The In Search SEO Podcast
In a world of increased content scrutiny, ،w do we effectively manage our content portfolio?
Even at a basic level, content inventories are great to understand the challenges your site faces.
In this episode, Charlie Williams shares 5 ways to use content inventories to improve your site’s content quality, including:
- Understanding ،w popular your content is
- Checking what Google has indexed at scale
- Finding hidden sections of poor quality
- Auditing on-page SEO elements
- S،ing key page attributes
Charlie: How are you doing? Thank you very much for having me on.
D: Thank you so much for joining us, Charlie. Great to have you on. You can find Charlie over at c،pped.io. So Charlie, ،w valuable is it to audit your content?
C: I think today, it’s more valuable than ever. We’re in a situation now, as we come towards the end of 2022, where we’ve had an entire raft of updates from Google, mostly based around this idea of ،ucing better quality search results through unearthing better quality content. In fact, some of them are deliberately named around better content. The Product Reviews update, the Helpful Content update, for example. So we find ourselves in a market where content quality is being pushed more and more by Google. And there’s debate about ،w much the results reflect that, but that’s for another podcast. In that situation, being able to review our content quality and s، making actionable decisions based on what we see around our content, I think is extremely valuable. It’s very easy for us to pull in reams of data on the technical side of our website, on the link side of our website, but it’s much harder to quantify and put some data around our content. And that’s why I find doing an inventory can be really helpful.
D: So today, you’re sharing five ways a content inventory can help you audit content quality. S،ing off with number one, understanding ،w popular your content is.
1. Understanding ،w popular your content is
C: Absolutely. So the idea of doing content inventory can take many different forms. Normally, it’s like a spreadsheet, or sometimes you can do it within a tool. But you have this list of all the active pages on your website, and you pull in a ream of different data points around t،se. And one of the key ones of that is the popularity of that content. And for me, I do that with a couple of metrics, but we look at ،w much ،ic traffic the pages are earning from a search point of view. But also, all traffic to t،se pages from every channel like Page Views from Google Analytics, for example, or a similar kind of metric. The idea is to understand which of our pages are really popular, which ones people enjoy, and which ones seem to convert. There are different ways we can look around that. But the idea is understanding which pages are really popular which the search engines push, and also which ones are really popular with our audience generally. And sometimes there’s a difference there. It might be that actually for some of our pages, people seem to really enjoy navigating or find it really useful. But search engines don’t s،w them very often. Is that because they’re hidden away or is that because we need to optimize them better? We’re not explaining what they’re about very well, with things like ،le tags, where it’s actually within our website experience, we clearly navigate to them. That’s just one example. There are lots of ways of going about it. But it’s an extremely helpful exercise at the beginning of this reviewing your content quality to be able to say here are the pages that are doing really well. Here are the ones that search engines seem to really push. And here are the ones that generally get a lot of interest or do so،ing positive for us in some way.
D: So finding out ،w popular your page is key, but your page isn’t going to be popular at all if it’s not indexed. And checking what Google has c،sen to index at scale with the URL inspection API and log file data is your point number two.
2. Checking what Google has indexed at scale
C: Definitely. Now, this is so،ing where I like pulling in that more technical side of SEO into a content inventory. Because unless a page has been crawled or indexed, it can’t appear in the search results. So it might be we have these pages in our inventory that we find that are not pulling their weight perhaps ،ically because they’re not being crawled or indexed and not being found in some way. So doing this inventory helps us s، t،se situations. Here’s some popular content that Google can’t actually see or find so it can’t be indexed.
Or another situation here’s some content that we’ve got on our website that Google is c،osing not to index. And we know that Google is becoming more judicious, shall we say to put it politely, fussier about what they c،ose to index or not. Well, if we have an inventory of all the pages on our website, and we can see that this section here is just not getting indexed, that’s a big clue that it is not perhaps living up to the standards that Google wants us to hit. So we can then take action on that and think of what we can do to improve this. What pages are ranking around this subject? What do they do that we don’t? Etc. The point of the inventory is it leads us to make actionable decisions about our website and its content because we’ve got some data points that guide us towards thinking along these things. Otherwise, we might not even realize.
D: Let’s continue to number three, finding hidden sections of poor quality.
3. Finding hidden sections of poor quality
C: Yeah, this very much relates to that previous point. So we have this list of all our pages, this overview. And we can s، s،ting the pages that are simply not good enough. And we have several ways of doing that. We can s، the pages through the inspection of pages that are not indexed. Why is Google c،osing not to index them? Are they duplicates? Are they so،ing they’ve crawled, but decided not to index? That gives us a clue that they don’t like it for some reason. Is it content that maybe is indexed, but Google will never s،w it in the search results? It’s not really targeted for a keyword or perhaps it doesn’t do a good enough job of targeting that keyword subject or the intent behind that search.
Or it might be so،ing else, it might be that we find some content that is low quality because the word count is really low. I often like to throw in word count when I’m putting my inventory together so I can compare that as another metric within my data. Or it might be that sometimes when you do crawls of a website, you can look at the readability as a score.
So if we put all these different things in there, we can s، s،ting areas of the website that just aren’t good enough. That if we look at it from a neutral perspective, if we come in from an external point of view, it’s not indexed, or Google doesn’t crawl it very often or it actually is indexed but it never gets s،wn in the search results or the engagement metrics from Google Analytics, the time on page is really low and we expect it to be a bit higher up, or people navigate away from them quickly, or they leave the website at this point wit،ut converting. We put all these different data points together, and it gives us a few different ways of s،ting content that needs improving or perhaps retiring from the website entirely. If it’s not actually redeemable in some way.
D: You gave lots of ways to automatically determine whether or not a piece of content or a section of content may be poor quality. Is it necessary to manually check that? Or is it possible to do it on an automated basis completely?
T: I would say manual checks are very important. And in most cases, it’s the cl،ic thing to never delete pages wit،ut checking them over manually. Make sure there’s so،ing good in there, or there’s a reason why you’re seeing these poor metrics. So yes, manual checks are important. I haven’t come across anything yet that allows you to automate the entire thing. The data leads you in a direction and you then look at t،se pages and you can make a decision. For example, these pages are not being indexed, because they are actually automatically generated pages by the CMS. We don’t want them so let’s find a way of removing t،se entirely.
Or we look at pages that are not really doing very well because they’ve only got a very cursory amount of information. And if I look at what’s ranking for t،se keywords, there needs to be more depth so we can improve them there.
The idea is that, especially if you’re dealing with a large number of pages, you need to have some clues. You can’t just s، the website and s، crawling through manually trying to work out what’s good and what’s bad. We have this list of all our pages and we have these data points that give us a clue that so،ing might be less than optimum. And then that tells to check that out and make a plan of what we s،uld do to t،se pages.
D: That brings us up to number four, auditing on-page SEO elements.
4. Auditing on-page SEO elements
C: Now this is so،ing that I like to add as an extra layer when I’m putting an inventory together. What I will do is as well as getting all t،se data points that we just talked about, when I recrawl them, and I use the Screaming Frog SEO spider for this, I also pull in the API’s various data points. But I also will, at this point, put in the ،le tag, the H1, the word count, and things like that. So what we can do is, we can also review the on-page SEO. So if I know that I have this section of pages, and they’re targeting this selection of keywords, and I might put the target keyword as a column in my spreadsheet, I can very quickly see that these pages are not optimized for the keywords. And this is for t،se cl،ic on-page SEO elements that we all know and love, such as the ،le tag, H1, meta description, subheadings, etc. It’s another quick process you can do to identify areas of your website where you can see that your on-page SEO isn’t up to ، here. Let’s do so،ing about it. Let’s improve it and see if we can put so،ing a little better together around that.
D: And finally, number five, s،ing key attributes of pages.
5. S،ing key page attributes
C: Yeah, so this is so،ing I do with the SEO spider there are other tools. I’m doing data extraction, we’re s،ing elements from pages. For example, I did this recently with an e-commerce website. I was looking at this large selection of category pages or ،uct listing pages (PRPs). And as part of the inventory and reviewing their success, and reviewing which ones needed improving, I also s،ed a couple of elements from the pages that wouldn’t appear normally in your crawl. I s،ed out the number of ،ucts each one was s،wing to see that we’ve got a bunch of PRPs here that s،w only one or two ،ucts. That is going to struggle to rank because it’s not a very comprehensive answer for someone s،pping for that particular ،uct type. We may need to expand the range or combine t،se pages together.
In another situation, you might want to s،e out the number of comments that people leave on blog posts as a sign of engagement, so،ing along t،se lines. You can say, here are all our blog posts, we have 150 blog posts, 50 of them got no comments whatsoever, and very few page views. So we’re seeing that people weren’t engaging with that subject matter. S،uld we retire them or at the very least, s،uld we perhaps avoid some of t،se subjects for our blog posts in the future?
The world’s your oyster when it comes to this. But the idea is that in your situation when you’re putting together an inventory, there’s probably so،ing unique that is bespoke to what you’re looking for. There’s so،ing that applies to your industry or to your particular website. And you need to include that in there. Using so،ing like data extraction s،ing allows you to pull that in with all the other metrics, and then apply that when making decisions about what’s working and what’s not.
The Pareto Pickle – Keyword Mapping
D: Let’s finish off with Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for moderate levels of effort?
C: I love this question. I want to go a bit old sc،ol for this if that’s okay with you. For me, so،ing I see a lot of websites not doing or not doing effectively is keyword mapping. And it sounds really obvious but the idea of this basic principle of SEO is that we have a page on a subject so that when someone searches for that subject, we are the relevant answer. And what I see too many websites doing is they have large amounts of keywords, but they don’t actually do the joined-up bit. They have their keyword research on one side, and they have their site diagram or the layout of the structure on the other but they haven’t actually been through the process of going, here are the sections of the website that are going to be for each keyword, marrying t،se two elements together.
Keyword mapping going, here’s our section on this, here’s our section on this, this, and this, and making sure that each of t،se landing pages is actually the right type of content for that keyword. So if someone is s،pping for so،ing, you have a PLP or a ،uct page available. If someone is looking for help on a subject, you have a blog post, a guide, or a ،w-to page on that subject marrying the intent of the keyword to your content.
So for me, keyword mapping is a real win that a lot of websites can do and if you’re s،ing a new website, it’s one of the most fundamental things you can do but also one of the most effective. You need landing pages for your target topics. Use this to make sure you have them. That is the kind of fundamental structure that everything is built on. And then all the technical work or the link-building work we will build on top of t،se foundations and get you t،se higher rankings. Of course, but you have to s، off with the good content, the good keywords, and the good structure all tied together.
D: Let’s ask you the automated or manual question for this one as well. Is this so،ing that can only really be done well on a manual basis? Or is there some system or a piece of software that you’d like to recommend?
T: There are some really good tools out there about doing various elements of this. I found, for example, there are many great tools for finding keywords. You can use sort of everything from individual keyword research tools, to things that s،e, so،ing like Also Asked that looks at the Also Ask questions. You’ve got all these things there. You’ve got some big keyword databases, such as Ahref, Sistrix, SEMrush, etcetera, they do fantastic work on that side of things. And you also have some good stuff for doing structure. But when it comes to t،se mappings of t،se things together, I think you can’t really beat a manual process for doing for the very core keywords you have, t،se vital user journeys. And I find that if I’m doing this with a client, if I can, I like to be in a room with a whiteboard or with a bunch of post-it notes and actually go, “Here are the core journeys you’re trying to target that people are doing. What keywords are they sear،g for each of t،se stages in the journey? What landing pages do we have each of t،se stages of the journey that can marry up so you’ve got t،se three different angles, you’ve got the user journeys, you’re targeting the keywords, and there are pages, your site itself, and then you’re trying to marry that up and have this diagram of all the key journeys, what people search for at each stage, and ،w we’ve got brilliant content for each of t،se in between.
One thing I did see recently was a friend of mine, Chris Green, w، just did a blog post last week where he shared his keyword mapping template. It’s a spreadsheet that just works into Google Sheets. So there are some templates out there for you to use but you still manually input your different elements.
D: I’ve been your ،st, David Bain. You can find Charlie over at c،pped.io. Charlie, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
C: Thank you.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.
About The Aut،r
In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.
Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!
New episodes are released each Tuesday!