No, I’m not crazy. You can delete content from your blog and see no negative results. On the contrary, you’ll notice positive results. And you don’t need to take my word for granted; here is a case study by Robbie Richards that supports this theory.
Still not convinced? Here’s what Google says:
According to our analysis, having many low‐value‐add URLs can negatively affect a site’s crawling and indexing.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is an analysis performed on all your pieces of content that determines whether they should be kept as they are, updated, deleted, consolidated, or redirected. By performing such an analysis you will end up with a better-performing blog, free of underperforming articles.
Why should you perform a content audit?
The primary objective of a content audit is to improve your SEO efforts. A good SEO strategy leads to improved rankings, conversion rates, and more.
Secondly, you are helping Google crawl your site. Crawl budget is a term invented by the SEO industry to indicate a number of related concepts and systems that search engines use when deciding how many pages, and which pages, to crawl. It’s basically the attention that search engines will give your site.
To find out the total number of blog posts indexed by Google within the search results (as well as which articles were indexed) simply perform this search: site:yoursite.
Who should perform a content audit?
Before you get carried away into spring-clean mode, stop and answer these questions: is your blog freshly published (less than a year ago)? Did you actually post a lot of articles since you’ve published your blog? Because, if your content is still fresh or you don’t have a lot of it, you don’t need to perform a content audit.
If you have a rather large blog, with hundreds, maybe thousands of articles published through the years, a well-performed content audit can bring you amazing results.
How to perform a content audit in three easy steps
There are different methods you can use to conduct a content audit. For this tutorial I’m going to use Google Analytics and Ahrefs (to identify backlinks).
1. Gathering data
1.1. Go to your Google Analytics Dashboard.
1.2. From the left menu, select “Behavior” => “Site Content” => “All Pages”.
1.3. Set the time frame to 12 months. I think 12 months gives you a good timeframe to understand how well each page is performing, but depending on your business you might want to adjust that timeframe.
1.4. You probably have other pages on your site that are not articles and you don’t want to audit. So you’ll need to create a filter, something like “/blog/”.
1.5. Change the number of rows shown on the bottom to view all of the selected pages (by default, Google Analytics exports only the data that is currently displayed). The maximum number of rows Google Analytics can show is 5000. If you have more than 5000 pages, you will need to repeat the steps until you gather all the data.
1.6. Select “Export”.
1.7. Open the exported file in Excel or Google Sheets.
1.8. Add a column next to the “Page” column and use the concatenate function to link the domain to the page’s path (the formula is “=CONCATENATE(“https://www.website.com”,A2)”).
1.9. Input the formula in the first cell, then double-click the fill handle to copy the formula for the rest of the dataset.
1.10. Save your sheet.
1.11. Go to your Ahrefs Dashboard.
1.12. Click on “More” => “Batch analysis”.
1.13. Paste your list of URLs into Ahref’s batch analysis tool, 200 at a time.
1.14. Click on “Start Analysis” to run the URLs through the tool.
1.15. Export the list and add the data to the spreadsheet you imported the Google Analytics data into, making sure that the data lines up to correctly to each URL.
1.16. Save your sheet.
2. Determining the page date
This is important because you don’t want to delete fresh content from your blog. Articles published less than 12 months ago (or whatever time frame you chose at Step 1.3) should be excluded from the content audit.
There are a few methods you can use to determine the page date:
- If you don’t have lots of pages, you can manually sort URLs.
- If you do have lots of pages, you can take a look at the source code and use the CTRL+F function (on Windows) or Command+F function (on Mac) to search for the “datetime=” attribute.
- Alternatively, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog to do this job for you.
Once you have excluded fresh content from the sheet, you can proceed to Step 3.
3. Determining the right action to take
Now that you have gathered all the pages you want to audit in a single sheet, it’s time to get to work. At this point, you’ll want to decide on the criteria for the audit. A few things to consider are:
- Page views: I think traffic is the most important metric you should look at. Deciding what a good amount of traffic is is entirely up to you. To set an average, look at the article with the highest amount of traffic and the one with the lowest. Blog posts with traffic under that average should be revised.
- Social shares: Articles that have lots of social shares should be excluded from the audit. You’ve clearly done a great job with them. 🙂
- Goal completions: High converting articles should also be excluded from the audit. Take a look at the number of goals completed by each page to decide which blog posts should be revised.
- Backlinks: Pages with backlinks or referring domains are tricky because they can cause errors if they’re deleted. Therefore, all traffic coming to these pages should be redirected. Do a Google search using “site:yoursite.com topic” to determine where you should redirect that traffic.
- Impressions: If there’s a big difference between the number of impressions and the number of clicks (meaning your article appears on the results page a lot, but people don’t click on your link), you should consider changing the metadata.
- Duplicate content: If you have several short articles that focus on the same topic you should consider merging them and create a single resource (especially if they use the same keywords to rank as they can end up cannibalizing themselves).
- Status codes: Last but definitely not least, you should make sure your URLs have a status code of 200 (OK). For this, you will need an external tool like Screaming Frog.
Taking these criteria into consideration, now it’s time to determine the right action to take for each article.
- Consolidate: As I‘ve previously mentioned, you can merge two or more articles into one big improved resource.
- Improve: Before deciding to remove an article from your blog take a good look at it and see if there’s anything you can improve or optimize. Maybe you could update the info, maybe you could add a case study and so on.
- Redirect: For pages with backlinks, make sure you set up 301 redirects before removing them.
- Remove: Everything else should be mercilessly removed.
Conducting a content audit isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it can be a highly rewarding one. And, on the bright side, the more frequently you perform a content audit, the easier it will get because you are constantly removing underperforming articles from your blog.
One thing to keep in mind though, no matter if you go through the steps above or you use a tool or you pay someone to do this audit for you, go through every single page diligently and try to come up with out of the box ideas to improve the content before deciding to remove it.