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SEO Content Audit: A Definitive Guide to Boost Rankings in 2022

Conducting a content audit is serious business. Content strategy still takes up 17% of B2C budget allocations, but that is a 69% increase over 2021. And a strong content strategy starts with an SEO content audit. Dive into this step-by-step guide to boost your rankings!

Indrė Jankutė-Carmaciu
SEO-content-audit-checklist

What is an SEO Content Audit?

A standard definition of the SEO content audit is this: the process of reviewing the content on your site in order to define actions necessary to get more and higher quality traffic to each page. On top of that, a comprehensive SEO audit will help you build your overall SEO strategy.

We talked about building a comprehensive SEO strategy in our other post. SEO content audit is an excellent way to get a picture of where you are now, then decide where you want to be.

Since it's a process, you need to take clear steps to get an accurate picture of your content.

Why an SEO Content Audit is a Must?

Besides giving you a good look at the state of your website, a content audit also helps you come up with a plan of action. Here's why you should audit your website regularly:

  • Content audits provide an in-depth understanding of all your pages. Whether you run a blog, an e-shop or a SaaS company - your website is your primary money-making tool. Finding which sites work for you and which should be eliminated can make or break your business plan.
  • Pages that affect your website negatively reduce your organic traffic and domain authority. And with that - your conversions.
  • Lastly, content audits help you provide value to SERPs and website visitors alike.

All the data in the world won't help you if you don't use it well. So this guide is here to help you extract the data, arrange it and use it to your advantage.

How to Conduct a Content Audit?

A content audit is a process and if there's a process, there's a guide for it - with steps you need to take, insights you need to look for, etc. Each step described in this guide is necessary, and steps cannot be skipped.

  1. Produce a content audit template. The process described below will have to be done regularly. That's why when performing the content audit for the first time, set up a template. Google Sheets or MS Excel will be your best friends here. Set up a sheet with all your information and steps.
  2. Use readily available tools. You will need the following SEO tools to conduct a full content audit: Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Semrush, Copyscape. While Google Analytics is not primarily an SEO analysis tool, it's very useful during an audit.
  3. Gather and interpret the data. Conducting a content audit is impossible without data. Make sure it's accessible and learn to interpret it. This means simple to gain permission from website owners to use your data and add them to your tools.
  4. Assign actions and tasks based on your findings. These are the results of your SEO audit that should positively impact your website.

Each point requires a deeper dive. Before that, let's look at the most popular page success metrics used in SEO audit.

Defining Page Success

Three main groups of KPIs define whether your site is ranking successfully:

  1. Organic traffic and organic keywords;
  2. The number of referring domains;
  3. Supplementary data.

Organic Traffic and Organic Keywords

Your target keywords should be bringing you organic traffic. Without traffic, chances of conversion are low. But they are just as low if you don't have the right focus keywords and thus don't bring the right audience. So it's not just quantity of traffic (but it's important too!) but quality too.

Example 1: This table is powered by Whatagraph. You can see an outline of landing pages with their focus keyword performance for a set period of time.Here you can see an outline of landing pages, each with their focus keyword

Example 2: With Whatagraph, you can view the list of keywords you're tracking and watch their performance change over time. Building this type of report will show you if the changes you made to the content after the audit are generating the desired results.

Keyword performance chart

Example 3: Whatagraph's reports also let you see your page performance and the change over time. This is especially useful to monitor after you make the changes after the content audit. Notice the goal completions too: these goals are the performance thresholds you set for each page.

Page performance chart

 

The Number of Referring Domains

Your existing content brings about domain authority to your page, thus attracting more traffic and conversions. But the real boosts are the quality backlinks, especially from unique domains. The more your website is listed as a reference, the higher search engines rank it.

Supplementary Data

So conversions, organic traffic and keywords, referring domains - these are the top-priority metrics for your site's health. Performing a complete SEO audit will require several additional metrics, though.

  1. No. of internal links. This is a network of links between your website pages that relate to each other;
  2. Date of the last page update. To see if the content is recent enough;
  3. Target keywords of the page. Every page needs to have a target keyword;
  4. Organic traffic performance status. Look at the trends of traffic coming into your site. Determine if it's growing, declining or plateauing.

Now that you know what you're looking for let's see how to retrieve this data and how to evaluate it.

Analyzing Content Data

Before diving into data retrieval, you first need to set benchmarks and thresholds. This will help you fulfill the primary purpose of content audits: to identify, understand and fix pages so they can bring valuable traffic.

Benchmarks

Benchmarks are a minimum required page performance before action needs to be taken on the said page. For example, you have a blog post that per month brings you 3 conversions, ±500 unique users with slight 1% growth each month, ranks minimum top 10 on SERPS on its focus keyword. If your business model is satisfied with this performance, then this is your benchmark.

These don't have to be limited to the main 3 metrics. You can have benchmarks for the blog post length, page size and load time, even title tag length.

Benchmarks apply to all pages you audit. To utilize them well, define the definition of minimum success (i.e. SEO KPIs like organic traffic, keywords rankings, number of referring domains) and apply them to all pages.

Thresholds

You need to set the actual definition of success for pages that don't meet the benchmark with thresholds. So, for example, our previous page with 3 conversions and ±500 unique users does not satisfy your business needs. You set a threshold of 10 conversions and a minimum of ±1500 users. With that, you will get a clear picture of which pages you need to work on.

Again, as with benchmarks, thresholds are not limited to the top metrics. Word count, SERP rank, number of referring domains - all are fair game.

SEO content audit template

Now that you have a way to define success, it's time to develop an action plan.

Content Marketing Funnel

Keep in mind that pages at the different stages of your funnel will have different priorities for benchmarks and thresholds:

  • Top funnel pages will have higher priority on organic traffic and keyword rankings, as their primary purpose is to bring visitors from search engines to your page;
  • Mid-funnel pages will need to focus on internal links to keep the visitor on the site longer;
  • Bottom-funnel pages will focus on conversions because their primary purpose is to turn the visitor into a client or conversion.

Divide pages by these categories and indicate which metrics you're focusing on.

What Is The Action Plan For Content Audit?

The action plan for a content audit should start with building a content marketing strategy. It means deciding what content to create and which existing content should be deleted, updated, merged, or left. This is precisely what benchmarks and thresholds are for.

The content audit you conducted, and the data you extracted will allow you to easily assign your web pages to one of these four categories:

  1. Delete page;
  2. Leave page as is;
  3. Redirect or merge;
  4. Manual review.

SEO Content Audit - Step By Step

Brand rankings

Make sure that your website ranks on your brand name. If your website appears on the first organic search after all the ads - you're good to go. If not - find out what other page ranks and investigate via Ahrefs what raises it above yours.

Brand rankings - first below paid advertising

On-page audit

Let's move on to the action that's happening directly on your site. For this, you will need the Higher Visibility tool. The purpose of this is to check if your site is suitable for SERPs. Let's start with the homepage title:

  1. Go to your homepage;
  2. Right-click and choose View page source;
  3. You will see lines and lines of HTML code - don't be overwhelmed!
  4. Press CMD + F (or Ctrl+F) and enter: <title
  5. Select the title and copy it;
  6. Paste the title into the Higher Visibility tool into the title box.
  7. See if the title is not too long and shorten it to the suggested size.

Where to find the page title in the Page Source

Next, let's go over the homepage description:

  1. Go to your homepage;
  2. Right-click and choose View page source;
  3. You will see lines and lines of HTML code - don't be overwhelmed!
  4. Press CMD + F (or Ctrl+F) and enter: description
  5. Select the description and copy it;
  6. Paste the title into the Higher Visibility tool into the title box.
  7. See if the title is not too long and shorten it to the suggested size.

Finally, see how many H1 headers there are. Preferably, you need only one. If you find more than one, make sure to change them into H2 or other denominations.

  1. Go to your homepage;
  2. Right-click and choose View page source;
  3. You will see lines and lines of HTML code - don't be overwhelmed!
  4. Press CMD + F (or Ctrl+F) and enter: <h1;
  5. See how many findings it shows next to the search bar.

You can go through this process on all top pages of your website. Use Ahrefs to see which pages rank highest and make yourself a list to go through. You can find this information on the Top Pages report in Ahrefs.

Ahrefs top pages report

Alternatively, you can also go to Google Analytics to find pages with the highest traffic. Those are the ones you want to audit the most. Set a benchmark for what amount of organic traffic you aim for and select pages that pass it.

Duplicate Pages

Page copies tend to bring your website down in the eyes of SERPs. A quick run by Ahrefs Content report will show you how many duplicate content pieces there are.

Don't worry if it's a duplicate disclaimer, contact information or such. They can appear on Ahrefs in red. That is normal.

What you should worry about is the actual duplicate content like blog pages, category pages, etc.

There couple of tools you can use to identify duplicate content. The most popular is the Google Search Console:

  1. Head over to Coverage from the main GSC page;
  2. There you'll find a list of Duplicate, Google choose different canonical that user;
  3. You can view all pages, or filter every page to see where duplicates are coming from.

Google Search Console showing duplicate content

For a quick check, you can also use Copyscape - a much lighter tool:

  1. Enter your domain name into the Copyscape search bar;
  2. Look for the number of matching content;
  3. If the number is low and you see that it corresponds with disclaimers and such - you're all good;
  4. If you see dozens or hundreds of pages that match, you will need to review and determine where the problem is coming from manually. Always look to remove or redirect duplicate content.

Duplicate content list on Copyscape

Another helpful piece of information that Ahrefs can show you is thin content. Here you're looking for pages with a low word count that don't bring enough traffic or are invisible due to that. These are the pages you can look to update to meet your word count benchmark.

Organic Search Results

Before this, we covered more technical issues that appeared during the SEO content audit. Now let's dive fully into the content side of things.

Organic search results will show you what content ranks the best and worst on your website. For this, you will need either Google Analytics or you can stick with Ahrefs.

Using Google Analytics here's the quickest way to see your top pages:

  1. In your Google Analytics main page, choose Channels from the right side menu;
  2. Select Organic from the list;
  3. Choose a time frame you want to see your organic results in;
  4. Then select Landing pages;
  5. Now you will see the list of top-performing pages on your website.

With this information, you can determine pages that you should focus on. Also, it can help you choose pages that you need to improve in terms of content length, quality, keywords and so on.

We recommend running all these steps through all top-performing landing and blog pages. If they don't meet your benchmarks or thresholds, now you have a clear plan on how to move forward.

To check organic page rankings, you will need to jump back into Ahrefs.

  1. Go to the Overview page for a specific landing page;
  2. Choose the Organic traffic tab;
  3. Here you will see the organic keywords trend and the total number of keywords you're ranking on;
  4. You can run this analysis on each landing page or blog article.

Organic keyword trends on Ahrefs

This data will give you an accurate picture of your organic rankings. You can figure out which keyword each page is ranking for and determine their performance from it. Again, if they don't reach your benchmark, you can add them to the update list.

You can also do this from the other side. Enter the keyword you want to rank on and see the general trend. If it's rising - all good. If it's a downward trend or just stale - your content needs updating.

To set benchmarks for keywords, look for those that rank 3 to 5, or 5 to 10 positions. These are opportunities for rankings that you can take with good content to rank on.

Backlink Analysis

The number of domains referring to your site can significantly boost your page rankings. To check the state of your backlinks, stay with Ahrefs and follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Overview page for a specific landing page;
  2. Choose the Organic traffic tab;
  3. Inspect the referring domains graph. If the trend is upwards - all good;
  4. Now switch to the Referring domains tab on the left;
  5. Sort the domains by Domain rankings;
  6. Suppose you see a lot of high-ranking domains linking to your site - all good. If you find a lot of low-ranking domains - consider inspecting each page, removing those domains and replacing them with higher-ranked ones. Also, look for broken links and fix them.

 

Referring domains analysis on Ahrefs

Remember, your content authority depends not just on the quality of your writing or the keywords you rank on. It's also dependent on a "popular vote" by other pages referring to your domain. A good benchmark to set here is the number of backlinks and their rankings.

Content gaps

Running an analysis of your content also gives you an idea of what content is missing. Essentially, this is where you look for keywords your competitors rank on, and you don't.

You can run this check with Ahrefs:

  1. On the left side menu, you will find a Content gap tool. Select it;
  2. Enter top 3 competitors you want to check at the top and your own domain at the bottom;
  3. You will immediately see a list of keywords that you don't yet rank on;
  4. Filter out by your search volume benchmark to see which keywords should take priority;
  5. Using this list, you can put together a content plan to follow.

 

Content gap analysis input

If you're struggling with content ideas, a content gap analysis is an excellent way to get you going. From the list of keywords (as shown in the example below) you can build a full content plan.

Research what form of content your competitors use. Discuss with your copywriters and outline a simple plan and calendar to rank on these keywords.

Content gap analysis output

Plan of Action

Now you can put together a concrete roadmap of what happens next. Besides the content plan to cover the gaps, you can also work on existing pages and decide what to do with them next.

You can also read about how to put together an SEO roadmap here.

Each page should pass your established benchmarks or aim for thresholds. Here are the categories of actions you can take with your pages:

  1. Delete worthless pages. This is an excellent place to start (and arguably the easiest). If your audited pages don't bring conversions, have zero organic traffic, rank poorly and don't have any referrals - it's safe to remove them from your site and its XML sitemap. IMPORTANT: review each page before deleting it! Make sure you don't eliminate something valuable by accident!
  2. Redirect existing pages. Working with existing content is the next logical step. Here it's crucial to identify repeating content that can be turned into one big, neat piece of evergreen content. That also means content that ranks on the same keywords or covers the same topics. When redirecting, also don't forget to change all internal links and remove the page from the XML sitemap.
  3. Manually review other content. This is probably the most time-consuming process. Content that passes your benchmarks but doesn't reach your thresholds is the one you have to review and update. It's highly recommended to do this together with a copywriter to help update existing content, develop new topics for keywords and write content so good it would outrank your competitors. IMPORTANT: check CTAs on each page to make sure they are working links and are dispersed on the page logically.

The amount of pages you need to take action on

SEO Content Audit Frequency

Content audits are not a one-time action. They need to be done repeatedly to set up and follow up on a solid content strategy.

That being said, here are a couple of simple guidelines to follow when it comes to the content audit frequency:

  1. Recommended frequency is every 3 months or 6 months;
  2. The volume of your content production determines the frequency. If you push out a blog post or more a day, it would be advisable to have your content audited every quarter;
  3. If your content volume is low (several posts per month and less), a content audit twice per year is more than enough;
  4. If you have an extensive website that has never been audited, it would be a good idea to consult an agency that specializes in search engine optimization.

6 Best Tools for SEO Content Audit

Content audits are very data-intensive. It would be hard to conduct properly without some tools. There are 6 main tools the SEO specialists use to run content audits:

  1. Whatagraph. This is a monitoring and reporting tool where you can gather data from different sources and collect it in a single place. After conducting a content audit, you can produce a report with all your findings: traffic, keyword ranks, backlinks, and other data. You can also build a dashboard to monitor the changes over time;
  2. Google Search Console. The most popular free tool to use for SEO content audit. It's very functional and accessible for junior SEO specialists and experienced veterans alike;
  3. Ahrefs. We gave a lot of examples of how the SEO content audit would look like if done with Ahref. It's a very powerful tool and if used in conjunction with others - it will provide invaluable insights into the state of your SEO;
  4. Alternative to Ahrefs is Semrush. You can use either of them to achieve the same result.
  5. Google Analytics. While not strictly an SEO tool, it definitely helps during content audits. It can show you traffic channels, organic traffic trends over a long period of time, which can help determine where the content issues lie;
  6. Google Sheets or MS Excel. These are definitely not straight up SEO audit tools. But either of these will help you organize your content plan and other data that you can work on directly. Excel definitely doesn't get enough attention for the humble work it's doing to help SEO specialists do their job.

Example: Here you can see an SEO overview dashboard from Whatagraph. There are three sources connected to it: Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Ahrefs. Connect them like that and you won't need to go on each tool individually. Plus, you can see trends over time.

This is how an SEO overview looks like powered by Whatagraph

Finally, it would help if you had a team. Ideally - and at a very minimum for in-house marketing departments - you will have a senior SEO specialist, a junior SEO specialist and a copywriter. The junior specialist should focus on data gathering and aggregating. Then the senior specialist must take the final decisions and set out plans of action for every content page. Finally, the copywriter can then take over to create, update and otherwise improve content.

While an SEO content audit can be done on your own, it's much more effective to have a dedicated team around you.

Bottom Line

Performing content audits is meticulous work. It takes time and patience, sometimes a lot of manual work. But with the right SEO metrics and a bit of practice, your content audits can become streamlined and turn your entire website into a performance-driven conversion machine.

Published on Dec 07, 2021

Indrė Jankutė-Carmaciu

WRITTEN BY

Indrė Jankutė-Carmaciu

Indrė is a copywriter with an undulating passion for reading and finding gems of information. Indrė writes according to a simple motto: a picture is worth a thousand words, but somebody had to write that phrase down for us to read it.

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