When Is The Right Time To Do A Content Audit For SEO?

Today’s Ask An SEO question comes from Nick, who asks:

“What time period is most useful for a content audit? My traffic changes based on Google Algorithm updates and there is also some seasonality. Should I use one year of performance data to influence my strategy or would it be better to use smaller chunks of data?”

Great question, Nick!

There is no right or wrong answer for when to do a content audit, as each site is unique, but there are signals it is time to do a content review.

And an annual performance audit doesn’t hurt either.

One thing to be careful of is changing things just because you got a temporary ding, a C-suite executive panics because of seasonality, or there are fluctuations during a search engine update.

Many times, when search engines like Google update, they do a rollback, and good content and pages will come back.

Don’t rely on updates as a sign it’s time to audit your content exclusively.

Instead, use these:

  • If traffic has plateaued and good pages that should be ranking are not. (After tech and structure issues have been resolved)
  • Content that was always in the top positions has slipped or started to slip, and your content is equal to the pages replacing you.
  • When the busy season is six to seven months away, and you don’t have your rankings.
  • Annual evaluations by category, and page.

Plateaued Traffic

When traffic plateaus, but you’ve been adding content regularly for a while, it is a good idea to take a step back and look at the content you’re publishing.

If you’re not getting new traffic, do you already have a page getting the same type of traffic from SEO?

If yes, change topics and find new things that can bring in your audience while staying relevant to your core products, services, and offerings.

You don’t want to cannibalize the page or pages that are working. But don’t just look at SEO traffic and keep writing about the same topic – look at your user base and audience.

Have people on social media stopped sharing and clicking through to your pages?

When this happens, you’re likely posting topics that are not interesting to your user base, or you’ve overdone it on those topics, and they’re tired of the same thing.

Look at other types of content that meet the needs of the same user base.

I.e., if your target is single dads with younger daughters and you sell books, think about other “single dad problems.” It could be hairstyling, planning birthday parties, shopping for clothes, introducing your daughter to your new significant other, etc.

Each of these topics will have matching books that can cross-sell your content and provide solutions for your audience’s needs. And the topics allow you to work with influencers in your niche and create cross-promotional marketing campaigns with complementary companies.

This, in turn, builds exposure and can lead to natural backlinks.

It’s a big win and can help get your traffic growing again for a relevant audience while feeding other channels and helping your company grow across the board.

You, as an SEO pro or copywriter, become the hero and can earn a seat at the marketing planning table.

Pages And Categories That Are Slipping

If you notice pages or categories on your site are slipping, this is a good time to audit them.

But don’t just start pulling, pruning, and rewriting. First, look at:

  • What has replaced you in the search results?
  • Which topics do they cover that you don’t? Think about how you can naturally incorporate them into your own content if they are relevant.
  • How many backlinks and internal links do they have if their page is getting “real” media coverage? Why are they getting it and you are not? When do they prioritize their content? Are they giving it a boost with extra signals via internal links (especially from pages with quality backlinks)?
  • Do you have proper schema and site structure, and are your pages loading quickly and providing solutions?
  • Has anyone published similar content within your site that could be competing? Use an SEO tool to group a keyword cluster, and then look to see if multiple pages on your site are all showing up for these. If you have competing pages, you may want to combine some, delete some, or rewrite some of them to be more clear about the benefits to the visitor.

Around Six Months Out From Seasonal Traffic

When you’re about six months from your busy season, check to see if you’re currently showing up for your most important terms.

If you’re not, do the same exercise as above, and begin looking at how you can improve your copy.

I start around eight months in advance, but that’s because I like to do more testing than is necessary – six months is enough time so you can get to content and code freeze three or four months before your busy season starts.

Pro-tip: Don’t split test organic traffic and pages.

This goes wrong in many ways. Instead, create a plan, test copy, and wording for conversions via PPC, and then roll out the best experience with time to watch how it indexes and ranks.

Annual Evaluations

It is always a good idea to do an annual evaluation.

You likely know what your best-performing copy is, but maybe the category of your site isn’t getting exposure. This is easy to find in most analytics packages.

Sort by SEO traffic, then display by category folder (collections if you’re in Shopify), and you’ll see how the categories are performing.

From there you can modify the site structure, build internal links, and look for missing areas.

You can also more easily detect if copy and H tags are working on categories, and find categories that got skipped over.

Another big find in this exercise is when posts that used to perform well fell, but others took their place. You can see this with a time comparison, and then redo the pages that fell if necessary.

When you discover that traffic is stable because one post took over as an acquisition from another, you now have an opportunity to double your traffic.

Work on getting the pages that fell back and maintain the current one.  Fixing older pages can sometimes be more effective than creating new ones, and it is easier so you can save time.

There is no one size fits all for when to do a content SEO audit, but these are four good times to do one.

I hope this helps.

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