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Content Audit Strategies for Common Scenarios

Instructions: Choose your column by site size, and row by situation. Click the “Focus” description to expand the recommended strategy.
Read this article on Moz.com if you need more background.

Small Site

(< 100 Pages Indexed)

Heavy emphasis on Keyword Research (KWR), Keyword Matrix (KWM) and Content Gap Analysis (CGA). Assume we can improve every page if needed.

Medium Site

(101-1000 Pages Indexed)

Heavy emphasis on KWR/KWM. Light emphasis on CGA. A complete rewrite of all content is still scaleable, but some pruning is probably necessary.

Large Site

(1,001 – 9,999 Pages Indexed)

Heavy emphasis on pruning out the junk. Moderate emphasis on improving key pages. Very little emphasis on KWR/KWM (ie. for key pages). No need for CGA.

Extra Large Site

(10,000+ Pages Indexed)

Heavy emphasis on pruning out the junk. Improve key pages. No need for KWR/KWM or CGA.

Situation:  No penalty, no major content issues
Provide title tags, meta descriptions and on-page copy for key pages. Do the keyword research for the rest and prioritize them in the keyword matrix based on search volume and relevancy. Also include a content gap analysis to propose new pages if applicable. Include all rankable pages in the matrix.
Treat like the small site, but propose how many pages are to be improved each month for ongoing copywriting and on-page optimization. Which ones need to be done first? Include a content gap analysis if time permits.
This is where sites approach the scale at which improving the majority of content may not be an option, making prioritization very important. Which pages can be consolidated or pruned? Which content needs to be improved the most? Which has the highest potential for growth? Include KWR/KWM only for key pages. Propose how many pages are to be improved each month for ongoing copywriting and on-page optimization.
Most sites with this many pages have major content issues, meaning this would be the wrong “situation” for them. In the rare case that they don’t, prioritize the pages based on rankings, traffic potential, revenue… and propose how many to improve each month with ongoing copywriting and on-page optimization.
Situation:  No penalty, but major content issues or future penalty risk
What content needs to be improved on the site to avoid future penalties? What content needs to be improved for other business goals? At this size we can often rewrite/improve all low-quality content, rather than de-indexing any. Technical issues like indexable search and parameters should have been covered in the Technical Audit. Provide KWR and a KWM.
Because they are at risk of a content-based penalty we should follow the “Improve or Remove” mantra. Look into pruning out lower-quality pages that aren’t candidates for improving (e.g. stub pages, doorway pages, duplicate topics, technical issues, indexable search results, tag pages…). Prioritize the pages to be improved (e.g. manufacturer descriptions on product pages, thin, outdated or duplicate content…) A good starting point would be to take pages with relatively high entrances and/or internal/external links. Alternatives might be to prioritize based on revenue, Copyscape risk score, potential search volume for the keyword… The situation will change by client, but the goal should be to A: Rewrite ALL duplicated content on the site, and B: Prioritize the order in which they get rewritten. If the client is simply unable to rewrite the content due to budgeting or other constraints, these pages should be set to noindex,follow, thus removing them from the index until they are rewritten.
Because they are at risk of a content-based penalty we should follow the “Improve or Remove” mantra. Look into pruning out some of the lower-quality pages that aren’t candidates for improving (e.g. stub pages, doorway pages, duplicate topics, technical issues, indexable search results, tag pages…). Also look into which pages can be improved, and prioritize them based on client goals (traffic, conversions, etc..). How they are prioritized may differ per client. For example, if duplicate content is the big risk, prioritize based on the page’s Copyscape risk score. If low quality is the risk, consider pruning for most and improving the ones with entrances, sales, shares… If thin content is the risk, prioritize by character count, or use your judgement.
Pruning should be the primary concern here in most cases. Which pages need to be removed? From there, which ones can/should be improved? Rewrite as many as they can (the best of the best), and set the rest to noindex,follow. Identify all pages that have no use in the index, including tags, certain UGC pages, cart pages… Focus on getting the amount of pages indexed down drastically to improve the ratio of good content pages indexed to low-quality content pages. Secondary focus should be on improving key pages, which can be prioritized by entrances, conversions, taxonomy and other factors.
Situation:  Existing content-based penalty
Get them out of the penalty first. (Panda mantra = Improve It or Remove It). Technical elements like blocking internal search pages or fixing parameter-based issues should have already been covered in the technical audit. Prioritize the content that needs to be removed or improved. At this size it may be possible to rewrite the entire site if we feel it is needed. If time permits, include a content gap analysis.
Get them out of the penalty first. Focus on getting out of the penalty first. (Panda mantra = Improve It or Remove It). Technical elements like blocking internal search pages or fixing parameter-based issues should have already been covered technical audit. Prioritize the content that needs to be removed or improved. If time permits, include a content gap analysis.
Continue with the “improve it or remove it” mantra, but start focusing more on which pages to remove since the problem at this scale is typically about reducing the amount of low-quality pages in the index. Prioritize those that are to be improved.
Often we are unable to bring content quality up to par at this scale. Figuring out what can be improved and removing the rest is key. Get the amount of pages indexed down drastically to improve the ratio of good content pages to poor content pages without having to write thousands of pages of copy. Consider removing or noindexing entire sections of the site, or certain page-types, if they would be considered low-quality, thin, duplicate, overlapping, irrelevant…

One last thing…

Obviously every possible content auditing scenario can’t be accounted for with a simple matrix. Strategies may change dramatically by client type (eCommerce, B2B, Content Site…) and many other factors. This tool is designed to help you kickstart your own content audit strategies by seeing our recommendations for common scenarios. These recommendations are only where we “start.” Every content audit needs to be customized for the client’s particular needs.

Please get in touch if you would like Inflow’s team of inbound marketing experts to develop a full content strategy, starting with an audit, for your unique situation.

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About 

Everett has served as in-house SEO specialist in diverse corporate and startup environments, as well as running his own agency, learning the needs and roadblocks of clients in eCommerce and other hyper-competitive niches.