Why A Content Audit Could Multiply Your SEO Effectiveness

Guest blog for Sixty Marketing: December 2016

It’s time to retire the term ‘content is king’, because today it’s the quality of your content you should be focused on, rather than how much of it you can churn out.

It used to be that you could get away with any old mediocre content so long as you stuffed it with a bunch of keywords. Times have changed. These days, more content doesn’t equal better results for your traffic or sales, leads or advertising revenue. In fact, publishing a lot of low-quality content now means you’re liable to land in Google’s bad books and not rank your pages.

We’ll look at some case studies that show you why things have changed, as well as offer some tips on how to run a successful content audit on your site, so you can be sure that you’re offering your customers only the best and most relevant content.

Eliminating keyword cannibalisation

Keyword cannibalisation is when you have several articles that target or compete for the same keyword. This can be a common problem for larger sites that regularly blog. Big companies are likely to have multiple people writing their content and they will naturally write blogs that appeal to the most obvious or popular keywords. The trouble with this approach is that you may end up encountering competition from your own blog posts.

If you have multiple pages on a site that are optimised for the same terms, then all of your articles may wind up being devalued and Google will instead give preference to other businesses in their search engine results pages.

Below is a case study from AHREFS that shows how they dealt with their keyword cannibalisation problem and also increased their search traffic by 51% using a process called the ‘Merger Method’.

AHREFS merged together the content of three similarly themed blog posts that all shared the same keyword. They took their existing average content and rewrote it, adding better data and creating the very best content they could to make sure they had the ultimate resource for that particular keyword on the web.

Here are the steps AHREFS took (and which you can also follow) to improve their content and solve their keyword cannibalisation problem:

  • Identified similar content on their site by using a ‘site.domain.com keyword’ search in Google. (You could also use Google Analytics under the page views report.)
  • Analyzed traffic levels of competing pages in order to discover which ones were doing well and which weren’t.
  • Rewrote the best article to include aspects of the other posts to make one ‘best’ post.
  • 301 redirect the URLs of the weaker articles to the new post. (These should also be on the same URL as the previous best post.)
  • Finally, they monitored traffic to their posts to see what effect these changes had. According to AHREFS, the changes netter them a huge increase in traffic, with the new post garnering them more traffic than the 3 old posts combined.

Get rid of out-of-date or irrelevant content

If your site’s been around for a while, it’s likely you’ve picked up old and outdated content that’s no longer relevant or accurate. This might not sound like it’s too much of a big deal, but thin or poor quality content can actually be harming your site.

Since 2011, Google Panda has been patrolling the web for poor quality content and penalising sites that produce thin content. Google Panda has undergone many successive updates and is now firmly baked into Google’s core algorithm. As a result of this, it can be harder to spot issues. Therefore a content audit is generally necessary to identify and resolve issues, which could be occurring without your knowledge.

To see how effective an audit review can be, let’s look at a case study featuring Rick Ramos’ work for Phase Design Studio:

Rick Ramos’ main steps to improve Phase Design Studio’s outdated content were as follows:

  • Identified all unnecessary, irrelevant and out-of-date content.
  • Came up with a list of timeless (evergreen) and relevant landing pages.
  • Mapped 301 redirects from the list of old and underperforming landing pages.

As visitors were filtered through the up-to-date landing pages instead of the old low quality ones, Phase Design Studio saw an 8 percent rise in their leads, which isn’t too shabby a return for just doing a little housekeeping on your site.

Identify topics your audience loves

The other advantage of content audits is that they are great for identifying trends in your content. For instance, you can see if your audience likes specific topics, or whether they prefer detailed case studies rather than interviews. Once you identify trends you can start targeting your content better so that you don’t waste your time creating blog posts that aren’t going to appeal to your core audience.

A good way to identify what your audience like is simply to create a master spreadsheet. This document keeps track of all your content and also makes sure you aren’t duplicating keywords. Ensure that everybody who writes content for you either has access to this document, or that you set strict briefs so your content writers aren’t treading over well-worn ground.

You gain a lot of information and discover trends to manipulate by collating diverse data in one master spreadsheet. This data might be as simple as finding out which days of the week are the best for posting new content, or it could help you identify if there are any trends related to headline length vs. click-through rates on social media.

Matthew Barby took the bold step of analyzing one of his own blogs. His purpose was to figure out what worked and what didn’t, so that he could maximise the potential of his blog in the future.

Here are the steps he used to analyze his blog:

  • Performed a full crawl of his site with Screaming Frog, adding comprehensive link data from URL Profiler and adding it into one spreadsheet.
  • Imported post categories for each URL. (It’s worth noting that all this data probably won’t make much sense until the next step.)
  • Visualised the data using graphs for post categories vs. various metrics. For instance, referring domains vs. post category, social shares vs. post category, or publication date vs. social shares.

This method is very comprehensive and will provide you with a lot of data to work on. So why not follow Matthew’s guide and apply his findings to your own content? What trends can you identify that can improve your performance?

If you abandon the ‘content is king’ approach, you’ll be able to focus on creating content that your customers are actually interested in reading rather than churning out stale, irrelevant or low-quality content. The case studies in this article have shown that conducting a content review of your site is relatively low cost and easy, while implementing even just a few of these simple changes could dramatically increase your traffic and leads.

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