Last updated on 13th June 2023 at 21:22 by Alex Nicholas
Make sure your Website is setting the tone with our full and detailed content analysis guide. Discover what makes your pages rank in the search engines and how to analyse your and your competitors' topics.
The most important part of any Website is it's content. It's also one of the most misunderstood and poorly executed aspects of a Website, and as an SEO consultant, it's one of the biggest and most common issues I come across when I analyse a Website. And whilst this might sound sensationalist, it really isn't.
Every piece of content on your Website should be there for a reason (and there are often gaps in your content that need to be addressed), to affect the user and create an outcome. But all too often it doesn't. In fact, it's often created for the wrong reasons, usually misses the mark and causes your site to be viewed as low quality in the eyes of Google's algorithms.
So let's get to the bottom of where you're going wrong and how to address the issues.
Is there evidence of keyword duplication or cannibalisation?
Keyword or content cannibalisation has the ability to stunt your rankings if two or more pages have a very similar keyword or content targeting. This is because similar pages potentially cause confusion for Google which is trying to understand what you've written and are positioning your pages accordingly. They will effectively have to choose which page is most appropriate to the search results and could end up showing the wrong page.
Now whilst there are many angles to writing content, it's intent and why it was written in the first place, it is a good idea to at least understand if one page is treading on another page's toes. So to figure out whether or not this could be an issue you need to head over to your Google Search Console and follow these steps:
- Here you'll see a list of keywords (queries) that your site is ranking for
- Next, select a keyword to analyse then press ‘pages'
- Here, ideally, you will see just one URL for that keyword/query but if you're shown a list of URLs then you potentially have a cannibalisation issue
Going through this process is important for any Website owner but it's is especially important if you create lots of content around a tightly focused niche (that's most of us then…), but what should you do about it?
- Ask yourself this simple question, and be honest with your answer. Do both pages need to be on my Website?
- If the answer is yes, then think about changing the keyword phrase throughout the page slightly and go with a different angle in the content.
- If the answer is no then consider consolidating the content onto the best performing page (based on your Google Search Console data) and use a 301 redirect from the underperforming page to the newly updated page.
- Remember to move any internal links from the dropped page to the newly updated one.
One caveat to the 4 steps above is that oftentimes it can simply be a case of doing nothing more than de-tuning the content found on offending URLs. For example, if you're a Website owner targeting your local area you might be tempted to splash your address and local entities on lots of pages. This is a mistake that can lead Google to constantly flip flop between pages it ranks for local intent, meaning you don't see the full potential that local trade has to offer.
Can you identify content on pages 2 or 3 for a quick win?
This is often overlooked by Website owners because they're busy or have taken their eye off the ball, but you can quickly and easily bump pages that are stuck on page two of the SERPs up to page 1 by putting your domain into a website auditing tool like SEMRush and looking at the Positions Report. By doing this you'll see every keyword you're ranking for, along with the position it's ranking.
Next, apply some filters to show you the content that's on pages 2 or 3 and study how different your content is in comparison to the content at the top of the SERPs. Often it's just a case of not covering the content in slightly more detail such as adding in a couple more answers to questions, or not having enough internal links pointing to it from other relevant posts
Is the content evergreen?
I'm a big fan of creating evergreen content (that's content that is written to last) on a Website because, in my humble opinion, it's often the best type of content due to the time, effort and research that goes into it. All too often Website owners get into the mindset of creating content for the sake of it on a blog they assume they must have because it's what everyone else does, right?
Your content strategy should be planned and executed in a way that makes your Website a valuable source of information that's useful, easy to digest and easy to find. And that's just not going to happen if you've not thought it through. All too frequently content is written for SEO's sake in the vain belief that Google will simply send more traffic/leads because it's there. Unfortunately, this simply doesn't happen.
Evergreen content by it's very nature doesn't get ‘stale' over time, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't update it, it just means that what you've written is factually correct, educational and it's ‘still' relevant today.
And just so you're left in absolutely no doubt as to how to approach creating content, here's a post by Google themselves about what they want from you.
Have you created content hubs?
What's equally important to creating evergreen content is utilising content hubs, so is the organisation of your evergreen content up to the task? To me, the best-performing evergreen content is found in fixed positions within the Website. For example, you'll probably have noticed that what I consider the most important content to users is found under clear and obvious headings in the top navigation and is only one click from the home page.
It's not hidden in an ever-increasing mishmash that is the everyday blog where every time I publish something new the last piece gets pushed down one, and before you know it, it's buried beneath 25 other posts. Nope, I want users of my site to find the important stuff quickly and easily because let's be honest here, we've all been to those sites that have a ton of potentially good information on them but you've got to spend ages clicking and looking for related articles. That just sucks!
So make sure that when you're writing SEO content it's set under the correct category and that category heading is clear and descriptive of the content that sits inside it. And don't just do this because I've said so, do it because it's your primary content. It's all really quite simple, and your Website's performance in the SERPS will be a living testimony to this.
Is your content out of date & does it answer the questions in enough detail?
Getting rid of out-of-date content on your site should be an obvious target when it comes to culling pages that shouldn't be on the site anymore, but plenty of site owners ignore it because they don't see the harm in it. However, I personally believe that getting rid of content that has no relevance on any topic within your site structure should be either 301 re-directed to a suitable page removed altogether because having low-value content can potentially have an adverse effect on the site overall.
But the real problems come when posts are simply written for the sake of them, or for SEO purposes. Articles MUST cover the topic and answer the questions visitors might have questions about it.
Have you actually spent time studying what questions you should be answering? Have you gone through your competitor's pages to see what they're writing about? But most importantly, have you looked at the ‘People also asked' questions provided by Google in the SERPs? If not why not?
Click on them to see how relevant they are to you because Google is literally telling you what people are asking, and what's more, the more you click on them the more Google reveals (up to around 25-30 questions, and some of them stop being relevant)!
Also, check out tools such as Also Asked or Ask the Public as they provide endless opportunities for subheadings that will help you provide a fuller answer.
You also need to forget about keyword search volumes to some degree, because the aim of your website should be to cover your chosen topics with depth and breadth, and this means that you should be including search terms and topics with little to no search volume.
If you write for the visitor by answering their questions in detail, you will be rewarded. This is what Google means when they say ‘Write for the user'.
So if your content isn't performing well enough, or bringing in a suitable amount of enquiries then consider re-write your underperforming blog posts or articles, starting with the most important ones for your company's bottom line or those that are hovering around page 2 or 3. These are often the most fruitful (especially the articles on pages 2 or 3) because Google will have already given them some value, and by updating them to ‘better' what's already at the top of the SERPs you will give yourself a great chance of seeing some big organic gains.
Is your post too long or too short & does it stay on topic?
Okay, so this is both straightforward and not that easy…
I use a homemade Google sheet to gather data on the top 4 sites when conducting research on a topic, including head terms, keywords and word count (minus stop words). This gives me plenty of data to work with and a good idea of what sort of detail I should aim for when covering a topic.
My G sheet data enables me to look at what questions my competitors are working their content around with the content length showing me what detail Google is happy with. Rarely do I see huge swings in content detail ranking at the top of the SERPS, i.e. one article covering a topic in 1500 words and the next in just 500 and they're both in the top spots, that doesn't often happen.
Now, obviously, this is very dependent on the topic and questions themselves and I only use the content length as a rough guide. But what my research does tell me is how detailed I need to be for that question, based on the content length already ranking.
I always tend to create a more detailed answer to questions and topics, simply because people will read and share comprehensive answers. Don't believe the myth that ‘People don't like to read long articles', that's not true. So look for different angles to write about through research online, speak to your existing customers (and let it be known you've asked your customers because it gives you more credibility) or talk to industry experts to get their opinions.
It also looks to me that with each passing core update, Google is leaning towards content that focuses on a topic and satisfies the user intent, so make sure you aren't answering questions that don't need to be answered.
But above all:
- Answer the questions thoroughly and create value. Websites that win create value!
- If the topic requires a handful of short answers around one question, keep it all on one page, don't build out a page for each answer. That's a really bad user experience
- If a single question requires a long, complex answer then create a single page for it
- Don't drift off into another topic and confuse the living daylights out of your visitors, keep it laser-focused
Are keywords in the page title?
I will always argue that your target keyword phrase must always be in your page title for one simple reason, people expect to see it when they've performed a search, therefore it will increase your click-through rate.
If Google's algorithms see users clicking from the SERPs through to your content, to answers that cover the query and satisfy user intent then you'll be rewarded for it.
Nobody really knows exactly what metrics Google uses and in what quantities, but let's not step away from the crux of the matter, both users and Google want to see clear answers to questions and common sense tells us that they'll be looking for the phrase they used (or at least something very similar) in the results Google returned to them.
Is there an H1 in place at the top of the page with your keywords in it?
H1's have been a topic of debate over the years with some SEO's saying you can add more than 1 on a page at one end of the spectrum, and others saying they don't matter at all. My personal opinion is that yes you should have a single H1, but it must be at the top of the page and be descriptive of the page as a whole.
Are the remaining H tags descriptive of the content?
This is a really important aspect of the H tag, they must be the introduction to what the paragraph(s) below them are all about. Say for example I'm writing an article on the challenges of technical SEO and I'm at the crawl ability section of the piece and my H tag is what can stop Google from crawling your pages? It would be foolish of me to talk about anything other than the things that prevent bots from accessing and understanding your pages and what will happen if they encounter barriers.
Are the keyword phrases in the body content?
This isn't as critical as many make out due to the spectacular advances Google have made since 2018.
Google uses NLP (natural language processing) and BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) to understand the content on your Website (read more here) and where it fits in with the rest of the World Wide Web.
What BERT also does is look for entities on your page to work out exactly what it's describing, so make sure you surround your target keyword phrase with closely related entities.
For more information check out my post on entities and topics.
So write naturally and as I've already outlined, cover the topic and use your phrases as and how they crop up. But if you're revising content from your keyword-stuffing addiction days then I suggest you hit ctrl+F and see if those sentences look natural to you.
Are the fonts & design easy to read and call's to action obvious?
In the age of mobile, you need both easy-on-the-eye fonts along with clear and obvious contrasts for your CTA's. Having basic (almost ugly) pages is proven to increase conversions and user happiness so keep it simple and don't let your designer/developer go crazy because he/she is at the top of the fancy pants tree.
This goes for links, too. Make all internal and external links obvious and clear so that users recognise them and click on them, and remember, Google might look unfavourably at links that are the same colour as the rest of the content because they might think you're trying to deceive them.
At the end of the day, it's about providing your content in a usable manner, not in a “what on earth is this B/S” manner, even if it looks amazing. When was the last time you looked at Amazon and thought, ‘Damn it Jeff, that look you've created is super sexy, it really rocks bro!' Nope, it's boring but highly usable.
Are there any thin pages?
I don't think I need to cover this in great detail because you've probably grasped the nettle by now and understand what you need to do with regards to your content and covering topics, but what I will say is that I often see eCommerce stores with low quality, thin product pages, and they're often under 300 words. So if this is you then Screaming Frog's tool will tell you within 30 seconds if you have less than 300 words of content on any pages.
It's a paid tool but they do have a free (limited) version that will give you a quick overview of up to 500 URLs. I highly recommend buying it though, as it's an incredibly powerful tool to have in your arsenal that will help you unearth all sorts of problems, and at only £149 per year, it's great value for money.
Ultimately, it can be easy for store owners to look at the 1000's of products they need to upload and skimp on the descriptions, or simply copy the manufacturer's description (if they're resellers) because of the sheer amount of time and effort it'll take to write properly. This is a really bad idea.
Google will instantly realise your content isn't good enough or original and will likely demote you accordingly, or at best you simply won't see the full benefits of an optimised Website.
Navigational & internal links
This is often an overlooked aspect of content, it's also incredibly important from a user experience point of view.
- Name your navigational links correctly and make sure they describe the content that the links are pointing to
- Make sure all links on the site stand out so they're clear and obvious
- Separate categories into relevant sections so that users understand what they're about
- Make links the same colour as everything else
- Put a broad range of subjects under one category so that category isn't focused. Separate them appropriately
- Crosslink to every page from every page. Use internal links within content wisely and only link to similar content
Making sure your content is unique is very important when writing for today's algorithms. Borrowed content can lead to a loss of rankings and might lead Google to see your Website as low quality.
Now whilst this is a broad statement due to the fact some sites have copied content by their very nature, most don't so yours needs to be unique to you. Here are a few things to consider:
- Is there any internal duplicate content? Try using a tool like Siteliner to understand duplicate and similar content, but study the pages because it might need to be this way, and removing it might not make sense. Google will understand this, too.
- Is there external duplicate content? Use Copyscape to check other website's to see if anyone else has plagiarised your content. This can be annoying but equally, you could look at this as a link opportunity and ask them for a link back to your page as the original source.
The boring pages
You also need to look at the rarely read by-you pages. Have you taken the time to provide thorough detail in all of the boring pages such as your about, shipping & returns (if you have them) or customer service details? They all matter from a customer and a Google point of view so take the time to answer questions you would expect to see that will give visitors confidence.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet because although this is still important, it's not as important as everything else in this article, so check:
- Is the TOS clear and up to date?
- Is the contact page easy to find and understand?
Search engines look for all of the above so make sure yours is present and correct.
Although going through everything in this content analysis article might seem a little overwhelming at first, I can assure you that once you get into it you'll find a rhythm that allows you to work through your site quicker and quicker as you get used to the process.
I can also assure you that the payoff will be well worth your time, just make sure you don't rush it in an effort to get it done.
You need to understand that to do SEO properly you must look at your content from a value point of view. Will the answers help and satisfy the users? Is the content readable and straightforward?
If the answer is yes then you're going to be well on your way to eventually outranking your competitors.