Content Growth Can Quickly Get Out of Hand
Producing unique content is still the order of the day in digital marketing. Interesting content with added value makes users keen to interact with a brand and, after what may be a long or sometimes short customer journey, eventually makes them want to buy the products and services.
Too Much Content Can Be a Disadvantage
Often, companies translate this knowledge into a directive to keep producing new content, even when content for all key topics is already available on the website. This content growth can quickly get out of hand, for instance, if one of the internal stakeholders tells the content team that “it’s time to publish something on topic xy again”. The new article is on a topic that is already covered in one or several other articles – and in the worst case scenario, with opposing key messages.
Content Reduction May Lead to a Loss of Traffic
Equally, uncontrolled reduction of content can have an undesired effect: If the company discontinues a product brand and there is barely any content left on the brand, the company may lose valuable traffic because users will still search for the discontinued product brand.
Users Are Routed to Old Content
Occasionally, users accessing content through search engines will not find the article or content that they should. Instead of finding a new article on a topic, they are routed to an old article because search engines rank the old article higher than the new one.
Four-step Content Audit
In these cases, it pays to carry out a comprehensive content audit.
This content audit consists of four steps:
Create an inventory: Which pages of the site are listed in the results for which search queries?
Analyze individual pages: What needs to be done for each individual page?
Optimise content: Adapt and revise individual pages.
Orchestrate topics: Develop a plan for future content publication and deletion.
We used this content audit for one of our customers. It is one of many possible content audits that we can carry out. At Unic, we also provide content audits in which a Content Specialist carries out a more nuanced analysis that includes quality aspects.
Software-assisted Content Audits
The following software was used for this content audit:
Searchmetrics Suite including the Searchmetrics Content Experience module
Google Search Console
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
We deliberately skipped analyses with web analysis software such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics in this case in order to obtain initial results as quickly as possible. This is, however, an important analysis that should be done in parallel to or immediately after the content audit.
1. Create an Inventory
Keyword Ranking With Searchmetrics
First of all, we want to find out which URL ranks for which keyword, that is, which URL appears on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This information can easily be retrieved from Searchmetrics’ “Organic Keyword Rankings” report. Searchmetrics not only lists the current position of the page per keyword, but also whether there are SERP feature integrations such as featured snippets or integrated images or videos.
Traffic Analysis With Google Search Console
When filtering for a specific subpage, Google Search Console can list the search terms that lead to impressions and clicks on this page. Apart from the ranking, i.e. the position, this is an additional analysis of the traffic effectively generated for this page.
Merge and Visualize Large Data Volumes
For larger sites, we recommend exporting impressions, clicks and click rates from Google Search Console. This data can then be merged with the positioning data from Searchmetrics and other information in Excel or visualization software.
Don’t Forget Non-ranked Pages
Don’t forget to analyze pages that neither have a rank, nor generate impressions or clicks. These pages can be found by comparing the XML sitemap with the data exported from the other tools.
2. Analyze Individual Pages
In the second step, we carry out an in-depth analysis of the individual pages, starting with the following general questions:
Is the content on the page still up-to-date?
Does the style of writing on the page match the content?
The answers to these questions usually lead to some quick wins, such as simple updates of existing articles.
Does the Correct Page Rank?
As part of this step, we also determine whether the URL ranking for a certain search term is the one intended by the website operator. It is not rare to find that subpage A ranks for a certain term, even though subpage B was supposed to. In cases like these, we may edit subpage B or create better internal links to it. Another option is to delete subpage A und redirect the URL to subpage B via a 301 redirect.
Text Analysis With Searchmetrics Content Experience
Searchmetrics Content Experience provides additional helpful input. Amongst other things, this software module shows the average length of the best-ranked articles for a search query. For certain topics, shorter articles may rank better than longer ones, so it is worth checking whether your articles should be longer or shorter.
Check Click Rate Per Page
We also check the click rate per page. A low click rate paired with high impressions means that the page is displayed in the search results, but the content of the search result is not stimulating enough for a click. An attractive page title and an interesting meta description may provide a quick remedy.
Many Articles on the Same Topic Prevent a Top Ranking
A common problem with large amounts of content is that several pages cover the same topic. This may lead to none of the pages being ranked at the top, even though good content is available. In the following fictional example, there are three articles covering the topic of “SEO software”. This leads to a weakening of the website since ranking potential is being wasted.
This fictitious URL achieve the following positions for the keyword "SEO software":
Rank 25: www.domain.com/seo-software-searchmetrics-made-simple
Rank 12: www.domain.com/seo-software-tips-2017
No ranking: www.domain.com/seo-software-overview
Using Content Formats Such as Images and Videos
On the level of individual pages, we check whether additional content formats are needed. If images and videos are integrated into the search results page, it may be useful to also work with images and videos. If there is a featured snippet on the search results page, we will check whether it is possible to apply for this “position 0” result with a short and concise answer – which means placing the answer in the relevant position on the individual page.
3. Optimise Content
The most demanding step of the content audit is revision of the articles. We can adapt the individual articles based on the analyses carried out previously.
Here is a list of options for optimization of the content:
Update old content
Delete a page and redirect the URL to a different relevant URL
Merge and consolidate multiple pages
Revise content, for instance with Searchmetrics Content Experience
Create a more interesting title and meta description
Provide additional content types (such as images, videos)
Improve internal links (increase or reduce)
Do nothing despite bad SEO data, for example, because an article was created specifically for social media
Create new content
We recommend an iterative approach to optimization, starting with a small number of articles. You can learn from these optimizations and then continue with the next set of articles. Gaining experience is what this process is all about.
4. Orchestrate Topics
To prevent further uncontrolled content growth, it is essential to have an editorial schedule. This should not only contain the articles and their publication date, but also the main topic of each article. This will allow you to check during planning and publication whether there are already articles covering the intended main topic of the new article.
Initial Results of Our Content Audit
Currently, we are still editing content for the customer for whom we are performing this content audit. The content audit is part of a larger project for this customer, aimed at placing a stronger focus on search engines as an acquisition channel during the process of content planning and publication. So we can’t ascribe all changes in metrics to content editing alone. These are also being generated through the targeted publication of content on new topics and the increased use of images and videos.
Still, a few figures provide insight into the success of the venture:
Over the past 12 months, we were able to increase the SEO visibility of the online content concerned by 20% (measured with Searchmetrics, Research module), using various measures.
For the past three months, compared to the previous year, we saw a 35%-increase in impressions for this content in organic search.
The clicks on these URLs increased by 20% – despite the fact that a technical problem on the server infrastructure during the observed timeframe in 2019 caused indexing issues.
Currently, the project team posits the hypothesis that additional indicators such as the conversion rate will further improve over the coming weeks. We will check this at a later stage.
Content Revision on unic.com
We were able to generate interesting improvements on our own website unic.com thanks to similar audits and optimization measures, thus generating more traffic. You can find an example of targeted optimization below.
Infos and Downloads
This article is based on a presentation held by Matthias Schmid at the “Meet’n’Suite” event held by Searchmetrics, Blueglass, DEPT, dotpulse and Unic on 6 and 7 May 2019. Visit the Searchmetrics blog for a summary of the event.
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