How Underperforming Content Hurts SEO and What to Do

Content Audit

Your content is like a garden. Even if you have healthy plants producing fruit, if there is old, dead undergrowth or even overgrowth, your healthy plants will be hidden or, worse, not perform as well. Content pruning is a good solution, but why brave the proverbial thorns, bugs, and dirt? Thorough content pruning using an SEO Content Audit removes deadweight, allowing the spotlight to fall on your relevant content, which can quickly improve your rankings. 

Is Your Content Hurting Your Site Rankings?

If you’ve noticed a slip in your rankings recently, it could be underperforming, poor-quality content dragging your site down like a dead weight. Even the most robust and effective content strategy will require regular pruning for peak performance. 

Additionally, Google recently completed a series of helpful content updates that reward helpful, high-quality content for its searchers in March 2024. While spam and unscrupulous use of AI content were the primary targets in March, Google has steadily updated its algorithm to prioritize useful and user-friendly content. Google’s helpful content updates have repeatedly emphasized that useful, engaging, accurate, and primarily human-generated content is necessary to rank. 

If you’ve eliminated the usual suspects from your drop in rankings, consider a deep dive into your content and some judicious content pruning. SEO experts often see a rise in site rankings after thoroughly reviewing and editing existing content. Reducing content clutter creates a clearer image for search engines, giving the quality content supporting your top keywords a stronger signal. 

Content Pruning: How to Assess Your SEO Content

It’s time to evaluate your existing content and start a content strategy if you don’t already have one. Step one, in either case, is looking at what is on your site thoroughly, strategically, and dispassionately. Editing, like surgery, uses small cuts to promote health. Here are the things to look for when you start pruning your content.

Page performance:

Many tools can be used to conduct a content audit and discover how well or poorly your content is performing. When looking at overall performance, examine the page’s number of clicks, impressions, and position on SERPs. 

Low-traffic content, for example, is ripe for pruning. If the subject matter is valuable, put the topics on the calendar or slate it for re-writing. Often, simply refreshing a post with a few tweaks to the copy, adding keywords, and republishing with a new date is all that’s needed. However, if the post offers little value, return it to drafts.

Outdated Information:

Now, we move on to the manual review portion of the process. Double-checking your blogs for outdated information is essential for them to count as helpful in the eyes of search engines. This will be entirely industry-dependent; do your due diligence to ensure that any information or advice in your content is accurate and current. Using .gov or .edu sources in your content is a solid tactic for giving your copy credibility.

This is especially important for any time-sensitive industries, such as an accounting firm’s guide to yearly taxes. Updating the information, the date in the copy, and the metadata are essential for relevancy.

High-Quality Content Evaluation:

Pruning content for SEO includes dispassionately evaluating your copy for information accuracy, overall quality, and readability. While reviewing your content, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the content offering valuable information or something else useful to the reader? The essence of helpful content is to tie your offering to a solution to someone’s problem.
  2. Are there typos? Proper spelling and grammar are essential. Try a tool like Grammarly for easy spellchecking and editing.
  3.  Does the page look visually appealing? Broken images, widgets, or format misalignment can be jarring and offers a poor user experience (UX).
  4. Is it well-written and enjoyable to read? Create SEO content users want to read and share with their family and friends.

Incorporate or update on-page SEO

Improve the performance of your helpful content and create SEO content creation best practices for your copy going forward. Whenever you’re writing new copy, place a link to the supported service or product page on keyword anchor text within the first paragraph of your blog. For example, a gardening store writing a blog on houseplant propagation might link to related products on “how to propagate houseplants” in its introduction. 

Using keywords and phrases in the article headers is also essential for on page SEO. Search engines use page headers to determine what a web page is about, so including keywords in headers paints a clear picture.

Optimize your metadata

Metadata is what you see when a website appears in search results. Metadata includes the SEO page title and the short blurb underneath, which is called a meta description. Using your keyword/s in your SEO title is a critical ranking factor for a page. The length is also essential—keep it between 50 and 60 characters. 

 A meta description is like a free ad that appears on search engines below the page title. Include keywords and a call to action (CTA) in a 150-160-character meta description. If you don’t give search engines one, you may see random copy selected from the page used instead. 

Use our free tool to check the SEO title and meta description character count

SEO Content Audit: How to Conduct a High-Level Content Review

Content pruning your website continues with a full content audit. While a tax audit may strike terror in all our hearts, here, the power of detailed analysis is used in the service of good. Let’s dive into how you can make your content work harder for you and tap the potential of your existing content. 

How to do an SEO Content Audit

A content audit shows how well your content performs on search engines by showing how many people see your web pages in search results, what position they are in, and how many click through to your site. We like to start with Google Search Console to gather data on a site:

  • Filter pages for blog category, e.g. “/blog/.
  • Select “clicks,” “impressions,” “CTR (click-through rate),” and “position.”
  • Export data to Google Sheets or Excel.
  • Break down the data with a manual review.

During pruning, you have several options for your content: deleting or unpublishing a page, redirecting a page, keeping a page, or combining pages. Pages with no value, e.g., low to zero traffic, impressions, clicks, or useful content, can be removed permanently. If a page has some SEO value, consider cherry-picking any useful content for another blog and redirecting the page to a blog that better supports that keyword.

Conversely, pages performing well and with high-quality and valuable content can be left alone, optimized to improve performance, or enhanced with more content. For example, turning a supporting blog into a longer-form guide can improve its performance, as longer pieces of content often perform better than shorter pieces. 

Questions to Ask When Reviewing Your Content

Answer this question for each post and track your answers in your spreadsheet:

  • Is it worth keeping? If not, it goes in the delete/unpublished category.
  • Does it need to be updated if it’s worth keeping? If the piece is fine, remove it from the content audit list (though regular metadata, header, and copy shifts can help even well-performing and optimized pages).
  • If it requires updating, does it need minor edits or rewritten to any degree?
  • How is the on-page SEO? Track all pages that lack metadata or have poor metadata (no keywords, typos, over-character count) so they can be updated.
    • Start from the top and the bottom–delete all the posts you aren’t keeping or unpublish them and redirect them to support similar blogs. Then, start tweaking or updating the posts with the best performance or relevance (like seasonal content).
  • What if you have several blogs about the same topic? If one blog performs better than the others, or it’s a valuable subject, you can combine your content.
    • If one blog in a group is performing well and the others aren’t, take what’s good, relevant, valuable, etc, from the blogs with lower performance and add those pieces to the blog that’s performing well. (Search engines tend to reward longer content.)

      Next, redirect the lower-performing blogs to the new and improved blog, boosting it with those pages’ traffic and authority.
    • If you have several solid blogs around a topic, consider merging them into one long “Guide to X Subject.” In this case, you would combine whole blogs into a guide rather than cherry-picking to improve one blog. Publish the combined blogs as a new post, “The Ultimate Guide to Subject X,” then redirect the original blogs to this new post. 

Elevate Your SEO Content with CadenceSEO

If you are ready to prune underperforming SEO content and see your rankings rise, contact the experts at Cadence SEO. High-quality content is the cornerstone of good SEO and organic search. Content pruning will spotlight the useful content search engines want to put in front of searchers. Whether you want help making a plan or want to outsource it entirely, let us know how we can help.

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Emily Wallace

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