I wanted to approach the activities you undertake before you look for opportunities and the individual tactics. I want to come from where your mindset should be at, what concepts you want to be thinking about, so that you can bucket your individual tactics into those, and know what you’re doing is holistic. I’ve identified seven core concepts that I pay attention to when I first begin evaluating the content on whatever client or personal websites I’m looking at.
Chapter 1 - 7 Core Concepts to approaching a Content Audit
Accessibility - Identify barriers. Don’t make people work
Firstly, accessibility, by this I don’t mean disability accessibility, like we’re used to, but simply the freedom at which crawlers and users move throughout your site to consume the content that you’re producing. This includes the classic crawlability issues which are very technical like indexability issues. You can have the best content in the world, but if crawlers and users can’t find the content, it doesn’t mean anything. Therefore, you need to be identifying what the barriers are for crawlers looking for content within your site. We’re talking navigation, internal search, on-page ease of mobility, etc. Don’t make people work to consume the content that you’re trying to give them, make it easy. It should be brainless to consume the content that they’re looking at, and across your website.
Relevance - Evaluate topical signals
Relevance is a huge one, right? Maybe one of the biggest is how to evaluate the topical signals that your content is giving off. Everything is a signal. Sometimes we look at big chunks, a specific image or paragraph, and ask, what is it communicating to Google and users? But we can be granular, we’ve seen machine learning and natural language processing down to the character, so, a single word can sometimes matter.
Don’t take anything for granted. Make sure all the signals on the page are communicating exactly what kind of topical relevance you’re trying to communicate. Sometimes we talk about having a creator’s bias. If you’ve written the content, or if you’ve made the page layout, we have an inherent bias. We think what we’re putting forth is innately understandable because we were deeply involved in the creation of it. But that doesn’t always exist with a third party looking at the content; it may not be so understandable. So, don’t take what you’ve done for granted. There are all kinds of tools to help you understand how crawlers are looking at content. You can use natural language processing tools like WordLift and Google’s NLP API, to help you look at your content more objectively.
Identity - Consider the strength of your internal web graph
Next, we want to talk about identity, and identity is tied to authority, and that’s all tied into internal linking. So, consider the strength of your internal links, internal web graph, and future support for it. I like to think of specific web pages, as an analogy of villages, towns and cities. What are the connections and relationships? The roads into content, those roads are hyperlinks within your website. You can send relevant signals to that content through anchor text and text around those links. But what do we share with the most important content piece and the big important cities of the world? They have the most roads. The biggest city in history, Rome, all roads lead to Rome. So, whatever your most important content piece is, make sure you’ve got those roads, those interlinks to that content.
Intent - Does the purpose of the page = purpose of the consumer?
Next, we’ve got intent. Intent has been a hot topic for the last few years. Simply put, does the purpose of the page match the purpose of the consumer? We have our big buckets of navigational, informative, commercial and transactional intents. For example, you’ve got a site on lizards and a wiki page on lizards (which is informative in intent), but someone hops on that page and wants to buy a lizard. Well, the intent is a mismatch, so they’re bouncing back to the SERPs.
There’s a new tool by the awesome duo at Snippet Digital, called keywordinsights.ia. It matches the keywords that you are targeting for specific pages, and tries to figure out the intent of the keyword based on the SERP listings on page one. So, if you have a keyword that is showing mostly transactional pages, but the page that you’re trying to rank for is informative, well, you’ve got a mismatch. You need to go back to the drawing board to pick another keyword or make that into a transactional page.
Greg Bernhardt is an SEO Strategist for Rocket Clicks with over 20 years of experience in web marketing and web technology. Over the past year, Greg’s interest has been focused on semantic, site performance, and Python SEO. While working with Python, Greg created and writes Python SEO tutorials for importsem.com.
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Value - What does the consumer gain?
Let’s talk about value. Value is what the consumer gains from the consumption of that content. So, you can assess value as the content is either under satisfying, satisfying, or over-satisfying their intent. Really, we want to over-satisfy that intent. We want to satisfy why they got there, but also give them something more. We know what that feels like when we go to a page, and, “Ooh, that’s exactly what I looked for,” and “Wow, my universe just exploded with the offering that they’re giving me”. Sometimes that has to do with a level of comprehensiveness. It doesn’t mean it is analogous with length. Back in 2010, everything had to be at least 500 characters of content. But that was blown away. It’s just whatever the intent is. If someone was looking for a definition, give them the definition, it doesn’t have to be a 500-word definition. But we always want to be asking if the content that we have is comprehensive enough to over-satisfy.
Structure and UX
Next, structure and UX. Obviously, how you organize your content is important for crawlers, but also for people. People understand conventions of categorization and taxonomy, with tagging, and classification. It matters to Google and to your audience. So, that’s a holistic consideration of structure in UX. We can look internally as well on-page for specific content. Do you have a logical heading structure? Do you have lists that are easy to scan? Also, media, what kind of media offerings do you have? Not everyone wants to consume content in the same way. Not everyone wants to read. So of course, you want to have text, but do you have a video offering? Do you have an audio offering? Do you have an imagery offering? Do you have next-level offerings like virtual reality and augmented reality? I think that’s going to be the next revolution coming, especially for e-comm. So, get on that.
And finally, organic performance. This is probably where a lot of people start. You hop into Google Search Console and Google Analytics. You do a comparison of the last three months’ data versus the previous three months’ data. You see what losses you have for clicks, and that’s what you focus on to regain those losses. One of my best ways to find thin content is in Google Search Console. Go to the Coverage Report and look at the excluded filter, and then the label “crawled but not indexed”. That’s a signal to you that Google has seen, crawled the page, but doesn’t value it enough to put it into their index. It’s a misconception that Google indexes everything. They don’t have the resources or time for that, so they evaluate whether it’s valuable to them. It’s a clue to see which pages you thought were indexed, and valuable, but Google’s saying it is not. They don’t give you too many more hints other than that, but it’s a good start. Naturally, you want to do a lot of SERP analysis too. You’ve got a certain page, you’re losing clicks, find out what your competition’s doing, how they’re ranking so well, do your gap analysis.