If you have a website that’s been around for a few years and you’re looking for ways to make some improvements, one of the tactics I recommend is doing a content audit.
When you do a content audit you have a few goals in mind:
- Get rid of any low quality or unimportant pages
- Look for pages or sections that can be improved or updated
- Improve your rankings by more effectively using your link equity, internal anchor text, and interlinking your content
Get the Data
The first thing you need to do is to get an understanding of where your website currently stands. You’ll need a list of the pages of your website, the number of inbound links, and amount of visitors your page receives. If you are using Webmaster central, you can export a spreadsheet of all the pages with the number of links. The next thing you have to do is add a column for page views. I like to use a timeframe between a year and year and half.
Depending on the number of pages your website has, it could take a while to get all this data. This is the perfect task for an intern or outsourced labor from a place like ODesk. I recently performed this task on a website that has 1800 URL’s. It cost me $75, and I had the data back in just over 24 hours.
Identify the Low Performing Pages
The two primary factors I like to look at are how many links does a post/page have and how much traffic did it generate in the past 18 months. Any page that generated less than 100 page views is a candidate for deletion. Additionally, any page that generated less than 25 links is also a candidate for deletion.
Delete or Rewrite
At this point you’ll have a list of pages that generated minimal links and/or traffic and are therefore candidates for deletion or revision. This is where it requires some decision making. If a page generated a lot of links but not much traffic, I’m probably going to keep it intact. The same is true for pages with high traffic but a low number of links. When pages are low on links and low on traffic, you have to use your judgment. In some cases, the post was a throwaway post–important at the time but not important now. Those are easy to justify deleting. In other cases, you’ll want to keep them.
At the very least I would suggest looking at the pages to see if you can improve them. In some cases the information is outdated and needs a complete rewrite. In other cases it just requires a little updating. One of the tools I’ve found to be helpful is Scribe SEO (see my Scribe SEO review). It gives you a quick overview and can sometimes make a few quick easy suggestions to improve a page. A third option is creating a living URL style page. When you rewrite or revise pages you really want to look for ways to maximize your internal anchor text and linkage whenever possible.
Why Should You Delete Old Posts or Pages
When I talk about this practice, a lot of people wonder why would you bother deleting pages. After all, there’s no harm in keeping them around and you’ve already spent the time and energy having them created. For the answer, we need to look at the concept of link equity. Each website only has a certain amount of links, trust, and authority coming into it … this concept is called link equity. That link equity can only support a certain number of pages. For example a brand new website with few links won’t be able to have thousands of pages in the index: the search engines simply don’t have enough signals of quality to support anything more than superficial crawling. Additionally IMHO ever since the “mayday update” the days of “infinite websites” have come to an end.
When I mention deleting old posts, sometimes bloggers look like they are going to break down in tears, as if I asked them to abandon a puppy with no food or water outside in a freezing snowstorm. If you’re the type of person who has a deep emotional attachment to your posts, you aren’t running a business website. You are creating Aunt Millie’s Christmas Letter.
Backups and Redirections
Before you delete a single post make sure you have multiple backups of all of your posts. You want the ability to bring your posts back if you delete one by accident. If you use WordPress, you can trash a page/post and it’s deleted from public view, but it lingers in limbo for 30 days and is easy to bring back. If any of the pages have more than a handful of links you should set up a redirection. Try to redirect to a similar-themed post or revised post if possible. If not then the homepage, the sitemap, or archives page. A controversial step is to redirect to a different commercial page or to create a link hub somewhere else. Let your conscience be your guide to your approach.
Lastly, you want to trap for 404 errors and redirect anything you might have missed. Again, if you use WordPress, the redirection plugin takes care of the 404 and redirections in one spot.