How to run a content audit to improve your SEO performance

When people start content marketing initiatives, they often have lots of new, exciting ideas and brainstorms about how they can generate lots of social attention, influence the influencers, and attract high-quality links.

However, it can be very easy to get carried away with all of these new ideas and concepts and forget that the best content for your brand, might already exist….

Content Auditing

The first step for us, in any content marketing project, is to perform a content audit.

This allows us to:

  • understand what content your users like to see (traffic, links, interaction, social metrics etc.).
  • analyse which content can be a) repurposed, b) better promoted or c) removed.
  • find opportunities for new content ideas.
  • make improvements to lift the overall content performance ratio of your site.

I remember finding Greg Boser’s post on SERP profiling extremely valuable last year, so I’m going to take you through the process we would use for content auditing. This uses Quaturo as an example. We have a very new site, which helps to keep things simple for now, and hopefully it’s a useful way to show how we would approach content auditing.

Step 1) Get a List of Your Indexed Content

In a post-Panda world, content auditing is essential—you need to ensure all your indexed content is working for you in terms of generating organic search—otherwise it may be having a negative effect on the reputation of your whole site.

So the first step is to get hold of all the content you have indexed on your site.

Quaturo is quite an easy site to analyse because it’s fairly new, but for larger sites, I would recommend using spidering tools such as Screaming Frog or Linkdex.

Step 2) Dump All the URLs Into Excel

So now you’ve got a list of all pages indexed in Google, and you can start to analyse this much more closely.

In this case, I’m interested in seeing the link (and social) metrics for each page, so I have downloaded a top pages report from OpenSiteExplorer

I ordered this by page authority, so I could immediately determine what the strongest content was.

Step 3) Add in Analytics for Traffic Data

By mapping the analytics traffic data alongside this information, you can start to find insightful data about your content’s performance.

I would recommend you analyse organic search traffic to your pages, but also all traffic, so you can get a feel for overall content performance, not just search. If it gets you 1,000 visits via social media, but none via search, that doesn’t mean its bad content; it does show there’s potential to improve, though!

Step 4) Analyse Performance by Page, Not Keywords

A common mistake many marketers still make, in my opinion, is they analyse organic performance too closely at keyword level. I would suggest you analyse it by page instead.

By analysing content performance this way, you can start to make actionable, data-driven decisions. 

The important things to analyse here are:

a) Does your content have enough quality links?

b) Is it generating enough traffic?

 If the answer to either of those questions is no, then straight away you’ve got some tasks to add into your action plan. 

Step 5) Categorise to Make Data-Driven, Actionable Decisions

Now that you’ve got a spreadsheet which includes the performance of all of your content, I would propose setting up conditional formatting to analyse this more closely.

I normally categorise content into three different groups. The range in numbers will depend on the traffic volume to your site. Once you’ve got your content organised this way, you can analyse its performance more closely. By putting this into a traffic-light system to group content, you are basically classifying this as a) good content, b) under-performing content, or c) poor content. This isn’t always strictly true, but it’s a good start.

Here’s where the actionable part gets started…

Scenario 1: Poor content (red) = low volume of traffic

Here I would ask questions such as:

  • How many links does the page have?
  • Could the quality be improved?
  • Is there potential to update and promote the content to attract more links?
  • Could you repurpose this content? Maybe turn it into a video, white paper, e-book, interview, etc.
  • Is there a better page you could redirect this to?
  • Do you need this page at all? Potentially, you should remove or noindex this from your site if it no longer serves a clear purpose.

Scenario 2: Good content (amber) = average volume of organic search traffic

My main questions here are:

  • Can you turn good content into top-performing content?
  • Is your content attracting search traffic, but without a high volume of quality links? If so, one possible action is likely to be updating/refreshing the page to attract new links and increase search traffic.
  • Have you attracted high-quality links, but your content is underperforming in terms of search traffic? In this case, it could be time to revisit optimising/updating that page to target new keyword opportunities. Ensuring it’s still relevant for your main target audience, of course.

Scenario 3: Great content (green) = high volume of organic search traffic

Ask these questions:

  • It’s going great, but can you improve it even further? Just because this is the top-performing content on your site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on improving it. Quite the opposite, in fact!
  • Can you update/refresh the content? This works especially well for seasonal content. You already know your audience likes this, and it ranks well in the search engines. So rather than writing a new 2012 post, update the old page and strengthen it even further.
  • Can you learn from it? It’s been successful for a reason. Your audience likes it, it’s attracted quality links/social shares, and it’s generating targeted search traffic. So perhaps you should focus on creating more content like this. Build this into your content strategy and editorial calendars.

Step 6) Calculate Your Content Performance Ratio

To help prioritise the next actions you’re going to take, use the 80/20 rule, where 20% of your content will generate 80% of your traffic/links.

But the way I like to analyse this, to make it actionable, is by figuring out how much of your current content is working well for you. By categorising in a traffic light system using Excel, I find this really helps, as you can generally assume:

1)     Green = Top performing content

2)     Amber = Good content – potential to improve

3)     Red = Poor content – under-performing

Based on that, I would add up the volume of green and amber pages, and based on the total number of indexed pages, figure out the content performance ratio.

For example, if you have:

–          750 (green and amber pages) / 1,000 (indexed pages)

–          = 0.75

–          Content Performance Ratio = 3:4 (or 75%)

I find this most useful for websites that have been affected by Panda, as this gives a clear indication about the scale of changes they need to make to raise the overall quality of their content.

Obviously, you want the highest volume of top-performing content possible.

Step 7) Prove the Value of Your Content

By now, you’ve done the hard bit and analysed what needs to be done. You don’t want to lose all this work now, but you still need to make sure you get buy-in from your boss/client.

If they’ve got a £10,000 marketing budget to spend, the safe route is likely to be to spend this on paid advertising, or at least a model where they can understand the potential return.

You need to prove the value. I like to do this by providing SEO comparisons to paid search. Using similar metrics, such as calculating the media value of organic traffic, as though you paid for each click.

For example, the search term “content marketing” in Google AdWords has an average cost per click of £4.01 at exact-match level. So if you generate 1,000 visits per month for that search term, you know the media value of that keyword (if you were to pay for the traffic via AdWords) would cost:

–          1,000 visits x £4.01

–          = £4,010 per month

That’s the media value you’ve created via organic search each month, for just that single keyword.

Again, why don’t you apply similar keyword rules at a content level?

Let’s say you wrote five blog posts in September, all about content marketing, and in total they generated 500 visits via organic search.

Because this will generate traffic from a wide-range of long tail keywords, it makes more sense to use the lower broad-match price of £3.57. So…

–          500 visits x £3.57

–          = £1,785 per month

That’s £1,785 worth of extra media value you generated this month alone, not to mention the incremental value you’ve added. This means you can get a value of what this is worth—£357 per post, to be precise! So if you wrote ten posts of a similar quality in October, you can get an understanding of what that’s potentially worth to you.

As a final step, I would add a media value column into your spreadsheet, so you can assess what your content is currently worth. Then you can prove the value in increasing these figures if you were to focus your effort towards improving the site’s overall content performance.

Hopefully this has shown how you can analyse your content to get insightful data, so you can make decisions to drive your content strategies.

It’s definitely worth spending the time and effort getting to know what type of content works on your site before rushing in head first with lots of new ideas. It sounds obvious, but it really is the first step to establishing yourself as an authority online, just by focusing on giving your audience what they want.

How do you approach your content strategy? Please share your ideas in the comments.

**Kevin Gibbons is a co-founder and CEO at Re:signal, a leading SEO & content marketing agency in London. Follow him on Twitter here.**