As we head into the New Year, it’s likely that you’ll be making resolutions. These resolutions often apply to our home and personal life, but they seldom apply to our online marketing and content writing or production.
Auditing your online content is one of the best ways to start afresh, with the groundwork for new and better online marketing, in the New Year. It’s a lot like out with the old. You can’t really bring in the new unless you get the old, outdated, and unnecessary stuff out, right?
As you head into the New Year, focused on starting fresh and doing away with the old things that aren’t serving you any longer, don’t let your website be the last thing on your list.
Let’s talk about doing a website audit, what it is, and how you can do it as you prepare to enter 2016 strong. Here’s what you need to know about a website content audit.
What is a Website Content Audit?
A site content audit is the process by which you comb through your site, correct errors, locate outdated content, and replace it with something stronger. There are many benefits of a content audit, including identifying which pages need editing or updating, identifying which pages need to be consolidated due to repetitive topics, identifying which pages need to be removed from the site entirely and how doing this can help your page’s SEO rank, identifying which content needs to be prioritized based on metrics like conversions and visits, locating your content gaps and making a plan for how to fill them, determining which pages are ranking for which keywords, and identifying new content marketing opportunities.
When content audits are conducted regularly, they can improve the overall quality of your site and ensure that your content is up to date, relevant, valuable, and targeted for your customers and site goals.
What We Found When We Did An Audit
Recently, our team did a content audit on our own site. Our content audit service is done by our team Content Strategists, whom I train—in updated SEO, our favorite tools and current best practices.
The SEMrush Site Audit tool, one of the best audit tools we rely on in conducting website audits, gave us a list of missing or problematic content, including missing alt tags:
And which links were broken:
Besides other issues we fixed. Some of the duplicate hits didn’t apply: the sign-up page was “duplicate” to the sign-in page, which can’t be helped—it’s just a login screen.
With the more manual part of our audit, we found several outdated posts, including:
- Blogs that mentioned products that we no longer sold
- Seasonal content that contained dates in the headers, i.e. “5 Tips for Better Content in 2014”
- Poorly SEO optimized content
We made a list of all these items and have now revised and fixed these errors. Our content is more evergreen, applies more to the reader coming across it at a later date, and doesn’t contain misleading product information anymore. We’ve also improved SEO scores across the board.
Moz: Audits are Beneficial
According to Moz, SEO specialist Rick Ramos (of Inflow) conducted a content audit for Phases Design Studio in 2013. During the audit, Ramos developed a plan to remove many of the old, irrelevant, or stale blog posts from the site’s sitemap. He also used 301 redirect codes to point the traffic from old landing pages to newer, evergreen landing pages that were updated more frequently. Finally, he updated and refreshed many of the site’s pages. After their website content audit, Phases Design Studio started seeing eight times the amount of leads they typically saw in a month. How did Ramos manage to produce these results? The answer is simple: by updating content to make it more relevant and useful to readers.
Website Content Audit 101
If you want to produce results like Ramos did during his audit, you’re in luck. You can complete your own content audit without being a tech guru. Simply follow these steps:
Step One: Develop a Spreadsheet
During a content audit, a spreadsheet is needed to keep your information organized as well as to provide a platform you can return to at any point in the audit. A spreadsheet also allows you to track what you’re doing and collaborate with other content specialists who may want to participate in the audit.
For an example, consider this template from Moz. If you’re relatively new to website content audits, you’ll be fine to begin in Google Docs, although many content specialists move their spreadsheets to Excel as they begin doing larger and larger content audits.
As a general rule, the main columns you want in your spreadsheet are as follows:
- Date audited
- Alt Tags
- Last Updates
- Internal Links
Step Two: List the Pages of Your Site
In order to perform your content audit adequately, you’ll need a complete list of each page on your site. The easiest way to do this is to use Google Analytics. Specifically, you’ll want to navigate to the “all pages” section by selecting “behavior,” “site content,” “all pages.” For more detail on how to complete this step, consult this QuickSprout guide.
This step allows you to view a list of your site’s most-visited pages. This is an important step because it allows you to focus your audit efforts on your most popular pages and to ensure that you’re reaping results as soon as possible.
Step Three: Review Your Information
This part gets a little tricky because it varies depending upon which CMS you use. Since we’re partial to WordPress, this guide will offer instructions for WordPress users. Even if you don’t use WordPress, though, you’ll be able to edit these items nonetheless. As you move through your page information, you’ll want to review each of the following sections:
URL and Page Title: For each page on your site, your title should meet a few criteria. First, it should be no more than 65 characters long. It should also be unique, descriptive, and it should feature keywords.
When it comes to your URL, the URL should be text that clearly defines the page. If you have a URL that’s comprised of numbers or a random assortment of letters, you may want to set up a 301 redirect code in order to optimize the URL for more traffic.
Page Description: Your page description tells visitors what your page is all about and, as such, it’s important! To make sure each page description on your pages is optimized, check to be sure that each features less than 160 characters and is written in a way that makes it easy to read. This means that it should be interesting, descriptive, helpful and completely free of grammatical mistakes.
Content: The crème de la crème of a website content audit – your content! When it comes time to check your content, read through your page content carefully to ensure that it is valuable to readers, well-written, and free of grammatical, spelling, or factual errors.
Content auditors who are evaluating these traits today have a step-up over auditors that did this last year: Google recently released the complete version of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and, within them, auditors can find plenty of tips on what Google views as high quality content.
A few of the things to avoid include overly obvious facts (“A housecat is a feline”), poorly-written content, expert content that was not written by an expert, or content that is riddled with grammatical, spelling, or factual mistakes. Although the Guidelines don’t offer any specific rule for how long or short content should be, you’ll generally want to be sure that each page on your site offers at least 300 words of content. This applies to “about us” pages and the like as well as main content pages.
- Keywords: In order to effectively evaluate your keywords, you’ll want to have a written list of your target keywords and phrases. As you comb through each page, you’ll want to be sure that you have a healthy number of targeted keywords (not too many or too few). You’ll also want to be sure that your keywords are correctly spelled and used naturally throughout the text.
- Alt Tags: In order to make your site as strong as possible, every image therein will need to be tagged sufficiently. This means that each image on your page should feature descriptive tags that feature keywords as well as a descriptive, concise title. Add these things in if you find them lacking.
- Updates: In order to keep your site fresh and current, every single page on your site will need to be reviewed or edited every two years. This keeps your content current and prevents old, stagnant pages from dragging you down. As you move through your audit, check the edit history of every page you feature. If the page is factually incorrect or has become irrelevant with time, edit or update it. If the page is no longer needed and doesn’t earn any site views, consider deleting it to make your site more streamlined.
- Internal Links: Finally, each page of your site will need to be checked for internal links. Each page should feature at least two internal links that point at other pages in the site. For best SEO, these internal links shouldn’t point to shallow pages like your “contact” or “about us” page but should instead point to topic pages that will further a reader’s understanding of a complicated topic or idea. This helps ensure that your page is doing double-duty driving traffic for itself and that all of your pages are getting the attention they deserve.
The Tricks of the Trade
At Express Writers, we’re one of the very few content creation agencies on the web that handles content auditing. To do this effectively, we use a series of helpful tools that can make the process go faster and produce better results:
BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo is a great tool in both content auditing and planning. We love it because it allows us to see which web content is earning the most shares and which has the highest domain authority, as well as top influencers, the amount of content shares, and much more. This allows us to better plan our content. When used in a content auditing setting, BuzzSumo allows you to identify how you might be able to strengthen your outdated or irrelevant content to draw new visitors. Additionally, BuzzSumo offers a content analysis feature, which we use to analyze major topics in a given industry. This allows us to figure out where we need to target content and to re-work old content to fit current market needs.
SEMRush: SEMRush is our key SEO tool for researching and creating keyword reports as well as full website content audits. It can be helpful in the keyword optimization process as well as in creating topic reports and completing website audits. By using SEMRush, you can get an instant overview of how many pages are missing metas or are duplicates of other pages.
WordTracker: We also use WordTracker as a secondary keyword and topic report tool. This allows us to cover all of our bases and ensure that the SEO keyword research part of the audit is as effective as possible.
While the majority of your content auditing will rely on your knowledge of SEO and content creation, using these professional-grade tools can certainly help make your content auditing more effective.
When to Hire The Professionals
While it’s possible to take a D-I-Y approach to content auditing, many people simply don’t have the time or the skill to do it themselves. Content auditing can be an extensive process (each audit can take hours to days, depending on the amount of pages) and it requires a healthy level of tech skills to complete successfully. Fortunately, we staff several fully trained content experts who are knowledgeable about what makes a great site and can help you on the road to better content strategy quickly and effectively.
Think of a content audit as spring cleaning, or laying the groundwork for 2016 resolutions: it allows you to cast out the things you no longer need and replace them with what is more useful, relevant and valuable. Additionally, a website content audit ensures that your site is functioning at its highest possible level and that you’re bringing in all of the rankings and traffic that you truly deserve.
In order to keep it simple, consider doing a website content audit every few months. This cuts down on the level of inaccuracies or fixes you’ll likely find and ensures that your site never falls hugely out of date or behind schedule.
When it’s time to perform an audit on your website, don’t struggle through the process alone. Check out our content strategy services or get in touch to learn more about what we do and consider enlisting us to help make your site great again.