After a bad October-November period, one of my sites had lost 16% of its Organic Keywords.
Not the worst thing in the world, but as one of the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that I like to track it was enough to require my attention.
In cases like this there can be dozens of potential reasons for the loss, and while 16% doesn’t sound like a lot, it is. Especially if you choose to do nothing and your site continues to lose positions.
Long story short, I decided it was time to perform a Content Analysis on the site.
What Is Content Analysis?
Content Analysis is a process where we take a look at every piece of Content on a website and check to see how it’s performing and whether or not it’s healthy.
Factors I Checked:
There are many factors that you should check when doing a Content Analysis, but it also depends on the type of analysis that you’re doing.
In the same way that I break my audits into several types, I do this with content analysis as well, which allows me to focus better. Intensity beats extensity.
As the objective for this audit was to check content’s Organic Search performance I checked the following;
- Visitors over 90 Days
- Number of Internal Links
- Number of Backlinks
- Number of Organic Keywords
- Positions for Target/Focus Keywords
- Check for Cannibalization
I opted not to check User Engagement factors as my main interest was ‘Does This Get Traffic?’ and ‘If Not Then Why Not?’
It was shocking for me to see that there were indeed a lot of articles that had received absolutely no traffic at all over the last 90 days.
On smaller sites, it’s common to be able to keep a closer eye on this, but as your site grows it becomes more difficult to check your analytics as often as you should.
In total there were 19 pages with 0 traffic. A whopping 18% of my site.
Deciding What To Do
This is one of the key things that most people will fail on.
You need to decide what the right course of action is, and sometimes that seems counter-intuitive or is difficult to do because of sentimentality.
In my case I knew that I had to do one of the following:
- Add more Internal Links.
- Add more Backlinks.
- Optimize The Page.
- Combine The Page.
- Delete The Page.
Most people will happily do two of those, while others feel that Optimizing a page is a waste of time. And others consider Combining pages, let alone Deleting them a cardinal sin and won’t do it at all.
I decided I was going to delete pages based on two very simple criteria.
- Has under 10 Organic Keywords.
- Main Keyword has Under 200 Searches/mo.
These criteria aren’t what I’d call perfect, and I did some crossover checks where I was at least making sure that pages with 3 Organic Keywords didn’t have one really valuable keyword.
My main point is to just pick something, and take action. You can perform other checks where you believe it necessary.
Any article which fell into one or both of the above criterion, was not worth the Link Equity and Crawl Budget it was taking up… They weren’t worth the time to attempt to Optimize them.
Of my 19 pages that received 0 traffic in 90 days, 11 of them were scheduled for immediate deletion.
.301s and .410s were setup, internal links were removed and this part was done.
Due to most existing sites being crawled fairly frequently, this represents an opportunity for most sites to quickly improve their rankings.
These improvements come about usually due to the increase in the Crawl Budget and Link Equity that is appointed to other pages.
If you have a single chicken to feed 5 dinner guests, and 3 don’t turn up, it’s obvious that the remaining 2 dinner guests will receive more chicken.
In my experience, this benefit usually outweighs the benefit of any Internal Links lost between the removed pages.
Interestingly these 11 pages turned out to be an entire category on my site, which shows there was clearly some relevance issues there.
Adding More Internal Links
Sometimes we just mess up and during analysis find that some pages have very few, or no Internal Links.
I found 3 pages which had less than 5 Internal Links.
I then planned out Internal Links for these pages and added them accordingly.
Using a Keyword Position Tracker such as SERPBook you can quickly set up the required tracking for your keywords on those pages to see if this improves the situation over the next 30 days or so.
As you can see I was able to get positive results from this very quickly.
Not as quickly as you’ll see with deleting pages, which is why that should always come first.
You will notice that these pages see a better or worse response than other pages on your site. That’s how you can identify if the Internal Linking changes were successful, rather than just being affected by the deleting pages changes.
I repeated this tracking step for each of the 3 pages, as we need to track each page as easily as possible.
Adding More Backlinks
This is a simple step and it’s something I use Ahrefs for.
You can use the Keywords Explorer to quickly check any SERP. In this case, we can see that the average number of Backlinks for this Specific Keyword is 13.25.
This shows you that you might need 13 or more Backlinks to rank for this term. You should repeat this for the Referring Domains as well.
This step at least shows you whether or not your Low Performing Content could be improved with Link Building.
I found 2 pages that weren’t deleted that then required additional Links.
I didn’t have to combine any of my pages thankfully, but this is a common fix for issues when a site has cannibalization.
It’s not the only fix for cannibalization, but as one of them, it is something I commonly recommend when doing audits for people who have cannibalization issues.
Optimizing The Page
I was left with 3 Low Performing Pages that required Optimization.
Optimization means one of two things:
- Rewrite The Content Completely (then proceed to Step 2)
- Progressively Optimize The Existing Content.
This is something that I usually do over the course of around 10 days, using a tool such as SurferSEO.
Surfer allows you to check averages for a SERP, such as what we did with Ahrefs, except in regards to On-Page Factors.
Allowing 10 days to see the results of these kinds of optimizations is a natural way to allow a crawler to access your site and update the SERPs accordingly.
You can use GSC (Google Search Console) to ‘Fetch’ the page and ‘Request Indexing’ to see the results in around 20 minutes. I don’t advise doing this as there is a limit to how many times you can do this per month!
The massive benefit of using Surfer for your site, or in this case my 3 pages was that I could check if I was massively over or under the averages for those pages target keywords SERP.
This allowed me to then adjust these to see whether adjusting towards average resulted in an improvement.
Usually it does, but it’s not always the case and I do often see your target keyword go up and other keywords drop when using these kinds of tools.
This page is a great example of that, where you can see immediate improvement on the target keyword and an actual drop for the other keywords on that page.
Due to the positions of the page and the small effect of the optimization, this page is heading towards being rewritten completely or being deleted.
When using a tool like Surfer doesn’t work, it’s sometimes a good idea to either rewrite the content or abandon the average model and instead just focus on testing out extremes both high and low and then figuring out what is optimal yourself!
Obviously, any kind of optimization like this takes time, which is why this part of the process is still going on for me even 20 days later.
So after 20 days, I’ve seen some great results.
Not only has the site recovered from its dip, it’s actually gone on to greater heights with many of the results still to come.
This growth has totaled at 52% so far which is a great amount of growth for 20 days.
Some of these things I already knew, which is why I went down this route and has these processes, to begin with, but it’s useful to surmise.
- Sometimes more content on smaller sites can hurt them.
- Lack of relevance can hurt an entire category on your site to the point it’s better to just remove it.
- You can get a lot of growth from optimizing internal links.
- You can see a page grow for a single keyword, but lose out for others when optimizing for that single keyword. So always be careful what you optimize for.
- Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with your content, it’s just that you don’t have enough backlinks to compete.
And finally, Content Analysis drives growth. Don’t be on that hippie train where people think it doesn’t.
Even on a small site such as this one you can wield this kind of audit to devastating effect when done properly.