The Ultimate Guide to Conducting a Content Audit — Step-by-Step Process for Optimizing Your Website's Content

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I’ve always believed that search engine optimization (SEO) is as much about looking forward as it is about looking back. What do I mean? Many people think that SEO is about creating and optimizing new content.

However, it’s equally about going back and revamping older content so it continues to perform well on search engine results pages (SERPs). This is where content audits are highly useful.

If you want to understand content audits better, such as what they mean and how to conduct one, this article is for you. Keep reading to explore the power of content audits and how they can transform your SEO efforts.

Related: How to ‘Spring Clean’ Your Website With Content Auditing

Understanding content audits

A content audit is a careful and in-depth analysis of previously published, or “old,” content that needs to be further optimized for improved search engine performance.

Why is it important for any business to conduct one? It’s simple. A content audit is useful for:

  • Boosting your rankings

  • Increasing traffic to your website

  • Driving conversions and engagement

  • Assessing your blog’s strengths and weaknesses

  • Gaining a better understanding of your audience

Given this extensive list of benefits, it’s clear that a content audit is an essential part of the SEO equation and should not be taken lightly.

Conducting a content audit

Whether you choose to perform a content audit once or twice a year, or perhaps more frequently, it’s important to follow a sequence of steps to ensure the process is smooth and yields the results you’re after.

Here’s my five-step process to help you achieve your aims.

Step 1: Identify your goal

Not having a clear goal in mind is like shooting in the dark and expecting to hit your target. From experience, I’d say that the first step in any content audit should be to identify your goal. Goal identification will determine what you’d like to achieve. Remove or prune old content, optimize older articles for improved performance, drive conversions and engagement, boost rankings and traffic, etc.

Step 2: Identify and remove ROT content

With a clear goal in mind, you’re ready for step two. This is where you spend a significant amount of time identifying and removing ROT — redundant, obsolete or trivial — content from your website. This will make it lighter and leaner and capable of offering your audience much more value. Once this “pruning” process begins, you’re ready to move on to step three.

Step 3: Evaluate your content inventory

Step three requires more complexity. You’ll need to evaluate your remaining content inventory. It’s a good idea to create a new spreadsheet that contains all the URLs on your site. Group these according to categories, such as product/service pages or articles from your blog.

Also, extract the keywords you’re hoping to rank for with each piece of content and add these to your spreadsheet to help you determine if some articles’ keywords need to be amalgamated into a single article or whether further optimization will be needed.

Step 4: Analyze performance

It’s now time to evaluate the performance of each page of content. Some key metrics to monitor include the bounce rate and the amount of organic traffic you’re generating, in addition to your SERP rankings. And when this (lengthy) process is complete, you’re able to take actionable steps driven by data.

Step 5: Identify areas for improvement

There are many reasons why a piece of content is underperforming. Keywords may be cannibalizing each other. Metadata may not be accurate. Your H2s and H3s could be flawed or poorly organized. Your content itself may be irrelevant or outdated. Looking at each of these criteria and making a concerted effort to improve them is a big must.

Related: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Content for Better Google Rankings

Best practices for optimizing your content

Based on my experience in doing literally dozens if not hundreds of content audits, there are a few best practices I’ve picked up along the way, which I’d like to share with you.

  • Use data to drive decisions: Don’t approach your content audit in a haphazard way. Use data-driven insights from reliable tools to help drive your decision-making process.

  • Update/remove underperforming content: Don’t be afraid to prune or completely remove old content that is underperforming. This will create new space for growth.

  • Focus on SEO and the user experience: Use SEO best practices and tactics to optimize your content both on-page and off-page. Your goal should always be to add value and boost your users’ experience.

Useful tools for conducting a content audit

Next up, I’ll share with you a few of the tools that are highly useful in conducting your content audit.

Types of tools and templates available:

Some of the tools available on the market are well known and for good reason. They’re versatile, flexible and offer you insights at the click of a button. Examples of a few of these include: Ahrefs and the Ahrefs SEO plugin, Google Search Console and Google Analytics plus SEMrush.

How to choose the right one:

Your first instinct might be to go for the cheapest option. But that would be a mistake. What you should do instead is focus on the functionalities that each of these tools offers.

Do they help you see which keywords your article ranked for? Do they show you bounce rates? Do they indicate how much traffic you’re getting?

Remember: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. There’s no single tool that is suitable for every business and every industry. That’s why doing your research carefully is so important.

Tips for effectively using them:

Once you’ve chosen your tool, it’s time to educate yourself on effectively using it. Make sure it offers you the right functionalities to track the right metrics. Going over a couple of tutorials and SEO tool best practices will help make your content audit work that much easier and smoother.

Related: 7 Best SEO Tools to Help You Rank Higher in Google

A case study of a successful content audit

As part of my work with one of my clients, Brosix, I noticed that one of our most important articles started losing positions and traffic on SERPs. That’s when I decided to perform a content audit and made the following changes and updates to the article in question:

  • Improved titles and meta descriptions

  • Removed unnecessary information

  • Made the article keyword rich

The results? Traffic jumped from 3,657 to 5,138 in just two weeks.

Conducting a content audit for your website is not a luxury. It’s an absolute must if you want to retain rankings, strong positions and good traffic. Sometimes, simple but concerted efforts that drive your content audit can lead to incredible results that are truly worth it. Don’t let old content “ROT.” Instead, update, refresh and renew where necessary to enjoy the incredible results.

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