SEO

How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit

Too many people put too much focus on link building. I don’t blame them; it’s touted as the driving force behind solid rankings, and it’s too easy to get caught up in that rat race, but SEO isn’t just link building. SEO encompasses everything to improve your website’s visibility and that should start with your website itself. Building links to a faulty website is worse than not building links at all.

Adding good content to your website is one thing that’s been hammered into your head, but little attention is paid to your existing content. You may have old pages providing little to no value that are dragging your entire domain’s value down. So before you start link building, do a content audit of your entire website to pinpoint what needs to be scraped and what needs more link juice.

Step 1: Pull Your Data

First, you need to get a list of all the pages on your website. Yes. Every. Single. One. In Webmaster Central, you can download a list of your top linked-to pages, but this won’t include everything. Use a crawler like Screaming Frog to capture more. And then, manually click through your navigation to make sure you’ve captured everything. This will be labor intensive, especially if your site has been around for a while. Use an intern.

Excel is going to be your best friend for categorizing everything, and I only pull the data that I need. Here’s what it’ll start to look like:

image0013 637x106 How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit

Step 2: Find the Faults

The goal is to find the pages that aren’t providing value to your users, so the best metric to look at is going to be page views. If a page on your website didn’t get at least 100 views during the past year, put it on the chopping block. But remember that this is just data. Good data, yes, but just numbers, and anything that has to do with content should be an inherently human task. Before taking any action, you need to have a human eye on it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What purpose is the page supposed to serve?
  • Who am I trying to target with this page?
  • Is the content actually bad or is it just not visible enough?
  • Is this page telling me something I didn’t already know?

Step 3: Decide Your Plan of Attack

Now that you know what you have, figure out what you want to do with it. You have four options: Keep it as is, update and write, better promote it, or delete it. Color coding it in your spreadsheet will make it easy to quickly tell what you need to do, especially when you’re dealing with hundreds of lines of data.

image0022 How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit

Update and Rewrite: I always try to improve the content rather than wipe it clean from my index. You spent the time and effort in putting it there in the first place, so it’s likely most can be improved upon. Is the information more than a year old? Does the page talk about an outdated service or offering?

Better Promote: If the quality is good but the page views are less than stellar, you may need to just add a little more love and visibility to the page. Give the page a more prominent placement in your navigation or have a direct link off of it from your home page. Look at your In-page Analytics to get this information.

Delete: Bad content slips through the cracks, and if it’ll take too long to update and it’s not worth the effort, it’s better to bite the bullet and just call it quits. Your website has a limited amount of equity in it, so why waste it on crummy pages?

analytics, on-site factors and content development. Follow her on Twitter: @erinever.

 How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit
Erin Everhart is the director of web marketing at 352 Media Group, a web design and SEO company, where she oversees the client marketing division and the company’s own in-house SEO. She specializes in link building, analytics, on-site factors and content development. Follow her on Twitter: @erinever.
 How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit

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8 thoughts on “How to Do a Content Inventory and Audit

  1. Just installed Screaming Frog… maybe I’m missing something, but I do NOT see a “Page Views” column?!!

  2. I actually just got through a massive content scrub on one of my blogs. I deleted any old posts that talked about non-existent search engines, were under 250 words, poorly written and so forth. Then I redirected those posts on a post by post basis to other posts that I was re-optimizing and updating. It was definitely a lot of work but well worth the effort!

    1. Though time consuming, that sounds like a worthwhile way to improve the quality of any blog. All too often, people in the blogosphere (and of course the web in general) forget that quality>quantity. Hopefully the next Google update will punish people more accurately for having poor content. In the meantime, those of us who are serious about actually serving our clients the best need to make sure we’re doing so the best way possible by providing high quality content — let we be caught off-guard by the next Google update!

  3. “Build it, and they will come.” Far too many people invest more in working around Google than working WITH it. Create quality content that your audience values, and people will link to it naturally. Doing so requires you to invest a great deal of time, money and manpower into a project whose results won’t be observable until much later, but it’s still worth it. Of course link building is a valuable marketing tool so long as doing it involves building relationships and authority. Link building tactics that promote the undeserving will continue to fall by the wayside with every new Google update — hopefully they just don’t unintentionally harm quality sites along the way.

  4. Whoa nelly.

    Prior to my joining my current company, this had been the strategy of our SEO. Unfortunately, I think that this can be one of the absolute WORST tactics out there. It is akin to activity based costing in the accounting world where there is some silly assumption that if you cull the bad products from your product line, you will some how miraculously become profitable. Try to find a single company that worked for.

    Imagine this scenario – you have an auto site. On this site are both low end (and high demand) cars that cost under $20,000 and some high end (low demand) cars that cost $80,000. We certainly know that the market for the latter is going to be much smaller than for the former. If we start culling pages because they have under some threshold of page views, we’re going to end up with a increasingly smaller and smaller site. Users will start showing up and a few will think – gee, I wonder how comprehensive their information happens to be? What they don’t have this or that product. Maybe this site really isn’t as comprehensive as I thought – exit. Essentially what you are creating is an analogy of only putting your top products on the shelf. That’s silly. Imagine if Amazon or Wikipedia took this tactic. I could just see Wikipedia saying, let’s cull all our pages that don’t get 100 visits a month or something similar. Wikipedia would be a whole lot smaller and then trust would zipline right out the door. Or imagine if Dictionary.com starting taking words out of the english language. Or financial sites started eliminating information on very small companies.

    The answer isn’t to kill the baby, its to understand and view your pages as a portfolio and understand the return on investment of those pages as a portfolio. If you start trimming the lower viewed pages out there, you will start losing visitors to your higher viewed pages. Maybe not from an SEO perspective, but from an exit rate perspective. Once this starts to cycle, the problem will lead to an SEO implosion.

    I would recommend being smarter about your taxonomy. Perhaps you need to combine content on lower performing pages in order to improve relevancy. Maybe you need to improve your navigation to that content. Maybe you should think about merchandising your content better. Perhaps you should think about canonical tags, no follows and no indexes – but please, please don’t just think that the best way to improve your SEO is to kill your low viewed pages – particularly if they serve to create comprehensiveness and trust.