Imagine if you had to use your old high school photo for your business headshot.
Remember that perm you spent hours teasing (and Aqua Net-ting?) Your super-big hair would be showcased on your LinkedIn profile.
That cool mullet you sported, paired with your Metallica t-shirt? Yup. That’s what readers would see when they clicked over to your “about” page.
(I can see you cringing at the thought.)
Although we’d never throw an old picture of us online, we routinely keep old, bad content on our sites.
You know, those posts we wrote when we just started blogging.
Or those “experimental” posts that didn’t quite qualify as thin content…yet, we knew they weren’t the greatest when we wrote them.
It’s easy to forget about all the old content we’ve written (just as it’s easy to “forget” about sporting a mullet!). I have this problem myself. Once a page is in cyberspace, I move on to the next one.
The problem is, those old pages are still active. They’re still in the search results. They’re still on your site. New readers may click through to an old post – and not be overly thrilled with what they see.
That’s not good.
Instead of hanging with your old content, run a content audit and fix it.
The content audit process involves combing through ALL your old posts, noting what’s wrong and making your so-so content shiny and new again.
Good news, you’ll see some incredible benefits. Bad news, if your company has been blogging for a few years – this will take some time.
But it’s worth it.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Start with a great content audit tool. I use SEMrush (Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is another good tool) to spider sites and get a feel for the major issues. SEMrush will showcase the number of pages with major errors (such as no Titles,) as well as other issues like missing alt text, thin content or broken links.
Yes, you can manually check for these issues (we’ll talk about that in a bit) However, some issues (like finding all the broken links) are easier to find with a little computerized help.
Here’s a screenshot of an SEMrush report. This site’s main issues are around links and alt text:
2. Create an Excel document (assuming you don’t have one already.)
Having an Excel document at your fingertips makes it easier for you to indicate the quality of the content, flag what needs to be fixed and any include other page-specific notes. If you used a site audit tool, you can export the data to an Excel document (although your spreadsheet may be filled with other data that’s not relevant to your content audit.)
To make things easier, you’ll want to customize the spreadsheet headings based on what’s important to you.
Here’s an example:
Many people “grade” their content to help them prioritize their pages. Content with minor (or no) tweaks would receive an A or B grade. If the content is truly bad, a D or F grade is appropriate.
3. Take a hard look at every page. Yes, I said “every page.”
There’s no easy way to do this. If you have an Excel document pre-populated with the Titles and URLs, you’ll need to click every URL link and view the page. If you use WordPress, you can view “all posts” and choose where to start.
Things to check are:
- Are there typos or other grammatical errors?
- Are the keyphrases appropriate for the page? Is the page keyphrase-free?
- Does the content need updating? Maybe your opinion has changed, or the industry has moved in another direction.
- Is there a way you could make your post more readable? For instance, splitting longer paragraphs into shorter ones. Or, can you add headlines and subheadlines?
- Is the call to action still relevant – or are you promoting a sale you ran over four years ago?
- Does the content need a major overhaul? Maybe it’s a good topic, but your writing skills weren’t quite up to snuff back then.
- Are the links still good, or are they returning a 404 page not found error? Did you make some newbie SEO copywriting errors, like hyperlinking all your keyphrases?
- Are there low-hanging fruit opportunities, such as writing better Titles or adding meta descriptions?
Start making changes!
How you make those changes are up to you. You may want to start with the “worst of the worst.” You may want to work in chronological order. Or focus on one thing (like changing Titles) and then backtrack to other issues. The key is to have a plan and work it.
If you need to make just a few changes, you can simply edit the post and push “update.” If you find yourself adding new information and/or rewriting the article, you can republish the post as a new one. That means you’d need to edit the “Published on” date in WordPress and hit “Update.” The date will change and you’ll have a “new” post!
You may be asking, “So, what’s in it for me? Why should I spend the time and cash to make this happen?”
Good question. Here are a few reasons:
1. You never have to worry about a client landing on an old page and thinking, “This information hasn’t been accurate in over five years. There’s no way I’d work with this person!”
2. It’s a great opportunity to clean up old links that go nowhere (or, even worse, go places you don’t want people to go anymore!).
3. Revising old posts can sometimes take less time than writing brand new ones. That’s a huge benefit for those weeks when you’re already time-strapped and writing a new blog post seems too overwhelming.
4. Reformatting your posts (adding headlines and subheadlines and creating shorter paragraphs) actually make your posts easier to read. This simple change can sometimes decrease your bounce rates and even increase your conversions.
5. Rewriting your Titles (and maybe doing a little keyphrase editing) can increase the page’s SEO power and drive new traffic. Bonus!
In short, auditing your content is an extremely smart move. Tweaking just a few pages a day could have a huge impact on your positions and conversions.
Try it and see.
P.S., If you’re an SEO savvy copywriter, content audits can be a very profitable service offering. You’ll need to know your stuff – this isn’t a “newbie” gig. But if you have the knowledge and don’t mind evaluating thousands of pages, you can help your clients in an entirely new way.