Maple Money’s Tom Drake has been blogging for over 9 years and runs multiple blogs. He now specializes in the technical side of blogging with a focus on SEO that has led to over 700,000 pageviews a month. We recently sat down with Drake to discuss the importance of performing a content audit, as well as the tools that can make that process easier.
To listen to the full interview with Tom Drake, listen to episode 68 of the Money & Media podcast. In the same episode, listen to our hosts Bethany Bayless and Joe Saul-Sehy discuss Drake’s interview in more detail in this podcast-exclusive bonus.
What is a content audit?
According to Drake, content auditing matters mostly when there’s a lot of old, stagnant, or useless content. It is important not only for search engine optimization, as it has been known to double or triple site traffic, but it is also useful for the reader.
It’s making content that’s useful, evergreen, and better for the audience.– Tom Drake
SEO terms shouldn’t lead readers to outdated, unhelpful posts from three years ago. Having a content audit is like cleaning the house that is your blog. You want to have a clean, up-to-date house that will make your guests feel welcome.
Tools for your content audit
Content auditing relies heavily on SEO. Drake is a big fan of using tools to help in this process–especially tools that will help navigate SEO better.
After discovering keywords, Drake recommends creating a spreadsheet to lay out and arrange data. To export the data from a blog, he suggests the WordPress plugin WP All Export.
WP All Export will take anything from WordPress and export it to CSV, XML, or Excel. It can be arranged to view the title, meta description, url, author, category, etc. in conjunction with Google Analytics.
Organizing content into categories
The data can then be arranged into categories. Drake suggests labeling every blog post with the following categories:
Drake recommends to start with Delete. Get rid of old posts that are out of date and no longer serve the overall purpose or mission.
For example: Check for product reviews that don’t exist anymore, sponsored posts, content that may be out of date.
Optimizing the Title
One of the best things to optimize is the title of a post. Drake says this is all about the click-through-rate and not necessarily about ranking. Titles that hook readers get clicks because they are designed to get the reader’s attention.
Google views user metrics for higher content rankings. So content that might be ranked #3 for a search but has a better title and gets more clicks will signal a clue to Google for a higher ranking.
Hooking readers is one thing, but bloggers also have to keep them there with content that backs up the title.
If someone is clicking on your post and leaving, that’s a problem. That means they didn’t get what they wanted. –Tom Drake
Using numbers in titles is one way to make it stand out, Drake says. During a content audit, rework titles of past posts to catch more attention.
Length of Post Matters
In previous years, the standard length for a post was around 300-500 words. They were shallow because the trend was to target a specific keyword in one post, then do another post targeting a similar but different keyword.
Now, Drake says, the trend is to merge those two or three articles to make one master post with subsections, if needed. This is also a great way for bloggers to create pillar content.
However, Drake warns against adding extra “fluff” to posts. Make sure all the content on a long post has a purpose and reason for being there.
“Don’t make [a blog post] longer for the sake of being longer. Make it longer because you are covering the topic better than the top 10 in the search results cover it. –Tom Drake
Focusing on word count alone is a way to get unnecessary and useless words into a post. That isn’t the idea of long-form content. It is about being complete.
404 Link Vs. 301 Redirect
After deleting or merging posts, the link where that post once lived is now empty. Drake recommends covering those links with a 301 redirect, often to the home page.
The benefit of creating a 404 is that people are aware the link they just clicked doesn’t exist anymore. However, when using a 404 page, Drake says to make sure it is a good 404 page.
Most 404 pages will have a message like, “Oops, this page doesn’t exist any more,” or “You missed out.” Drake suggests using the 404 as a landing page by offering links to other valuable content on the site.
How to prepare your site for a future content audit
Content audits are helpful for people who have been blogging for years with hundreds of posts. However, some might not be in that situation yet, but they will be in the future. With this vision in mind, it’s good to be proactive now to ensure content audits run smoothly when that time comes.
Drake once again recommends Ahrefs as a tool to help with keywords. He also suggests Answer the Public as a resource for questions on keywords and SEO.
One of basic tools every blog should have, according to Drake, is the Yoast SEO plugin. It will make a useful site map and tell Google when there’s a new post or a change to a post.
Drake also recommends focusing on the site speed to help when it comes to SEO. If a site is too slow, it could hurt its ranking and become a problem. Compressing the images on a site will also help make it load more quickly.
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