How to Increase Organic Traffic with a Content Audit

By | August 22, 2019


Earlier on this year, I did a content audit
on my website and deleted 74% of my pages. And the result? An over 80% increase in organic traffic. And in this video, I’m going to show you the
exact process and give you the template I used to get these results. If you’re in, then stay tuned. [music] What’s up marketers? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that
helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. So today, I have a jam-packed tutorial, and
it’s actually a scary topic to talk about because a lot of it involves deleting content. So before we dig in, take note that the things
that I’m about to share with you are from my own experiences. But also know that my experience isn’t as
unique as you’d think. For example, Siege Media pruned around 15%
of a website’s pages and saw a 50% increase in organic traffic for a much larger site. And Robbie Richards saw a 79% increase in
search traffic. And this comes from an SEO strategy that we
call a content audit or content pruning. So what is a content audit? In its simplest form, it’s a way to get rid
of underperforming, low-quality pages with the goal to improve the overall “health” of
a website. Bloating your website with low-quality pages
does more harm than good. In fact, John Mueller said, and I quote: “From my point of view, if you’re aware of
low-quality pages on your website, then that’s something I’d try to fix and find a solution
to, be that either removing those pages if you really can’t change them or, in the best
case, finding a way to make them less low-quality and actually making them useful, good pages
on your site.” So let me give you a quick background on the
website that I performed my audit on. A few years ago, I bought a blog with nearly
a thousand pages in their sitemap. And honestly, I had no idea what I was going
to do with the site. But what I knew was that I needed to narrow
in on a topic to start building authority in the industry. Translation? I had to purge a lot of content and create
new content around my chosen topic. Now there were two main challenges. #1. My largest traffic source at the time was
through a social network. So I had to be careful with deleting pages
that didn’t get organic traffic, but still got a meaningful level of traffic from other
sources. And #2. The content was so widespread that if I had
deleted everything other than the content within my focus category, I would have been
left with like 12 out of 1000 pages, which I wasn’t ok with. So the goal was to tighten up my site by consolidating
content and to maintain link equity while growing my site in a new niche that I knew
nothing about. Quick side note: you already know that I had
a positive experience, but I can’t attribute the organic search growth to the content audit
alone, because I was publishing new content and a few of those pages gained links naturally. But I can say that very little link building
was done, which to me, shows that the content audit had some merit. Alright, so when you’re doing a content audit,
you’re going to have to make a lot of decisions. And that’s because you don’t want to randomly
choose pages to delete or redirect. There are basically four different actions that
you’ll need to take as you manually review your pages. And these are: Delete your pages and return a 404 or 410
response code. Use a 301 redirect and consolidate it with
other content. Update the page. Or leave it as-is. And before you choose one of these actions,
you should ask yourself all of these questions, which will bring clarity and result in smarter
decisions. And I had to use these questions from a private
webinar that Matthew Barby did for the Traffic Think Tank group because I couldn’t have articulated
it better myself. Here they are. #1. Is the page older than 6 months? And the important point with this is that
if you haven’t given your page a chance to rank, then you shouldn’t make any rash decisions. Give your pages some time to get results,
see how they’re performing and then go from there. #2. Is the page about a core topic related to
your business? And this is pretty self-explanatory. If you write about social media marketing,
and you have a dedicated post on your trip to France, then your travel adventures probably
won’t be a core topic. #3. Is the page targeting a keyword with “meaningful”
search volume? And “meaningful” is super subjective. For example, top of the funnel keywords will
likely have higher search volumes and bottom of the funnel phrases will have lower volumes. Search volumes will also vary based on industry, so use your best judgment when answering this question. #4. Does the page have thin content? #5. Does it generate a “meaningful” level of organic
traffic? And there’s that word again. “Meaningful” is subjective. #6. Does it generate a “meaningful” level of non-organic
traffic? So this would include traffic sources like
social, referral, and direct traffic. And #7. Does it have any external backlinks
pointing to it? Alright, so let’s jump into a few scenarios. And I won’t be able to cover every single
one, but I’ll simplify a few examples for you based on the most common situations I
faced. First are pages that you should consider deleting. If a page has little to no traffic, has 0
backlinks and isn’t a core topic related to your business, then it’s probably worth deleting. Easy. The second scenario is one that you’ll likely
see a lot of if you have a larger site. Basically, if your page has good backlinks,
but does not have a meaningful level of traffic, then you should consider consolidating it
with another relevant page. But you do need to take into account whether
it’s targeting a keyword with search volume. For example, if you are targeting a good keyword,
but you aren’t getting traffic despite having links, it may be worth reassessing search
intent and/or updating the content. Or if you’re not targeting a keyword with
search volume, yet you have a super strong backlink profile, then you may want to consider
consolidating it or using it as a hub to pass PageRank via internal linking. The third scenario is if you have a meaningful
level of traffic that is related to a core topic in your business. And a simple answer is to leave it as-is
or keep it up to date to continue getting traffic from it. Now the final scenario is if a page gets a
“meaningful” level of traffic, but it’s not related to a core topic in your business. And this is the one that we tend to hate the
most. Because we’re forced to make a decision with
so much uncertainty. So I’ll call it the “It depends” category. In some cases, you’ll choose to leave it as-is,
other times you’ll find that it fits better if consolidated with another post, and sometimes
you might choose to update the content. For example, I had one page that had thousands
of visitors from social, but next to no traffic from organic search. It didn’t have a lot of quality backlinks,
was completely irrelevant to my niche, so I decided to noindex the page and continue
to collect affiliate commissions. Was it the right decision? I can’t say for certain it was, but I wasn’t
willing to let it go and I didn’t see much value in leaving it as indexable. Now, if you have thousands or tens of thousands
of pages, this can be pretty time-consuming. So Josh and I put together a template for
you that’s going to automate a large portion of the process and save you hours or days
of work. Here’s what you’ll need to do to use our content
audit template. And I’ve left a link for you in the description. First, create a copy of the template by clicking
on “File,” then “Make a Copy” and save it to your Google Drive. Once you get the template, you’ll have to
add your data in the sheets at the bottom. So the tools that you’ll need are Google Analytics,
Google Sheets, Ahrefs Site Explorer, and Ahrefs Site Audit tool. Now, if you don’t have all of these tools,
don’t worry, I’ll give you some alternatives as we go through the setup. So let’s speed through this, and if you’re
trying to follow along, just pause, rewind, and rewatch the parts as you go so you can
listen to my awesome voice. So within the spreadsheet, step one is to import
your sitemap URLs. You can do this quite easily using the “Scraper”
extension. Just install the “Scraper” extension for Chrome. Go to your sitemap and right click on one
of your URLs. Next, click “Scrape similar”. And I’ll just clean this up to just have the
URLs as one column and then click “Scrape” to refresh the results. Finally, copy them to the clipboard and paste
them into the Sitemap sheet. You’ll want to have the first cell as a header,
but it doesn’t matter what it’s called. If you have other pages in different sitemaps,
like a category or video sitemap, then you may want to add those too. Now, if you don’t have a sitemap, you have
a few options to get a list of URLs. #1. You can export it from the “Coverage”
report in Google Search Console. #2. If you’re a WordPress user, you can download
a plugin called “Export All URLs.” And #3. You can run a crawl using Ahrefs’ Site Audit
tool. After it’s done, go to Data Explorer, and you
can select these preset filters to identify indexable internal URLs on your site. Alright, step #2 is to export all of your
Google Analytics data over the past year. Now, this kind of comes down to personal preference,
but I like to see underperforming content over a year’s time. If you’re following along with me, then go
to the All Pages report. And you can do this by typing in “all pages”
in the search bar and choosing this option. Next, we need to add a segment. So click here, and then we’ll search for “organic
traffic.” Select it and apply the settings. Now, the amount of data that we’re about to
export is likely going to be huge. So I highly recommend clicking on “advanced,”
and then setting a filter to exclude pages that contain certain footprints. So for example, I’ll use a question mark. And the reason for this is because if you’re
getting traffic from ads or from some social platforms, then they’ll often add query parameters,
which you don’t really need for your export. Most of these will only have one or two page
views anyway. After you’ve set your filter, set the date
to around the past year or so. It doesn’t have to be exact, but I want to
get enough data so I don’t potentially delete things like seasonal posts. Finally, I’ll scroll to the bottom of the
page and set the report to show the maximum number of rows. We just need to export the file as a CSV and
we’re done with Google Analytics. Alright, so back to your template. Click on the GA tab, then click on “File,” “Import,”
“Upload,” and drag and drop your Analytics export here. Once the file is uploaded, click on Append
to current sheet” and click “Import data.” Next, we need to import our links data. To do this, you need to enter in your domain
in Ahrefs Site Explorer tool. Then, go to the Best by links report. This report shows you the number of links
to each of your pages. Next, let’s set the HTTP code filter to 200. And we’ll export this report and import the
data to the Link sheet, just as we did for Google Analytics. Now, if you don’t have Ahrefs, our template
supports Google Search Console data too. So you can go to the link report, then click
“Top linked pages.” And you could export this report to CSV and
import it into the Links tab instead. But be aware that there’s a major drawback
to using Search Console data. Now while it will tell you the number of links
and referring domains, it won’t tell you whether they’re followed links or nofollow links. And that’s pretty massive in my opinion. Ahrefs data, on the other hand, will show
independent categories for these types of links giving you deeper insights to make smarter
marketing decisions. Alrighty! So this 4-minute process just saved you hours
or even days of work. Check this out. If we go to the “Master” sheet, then you’ll
see all of your sitemap URLs, your traffic stats, link stats, and suggested actions. Now before you take these automated suggestions as an SEO action plan, I want to make a few disclaimers. Disclaimer #1.
We did not include anything with e-commerce or goal tracking in this template. If that’s something that you want to add,
feel free to. Disclaimer #2.
The suggested actions are exactly that. Suggested actions based on predetermined criteria. For example, if your Contact or About page
doesn’t have any links or organic traffic, then it doesn’t mean that you should delete
them. And disclaimer #3.
If you have newly-published content, and by new, I’m thinking content that you published
within 6-12 months, then you need to give it a fair chance to rank and get traffic. So don’t start deleting or redirecting them
right away. The key point here is to use some common sense
and manually audit every page before taking action. Alright, so you might have a different set of criteria
for “suggested actions” than what I used. So let’s jump over here to the “Start Here” tab, and
you’ll see a “Conditions” table as well as descriptions of the suggested actions. So based on your own tolerance levels for
getting rid of pages, you can modify these numbers to be a better fit for your needs. So based on the “Actions Descriptions,” if
a page has zero followed backlinks, less than 365 visits, which averages out to around one
search visitor per day, and less than 365 total pageviews as a whole, then delete the
page. The 301/Update action is based on having one
or more backlinks, 365 or fewer organic visitors and 365 or fewer pageviews as a whole. It’s basically saying that your page doesn’t
get much traffic, but has backlinks that you won’t want to throw away. So if you’re targeting a meaningful keyword
with that page, you have the links to back it, then you may want to update that content
to either better match search intent or provide “fresh” information instead of immediately
redirecting it. Next is the 200 response code or the leave as-is. Basically, if you have at least 365 search
visitors and at least 365 total pageviews, then you’ll be suggested to leave the page
as-is. Finally is the “Manually review” section,
which is that “it depends” category that I was talking about before. If your page has less than 365
search visitors and more than 365 pageviews, then you’ll have to evaluate how
you want to proceed. And it’s also important to note that if your
page doesn’t fall into one of these categories, “manually review” will act as a fallback. Once you’ve gone through your pages and assigned
actions, you’ll want to remove or update any internal links to pages you deleted or redirected. You can do this quite easily in Ahrefs Site
Audit. After you run your crawl, go to Data explorer,
and just choose “URL,” then choose “Contains,” and enter in the slug here. Then click on the number of inlinks, and you’ll
see all pages that are internally linking to your filtered URL. From here, it’s just a matter of executing
your action and making the on-page changes across your domain. So if you haven’t already done so, download
the template and make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and
marketing tutorials. And as always, if you have questions, feel
free to leave them in the comments bellow, and I’d be happy to jump in. So keep grinding away, manually review
your content before taking an action, and I’ll see you in the next tutorial.

39 thoughts on “How to Increase Organic Traffic with a Content Audit

  1. Ahrefs Post author

    Have you tried auditing your content? We'd love to hear about your results (good or bad) 😀Also, if you found this video helpful, we have a ton of great weekly content to help you improve your SEO and marketing. Be sure to subscribe and follow https://www.youtube.com/AhrefsCom?sub_confirmation=1

    Reply
  2. Stephanie Manley Post author

    Holy Moly, mind blown. This was quick and easy to produce! Why do my page URLS all have a 403 error in them in ahrefs?

    Reply
  3. PBS Market Post author

    OMG! This is a great actionable video. I can’t wait to do my first site audit. I love that there is a template available to help automate the process. Keep these great videos coming!

    Reply
  4. Antonio Garcia Post author

    Thanks for the vídeo and template. Can't wait to use it.

    Reply
  5. Ashraf Jan Post author

    Hi Sam… Big fan of you! I have something to ask you, when events are ahead, how can I know the volume of Keyword from Ahrefs tool and also if the keyword is pretty new how much time it needs to shown in the Ahrefs keyword explorer.

    Reply
  6. Blogger Kickstart Post author

    Do you have Matthew Barby webinar replay link?

    Reply
  7. Nisar Hussain Post author

    Hi Sam Sir, this was Awesome Tutorial ❤
    I would like to suggest that Please add Free membership plan in Ahrefs ( with limits of 10 per day) or something else. But please make it.

    Reply
  8. Jayaram Pullati Post author

    Very informative, I follow all your videos. Thank you for the good work. God bless you.

    Reply
  9. TheMrbynum86 Post author

    I would look at which of your pages are competing for the same keywords. Delete one of the pages because the two pages will likely rank on different pages of serps. Now google doesn’t have to chose which one to show. The target page can then be optimized to show higher. This is my opinion on pruning.

    Reply
  10. DigiManako Post author

    Thanks, buddy…….. for this video… I like all Ahrefs workers because they know how to teach ……clear sound…..practical video….. I miss Kathryn and love Ahrefs simplified SEO videos most.. I also miss that guy who did simplified SEO video… love from India

    Reply
  11. ucretsiz takipci Post author

    Is is important the name of cells we are going to use?

    Reply
  12. Bobbi Mehr Post author

    WOW! Seriously impressive video and thorough coverage of a topic that is scary for most of us to undertake. Thanks for making this a LOT easier to implement.

    Reply
  13. MO Nour Post author

    I love your content so much. Although I'm still a beginner in this realm of SEO, I get a ton of value from you guys. I can't skip a video … However, I'm still building my first website. Keep it up guys

    Reply
  14. tysonjm1 Post author

    Thanks for sharing all your hard work! Two Questions… 1) The results you cited speak for themselves, but do you guys have any info about WHY deleting pages using this criteria can actually improve your site's organic search 'health'… does it just come down to Google seeing your site as being filled with high-value and popular content, so it ranks your 'good' pages even better? 2) Do we HAVE to delete pages that don't make the cut, or can we we no-index and exclude them from our sitemaps and still get the same benefits? I'm thinking sites that host many guest/sponsored posts where if you start deleting ones that are over a year old, the SEO companies you worked with to publish them may take notice. 😉 Thanks for your thoughts!

    Reply
  15. karim mohamed Post author

    I don't understand direct traffic, my site is not popular and I doubt anyone has ever heard about it before they could make a direct visit!

    Reply
  16. Arthur Post author

    So awesome Sam! One of my favorite posts of Robbie's is actually the one where he shares his content audit process and spreadsheet. You didn't by chance decide to do this after using Ahrefs Top Pages report on his site, did you? 🙂 Anyhow, LOVE the template, how you can edit the criteria and how simple it is. Would love to see a conversation piece built into it.

    Reply
  17. Ryan Stewart Post author

    THIS IS BULLSHIT – you ripped my exact template and blog post that i published THREE years ago – https://webris.org/content-audit/

    Reply
  18. Ryan Stewart Post author

    Why dont you mention the fact that you stole my template – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5t_BJ4jLkI

    Reply
  19. Cue View Post author

    Thanks, Sam. Just I think you forget put site of your case of study so we can check it out.

    Reply
  20. Patric Melander Post author

    Thank so much, this will be super helpful!! I've done this type of thing manually before and just like you said, it could be VERY time consuming, so THANK YOU! 🙏

    Reply
  21. David Huerga Post author

    Hi, I've had a great disgust when I tried to do my first audit with this tool that I think is great, and it has not worked for me at all. Of course, I have begun to think and I have realized that I am watching the video in English, and therefore, the tool must be in the same language, (I'm from Spain) . so I started looking at the formulas and, effectively, translating the name of the segment to use, works perfectly. And he knew that he could not fail something done by the great Sam Oh, o /. It's just something I wanted to say, because surely like me, many others will have tried without realizing this detail. Maybe it is better to put a clarification in the text of the video. Thanks for this contribution Sam, as always, very very useful.

    Reply
  22. Miguel Ángel Palacios González Post author

    Hey, Sam. I have followed all the steps of the tutorial and also those of the video and it doesn't work for me. In the Master tab I get both in Pageviews, Organic Sessions and Ahrefs Followed the result of 0. As a consequence the Suggested Action is always Delete (404). Maybe it's because I'm Spanish and it's exported everything in my language and maybe it won't work, but how could I solve it? Thank you

    Reply
  23. Romana King Post author

    Hey Ahrefs, awesome concept, but my Master page returns "O" for pageviews and organic sessions and an incomplete column for Links so suggested action for all pages is 301. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
  24. John Albin Post author

    My client has over 1k “news” posts that get little to no traffic in Google, even though they are indexed. Do you think Ahrefs would have data on these when it comes to updating the internal links after removal? The domain has been around for about 20 years.

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  25. Richard Csepregi Post author

    awesome video and template – however, I've followed the steps and got 0 pageviews and 0 organic sessions in the 'master' tab… has anyone had something like this?

    Reply
  26. Eric Hepperle Post author

    6:30 – #ContentAudit Template instructions begin here
    8:10 – Using #GoogleAnalytics

    Reply
  27. Butler Post author

    This seems like a really complicated way of building this view, rather than just using Screaming Frog connected to the Ahrefs, GA and GSC APIs to get the same thing in a few clicks

    Reply
  28. leicesterweb Post author

    Hi Sam, this is a great video and tool, thank you.

    However, after following the steps, my Google Sheet is displaying 0 for all Pageviews and Organic Sessions for all rows?

    I've exported and imported my Google Analytics data as described, but the sheet is not processing the data as intended?

    Reply
  29. ahmed al arif Post author

    What should you do when you dont have analytics installed on your site? Which tool should you use for getting those data instead?

    Reply
  30. Michelle Griffith Post author

    Can you use another analytics tool that is not Google Analytics for this?

    Reply
  31. Quick Supply BD Post author

    Its really great piece of information,i have been struggling with my digital marketing site https://quicksupplybd.com/ ,visitor is low ,not ranking ,bounce rate high,can you please tell me how I can get success and whats my main problems are?Is blogging so hard these days? what's your smart opinion?

    Reply

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