How to Conduct a Successful Website Content Audit With AI
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Most marketers aren't aware of this, but a content audit is one of the best ways to achieve fast results.
A content audit helps you identify underperforming, old, or outdated pages. Armed with this knowledge, you can pretty quickly get more organic traffic and conversions and keep your website looking fresh and vibrant.
Auditing your content regularly will let you:
- Determine whether or not it’s helping you achieve your goals
- Help ensure your content is valuable, up-to-date and accurate
- Help you figure out what works best for your target audience and industry, and what doesn’t.
In this guide, I break down how to perform a content audit in 5 easy steps. I also share what to do after the audit is completed.
Step 1: Take inventory of your content (build a sitemap)
Now you’ll need to collect all the URLs and export them to a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets.
There are a few ways of doing this depending on the size of your website.
First, you can use your website’s sitemap.
It’s usually located at yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. If not, you should be able to find the URL in yourwebsite.com/robots.txt. As a last resort, check Google Search Console > Indexing.
Second, you can use Google Search Console > Search Results > Pages.
This method, however, only shows up to 1000 URLs, including those with parameters (e.g. yourwebsite.com/article#paragraph3).
Third, you can use an SEO tool. Ahrefs has a good website checker tool that’s free to use. You can use the page explorer tool in their site audit section to download the URLs.My tool of choice for content audits audits is Screaming Frog. You can connect to Search Console, Google Analytics, and Ahrefs via an easy-to-use API interface. This provides all the metrics you will need for your content audit in one place.
Screaming Frog is great for larger websites, although there is a bit of a learning curve. It’s also free for up to 500 URLs.
Step 2: Define your goals and collect your data
Before starting your content audit, you’ll need to collect some key information about your website’s performance.
Start by finding this data as outlined below, then export it into your sitemap spreadsheet (see above). In the end, you should have a spreadsheet with the following columns:
URL | Organic Search Traffic | Bounce rate | Dwell time | Click-through Rate | Backlinks | Social Shares
2.1 Old/Outdated content.
Our point of interest here is the publishing date. For older pages, you may be able to find this in the URL. Otherwise, you’ll want to check the title.
2.2 Pages with low organic traffic.
Here, check the “clicks” metric in Search Console. A good tip is to set the date range to the past year. This is because content can take several months to settle in Google’s index. You’ll likely find published pages with yearly traffic below 100 hits, and quite a few that haven’t received any this year over the last year.
2.3 Pages that fail to keep visitors engaged.
Getting traffic to your website is only half the battle. Signups and purchases require user engagement. You can check this by looking at bounce rate and dwell time.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing just one page.
Dwell time is how long a reader spends on a page.
Both can be found in Google Analytics (Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens).
2.4 Pages with low click-through rate
Click-through rate (CTR) is a measure of the number of people that see your search result and click it in Google Search. Increasing your CTR will also increase your organic traffic.
Industry standards range from 5.17% for B2B to 11.43% for Arts and Entertainment. The average CTR across industries is 6.64% Check out this study by CXL.com for your industry’s average, and aim to bea that.
You can find your average CTR in Google Search Console, and get a breakdown per URL.
2.5 Pages that are not getting links or social shares
The data’s a little harder to get for social shares. Websites like sharedcount.com let you bulk upload a limited number of URLS for free. If you have a social share counter on your website, you can get this data by manually inspecting each page—although this takes more time.
Step 3: Assess your content, divide and conquer
Let’s recap the process so far.
- You’ve imported all the URLs in Google Sheets or Excel
- You’ve identified your goals and gathered all the metrics you need to identify problem pages
The next step is each URL, line by line, and complete the spreadsheet. To do this, analyze the performance of the URL against your goals (e.g. increase traffic or engagement), and decide what to do with each page.
Generally, you’ll divide URLs into four categories:
- Keep - Content that’s performing well.
- Update - Content that could be performing better or whose subject matter is now outdated.
- Redirect (301) - If a page has quality backlinks but is outdated, you may choose to redirect to a newer page. Ditto if two pages are “cannibalizing” each other (see below).
- Delete - Pages that have poor content, poor metrics, or are outdated and not worth updating. A few case studies have shown that deleting old content increases site-wide organic traffic significantly. Be sure to check for any internal links pointing to these pages. They will become broken once the page is removed and so will need to be changed/removed.
Place these in a color-coded drop down menu for ease of reference, adding notes for your own (or your team’s) benefit.
Step 4: Take Action
After you have completed the spreadsheet, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you need to do next.
4.1 Prioritize, Assign, Optimize
How you prioritize the pages and actions to take first will depend on what you’re hoping to achieve.
For example, if you want to increase organic traffic, start by deleting the worst performers and updating the most promising articles. If you want to improve social shares, sort the sheet by the relevant metric and start working through pages with decent sharing metrics—somewhere in the top 50% to 25%.
If you’re working on a team, assign out tasks to the relevant person. Be sure not to remove content from a website without running it past the person who published it. If you’re working alone, prioritizing will be all the more important.
Here are some things you can do to optimize pages you plan to keep or update:
4.1.1. Expand, reuse and combine content
Google will show what people want or expect to see. Your page might not rank well because it doesn’t fully answer the search query. It might also be missing some of the related keywords Google expects to see.
If the top 10 is full of 3,000-word “How To” articles, your 1,000-word review will struggle to rank.
If you have multiple, short articles on the same topic, combine these into a comprehensive guide.
Likewise, if two pages are “cannibalizing” each other—that is, they treat a similar topic and are pulling traffic from one another—you should keep the top performer, move any missing content to it, then redirect the low performer to the updated page.
You can check your content using a free browser plugin like SEO minion. Compare your header tags with the top search results to see if anything’s missing.
This study by Semrush demonstrates that articles with 3,000+ words get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x as many backlinks.
4.1.2. Refresh and restructure
Be sure the information on your pages and articles is up-to-date. Adding relevant new statistics, trends, industry news and research can quickly improve the quality of an article. You can use Wordtune Spices to grab interesting statistics on virtually any topic and add them into your articles.
In addition, make sure your article is well structured and divided up with appropriate headings (e.g. H2, H3, H4). These not only make for a more enjoyable reading experience, they help Google identify relevant sections of the article to present to readers.
Write with short sentences, short paragraphs, and include plenty of white space. Readers don’t go through an article start-to-finish; they scan. So make this easy for them with headings and by breaking up text into digestible chunks. Using bullet-points and numbered lists is great for this, too.
Finally, make sure your content is accessible and easy to read. The average American reads at a Grade 9 reading level, so this is a good target. You can use Wordtune to simplify your language, break up complex sentences, improve flow, and more.
4.1.3. Double-check your title and meta data
Changing a page title can be a quick SEO win. Check to see how your title compares. Does it use the main keyword? Are any common words missing? Does it have a call-to-action? Let the top search results guide you.
Likewise, ensure your meta description accurately reflects your page. Keep it below 155 characters or use a tool like metatags.io to ensure it displays correctly on Google and other platforms. If you need help condensing down your meta description, use Wordtune’s “Shorten'' feature.
4.1.4. Add and update images and videos
Images and videos make your content more visually appealing by breaking up text, providing context, and offering different ways for readers to learn about the article’s topic. They also increase the likelihood of your article appearing in a SERP feature.
Also, make sure there are no broken images or videos on your website. Users and Google hate these.
4.2 Create A Change Log
Mistakes happen. And sometimes, changing a page title or adding content can have the opposite effect to what you expected.
Keeping a change log helps you keep track of everything and reverse course should this occur. You can add this as another column in your spreadsheet.
4.3 Submit Page Changes To Search Console
If your website has a lot of Domain Authority, Google is likely crawling it on a daily basis and will notice changes quickly. However, if your website isn't an authority in your niche, you can use Search Console to submit URLs to be re-indexed.
4.4 Track the changes
Track the changes to determine the effectiveness of your content audit. That is, run the metrics in Step 2 again. Sometimes you can see the effects of changing page titles in 7-10 days.
For content changes, it could be several weeks or even a few months before the changes take effect. I recommend waiting a maximum of three months to see the full impact of your audit.
Step 5: Learn & Repeat
Use what you’ve learned to create better content in the future. Look carefully at the pages from your audit that were working well, and which changes you made had the biggest impact on improving metrics. Learn from these to ensure the content you create in the future is always of the best possible quality and works well for your target audience.
Be sure to regularly perform content audits. There is always room for improvement, and public opinion and expectations can change radically and quickly. Regular content audits, every six months or so, will help ensure you’re spending your time and energy where it matters most.
A content audit can give you the necessary insights to improve search traffic, increase audience engagement, and remove old or outdated blog posts.
It’s a versatile form of analysis that can measure the effectiveness of your content strategy and establish if you’re getting a good return on investment.
I recommend performing an audit every six months or so. This aligns with the Google Core Algorithm updates that cause great fluctuations in the search results.
Finally, ensure your content is accessible, valuable, and well-written. You can use a writing assistance like Wordtune to improve structure and flow, simplify language, add useful analogies and examples, and more.