How To Audit Your Website Content

Can your website do with a spring clean?

by andrew

“Does your website need a spring clean?”

This is something that I’ve started asking my clients as a result of one of the interesting things to come out of the recent Google algorithm updates (Panda), i.e.  the increased importance that Google is now giving to ALL the content on your website.

It looks like Google are now really delving deep into websites to check whether all the content is of high quality and relevance to the readers of the niche you are catering to. If any of your previous posts are perceived as being poor quality, stale or outdated, Google will take note of this and will downgrade the overall ranking of your website.

So what can you do to prevent this?

One of the tactics I highly recommend is implementing a regular content audit. The main goals of this audit should be to:

  • Identify and delete any low quality or irrelevant posts and pages;
  • Identify any posts or pages that can be tweaked or improved;
  • Identify opportunities to improve your overall website rankings by using your link equity, internal anchor text and content interlinking strategies.

There are 3 main steps that I follow when I perform these audits for myself and my clients, and it has proved to be very effective in pruning out the ‘dead wood’ from a website and improve the overall ranking.

Step 1. Gather Your Website Data

The first thing you need to do is to get an overall picture of your website in terms of numbers of pages,  number of inbound links and amount of visitors each page receives.

Luckily, if you’ve setup your website with Google’s Webmaster Central, you can easily extract a listing of all your pages along with the number of links for each of those pages into a spreadsheet. The next thing you’ll need to do is add an additional column for the number of page views over a specific time period – I usually use a time frame of 12-18 months.

Depending on the size of your website, collating all this data can take some time. This is the sort of work that is perfect for outsourcing. I normally assign this sort of stuff to my outsourcers in the Phillipines, but you can just as easily assign this task to someone via Odesk for a small fee. Websites with around 1000 pages will normally cost you about $50 and will take around 24-48 hours.

Step 2. Identify Any Low Performing Pages

Once I receive the data from step 1, I start by trying to identify all the low performing pages. The two main things I look for when identifying these pages are how many links does the post/page have and how much traffic did it generate over the past 12-18 months.

Generally, any page that generates less than 100 unique page views and/or has less than 25 external back links over this period is a prime candidate for deletion.

Step 3. The Big Decision – Do I Delete or Rewrite?

Once I’ve gone through and deleted all the obvious low performing pages, I’m left with a list of pages that may have still generated a low number of links or traffic, but have shown that they may still have some potential left in them. It’s these pages,  that with a bit of attention and tweaking, may still be able to generate some good results. This is where you need to make some tough decisions.

If a page has generated either a lot of links or a lot of traffic (but not both), it’s a fairly easy decision. I usually leave the page intact, but look at ways to improve it. In most cases, the page just needs a little updating. One of the best tools I have found to be useful for this is ScribeSEO. This WordPress plugin gives you an overall analysis of the page and provides you with some quick recommendations on how to improve it.

If a page hasn’t generated a significant number of links or traffic, that’s when it becomes a bit more difficult to decide what to do. In some cases, whilst the page was current at the time it was written, things have moved on so the content is now outdated, obsolete and irrelevant. If the page falls into this category, it’s probably best to put it out of it’s misery and simply delete it.

In other cases, the subject matter of the page whilst outdated, may justify the effort required to rewrite it and make it relevant to today’s environment.

A third option is to pull content out of several related poor performing pages and combine them into a new, consolidated single page.

In all cases, you should also focus some of your efforts into creating and updating your anchor text and internal linkages wherever possible.

I’m often asked – “Why Should You Delete Old Posts or Pages?”

At first glance, deleting poor performing old posts or pages sounds a bit drastic. After all, you’ve spent so much time and effort creating these pages, so why not just let them sit where they are?

I only recently came across the answer to this question in the form of link equity.

Link equity is the concept whereby each website only has a certain amount of links, trust and authority coming into it, and that this link equity can only support a certain number of pages.

For example, it’s impossible for a brand new website with only a few links to have thousands of pages in the index. There are simply not enough signals of quality for search engines to pick up on that would warrant them to support anything more than a quick crawl through the site.

Google in particular is becoming extremely sophisticated and won’t be easily tricked into giving a high ranking to a site that doesn’t actually have the content to back up it’s claim to a high status. In short, Google will know if your website can actually ‘walk-the-walk’.

A lot of my clients look at me in disbelief at the mere mention of deleting their old posts. They have spent so much time generating this content that they are sometimes reluctant to make the hard decisions and delete their poor performing posts. It sometimes takes a fair bit of persuasion before they realise that this is in the best interests for the long term performance of their website and their online business.

Don’t Forget To Backup and Redirect!!

Deleting information on your website is fraught with danger. Always, always make sure you have backups before you even think of deleting any of your posts.

WordPress keeps a copy of any deleted posts for around 30 days when you delete it so you can always get it back.

The other thing to remember when deleting posts with lots of internal links to other posts/pages on your website is that you will need to setup redirections. Make sure that you identify as best you can any potential broken links that will occur before you delete the post. Redirect these links to other similar posts/pages on your website or a relevant page on an external website.

Also make sure you capture any 404 errors and ensure that these are redirected as well. There are some excellent redirect plugins you can install for the WordPress platform that will take care of these 404 and redirections automatically. The key is to make sure that deleting your posts or pages will not leave any link ‘orphaned’. Google hates this sort of thing and will penalise you heavily for your perceived low attention to detail.

Summary

So to recap, it’s essential that you need to perform a content audit on your website at least every 12-18 months to ensure that your website isn’t being adversely affected by low performing content.

You can achieve this by following these steps:

  • Make a list of all your site pages, showing all the associated inbound links and traffic stats for the past 12-18 months;
  • Identify and delete the worst of the poor performing pages;
  • Of the remaining pages, decide which ones could benefit from a bit of tweaking to improve their performance, which ones need a rewrite, or which ones need deleting;
  • Consider consolidating the content from several poor performing pages into a single page for improved performance;
  • Make sure everything is backed up BEFORE you delete anything;
  • Setup redirections for any deleted pages, monitoring any 404 errors and redirect as required.

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