You spend a lot of time and energy on your website but how do you know whether what you’re publishing is working to bring in visitors and turn them into customers? This is the job of a content audit.
When done properly, a content audit can turn your website into a magnet for clients who are a great fit and boost your SEO efforts too.
What is a content audit and why should you do one?
A content audit is an inventory and review of all of the indexable content on a domain (i.e. the pages on your website that could be listed in search results).
It’s more than just identifying the content though.
A content audit is about analysing the performance of each page and deciding whether you want to:
- Keep it as is
- Improve or update it
- Remove it
- Consolidate it with other content
There are many benefits to carrying out a content audit. It can help you to:
- Ensure that your landing/sales pages are properly supported by related blogs and calls to action throughout your website
- Make your content super-relevant to your target audience
- Spot gaps in your content – i.e. topics your audience would find of value that you haven’t written about before
- Identify what people love and what doesn’t interest your audience
- Decide what your new content should be about
- Improve the quality of what you create
- Identify the strongest keywords on your site
- Pinpoint the strongest pages and figure out how to leverage them
- Highlight marketing opportunities
- Identify where there should be internal links that tie related content together, giving your visitors a better user experience
- Unearth duplicate or weak content that could be damaging your domain authority
How a content audit can boost your SEO
If you use the information you find from your content audit to make your content even more relevant to your audience, it should increase engagement, keeping people on your site for longer and encouraging them to read more pages.
Also, if you can create high-quality content that people want to share and link back to, this should help you to grow the authority of individual pages and boost your overall Domain Authority.
These are all fantastic signals to Google that your website is the right place to send searchers.
Personally, I would recommend carrying out a thorough content audit of your website at least once a year. If you have a large site, you might want to review a specific portion of the site each quarter to make the audit as manageable as possible.
The five phases of an effective content audit
I find it helpful to break a content audit into the following five phases:
Phase one: Goal setting
Before you start a content audit, it’s important to know WHY you’re doing it. What are the key performance indicators you want to look at and what do you plan to do with your findings?
Typical content audit goals might include identifying:
- Weak spots in your SEO
- Content gaps
- Your audience’s favourite topics/best performing pages
- Pages that could have better search performance
- Pages with high impressions and low conversions
- Pages with low impressions and high conversions – why are they converting so well?
- Evergreen content
- Content that can be re-used as an ebook or basis for a video series
Your audit should also help you understand how your audience is responding to each piece of content.
- What do they love?
- What gets them talking and sharing?
- What doesn’t interest them?
- Could you create interest by adding different information?
- What content no longer reflects what you offer as a business?
- What content could be updated to better reflect your brand?
Phase two – part one: Inventory
The next step is to create an inventory of all of the pages on your website that you want to audit. If you have a relatively small site – up to 50 pages – it shouldn’t be too time-consuming to add the URLs to an Excel document, one at a time.
You can find the URLs in several ways:
- Navigate through the site on a page-by-page basis and copy each URL into Excel
- Look at all the pages and posts listed in your website’s content management system
- Type site:yourwebaddress.co.uk into Google to see which URLs are listed by the search engine
If you have a larger website or you want to speed up your inventory of URLs, you could also use the following tools:
This is a tool that you can download your PC, Mac or Linux machine.
Once you have run and downloaded the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, you simply need to enter your domain name for the free tool to collect a massive array of data for up to 500 URLs. If your site is larger than that, you would need to pay an annual licence currently costing £149 per year.
Screaming Frog will return all of the data within a spreadsheet that can easily be exported to Excel.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the data gives you information such as:
- The URL
- The type of content, e.g. text, image, app
- The page status and status code
- Meta title tag
- Meta description
- Meta title/description length and pixel width
- Heading tags
- Crawl depth
- Canonical links
- No follow pages
This can be a helpful way to see at a glance whether you have pages that are missing crucial meta data or that need stronger headings.
If you choose the licensed version of the tool, you can also integrate data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console by entering the appropriate API Key. Without the paid-for tool, this data is still available but just not integrated into the Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
URL Profiler is similar to the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. In fact, the data from Screaming Frog can be merged with that collected by URL Profiler to give you an even more comprehensive overview of your content.
To merge the data:
- Hit the Export option on the Screaming Frog SEO Spider screen (to the left hand side of the screen just underneath the logo and the main navigation tabs)
- Export the data as a CSV file
- In the URL Profiler, right click on the header that says ‘URL (0)’ below ‘URL List’ (see the screenshot below) and choose the ‘Import from Screaming Frog SEO Spider’ or ‘Import from CSV and merge data’ options
- Click ‘Run Profiler’ to combine the data from both sources
URL Profiler includes some helpful information about page errors, social shares, the word count of pages, reading ease, the page’s keywords (taking into account context and frequency of use), and even whether the page communicates a positive, negative or neutral sentiment based on the language used.
When reviewing this data, are there pages…
- With a negative sentiment?
- Flagged up as ‘fairly difficult’ or ‘difficult’ to read?
- With a very low word count that might make it hard for visitors or Google to understand the purpose and context of the content?
These might be pages that you want to improve, remove or consolidate as a priority.
Phase two – part two: Information gathering
Once you’ve collected a list of all of the content/URLs on your website, Phase Two of your content audit should continue with gathering information about how each page is performing.
I would think about questions such as:
- Which pages attract the most visitors?
- Which pages do people stay on for the longest?
- What search terms do visitors use to find the top performing pages?
- Which articles get the most engagement on social media?
- Where do people leave the website?
Below, I’ve listed some of my favourite free tools (as an SEO expert, I use a range of paid-for tools for content audits too but I know this isn’t always an option for small businesses who want to conduct their own audit of a small site):
It is particularly helpful as a content audit tool. If you already have Yoast installed, log into the WordPress dashboard for your site and click on Posts>All posts. You’ll be able to see at a glance which articles have a green light for SEO and/or readability and which have amber or red lights. You can then view the articles with low SEO or readability scores and see what Yoast recommends to improve their performance.
You can sort the information on the All posts screen to see which articles have the most social shares.
Google Analytics contains some helpful data for content audits.
If you are still using Universal Analytics, some of the most useful data can be found under the Behaviour tab in the main menu:
Personally, I like to include the following data from Google Analytics on my content audit spreadsheet:
- Number of entrances – i.e. how many people have arrived on my website via that page during the audit period
- All visits – i.e. how many people have visited the page overall
- Average time on the page – by comparing all of the pages on my website during the content audit, I can begin to build up a picture of which pages have a longer dwell time and which pages see people navigate away straight away
- Page bounce rate – this tells me what percentage of people left the website after visiting a specific URL
If you have switched over to Google Analytics 4 (something we’ll all need to do before 1st July 2023), then you’ll need to click on the Reports tab on the main left-hand menu then Engagement>Pages and screens.
You can also find data about engaged sessions in the Explore tab of Google Analytics 4. Here’s a great video tutorial that explains how to do this, including how to find bounce rate information in this new version of Analytics.
Generally speaking, the higher the average time people spend on a page, the more Google will deem the content to be relevant to the audience. In-depth and informative articles can help increase dwell time and provide value to website visitors.
I also like to include data from Google Search Console about the clicks, impressions, and clickthrough rates (CTR) of any searched pages over the audit period, as well as the average search ranking/position for each page.
Adding this data to your audit should help you to pinpoint your highest and lowest ranking pages, how they’re performing in search engine results pages (SERPs) and which pages are attracting the highest level of conversions in terms of the percentage of impressions turning into clicks.
Shared Count is a handy free tool for tracking how your content is performing on Facebook and Pinterest. This tool may be helpful if you don’t currently use a social sharing plugin on your website to track social shares, likes and comments.
To use Shared Count, you simply enter the URL you want to audit and it will return the available data for the page.
Tip: If you have a WordPress website, you might want to use a social sharing plugin such as Social Warfare – not only does this track how your content is performing on different platforms but it also acts as social proof, showing your audience that other people are sharing and talking about what you have published.
The Keyword Density Analyser by SEO Book is another helpful audit tool. Simply enter the URL that you want to audit and it will return a breakdown of the page’s most used single, two-word and three-word phrases, as well as the meta data for the page.
You can use this tool to check the keywords in your headings, image alt tags, body text, and links.
Website Grader is a tool from HubSpot that runs an analysis of your website and gives you recommendations about what you can improve. Some top-level information is free but more in-depth information is provided as part of a paid service. A 14-day free trial is currently available.
Pop the URL you want to check in the search box and Nibbler will check that and four other pages on your site before giving you a report that looks at things like how popular the site is, amount of content, strength of your URLs and others. The free version only provides top level information but it might flag up any obvious problems on your site that you need to address.
Phase three: Analysis
Once you have created a spreadsheet of all your URLs and the associated audit data, your next step is to analyse what it all means.
One of the most helpful ways I’ve seen to do this is to rank each page with a grade from A to F or to award each page points based on chosen categories.
For example, you might decide to award a point for:
- A completed meta title that contains the page’s focus keyword
- A meta description that has a strong call to action and contains fewer than 160 characters
- A page that contains more than 300 words
- H1 and H2 title tags
- A URL Profiler ranking of ‘easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to read
- A bounce rate of 55% or lower (this is an average figure, but bounce rates can vary for different industries/sectors/types of site)
- A positive sentiment
- The Flesch-Kincaid grade level or reading ease score (ideally, a good web page should have a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 9 or lower, and a Flesch-Kincaid reading ease of 60% or above)
There are many other examples I could use here, such as number of page visits, average engagement time or clickthrough rates.
Essentially, the key is to decide what key performance indicators you want to measure and how you plan to grade the results. The metrics you choose will depend on the initial goals you set in phase one.
For example, if you want to improve your meta data, you might award points or grades according to the length and content of your meta titles and descriptions, heading tags, and image alt tags.
If you want to increase dwell time on your website, you might focus on metrics such as the bounce rate, reading times, reading levels, word counts and sentiment.
During this stage, it’s important to keep an eye out for red flags and things that you can action almost immediately to make a difference to your SEO.
- Do you have pages without meta data or heading tags?
- Are there pages where there is no clear focus keyword/topic?
- Are there pages perceived as having a negative sentiment?
- Does a page have a high Flesch-Kincaid grade level or low reading ease?
Make a note against each URL on your spreadsheet of what grade or number of points you have awarded that page.
During the analysis phase, you might also want to look at the focus keywords for each page on your website:
- Do you have several pages targeting the same keywords? If so, they could be in competition with one another for a good Google position.
- Are the wrong pages ranking well for specific keywords? Check out my guide on what to do if this happens.
- Do the focus keywords accurately reflect what the content of each page is about?
Phase four: Strategy
This is the point at which you must decide how you want to handle the URLs covered by your audit. The reason I like the points/grade system for analysing audit data is that it gives a clear structure to your strategy. For example, you could approach your audit in the following way:
- Pages receiving an A-B grade or, for example, 12-18 points are to keep as is
- Pages receiving a C-D grade or, for example, 6-12 points are to update or consolidate with other pages
- Pages receiving an E-F grade or, for example, 0-6 points are to remove or consolidate
This is only an example of how you might structure your points system but it shows how using this type of approach enables you to easily identify which pages urgently need attention. You could also use a traffic light system to colour-code your findings.
Tip: If there are pages that you decide to consolidate with others, you will need to do a 301 Redirect to send traffic from the original URL to the new and improved consolidated content. This will help you to keep any ‘link juice’ that the page has acquired.
You might find the following resources helpful for performing 301 Redirects:
- How to properly implement a 301 Redirect (Bruce Clay)
- Redirection (Moz)
- How to create a 301 Redirect in WordPress (Yoast)
Phase five: Action
Once you have categorised your website’s URLs according to the results of your audit, the time has come to take action. Of course, the action you take will depend on your initial goals set in phase one.
If, for example, your goal was to identify weak spots in your SEO, then you will probably want to turn your attention to the pages on your site that are missing key SEO elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags and heading tags. Your audit will show you where the gaps are so that you can begin filling them in and ensuring that each web page is properly optimised.
Before you do that, you might decide to remove all pages that have scored few points or an F grade during your analysis. There’s a handy post from Yoast about how to properly delete a page from your site that you may find helpful.
When deleting a page, it’s important to assess whether visitors to your website will expect to find content on your site that relates to the page you intend to delete. Rather than deleting it, in that case, it might serve your audience better to rewrite the content but keep the URL.
Other actions you might take as the result of a content audit include:
- Rewriting or removing all pages scoring lower than a D grade
- Promoting your highest converting pages on social media
- Creating some evergreen content about topics that are central to your business
- Publishing more videos or infographics because they attract the highest amount of engagement
- Adding calls to action (or strengthening what’s in place) on pages with low bounce rates – instead of letting people navigate away from your site, tell them what they need to do next
- Creating content targeting new keywords or topics, based on the gaps you’ve identified
Auditing your competitors
You might decide that you want to take your content audit a step further by auditing your competitors’ sites. Although you can’t access their Google Analytics and Search Console data, most of the other tools mentioned in this article will help you collect insights into your competitors’ SEO and content strategies in the same way as you would collect data about your own site.
While you don’t want to get too hung up on what other people are doing, it can sometimes be a helpful exercise to spot issues that matter to your audience or highlight gaps in your content.
Although a content audit sounds like a daunting task, it can be an invaluable way of rediscovering rich past content and fine tuning your website to meet the needs of your audience.
As many of you know, I’m an SEO UK specialist and a big believer in putting the user experience at the heart of SEO. A content audit is a way to consistently do that, even as your site grows and develops with your business.
Your handy content audit spreadsheet
To help you carry out your content audit, I’ve created a fantastic free spreadsheet with columns for all of the crucial data.
Your Free Content Audit Spreadsheet – Download it here
I’d love to hear how you get on with it.
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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