SEO Content Audit 2019: A Step by Step Guide
Content is the indispensable cornerstone of any SEO effort. It lays the foundation and paves the way for common SEO best practices such as link building and user experience. A webpage without authentic content is a baseless building: it might look pretty on the exterior, but its collapse is inevitable.
Okay, we established the significance of content. But how do we gauge the overall quality of our existing content? How to determine what content to retain and what content to eliminate?
This is where the content audit comes into play.
What is a Content Audit?
Content audit is the intricate process of taking a snapshot of your entire domain by evaluating your content on a page-level. It enables you to make a fair assessment on every single page your website possesses by utilising a variety of tools and critical thinking. Content audit is the straw that stirs the drink.
Benefits of a Content Audit
There’s a legion of benefits to auditing your content. These include but not limited to:
- Weeding out potentially low quality/harmful pages
- Spotting shortcomings of individual pages
- Scrutinising site-wide meta data
- Revamping your internal linking structure
- Refreshing & updating old content for better ranking opportunities
SEO Content Audit Steps
Clearly the concept of a content audit is fluid like water and takes the shape of its container, in this case the container is you, and there are no super strict guidelines.
Having said that, there are some integral steps that simply can’t be bypassed to conduct a comprehensive SEO content audit to skyrocket your SEO results.
Time to take the bull by the horns and dive straight into this whirlpool!
Step 1 – Run Screaming Frog
First and foremost, you will need to compile all relevant data to thoroughly analyse your domain. There are countless tools we can employ for this purpose. Here at Bubblegum Search, we have two preferred instruments: Screaming Frog and URL Profiler. Make sure the latest versions of both programs have been downloaded to your computer.
We begin the process with a Screaming Frog crawl. This will provide you with all the URLs belonging to the domain under examination.
Make sure you have the correct configuration set up for the Screaming Frog spider.
- “Links outside of start folder” are the categories that require checking along with the canonicals. This action guarantees only essential pages are shown.
- Query strings are generally irrelevant to our content audit save for a few extreme exceptions; hence that option can be limited to 0 in almost all cases.
- As demonstrated with the third image above, “noindex”, “canonical” and “next/prev” should be respected in the advanced settings. This step will preclude useless URLs from showing up in our crawl.
Time to type your domain in the bar and run your Screaming Frog! Run Frog run…
Step 2 – Transfer Screaming Frog Data to a Spreadsheet
Once the crawl is completed, export the file in Microsoft Excel format without applying any restrictions (you may choose to stay in the “Internal” tab not to lose any valuable data). We regard this as the safest way to obtain our desired information.
Open your spreadsheet and apply filters, as Chandler would do with his cool new laptop.
Fully operational URLs are the only ones we’re interested in for the upcoming analysis; therefore, we want to keep the URLs with the 200 response code. Delete or hide all rows with different response codes. They don’t deserve your attention…
Also check whether or not all remaining URLs are indexable under the “Indexability” column. Get rid of the non-indexable pages. We don’t need to evaluate these pages since search engines don’t recognise them and non-existent organic traffic ensue due to this.
Last but not least, glance through the “Content” column to detect any file formats other than text. In most cases, this will be an image format even if you filtered out images in the earlier stages. Although images bring SEO value, it’s not the best practice to host separate image-form pages on your domain. Dump those rows.
Now that you have removed unwanted data, the columns that offer no significant value to our content, such as “Size (bytes)” and “Pixel Width”, can be deleted altogether.
When you’re done with deleting those trivial columns, your file should resemble the image below.
If it does, you’re ready to move onto the next phase of your content audit. Fun times ahead!
Step 3 – Run URL Profiler
We will need to summon URL Profiler for this step. Launch the app.
Again, the guidelines for the configuration of this tool are not stringent. Nevertheless, best results can be attained if you include the following list of key metrics in your analysis:
- Ahrefs (Domain Level Data): Produces backlink data
- Google Analytics (Google): Generates vital organic metrics such as users, bounce rate, page visits, and average time on page. Get at least 6 months of data for a considerable sample size.
- Search Analytics (Google): Extracts clicks, impressions, CTR, total keywords, and average keyword position from Google Search Console. Again a sensible move would be to request at least 6 months of data, if not more. Ensure it tallies with your Google Analytics date range for a consistent analysis.
- (In some cases, for example if you suspect you possess used/stolen content from competitors) Duplicate Content (Content Analysis): This will require the use of proxies. BuyProxies is a good source to purchase proxies for this particular purpose. Unfortunately it’s not possible to complete this step free of charge. Once you get your hands on your proxies, paste the information on the “Proxies” box of URL Profiler’s Duplicate Content section. Maximum retries may be set to 1 for an efficient run.
Feel free to include any additional data to amp up your content audit report. Keep in mind that for some features you will encounter daily limits. This means you will have to pick your poison here: either loosen your purse strings to get a premium version or settle for less data.
Now you need to go back to your original Excel file and copy the column that contains all your URLs. Then head over to URL Profiler and paste this data in the URL box.
Alternatively, you may opt to upload the entire file by first converting it to a CSV format. This should ideally consolidate the original sheet with the resulting file. Right click on the URL box in URL Profiler to display all of your running options.
Ready to run the profiler? Go ahead and watch the tool work its magic. Disclaimer: it might take a while.
Open the file when you’re finished.
Step 4 – Prep for Content Analysis
There are a number of columns in this file that could potentially cloud your analysis since they offer no analytical value. Lose all those you deem fundamentally useless.
Numbers should be the focal point in a typical content audit. Therefore, no need to delve that deep all the way to keyword-level. The crux of this whole process is to purge your domain of detrimental practices to bolster your SEO and digital marketing efforts.
Final step before we can move onto dissecting our content is the inevitable merger of the two files we generated thus far. Simplest way to accomplish this is by sorting the rows alphabetically on both files and transfer columns from one file to the other (Screaming Frog to URL Profiler should be quicker due to fewer columns involved).
Here it is! You’re staring at your ultimate content audit data. Preferably not with bleary eyes since the lion’s share of your work is yet to be done.
Step 5 – Content Analysis
The main objective here is to evaluate individual pages and determine the course of action that will follow. Some possible consequent actions are: delete, noindex, redirect, rebuild, improve, leave untouched. Surely more can be devised if deemed necessary.
Grading Your Content
We use and strongly recommend a grading system and assign letters/numbers to pages in order to facilitate the assessment and make the file more comprehensible for others. You’re free to conjure up your own content evaluation system. Whatever floats your boat!
- A: Page is borderline impeccable. Leave as it is
- B: Page is great but could use minor tweaks
- C: Page needs serious improvement
- D: Page needs a total makeover
- E: Page needs to be rebuilt
- F+: Page is atrocious but worth an attempt to revive it
- F-: Page is beyond salvation and needs to be redirected/eradicated
Another useful method to speed up this analysis would be categorising the pages. That could come in handy when attempting to detect rampant issues with content (e.g. missing meta descriptions, low word count). Blog, Products, Case Studies should be some of the more common categories for any given domain. Label them however you see fit.
Let’s amplify the interpretation of key metrics:
- GA Users, GA Sessions, GA Entrances, GA Page Views: This is straightforward. We unequivocally want those numbers to be as high as possible. More organic traffic translates into more opportunities and ideally more conversions.
- GA Bounce Rate: The lower the better. A higher bounce rate insinuates visitors don’t view more than page after landing on your domain. This number tends to be inflated for informational content as this type of content doesn’t put the emphasis on conversion, so don’t be fooled by stunningly high bounce rate for blog pages.
- GA Average Time on Page: You should aspire to keep the visitors on the page for an extended period of time. That helps your chances to convert and sends better signals to search engines.
- Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR%: All need to be reasonably high. Anything below 10 in clicks or 100 in impressions (over a 6 month stretch) should set the alarm bells ringing.
- Title 1 Length: Should be limited to 50-60 characters. Don’t exceed or it won’t be fully displayed in search result pages.
- Meta description: Maximum allowed is 160. Again exceeding the limit is not a wise idea for the same reasons.
- H1 and H2: Neither of these should be missing.
- Word count: Anything below approximately 400 words is dangerously low unless the page itself requires such a structure and offsets this deficiency with visuals or other attractions. It’s a tall order to target your keywords with such short content.
It is advisable to compare your findings with your paid search statistics to find some synergy between two channels.
You should take your time with this in-depth analysis. Go over your content audit checklist and make sure you tick all the boxes. A faulty content audit is arguably a lot worse than no content audit as it could yield disastrous results such as losing/noindexing/interfering with healthy and/or fruitful pages.
Here’s a sneak peek at the content audit we did for Bubblegum Search.
Notice all the notes we have taken right on the file to avoid ambiguity. Try to be concise and to the point with your commentary.
And this wraps up our content audit guide. Now that you have the blueprint, it’s your turn to get behind the wheel. Let us know how it goes!