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SEO Basics 4. How to perform an SEO content audit

Learn how to perform an SEO content audit in this fourth instalment of our SEO Basics series.

A content audit is a vital part of any SEO strategy. It helps you understand what’s gone before so you can build on it and identify gaps in your content strategy. In this post, we’re going to look at how to perform an SEO content audit, from the tools to use and what to do with the results.

How to perform an SEO content audit: Table of contents

  1. What is an SEO content audit?
  2. Why is an SEO content audit important?
    i. Do I need to do a content audit if I’ve never published content before?
  3. How to perform an SEO content audit
    i. Find out what pages exist on your website
    ii. Retrieve user and performance data for each page
    iii. Make sense of your data
    iv. Plan your content
        a. Plug content gaps
        b. Update old/underperforming content
        c. Consider your keyword strategy
        d. Remove unhelpful content
  4. How often should you do an SEO content audit?

What is an SEO content audit?

A content audit is a fundamental part of any SEO strategy. Using a range of SEO content audit tools, you can uncover content that has previously been published on your site, as well as how well it has performed with readers and in the SERPs (search engine results pages). It will also show you any areas you’ve overlooked.

Depending on the tools you use, a content audit can show you the following metrics:

  • Number of pages on your site that are already indexed by Google
  • Best performing pages in terms of visits, dwell time and conversions
  • Lowest-performing pages
  • Pages with no or few backlinks
  • Page load speeds
  • Page titles and meta descriptions as they appear in the SERPs
  • Number of words and headings on pages

A content audit requires a little time but it also needs access to a few tools to run some keyword research, which we’ll come onto later.

Why is an SEO content audit important?

You wouldn’t build a bridge without first surveying the surrounding environment. Think of your content as a bridge to your audience or customer base – you don’t want to start writing without first understanding what previous messaging you’ve put out.

Closeup photo of someone obtaining search metrics - How to perform an SEO content audit - Copify blog 3

This is especially important if you’re taking over a marketing department or picking up content marketing after an absence. A content audit can refresh your mind about what activity has already been done so you don’t rehash old ground, or if you do, you have specific goals for doing so.

A content audit is an important step in connecting with your audience. Overall you should be aiming to find out:

  • Pages already being indexed and which are not
  • Content that performs well (or not so well) with search engines and humans
  • Pages that have broken or redirected URLs
  • Gaps in your content strategy

Do I need to do a content audit if I’ve never published content before?

If you’ve never put content out before, you’re at an advantage in that you can skip this step and go straight to reading how to put together an effective Google SEO strategy, or how to write SEO content.

Even if that’s the case, it still pays to take some time to consider your brand messaging and how you want to communicate to your audience. For that, you might want to check out our Brand Essentials series.

How to perform an SEO content audit

Follow our template to find out how to perform an SEO content audit.

1. Find out what pages exist on your website

There are a few ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to download a tool called Screaming Frog.

Screaming Frog is a desktop-based crawler that can be used to scan your website and give you a complete list of all the pages found. Note it can only crawl up to 500 URLs/pages on one search using the free version, so if your website is larger than this you may need a more sophisticated tool.

The screenshot below shows an example of how Screaming Frog presents the information about individual pages:

Screenshot of Screaming Frog - How to perform an SEO content audit - Copify blog

Using Screaming Frog

  1. Once installed, open Screaming Frog and log in/set up an account
  2. Add your URL and select HTML in the filter option below ‘Internal’
  3. Click ‘Start’
  4. Filter by HTML & Export to CSV or Excel file

This gives you a list of all the pages on your site.

You can also use your XML sitemap if you have one set up (and we recommend you do). A sitemap does not present metrics you can use but it can be compared against data from other tools to ensure your pages are being indexed properly.

Using your sitemap

  1. Log in to your CMS and export your sitemap. Or use Screaming Frog, setting the option to sitemaps and crawling.
  2. You can also find it manually by entering the following in your browser search bar enter: www.URL/sitemap_index.xml
  3. From here you can find your main pages displayed as a ‘document tree’ or a clickable index
  4. Highlight and copy the pages and paste them into a spreadsheet
  5. Sort by URL A to Z and do a find and delete to eliminate the HTML

2. Retrieve user and performance data for each page

Once you have your inventory of pages you need to run some analysis to retrieve data about how each one is performing both in search and with users.

Using Screaming Frog

If you used Screaming Frog, you will have exported this already. The first thing to do is to sort by Status Code high > low. Those with a 200 response code are being indexed, but anything with a 301 or 404 indicates a problem.

Using Google Analytics

You can use Google Analytics to obtain performance data about your indexed pages:

  1. Login to your Google Analytics account
  2. Select the website you want to audit from the top left menu
  3. Navigate to ‘Behaviour’ in the left-hand menu
  4. Select ‘Site Content’ > then open ‘All Pages’ in the sub-menu
  5. In the top right you can select a date range – this will depend on when you last did an audit but use three months as a ball-park
  6. In the drop-menu below your data, set the displayed number of rows to around the max pages you have

This will display your top-performing pages by the number of views in descending order

You can use the data here to understand the amount of time people spend on these pages, the bounce rate and their value to you.

You can export this data to Excel or CSV to delve into further.

3. Make sense of your data

This is the time-consuming part, but luckily for you, it’s also the most rewarding. We would recommend using all of these tools side by side so you can get a better overview of how well your pages are performing in the search results.

Using Screaming Frog

With Screaming Frog you can get an idea of the technical aspect of your pages, including:

  • Meta data for each page
  • Titles and headings on-page
  • Word count
  • Internal links (‘inlinks’) and external links (‘outlinks’)
  • Page response time

Screenshot of dataset downloaded from Screaming Frog - How to perform an SEO content audit - Copify Blog

Using Google Analytics

With Google Analytics, you can gauge:

  • Number of organic traffic and sessions per page
  • Bounce rate
  • Session duration
  • Conversions and revenue (if tracking is enabled)

What to look for

First off, you’ll want to check your data for a few technical details:

  • That all sitemap URLs are being indexed by Google
  • Remove or fix non-indexable URLs (301s, 404s etc) from your sitemap
  • Identify important URLs missing from your sitemap
  • Identify poorly performing pages in Google Analytics

Next, you’ll want to check your pages against the technical metrics you have from Screaming Frog to identify areas for improvement.

Consider the following:

  • Whether the page title and headings are a good match for the content on the page
  • That you have enough content – we usually recommend at least 500 words for web pages and 1000 words for blog posts
  • Ensuring meta data and alt tags are optimised
  • All pages load quickly – anything longer than 3 seconds needs reviewing
  • Optimising link building opportunities in general – both internal and external

4. Plan your content

Once you know what content has already been published, what is performing well and what needs a hand, you can plan your content strategy around this.

Closeup photo of someone typing web page copy - How to perform an SEO content audit - Copify blog

Plug content gaps

If you haven’t published blog content on a certain theme or topic, or you are missing crucial landing page content to capture and convert customers using certain keywords, you can start planning this into your calendar.

Update old/underperforming content

If you can see some older content isn’t performing as well, you need to plan to revisit this and update/improve the content and layout on that page. It could simply be tweaks to headers and images, or you may want to lengthen and reoptimise the content for a target keyword.

Find out more about updating old content next week.

Consider your keyword strategy

As you can see, keyword research is a crucial part of an SEO audit – it should work hand in hand with the data you are getting about how well your existing content and website is functioning. From here, you know whether you are hitting the keywords you want to be found for in your strategy, or if you need to create pages and posts around these.

Remove unhelpful content

If you think existing pages simply aren’t helping your SEO efforts, you may wish to delete them and start again.

Remember, once you make any changes to your site, resubmit your pages for indexing via Google Search Console or other search engines. You can find out how to do this on Ahrefs.

How often should you do an SEO content audit?

The answer to this varies. Some sites will only need an audit every few months, others may require one monthly or even weekly. You’ll be able to determine your needs based on your content volume and frequency of publishing, as well as practical matters such as the size of your team and resources.

The most important thing is that you audit your content before starting any new strategy and that you check in with it periodically to eliminate obvious errors.

✏️  Join us next week when we’ll walk you through how to update your old content in the SEO Basics series.

Also in the SEO Basics series…

1. What does SEO content writing mean?

2. How to write SEO optimised content that gets you ranking in Google

3. Learn how to create an effective Google SEO content strategy [with template]


Header image: Sincerely Media

Embedded images: Myriam Jessier, Screenshot of Screaming Frog, Screenshot of collated data, NeONBRAND 

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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