that your content goes through.
We like to drill home the concept of approaching content through the lens of topical authority.
Topical authority means owning a broad set of keywords (AKA a topic) rather than going after one-off keywords with each page.
This helps Google see your website as an authority of these topics, which helps you pick up rankings across your site,
We help our clients execute this concept by modeling keywords into topic clusters.
This means to build subtopics around a core topic. If your core topic is business loans, for example, subtopics can include:
When we run a content audit this concept is critical to organizing content and planning for future assets.
The key is to start thinking in terms of topics you want to own, not just keywords. Without using topic clusters, this is what the state of your content will look like:
Everything was under one general umbrella. However, this is what we should strive for.
Have focused topics with content built around it.
We need to make sure our decisions are backed by data. Google Analytics isn’t enough – we want as much data from relevant sources as possible.
Our agency uses the Website Quality Audit as a means to compile and organize everything we need.
Search engines send traffic to websites they deem as “high quality.” High quality can be defined as websites that:
Having low-quality pages, content, poor structure and lack of web mentions causes Google to lose trust in your website and crawl, index and rank it less and less over time.
The WQA is what we use after we onboard a client to assess the performance of their websites.
The WQA pulls data from 5 vital SEO sources:
We use Google Sheets to aggregate all of the data because of the add-on features and ability to collaborate across teams in real time.
Since the WQA isn’t something we talk about much publicly, here’s an unpacking of the process:
We crawl a site to get information on the internal URLs, crawl depth, HTTP status code, and much more. Some site crawlers that we use are Sitebulb, Deepcrawl, and Screaming Frog. We’ve been leaning more on Sitebulb because of the technical SEO hints that it provides.
We pull in data from Ahrefs (backlinks and referring domains), SEMRush (current keyword rankings, positions, monthly search volume, etc), Google Analytics (PageViews and sessions per URL) and Google Search Console (organic clicks, impressions, CTR, and average position). We use URL Profiler and/or Super Metrics to download all of this data.
These tools allow you to pull in data from pretty much any marketing source.
Organizing data comes to having different tabs in Google Sheets and organizing them accordingly. One tip would be to create a template in Google Sheets, and create a copy and just use that for every website quality audit that you conduct.
The final product has every URL on your website with every piece of SEO data you can imagine.
We then use this data to evaluate your options.
Now that you have data, you want to know what you can do next about the content on your site. Your content will fall into three categories:
These feed into five directives. These are the decisions that you can make with the content.
Now that you know the decisions you can make, you can use shorthand data to make these decisions, instead of using all of the data you collected from the previously mentioned tools and sources.
∂These shorthand data sources include:
Before you go ahead and delete your entire site because it doesn’t get any traffic, think about these things:
We created a content audit decision tree to help you make a decision.
When it comes to pruning content and picking them off your site, a lot of people tend to think about the investment that went into making it.
Don’t get emotionally attached to your past content.
You might have to rewrite your content, optimize it, etc. – it requires a lot of work.
Let’s run through some example directives from our client OnDeck.
There was only one URL on the blog that we recommended “leave as is” and it’s an article about small business articles 2017:
However, one caveat would be that it ranks fourth for “small business articles” which may or may not be a valuable term.
OnDeck.com had a post about “3 Financial Trends to Watch in 2018.” We recommended this post to be optimized is because:
Rewriting would likely be more effective, but if we’re allocating resources responsibly, there are higher priorities.
There are a ton of ways to optimize pages. At From The Future, we generally follow 8 steps:
These are marginal changes, not wholesale changes. If we’re talking about wholesale changes, we’re talking about a rewrite.
This post is about “Three Effective Sales Tactics”, which we chose to rewrite:
This is when you have two posts on the same thing. OnDeck had two posts called “Find The Right Business Loan” and “Small Business Loan Requirements” and we combined these because:
OnDeck had a post called “Bookkeeping Tips For 2015.” We recommended that they deprecate and redirect this post because:
You can possibly update and repurpose this post, but it probably isn’t worth it because it isn’t ranking nor is it relevant.
Creating and iterating content is extremely frustrating, especially when your business’ performance continues to stay down on a slump.
By following this article, you should be able to confidently diagnose any problems with your content.
As always, drop a comment if you have any questions.
Our data driven approach to keyword research.