If your website never took off, your content is nowhere to be found in the SERPs (search engine results pages), or you’ve seen a gradual drop in organic traffic, the problem could be thin or outdated content. If this is the case, the solution may be to review, refresh, and republish your website content to improve your performance in the search results. Updating old content also improves your chances of converting unaware prospects into lifelong clients. Compelling, current content is powerful!
(And to learn more on creating compelling content, check out our newest post on SEO-rich content that’s also written for humans!)
Our Approach to Content Audits
At Hennessey Digital, our content audit project has produced awesome results for our clients. The content audit project was spearheaded by our Vice President of SEO Marian Mursa, who had the following to say about improving content performance:
If you write a paper for school and you get an A+, then go back and read it three weeks later, you will find ways to make it better. Search results should help people, and their needs are sometimes changing. There is no way you can create perfect content on the first try.
According to Marian, even if your content is near-perfect when it was initially published, circumstances may change six months later. This can leave you wondering why a page is suddenly not performing the way it used to.
Updating old content, improving underperforming content, or repurposing content into an easily digestible format can breathe new life into it, build loyalty and brand awareness, and increase your client base.
But what exactly does a content audit entail?
What Is a Content Audit?
Our content audit leverages a simple four-step process to help our clients climb in the SERPs, drive more traffic, and most importantly, it doesn’t require the production of new content — it’s simply working with the content you already have at your fingertips.
At a high level, our Content Audit is the process of:
1) Organizing all available assets into a content inventory,
2) Analyzing page-level performance data,
3) Prioritizing underperforming content to improve, and
4) Optimizing those pages for user experience (UX) and SEO.
While I can’t share Hennessey Digital’s secret sauce for how we go about executing this process, here are a few quick and easy ways you can improve your underperformers, outdated posts, or low-quality pieces:
- Adding photos, videos, infographics, and other creative elements
- Improving the content and adding additional information
- Adding or improving internal and external links through link-building and information architecture optimization.
During a content audit , you will evaluate your existing content to see if there are any areas you can improve, rather than making the all-too-common mistake of piling even more pages on top of existing pages that have fundamental flaws.
4 Reasons Your Website Content Needs to Be Updated
So now you know what a content audit is, but how do you know if your website needs one?
Check out these four reasons content often needs to be updated and see if they apply to your website.
Your content isn’t giving people the answers they are looking for.
It’s easy to get so focused on ranking that you end up writing to Google instead of to the readers. Sure, you’ve done your SEO research, and you’ve got your keywords in place, but are you hitting the pain points of the target audience you’re hoping to reach?
If you have web pages that are underperforming, think about what your customers’ needs are and how your knowledge, products, or services can solve them. If your content doesn’t already achieve this, it’s time to perform a content audit.
When you are auditing content, it is absolutely crucial to ensure you have a clear picture of your customers’ pain points and express empathy for those common issues to connect with readers on an emotional level.
Above all, you must provide real solutions to those problems and pain points, helping the reader move to the next stage of the funnel and ultimately nurturing them along the path to conversion. In other words, providing solutions within your content is everything.
Providing information that helps people will keep them coming back to your website. Even if they aren’t ready to make a purchase today, they will think of you when they are ready in the future. You will also build authority in your industry in the process, and Google will reward you for it.
Your content isn’t search-optimized.
By this same token, it is also easy to do the opposite, which is to focus entirely on writing to your audience and forgetting to make sure your content is also optimized for SEO. Even “thank you” page optimization matters.
Making sure your content is optimized without keyword stuffing can make a measurable difference when it comes to your ranking position in the SERPs.
The most crucial step in ensuring your pages are optimized for search engines is making sure they meet Google’s standards, including taking their core updates into account. At least for the time being, search is Google’s world, and we’re just living in it.
It’s worth taking the time to read through Google’s Quality Rater’s Guidelines (QRG) to make sure your website’s content is compliant, sends the right signals to Google’s crawler and search quality raters, and demonstrates Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T).
Another part of making sure your content is search-optimized is overhauling your title tags and meta descriptions. Take a look at your competitors’ first page search results, taking note of what search terms they used to get there. And if you’re with a law firm, don’t forget to check out Jason Hennessey’s law firm SEO book for next-level tips.
Your content is outdated.
We all know what it’s like to search for information on a topic, click on the first result that comes up, and end up discovering that the information is years out of date. When this happens, people will quickly click away from the site in search of current information—and Google pays attention to signals like that.
Signals like this clearly tell Google: “That webpage did not satisfy searcher task accomplishment,” or “That content failed to “match intent to content” and they will act accordingly by demoting your page further down the SERPs.
If your website isn’t performing the way you want it to, do an inventory of your content to see if there is any outdated information you can revamp to bring it up to date. Be sure to update the date on any blog posts or headers when applicable to reflect the changes.
Another time-sensitive reason you may need a content reassessment is that your industry or target audience has changed, but your content didn’t change with it. Sometimes, everyone else already knew there was no basement at the Alamo and you’re the last to find out. The important thing is, now that you know, it’s time to update your content to reflect that information.
Your content isn’t competitive.
While you analyze your competitors’ search engine results, you’ll also want to analyze their content to see if you can identify information gaps in your own content. During your content audit, ask yourself: What are they covering that we haven’t? See what questions they answer in their content and what information they share, then figure out how to improve upon it.
One thing you may notice during this competitive analysis is that the pages you will find at the top of the SERPs focus on their clients’ needs, rather than advertising the company’s own services. If your content is primarily focused on your business rather than your clients, that may be why you can’t beat the competition. A client-focused content audit to identify and improve underperforming content can change that.
Should You Audit Your Own Content or Work With an Agency?
During my 20-year career in content marketing, the most common reason I have seen clients’ pages underperform is because the content was not well written or optimized for search when it was originally created.
Many companies end up using inexperienced writers who don’t understand SEO, or they use third-party content providers who are more concerned with hitting a word count than with getting results.
The truth is, when it comes to content, there is no substitute for quality. Hiring an experienced writer who understands how to meet the needs of Google’s crawlers and your target market will always be worth the investment, especially when you are updating your existing content. Just be sure to design a solid content strategy to ensure success.
If you are confident you can write compelling content in-house that is optimized for SEO, the sooner you begin reassessing your content needs, the sooner you can make changes that will help your website to start climbing in the SERPs.