Let me be honest with you right now. I do not want to do this.
Frankly, I have much rather eat brussels sprouts for a week.
Those things are just nasty. Seriously, that is not food.
Content audits are not sexy but sometimes you just gotta hammer your way thru.
You gotta eat those veggies right?
Bonus: Download a free checklist of the first plugins that I always install on a new WordPress Blog.
So together you and I are going to do a content audit. Sure if someone calls you up and asked you what exciting project that you are working on, the answer would not be content audit.
No of course not because content audits are as much fun as cleaning the garage. Yep, I need to do that too.
Good news though, I ain't gonna make you do that too...
But we are going to bring sexy back to your blog.
When you are done with your content audit, you are going to look at your blog and think that it is one sexy beast.
Editor Note: This was originally written as a blog post series but I have since decided to merge it into sections. Each section reads a bit like a unique blog post. Below is a quick navigation that you can use to easily bounce around this post. A blog audit is something that generally takes quite a while to get done. Therefore, this quick navigation below may become your best friend.
Content audit sounds like an outrageous amount of effort. You are either spiraling with visions of endless spreadsheets or asking yourself "What the heck is a content audit?"
Am I right?
Well try and stick with me here because I am going to make your blog content audit as painless as possible.
Oh yes, there will be pain.
Be prepared for small bits of pain here and there. The truth is, most anything worth doing involves a small bit of pain.
Well actually, I feel very little pain when I am binge watching a series on Netflix. Of course, in the sense of adding true value to the world, that is not much worth doing. It sure is fun though.
- What gave me the idea for a content audit?
- Why do I keep putting it off myself?
- Why you should do it?
Great questions here, so let's get down to it.
The very first blog post that I put on I Teach Blogging was How to start a blog, or, how I started this blog.
I now have 178 published blog posts, 25 posts in drafts, 62 published pages and 16 draft pages. That is a lot of content that may or may not be relevant still.
When I opened up my first post about how to start a blog, I immediately noticed a few issues.
1. There is some broken short code and it looks terrible.
2. It links to an about me page, that I had completely forgotten to update..
Neither of these things are earth shattering but they both should be addressed. The real question is, what will I find as I go thru all of these pages? What information is out there that is completely out of date? What information can I make better and even more valuable for you the reader? What just looks broken and terrible?
Essentially, a content audit is when you take inventory of all of your blog posts and pages on your site. You take some time to analyze a few key factors such as whether or not the content is still relevant. Once you have the answer to that single question, you can make other decisions such as whether or not it should be updated.
But I am getting ahead of myself, let's take this one step at a time. So in this monster post, I am going to walk you thru how to conduct a blog audit and what you will need to do this.
Are you ready to audit your blog?
Remember this is not a race. This should and will take you some time. Be patient and take your time.
You do not have to do this in a single day. Frankly, it probably isn't even possible to do it in a day.
Every year the president of the United States does a state of the union address. The President does this to update the Congress on how the country is doing and recommend any needed changes or issues that need to be addressed.
While I do not believe that a full content audit needs to be done yearly, it does need to be done from time to time.
What the heck is a content audit?
A content audit is when you take stock of your site content and decide if the content is still serving a purpose or not. During a content audit you can also verify if the SEO is setup properly, if at all, and decide on any other improvements that could be made.
There are multiple options on what to include in your content audit. They can be as basic or as extensive as you want them to be. No matter how basic or extensive your audit is, one thing remains true.
You should have a plan for your content audit.
What is the true purpose of a content audit?
Content is the heart and soul of your blog, so it is important to check in and make sure it is still doing its job.
As a blog grows, so does the blogger. This means that content is bound to become irrelevant and/or outdated. It also means that you find places where you could expand on a topic and make the content even more valuable.
Blogs evolve over time and therefore blog strategies should evolve over time as well.
For example, I truly want to do some in depth video tutorials about specific blogging tools. At first, I thought that I would just throw them up here on the ITB blog but the more that I thought about it, the less sense that made. This blog is about how to get started blogging and strategies and tools.
I did not want to muck that up with tutorials that wouldn't matter to the average blogger. A tutorial on how to to make sure which Thrive Leads pop-up shows on which page, only matters to people who are using that tool. But a blog post on why or if you should use a pop-up makes total sense for this blog.
Thinking about my blog strategy helped me realize that a content audit is in order for my blog.
Here are some of the questions that a content audit will help you realize….
- Is the content still relevant?
- Is your content optimized?
- Is your blog headed in the right direction?
- Should you change paths with your content?
- Did you change paths without realizing it?
- Is anything broken?
How long will a content audit take?
This is a fair question and the answer really is 'it depends.' I know that is not what you want to hear but it varies based upon how much content that you have and how in-depth you plan to go with your audit.
This is why I highly recommend that you do this in steps. While it would be awesome to sit down and do this in the span of a day or two, that is likely not realistic. Consider committing to one step a week and go from there.
What are the tools required for this content audit?
- Screaming Frog
- Google Analytics
Your Action Items:
1. Decide when you are going to do your content audit.
It is important to find time that you can commit to this audit. This is not an urgent process but it does require a commitment of time. So go ahead and find a couple of hours each week in your calendar.
2. Confirm that you have Google Analytics associated with your blog.
If you don't have Google analytics associated with your blog you need to go here and create an account http://www.google.com/analytics/.
Then an easy way to attach your blog is to install this WordPress Plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analyticator/.
Here are the steps on how to use it:
- Install the plugin and activate it.
- Click to connect to Google Analytics and login.
- Copy and paste your Google Authentication code and hit Save and Continue.
- Choose the Analytics Account you want in the drop down.
- Enable Google Analytics logging.
- Scroll to the bottom and save.
- Then go to your Dashboard to see your stats.
This Is How To Get Started With Your Content Audit
Do you really know what is on your blog?
Is that a crazy thought?
If you have been blogging for a while, ask yourself "Do I remember every single blog post that I ever wrote?"
Recently someone emailed me and asked a question on blogging. I love it when people do that by the way.
When I read the question, I thought that I had created a tutorial on that but wasn't really sure. Perhaps I meant to but didn't? I had to go search my own blog to find out.
It turns out that I had.
This is when I realized that it was truly time for a blog content audit.
If you don’t know what content you have, and how it’s performing, you can’t improve.
How to get a list of all of the pages on your site
We need a quick and easy way to figure out exactly what content is on our site. My go-to resource for this is a free tool called Screaming Frog. It is quite a powerful tool that will show you info such as pages and posts that lack missing H1's, H2's etc and even pages without meta content.
However, there is another option if you don't want to use it.
Yoast SEO XML Sitemaps
If you are using Yoast SEO they have a sitemap function built right in.
- Log into your WordPress Dashboard
- Click on SEO in the sidebar
- Click on XML Sitemaps
A new window will open with a list of your sitemaps as seen below.
4. Click on one of your sitemaps.
5. Highlight all of the information on your screen and copy it (Ctrl C or Command C)
6. Paste this (Command V or Ctrl V) into an Excel spreadsheet or Google Document.
How to use Screaming Frog to identify my content
Screaming Frog is a free piece of software that you will need to install on your computer. I have been running this software on my computer for some time and have not had any concerns. Therefore I give it my stamp of approval.
At this point, I should clarify that there is a paid version of Screaming Frog that has some handy options. One of the handy options is being able exclude certain things from your audit easily. I am currently running the free version and this tutorial is centered around the free version. This means that there are few added and possibly even annoying steps.
1. Download Screaming Frog for free: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/#download
Note: Make sure and click on the right OS (Windows or Mac)
2. Once you download the software go ahead and install it.
3. Enter your url per the image below
4. Click on the Filter drop-down and select HTML
5. Click Start (on the right next to where you put the URL)
Note: This step will take some time. This would be a good time to stretch your legs.
6. Click on Export
Ok so at this point you will need to format your excel spreadsheet. When the document is downloaded it will be downloaded as a .csv file.
How to Save a .CSV file as an Excel file
- You will want to right click the file and open it in Excel.
- Click on file
- Click on Save As
- Under Format Select .xls (see image below)
How to duplicate an Excel tab
1. Right click on the tab and click on Move or Copy
2. Click on 'Create a copy"
3. Click 'OK'
Create your content audit document
Here are a list of columns that you will want.
- Status Code
- Title 1
- Meta Description 1
Go ahead and delete all of the other columns. If this makes you nervous, remember we just duplicated the original in a different tab.
Start your content audit
At this stage we are just deciding if the content is relevant or not. Just put a yes or no in your spreadsheet. In the next section we will review what to do if it is or isn't.
You can generally get an initial idea to this question by the blog post title alone.
- Is blog post relevant yes or no?
- Is Page Content Relevant Yes or No?
While you are going thru this list you will likely think of blog posts that you should add. If you feel inspired start a list of blog posts that you would like to create in the future.
Now you know how to create a spreadsheet of all of your blog content including pages and posts. It is time to start deciding what content still fits your brand and what content does not. In the next part of this series, we will discuss how to remove outdated or out of brand content.
In the mean time, just spend time answering yes or no.
How To Remove A Blog Post The Right Way
We will cover two options in this section. The first option is how to merge content and create a 301 redirect. The second option is how to completely delete a blog post and create a 410 notice.
Learn how to delete a #blog post the RIGHT Way with a 410 notice.
Should you merge old blog posts?
It turns out that here on this blog, I had quite a few pieces of content that would be far better for you the reader, if I merged it into one.
When I launched this blog, I did a super long series about domain names. When I analyzed each post, it became clear that having it all on on blog post would be much more useful.
Merging multiple blog posts into one actually proved to be far more challenging than I anticipated. I believe that is easier to write a new blog post than it it so merge a post. Hopefully, you will find this less challenging than me but it is not something that I regret at all.
How to merge multiple blog posts into one post
If your blog has multiple short posts centered around the same topic you should consider rewriting one post and adding all of the content to it.
Once you have merged your content, you will then delete the obsolete blog posts. The final step is to create a 301 redirect for the deleted permalinks.
This 301 redirect is important because you do not want 404 errors served to possible readers and to the search engines. This will tell the search engines and anyone who clicks on an old links that permalink A is now permalink B.
Pick a set of posts to merge
For example, I had about 7 blog posts about domain names and why you should own them. I decided to merge all of those posts into one.
Decide which blog post will remain
In this step we are choosing which url will be the only url left standing. This is the blog posts that will stay on your site and all of the other ones will be deleted.
Your choice can be driven by number of hits to the post and you can find this by looking at your Google analytics. You could also make the choice based upon number of comments to the posts. If one of your posts has far more comments than the other, it may be the best one to keep.
Note: You can change your blog posts title but I recommend that you keep the permalink. Therefore, you should consider if the permalink makes sense for all of the content that you are merging.
Merge your content
Now rewrite your blog posts to include all of the relevant information from ALL of your posts. You do not need to write each and ever word into your post but do pick up the bests of each post.
Note: Make sure that you copy and paste all of the urls into your document as well. You will need them in a future step.
Delete your old posts
- Open your WordPress Dashboard
- Open your WordPress Dashboard
- Click on Posts
- All Posts
- Find your blog posts in the list
- Highlight your mouse over the post title
- Click on Trash
Under posts you will now see a Trash field.
8. Click on Trash
9. Highlight mouse over post title
10. Click on Delete Permanently
How to create a 301 redirect
The best way to do a redirection is to update what is called your .htaccess file. This is a scary proposition and I understand that completely but Yoast SEO makes it easy.
First, make sure that you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed on your blog.
- Log into your WordPress Dashboard
- Scroll down and click on 'SEO'
- Click on 'Tools'
- Click on 'File editor'
- Scroll down to .htaccess file
You will need to enter the following code in your .htaccess
Line 1: # User added 301 Redirects
Line 2 thru however many blogs posts that you are redirecting:
Redirect 301 /permalink http://yourdomain.com/permalink
Note: The first part after Redirect 301 is your deleted url with out your domain name. The second part is the full path to the remaining blog post / permalink.
Line 3: # End User added 301 Redirects
Click on Save changes once you are done.
What to do when you want to delete a blog post
One of the most hurtful parts of my content audit experience was accepting that some of my blog posts just were not relevant to my brand.
For example, last year I wrote a lengthly blog post about tequila. What the heck does that have to do with blogging? I was able to tie the post into blogging actually but it was still hurting my brand.
The post was about studies and statistics. There had been a study that drinking tequila actually helped diabetics control their sugar.
It was a well done blog post and it had a great point but there was one problem. My blog was starting to rank for the keyword tequila.
People would click on my blog post and quickly figure out that my blog was not about tequila. They were confused and would quickly hit that back button.
This increased my bounce rate. That was bad.
That blog post had to die. It sucked because I loved it. Also, it was a lot of work to write it.
There is a clean way to delete a blog post
If you just go and delete a blog post you will wind up with a bunch of 404 errors. 404 errors are bad for your blog and signal to the search engines that your site is not reliable.
Even more it could take the search engines quite a while to stop delivering the link to the deleted blog posts. In my case, I want to stop indexing for Tequila as quickly as possible.
This means that I need a way to communicate with Google that my blog post no longer exists AND I want them to remove it from their memory.
The way to alert Google that a article no longer exists is to create a 410 response.
Install 410 for WordPress
Thankfully, there is a free WordPress plugin that we can use to create a 410 response. It is also extremely easy to use. Go ahead and install 410 for WordPress on your blog now.
How to Issue a 410 Response for a deleted blog post
The first thing that you need to do is delete your blog post. If you need to, scroll back up and take a look at the steps earlier in this blog posts.
Note: Make sure that you copied your permalink (url) before you delete the post. My tip is to copy it into a notepad. You will need this permalink for the steps below.
- Log into your WordPress Dashboard
- Scroll down and hover your mouse over Plugins
- Click on 410 for WordPress
- Scroll Down to Manually add URLS
- Paste your permalink into the space provided
- Click on Add entries to 410 list
That is it. It will take time for the search engines to recognize this deletion and you may see 404 errors for a while. However, in time the search engines will get the message.
All of this does come with a warning. There have been reports from people that when they delete a lot of content at once, their search engine rankings drop. However, this drop is temporary and only last about 3 or so weeks.
The good news is that people who deleted around 40% of their off topic content came back with even stronger rankers. This is due to the fact that you are refining what your blog is about.
The more refined you are with your topic the better Google can understand you as an authority on a topic. This is why having a narrow niche is generally best for your blog.
As we grow our blog we also tend to better define our niche. This means that some of our content needs to be merged and/ or deleted. While it is painful to delete content that we worked hard to create, it is sometimes the best action that we can take for our blog.
Do not be afraid to delete content that is off brand. Each time that you do just know that I feel your pain and am giving you a high five at the same time.
This Is How To Evaluate Content On Your Blog
It is easy to get lost in the weeds.
For many weeks now I have been working on my content audit. This forced me to take a hard look at my blog and I didn't like everything that I saw.
Immediately, there was a list of tasks that would make this blog better. My first instinct was to dive in and get to work.
Then I realized that not everything is a must do right now. Sometimes, it would be really nice to have everything uniform but it doesn't need to be.
Sure, if all of my images looked the same, that would be awesome. But in that case I have to ask myself "Does this impact the value of my content?"
The answer was no.
So I had to take a step back and make some difficult decisions, what must be done right now and what would just be nice to have.
At this point in the content audit, you have decided what content should and should not be on your blog. If you are following along, the odds are high that you have deleted some content. It is even likely that you have merged some posts to create a single stronger blog post.
Now, we are at the stage of a content audit when things begin to get a bit grey. All of the decisions from here on out are completely subjective and unique to your blog.
Well, I take that back, there is one area that is completely universal and we will get to that.
This week you need to figure out what else needs your attention. Each blog will be unique, so today I will share a few things that I realized when during my content audit.
1. My podcast plugin needs to be updated
When I first started podcasting, I was using the free Spreaker app. Once I really got into podcasting, a much better paid tool came to my attention. Pat Flynn created a beautiful plugin that you can see in full force on this page.
This meant that I have a decision to make. Do I go backwards and change all of my posts to reflect the new plugin or do I leave it?
My first instinct was to change it because of course, I want everything to look the same. However, I quickly realized how much time that would consume.
My decision: Only change it if you happen across that blog post.
2. Broken short code
I was using a short code tool on my blog called The Shortcodes Ultimate . When I switched over to Thrive Content Builder, I removed this plugin.
This had consequences that didn't come to mind at the time. Now, this blog is filled with broken pieces of shortcode on the blog.
My decision: Reinstall the Plugin. Yes, I would love to move everything to the new feel but I couldn't justify the time.
3. I am tired of paying for images
Yep, I love images. They make a blog beautiful but they all start to add up. So, I decided to create a textured template for my featured images.
This started because I wanted my blog to be more uniform in look and feel. My design is all over the place. At first, I was set to change all 180 blog posts right now but I decided against it.
My decision: I will change at least 5 a week and all future images.
4. SEO Meta Info is not optional
Are you using an SEO plugin and if so, have all of your posts been updated. This is really not optional and if you need to do so, go backwards and update all of your posts.
Thankfully, all of my post have meta titles and meta descriptions.
5. Initial caps for my titles
My blog post titles are all over the place and completely inconsistent. I have made the decision that all of my titles will be initial caps moving forward.
Initial caps are when you capitalize every word in a title.
My Decision: When I am updating my 5 blog post images a week, I will also update this.
Each blog evaluation will be unique. You may not have any of the issues that I listed above. It is likely that you have your very own list of things that would make your blog better.
It is also likely that none of these things are an emergency. As you can see, we have to make choices about our time. We have to decide if something is a MUST HAVE or just a Gee That Would Be Nice.
The most important part of a content audit is making sure that your content is on target.