It’s true that content is king. But for small businesses, is there such a thing as too much content?
Nowadays there’s no shortage of business websites with an accompanying blog, filled with articles chock-full of keywords—all meant to draw in prospective customers from a Google search.
It’s gotten to the point that just about every possible search term has been turned into an article, designed to point you back to a company page.
Generally speaking, that’s a good thing. Search engine optimization experts will tell you that you need a site with content related to your field or industry, with primary and secondary keywords, proper formatting, and working links to other pages (either to your site or otherwise).
But it’s possible to go too far. Some blogs have become content mills, churning out blog posts on topics only tangentially related to their business in the hopes of scooping up the odd reader and converting them into a customer.
And why not? It’s not like your web host can’t handle yet another post on “Why you need to clean your pool” (as opposed to “How to clean your pool,” “What’s the best time of day to clean your pool?” and “What tools do you need to clean your pool?”). It’s the internet—there’s plenty of room.
As it turns out, Google is wise to sites that create weak content, and docks them accordingly. So not only are you wasting time if you’re creating unnecessary or unhelpful articles, but you may be hurting your traffic as a result.
That’s where a (potentially very cheap) website hack like a content audit can come in handy.
What Is a Content Audit?
Content audit: It’s not the most lovable phrase. Instead, think of a content audit as essentially editing and strengthening your website.
Once you publish articles to your site, they aren’t set in stone. You’re allowed to revise. By revisiting your web pages and analyzing them to see how they’re performing, you can repurpose your site’s content—as well as alter the site’s structure—to maximize potential
Basically, it’s a way to balance that age-old struggle: quality versus quantity.
A lot of times, a content audit is mainly about finding out how much of your content is “weak” (not pulling in readers, a low click-through rate, etc.) and either deleting it entirely, combining it with other articles to form stronger content, or redirecting visitors to a better page on your site.
“A thorough audit will prune thin and unrelated content from the site so that Google can quickly crawl and categorize the site,” says Megan Clarke, the CEO of SEO firm Clapping Dog Media.
According to Clarke, Google’s ability to crawl a site is crucial to its job of figuring out where exactly that site belongs on the web.
“The [Google] bot reads the site title, main nav, page content, blog categories, headlines, and posts,” Clarke tells Fundera. “If the site claims to be about health and wellness but has content that is unrelated to health and wellness, then Google is confused and doesn’t know how to categorize the site—is it about health and wellness or about something else? If Google is unclear about what the focus of the site is, it will not place the site high on search result pages.”
Could My Content Be Hurting My SEO?
It might seem counterintuitive that having a lot of content on your blog is actually dragging down your traffic, but assuming you don’t run the perfect blog (and who is?), it’s a possibility.
The Google algorithm is like the Coca-Cola formula: We can’t say for sure what it is, but we have an idea of what goes into it. And Google likes sites that produce fresh, helpful content.
If you’ve been producing content that is a clear traffic grab—dominated by too many of the same keywords, hardly optimized with accurate meta descriptions, etc.—then it’s possible that Google is penalizing you.
You might also find that by producing two (or more) articles with similar content, including keywords, that you’re pitting them against each other, not allowing one to flourish and carry the traffic.
Another issue that business blogs often don’t consider is the structure of their site.
“Google wants to provide the most relevant web page to the searcher. If a site has a lot of unrelated pages that aren’t organized well, then Google moves on and finds another site that is more clearly defined,” says Clarke.
That means having somewhere between 8-14 categories, and making sure that the content in each category is well-suited to that theme. Otherwise, your site will be a mess, and readers (and Google) will know it.
How to Perform a Content Audit
A content audit doesn’t require enlisting an outside service—though, as with most things, it can pay to let a professional handle things for you.
If you want to do it on your own, you’ve got options. Here’s a rundown of the most basic and general content audit:
Step 1: Collect the data.
The first step is to build a list of all your webpages and compile metrics on them. You can do this manually, or download a third-party tool like Screaming Frog or Content Insight. These tools crawl your site and gather information like headline length, word count, text ratio, and way more (depending on whether or not you get the paid versions of these tools).
This list is best suited for a spreadsheet, which can include as many as two dozen unique variables for you to compare. Those variables include meta description, images, external links, bounce rate, entrances, exits, average time on page, and more.
Step 2: Make sense of the data.
Step two is to analyze and score your pages. Obviously, your best-scoring pages are the ones with the most traffic, and your worst-scoring pages have the fewest visitors.
The question is, what is the reasoning behind each page’s traffic numbers?
“During the analysis phase, try to look for patterns and data behavior for the metrics you have collected,” says Lucy Kirkness, director of SEO consultancy Pandable. “For example, are the meta titles for product pages under-optimized or too short? Try to understand what content might trigger a penalty, be it due to low quality, lack of relevance, or duplicate content.”
Step 3: Take action, armed with the data.
Your goal here is tomove your content into three categories: You can either keep your content as it is, improve it (and there are a couple of ways to do that), or remove it.
Keeping your best-performing content is a no-brainer, and you should model all of your future content on these articles, since you’ve clearly hit on a good formula.
Improving your content might mean altering your weaker posts on the back-end (such as optimizing metadata or fixing broken links) or the front-end (adding images, proofreading, or expounding on what you already wrote).
You can also repurpose middling posts by combining them with other, similar posts to create stronger overall content. Taking the pool cleaning example from earlier—if you’ve got a bunch of similar articles, why not fuse them together to create a one-stop shop for all things pool cleaning?
You might find that a post is getting a lot of impressions (a fancy word for hits) but isn’t ranking high in Google Search. That’s a good sign that your page is on the verge of performing well—it just might need to be improved.
Finally, some content isn’t worth hanging on to if it’s performing very poorly. Maybe it’s blog content you wrote early on in your career, or it doesn’t have much to do with what your business actually does. Feel free to delete these pages and use a plugin like Yoast (if you use WordPress) to automatically redirect visitors who stumble upon those zombie links.
What Are the Benefits?
As mentioned above, having a bunch of poorly performing articles can actually hurt the overall numbers that visit your site—so just getting rid of those should provide a boost—if experimental web content blogs are to be believed.
But performing a content audit will also help point you in the right direction going forward. Once you have an idea of what helps your blog attract users, you can follow that formula to continued success.
So, What’s the ROI?
When it comes to SEO, most people are (rightfully) mainly concerned with whether their efforts will increase visitors and whether those visitors will convert to customers.
Because SEO is hardly an exact science and is based on potentially hundreds of factors, it can be hard to say for sure exactly how much you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. It’s also hard to know the timeline for payoff, as SEO efforts can take longer to show results than other methods.
But according to Clarke, “As a general rule I tell clients that the sweet spot for seeing real results from their SEO efforts is between four to six months. At this time I expect to see their organic search numbers increase 5-15% and the overall number of keywords that drive organic search is up 10-15% as well.”
If part of your revenue is based on advertising, or affiliate links, or digital products that require people getting their eyeballs on your offerings, then this visitor boost should also help the bottom line. It will hopefully also mean more conversions into sales as well.
Like tax audits, content audits aren’t sexy or particularly fun. But conducting them regularly is a good way to maximize your blog’s best content, eliminate what isn’t working, and create a more efficient and profitable site.
Luckily, there are plenty of free or inexpensive tools you can use to either conduct the audit in its entirety or acquire the data so that you can run the audit on your own. So, hurry up and start seeing how to bolster your web presence today.