Nov 1, 2023

How to audit and update content for SEO

Updating older content is more than a ‘best practice.’ It’s one of the most efficient ways to boost traffic, engagement, and conversion on a B2B site.

We meet tons of marketers who know they should be updating content, but don’t actually do it very much.

This post (created with the fabulous writer Kesar Rana) will walk you through the steps of the process. After that, we’ll discuss some of the finer points and FAQs.

Step-by-step: on-page SEO updates

As with any content marketing project, data guides us to a strategy and then strategy guides us to specific tactics.

In a broad sense, you can break up the process into 4 phases:

  • Set your goals
  • Audit the page
  • Update the page
  • Monitor the performance

Let’s dig in to each of these with a little more detail…

template seo update png

Phase 1: Set your goals

  • Build your topic/keyword strategy (to strategically select content)
  • Pull performance data for all thematically relevant pages
  • Choose pages to update, based on content strategy, performance potential, and your labor budget

Phase 2: Create an audit document

  • Choose a target keyword
    • Target keyword is usually determined by your existing topic strategy and/or the search terms for which a page is currently ranking
    ottimo declining pages keyword 2 png
  • Enter your target keyword into Google to identify the top ranking competitor pages
    • Assess factors such as: scope of content, funnel stage, common questions answered, strengths, weaknesses
  • Suggest changes for competition: suggest adding any core content that you see appearing repeatedly in top-ranking pages
  • Suggest changes for quality: cut out fluffy content, update any old statistics/references, streamlining the H-tag structure
  • Suggest changes for SEO: optimize metadata and h-tags to include your target keyword

Phase 3: Updating the page

  • Finalize the edits in your audit document
  • Revise the existing page content according to your audit

Phase 4: Monitoring performance

  • Distribute + promote the revised page
    • Adapt content for social platforms
  • Review performance trends monthly
    • You probably won’t see noticeable changes for ~3 months

How does AI fit into this process?

We are still figuring out how AI fits into this process. Currently, AI is useful (sometimes) for the following tasks:

  • Suggesting new page titles based around keywords
  • Suggesting new ways to break up long posts into shorter subheads
  • Generating rough copy for sections that you’d like to add to a post

What metrics should I track during a content audit? How do I use them to improve a website's SEO?

We track traffic metrics (traffic, keyword performance) to assess the value for search performance.

We track engagement metrics (time on page, bounce rate) to assess that value of the content and how well it matches search intent.

We assess both to decide how heavy of an edit to implement for either end.

What are the key elements of on-page SEO that I should focus on optimizing?

We focus first on metadata and h-tags. 

We then focus on content:

  • The questions answered
  • The narrative structure

After doing keyword research, how do I use those keywords in on-page SEO efforts?

A few steps:

  1. Identify the most promising keyword
    • Which keyword is it ranking for already?
    • Which is the most relevant (and valuable) keyword we can aim for?
  2. Research the top-ranking posts for that keyword. Identify whether it’s a good fit for the existing post. Note that questions that are answered by the top ranking posts.
  3. Revise the old post to compete with the top ranking posts

How do I monitor and track the effectiveness of these updates over time?

You can track the success of a page the same way you track all other pages. We track traffic and engagement data from Google Analytics plus search rank performance data from Google Search Console..

To identify changes, we recommend waiting ~3 months before trying to assess new trends.

You can track this stuff in Google Analytics + Google Search Console… or just use Ottimo to get data from both. (We, of course, use Ottimo.)

Additionally, success may be determined by specific goals / KPIs that a client has. If their goals center around conversion (eg. demo requests) then you may need to take additional steps for optimization, such as adding new CTAs.

Are there any best practices I should use when auditing a page for SEO?

If a page is already ranking really well, then we want to take a lighter touch to it. If we revise a successful post too heavily, there is a risk of accidentally harming its search performance.

If it’s not performing well then we’ll take a heavier touch. There is less risk involved.

We use SEO checklists to finish off each piece.

How can I identify and fix technical SEO issues impacting on-page SEO?

Search rank is affected by search intent alignment and metadata.

  • Search engines use metadata (title tag, meta description, h-tags) to make sense of your page. This has a direct effect on the queries that a page ranks for

    To identify issues with the metadata, you need to inventory all of the metadata and make sure that they’re aligned with your target keyword and search intent

  • Search intent is a matter of understanding what the human users are looking for. What questions are they asking? What kind of information do they need?

    Example If a user is typing a search query like “how to set up Google Analytics” then they are probably looking for step-by-step instructions. A page that is trying to meet that intent will need to provide step-by-step instructions if it wants to rank well for it.

Engagement is affected by relevance and quality of a post.

  • Once again, search intent is a big factor here.
    • Is your post providing the type of information that readers are looking for? You can answer these questions by looking at the top-ranking posts for a keyword
  • Quality extends to data, UX, and the writing itself
    • Is the data accurate, relevant and interesting?
    • Is the site easy to navigate and read?
    • Is the writing clear, useful, and compelling? Is it structured in an accessible way?

Traffic is affected by search ranking and metadata

  • If a page isn’t ranking well in search, it’s probably not going to get much traffic
    • You can fix this by using the methods describe at the top of this section for search ranking
  • If the title and meta description are unclear or dull, then it’s probably not going to get many clicks when people find it in search
    • You can fix this by aligning the metadata with target keyword and search intent, as discussed in the previous section

How do I create an on-page SEO strategy that aligns with my client's goals and target audience?

First, you need to identify the client’s goals and the target audience for a piece of content.

To optimize for the target audience, you need as much customer research as possible to understand what the audience is looking for. This is another way of trying to understand search intent. Original customer research can provide a competitive edge when you’re updating a page to be competitive in organic search.

Generally speaking, you want to identify specific questions and use cases that fit with the audience. A quick way is to look at the top-ranking pages and identify what feels the most relevant.

On-page SEO mostly helps improve search ranking and traffic. Improving traffic and ranking will generally support any goal (eg. conversion, engagement, etc.).

On-page, the best things you can do with SEO are really just the same things you would do to make a piece of writing more clear:

  • Use subheads to make navigation / skimming easier
  • Use tables of contents to make navigation easier
  • Edit the language to remove fluff
  • Keep the research updated

How do I document my content audit findings and report them to clients?

We use Ottimo to provide insights into basic data trends.

ottimo dashboard png

When it comes to creating audit documents, your methods will vary depending on the software or document formats that a client prefers.

Currently, we use Google Docs. We paste the page copy into a fresh document, with performance data at the top, then highlight relevant bits of copy. We use the Comment feature in Google Docs to provide notes for each one in the sidebar.

We’re *actually* here to help

We’re marketers who love spreadsheets, algorithms, code, and data. And we love helping other marketers with interesting challenges. Tackling the hard stuff together is what we like to do.

We don’t just show you the way—we’re in this with you too.

Background image of a red ball in a hole.