Removing content to rank better – sounds counterintuitive, right? It might sound strange, but pruning content can often result in better rankings and organic traffic overall because we’re directing Google away from our low-quality pages and toward our most powerful pages instead.
This process is known as an SEO content audit, and we’ll walk you through exactly what that is, the steps and categories involved, and tools to make the whole process easier.
Let’s dive in!
An SEO content audit is a process that involves taking an inventory of your pages, evaluating their metrics, and taking action on low-performing pages. This “content spring cleaning” can help your website perform better in search engines like Google and Bing.
SEOs should consider performing a content audit because low-quality content can harm a website’s performance overall.
Low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.
Seems pretty clear! Removing or improving low-quality content can help your website perform better in search results.
If hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth wasn’t enough, many studies such as this popular example from Search Engine Journal have shown the benefits of content pruning.
Google also has finite resources to spend on your website content – don’t waste their time on low-quality pages! Make sure Googlebot’s time is spent crawling important, high-quality content.
You might want to consider performing a content audit in the following situations:
If your website is fairly new, doesn’t have much content, or is performing well organically, it’s not critical that you run through this process, but continually auditing content is a good best practice if you want to be proactive.
Content audits can reveal a lot about the state of your website. In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to find things like:
We’re trying to identify what low-quality content exists on the website and eliminate it so Google crawl budget isn’t wasted on low-quality pages.
The goal of a content audit is to find low-quality pages and improve them somehow so that we reallocate Google’s crawl toward our more powerful pages. The actions you take to address low-quality content on your website will depend as much on the type of issue you find as on your unique business goals.
For example, you might:
Again, the actions you take are highly dependent on each specific situation. Don’t worry – we’ll walk you through it!
Thankfully, Botify has a solution to make a lot of this easier.
One of the biggest benefits with Botify is that you can perform a content audit in a single tool. No jumping from tool to tool, no merging data from spreadsheets together. It’s faster and allows less room for error.
Before jumping into an audit though, you’ll want to segment your website into logical sections – usually by page type or template. This is essential for a good content audit for any website of substantial size because not only are the potential issues impacting each template different, but the content needs required to generate traffic will be vastly different for each based on the specific intent of the searcher those pages will serve.
First, we suggest comparing compliant and non-compliant URLs.
Compliant URLs are pages that:
Essentially, compliant URLs are all the URLs you want Google to be indexing from your website, and non-compliant URLs are the ones that are sending some signal to Google that they should not be in the index.
Why do this?
Before content can do what you want it to do, search engines need to be able to find and understand it as you intend.
How to fix content indexing issues:
If you find important pages listed in your non-compliant URLs, check to see why they’re not compliant. In the screenshot above, you can see an example breakdown of non-compliant reasons. Once you know the reason for non-compliance, you can fix it. For example, if an important page is marked No-Index, you can remove that tag.
On the flip side, if you find compliant URLs that should not be in the index, you can:
The option you choose will depend on the unique nature of the page.
Thin content tends to perform worse in rankings, so it’s a good idea to identify and address these pages. In Botify, you can do this by viewing pages by content size (word count).
What we love about this report is that it allows you to see the average word count of your pages, as well as distribution of page lengths by page type (such as articles). You can select “thin content” to drill down further and see a list of all pages with less than 100 words.
In many cases, thin content is coming from pages that you don’t want in the index anyway (ex: No-Index tag). What you care about is thin content that is available for indexing, which is why we like filtering this “thin content” report even further to view thin content only on compliant URLs.
Similarly, you can also view pages with mostly template content (ex: navigation menu, footer content, etc.) and very little main content by viewing the “content vs. template” report.
Why do this?
Google representatives have said that this form of content removal can actually improve your site’s performance overall. Removing or improving it in some way can result in ranking and traffic benefits.
How to fix thin content:
Find duplicate or near-duplicate content on your website by viewing the “Similarities/Duplicates” report in Botify.
In addition to pages with lots of similar content, you can view pages with similar topics.
Why do this?
Google has no duplicate content penalty, but they will try to serve up just one version of a page in search results. If your content is substantially duplicate with little-to-no added value to make it unique, it may not perform well in search engines.
How to fix duplicate content:
You can learn more in Google’s guide to addressing duplicate content.
Keyword cannibalization in SEO is when multiple pages on a website are ranking for a single keyword. This isn’t always bad. For example, some websites can hold multiple positions on page 1 for a single keyword, thereby maximizing their SERP real estate and potentially increasing the chances that someone will click on their result.
Keyword cannibalization becomes an issue when the “wrong” page from your website is ranking for a particular keyword, or both pages are ranking low for a particular keyword, and may rank higher as a combined, stronger page.
In Botify, just use Keywords Explorer to view keywords driving traffic to multiple URLs:
Why do this?
Again, it’s not always necessary to take action, but you may be competing with yourself! Combining competing pages could make the remaining page stronger and perform better in search results, as well as ensure that the best page is ranking for each query.
How to fix keyword cannibalization:
Is thin content adversely affecting your organic visits? Is content uniqueness leading to an increase in organic traffic?
While it’s important to know what pages on your website are thin, duplicate, or non-unique, that data takes on a whole new layer of meaning when you compare it to organic traffic.
In Botify, you can view the number of organic visits by page length:
Or view how the size or uniqueness of the page might be impacting organic visits:
Why do this?
Pairing content quality with organic traffic allows you to see what characteristics might be having a negative or positive effect on your performance.
For example, from this report I’m able to glean insights such as:
How to fix content with low organic traffic:
If you notice a correlation between poor content quality and organic traffic, you can take action to correct it. For example, if pages with low word count are performing worse, consider adding unique, relevant content to those pages.
While content audits have the ability to help you rank higher and get more organic traffic, deleting or otherwise removing the wrong things can have an adverse effect on your SEO performance.
How can you prevent a content audit from going sideways?
Performing a content audit doesn’t have to be a long, manual process. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself how Botify can help you audit your content and other website elements, book your demo today!