Are you struggling to figure out why your content isn’t performing as well as it should? Wondering what to do to increase its rankings and conversions?
Sounds like you need to conduct an SEO content audit.
I get it. You’d prefer to avoid this at all cost. Content audits consume so much time, after all. Not to mention that analyzing content performance often feels like nothing but trying to make sense from seemingly disconnected information.
A thorough content audit, however, is also a life-saver for any content marketing strategy. Even a quick glance at Google Analytics data will reveal enough insights to fuel the strategy for months... that is, if you know what you look for!
That’s why I wrote this guide. I want to show you how a content audit can identify the biggest opportunities to boost the contents' performance.
Recommended Reading: The Best SEO Audit Checklist to Boost Search Visibility and Rankings (Note: this post comes with a Google spreadsheet template that allows you to follow along throughout the site audit process.)
What Is a Content Audit?
A content audit is the process of evaluating your existing content for its strengths and weaknesses, and analyzing how overall performance is affected. An SEO content audit also includes identifying opportunities to strengthen copy even further.
Note that an audit is a qualitative process. Your goal isn’t to list every piece of content on your site or organize them into categories (although a thorough content inventory is part of the process). It is to analyze it to uncover insights about its performance to date and determine what actions to take to improve rankings and conversion rates.
A solid audit will reveal:
- Your most successful pages,
- Topics and ideas that resonated with your audience,
- Content assets that failed to perform as expected (both in terms of rankings and traffic they generated),
- Blog posts or other content types that need updating, and so on.
Why Conduct a Content Audit in the First Place: Content Audit Benefits
One of the most common questions I hear regarding content audits is about its purpose. SEOs and digital marketers ask why they should do it — what’s the key benefit of spending so much time analyzing the content’s performance?
Well, there are three main advantages, as a matter of fact:
- Improving SEO. A content audit will reveal which pages to update to improve their performance quickly (and which ones to remove, potentially).
- Boosting engagement. The audit will also uncover pages that deliver the highest audience engagement. Analyzing them deeper will signal what factors make those pages so popular, and how to update the other blog posts and other assets to achieve a similar effect.
- Identifying low-hanging SEO fruit. Finally, during the process, you will discover many opportunities to improve organic search performance. Many of your pages will need nothing more than a quick update to the page title or meta description to rank higher. That’s what you can discover with a content audit too.
What Are the Typical Outcomes of Auditing Content?
Let’s go deeper, though. What specific outcomes can you expect from a content audit?
I typically tell clients about these five:
- The audit will deliver quick wins to improve search visibility, as I illustrated above. It will signal pages with high impressions and low clicks, for example. Or content that’s just about to break into the first page of SERPs.
- It will also reveal what your best-performing topics are, and what you should focus on moving forward.
- During the process, you will discover content gaps too. These are topics or keywords that relate to your customers’ buying cycle that you don’t cover or rank for, so far.
- The audit will reveal redundant pages too.
- Finally, you will discover ideas for future content and fill in your marketing strategy.
How to Conduct a Content Audit: Process and Checklist
Here is our straightforward process — a simple, six-step content audit framework you can follow easily.
Step 1: Take Content Inventory.
An SEO content audit isn’t a simple taking of inventory. However, before you can dive into the data, you must identify all the assets your organization has published.
If you’re using an SEO platform like seoClarity, you have a number of ways to do this.
First, you can do this by going to the Managed Pages section of the Page Clarity report. It lists all content assets you’ve added to your site. Since you can also organize all those pages with tags, you can find and analyze them more easily.
The only challenge with the above method is that it includes pages you have added to the platform yourself.
If you want to discover every page on the site, however, not just the ones you manage, you need to use two other methods:
- Export pages from your Google Search Console data.
- Do the same for the Analytics data.
seoClarity helps with each method through our Analytics by Page and Search Analytics reports, respectively.
With the Analytics data, you also get the option to create page types and filter your content by specific website section — blog, category pages, product pages and so on.
Analytics report with page type filter opened.
Step 2: Enrich the Content with Page-Specific Data.
The purpose of the audit is to evaluate your content and the best way to do it is with data, of course.
So, as a next step, expand the content inventory with information about each page.
I recommend you collect the following data: impressions, clicks and overall performance, including top phrases.
You can get it in the Search Console. Although I admit that extracting it all can be messy. This is where using an expert tool helps immensely.
With seoClarity’s Search Analytics capability, for example, I can extract all the GSC data for my URLs. But unlike the search engine’s platform, I can also filter and correlate it with other insights to gain a deeper understanding of each page’s performance.
The Search Analytics report.
The On-Page Data.
Information like meta tags, the publication and last update date or performance metrics (bounce rate, time on page, etc.) will help you establish:
- What keywords the page was optimized for, originally
- How well they work and engage the audience
- How interesting the audience finds the content.
Once again, you can go through the process manually. However, I’d imagine it would take too long to complete.
Alternatively, you can export all that data from the SEO platform. The Page Clarity report in seoClarity includes all those data points and lets you export the information to process further.
(Page Clarity report with page-level data.)
Advanced Content Metrics.
Depending on how deep a content audit you perform, you might need to collect some advanced metrics — content’s length or content types.
Each will help with evaluating a different aspect of your strategy.
Reviewing the content’s length will help compare it with the top-ranking content. This will help assess whether you deliver the full breadth of information Google wants to see there.
Breaking the content by type will confirm whether you match the right user intent.
Step 3: Evaluate Content for Potential Issues.
You’ve collected all the necessary information, and now it’s time to start analyzing the content.
I recommend that you begin by auditing the site, overall. Although most site audits focus on identifying technical errors, some of the checks relate to the content as well.
The crawler will, for example, identify pages with titles that are too long, duplicate content or pages where you’ve included more than a single instance of the same tag.
(Clarity Audits report.)
Similarly, the Page Clarity capability provides all sort of on-page data to help you evaluate each asset thoroughly.
(On-page issues report in Page Clarity.)
You go even deeper, though. For example, you can analyze content for specific terms you’ve mentioned. These could be references to a product the company no longer offers or pages mentioning specific categories, phrases or any other information, at that.
Why, because, for various reasons, you may have to remove or update them.
seoClarity’s crawler, Clarity Audits, allows you to perform such searches at a scale.
(Clarity Audits projects setup.)
Step 4: Identify Keywords That Target Customers' Micro-Moments.
Google describes the concept of micro-moments as “[...] intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey.”
These are the situations when you intentionally use smartphones and mobile devices to research information that helps you:
- Learn or discover something,
- Watch something,
- Find new places to go to,
- Purchase something.
Google refers to them as the four main intents: do, go, know, and buy, and as they point further ...
“They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers' expectations are higher than ever.”
What’s also important is that the search engine serves different search results based on that keyword's intent. Just take a look at these search results for a mobile query that might indicate an intent to GO somewhere.
Now compare that with the first thing you’d see if you use a query that might suggest a transactional intent:
See what I mean?
For queries that indicate the intent to obtain information, the search engine displays various rank types — a knowledge graph, a list of recent news, the answer box, and many others. If you’ve searched for local information, a local business recommendation, for example, it would show you the local pack. To satisfy a buying intent, the search engine serves ads and product recommendations.
So, as the next step in your audit, map your content to keywords to buyers' intent. I recommend you do this by splitting your target keywords into two groups:
- High intent keywords that include phrases searchers would typically use with the intent to buy or at least learn more about a product or service. Examples of high intent keywords would include: “buy Lenovo laptop,” “Toyota garage near me,” “Macbook cover.”
- Low intent keywords, on the other hand, are queries customers use to find any non-transactional information. For example: “Lenovo laptop reviews,” “Protecting your Macbook,” etc.
We've previously shared about how to leverage keyword intent to optimize your site to convert users at all stages of the buying cycle. Those opportunities include:
- Optimize the blog and top of the funnel content for the low-intent keywords that you've researched.
- Create dedicated landing pages to target high intent non-transactional terms.
- Use transactional terms on your key bottom of the funnel pages
Doing this can help to convert users at every stage of the buying cycle and is a very important step to every content audit and analysis.
Step 5: Enhance Your Content with Additional Keywords.
As I've shared above, it’s crucial to your contents' success that every page helps your users satisfy multiple intents — to learn, discover, and buy.
Similarly, to increase a page’s chances of appearing for various unique queries searchers might use, you need to enhance it with semantic phrases. The easiest way to do this is by offering information and content relevant to both — intents and semantic terms.
Here are some of the ideas I’ve discovered working particularly well for various content types:
Ratings – Category or Product Pages
The idea behind a category page is simple — they aim to attract users who look for a particular type of products. And then, give them easy access to all relevant items offered.
However, depending on the number of products within a category, customers might find that making the final choice is difficult. Including star ratings or number of reviews on category pages simplifies choice for users, and helps steer them towards a product to buy.
Product Sheets and List of Benefits
Customers often select products on emotion. But then, they justify their choice with logic. And for the most part, elements like meta-tags focus on targeting the buyers' emotions.
But once they’re on a product page, you need to provide them with all the information to convince them that a particular item is for them.
That’s where product information comes into play. However, instead of just listing product specification, highlight benefits and show how a product can help improve a person’s life, overcome certain challenges or have any other positive effect on them.
Visuals and Layout
It’s hard to believe, but product images can affect conversion rates in so many ways. Then again, we rarely buy anything without seeing it first. And so, it only makes sense that we’re more likely to purchase items on pages that feature engaging images, product videos and have a clean layout that makes absorbing all the information much easier.
Here’s an example of a product page from Made.com boasting big and engaging visuals.
Today, for a page to rank well, it must be relevant to the most current audience’s needs.
Unfortunately, making it so sounds only simple in practice.
For one, the audience’s requirements change. And what goes with it, Google often updates what pages it deems the most relevant in SERPs.
So, how do you keep up? By analyzing the top 10 results for a keyword continuously to identify the most up-to-date trends and semantic keywords that engage the audience.
That’s exactly what Content Fusion helps you achieve. This AI-powered content writer analyzes countless data sources about the keyword and content ranking for it to deliver insights to help improve your page.
One of its capabilities is the ability to identify terms and phrases Google emphasizes for the keyword.
Include these must-use topics on your page to increase its relevance and topic authority for your target keyword.
But a couple of weeks or months after you’ve done that, go back and re-test your copy with Content Fusion again.
I cannot emphasize this step enough.
You see, SERPs are constantly changing. As the Google’s algorithm evolves, the search engine becomes better and better at analyzing context and identifying the most relevant content to the query.
And what goes with it, the search engine’s expectations for content change as well.
Re-testing your pages with Content Fusion gives you the opportunity to update them for what’s relevant for the query right now. As a result, you ensure the highest possible rankings for your content.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to take a peek at other websites ranking for your terms, paying particular attention to the ways they enrich the user experience.
This electronics retailer, for example, uses a variety of unusual elements on their product pages:
Notice a tool tip that explains how buyers could learn more about delivery options and a dedicated T&Cs tab. It’s worth identifying, and then, implementing similar initiatives your competitors might be doing on their pages.
Step 6: Set up KPIs to Monitor Progress.
I’m sure this goes without saying:
The only way to ensure that any changes you’ve made to the site have delivered the desired result is by monitoring their performance.
As part of the content audit, I always recommend updating the set of KPIs you’ve been using to track and monitor.
Often, the original metrics might seem inadequate to capture the full breadth of your new strategy. Or they might be failing to reveal the insights you seek, simply.
With all content updated, amend your reporting dashboards to track all the information you seek.
The data of your content marketing dashboards might include traffic to pages that share certain common characteristics:
- They cover a similar topic or idea,
- You published them as part of a specific SEO campaign,
- They target a specific keyword group, or
- Relate to your organization’s specific service or product, etc.
Here’s an example of such a dashboard, created with our platform, seoClarity.
Similarly, you could measure content performance in additional channels, social media (e.g. social shares), for example, to broaden the insight you receive about it.
Final Advice: Conduct Ongoing Audits of Your Content
Fact: A single content audit can empower your strategy for a long time into the future.
But analyzing its performance on a regular basis will help you gain an unmatched insight into how your content works throughout the year or your market’s seasonality.
When asked about the ideal content audit frequency, I always recommend conducting them at least once a year. Twice is even better.
This way, you can react to any changes or capitalize on new trends much quicker.
An SEO content audit is the most effective way to identify problems with the content’s performance and work toward content optimization. If done well, it will uncover even the smallest issues that prevent pages from ranking well on Google, driving ideal traffic and conversions.
And from this guide, you already know how to do it well. You’ve learned the importance of conducting the audit, its key elements and how to utilize a platform to speed up the process.
All that’s left to do is to actually conduct the audit so you can push your content strategy forward.
Want to take your content to the next level? See how an enterprise SEO platform speeds up the process and delivers the results you seek. Request a demo now!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.