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[FREE TEMPLATE] Step By Step Content Audit Guide

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    [FREE TEMPLATE] Step By Step Content Audit Guide

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (bring it internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.

I have mixed feelings about the explosion of web content.

On one hand, content can be the glue that holds campaigns together (SEO, social, paid, email…everything).

On the other hand, content is saturated. So many are misinformed about what "good" content is.

I don't know how many more "ultimate guides", "complete lists" and "expert roundups" the internet can handle…

But, I digress. This post is not about creating good content, it's about how to clean up bad content.

When I say "content", I don't mean just blog posts – I mean your entire website:

  • Legacy product / service pages
  • Irrelevant category or auto generated "tag" pages
  • Dated blog, resource or informational pages
  • Doorway pages that don't connect to your site's core architecture
  • Subdomains, forums, staging domains, etc
OK...But WHY does cleaning up "bad" content matter?
Because having dated, irrelevant and flat out bad content can negatively impact your SEO.
  • Content that doesn't resonate with your target audience will kill conversion and engagement rates.
  • Google's algorithm looks heavily at content quality, trust and relevancy (aka having crap content can hurt rankings).
  • Too much low quality content can decrease search engine crawl rate, indexation rate and ultimately, traffic.

Check your GSC "Crawl Stats" report for data on your site.

For more of the "why", here's case study data from Brian Dean and Bill Sebald on the impact of content "pruning" and cleanup.

In this post, I'm going to break down everything down, step by step, how to audit your website's content. Specifically:

  1. How and where to get the right data inputs for your audit.
  2. The parameters to assess the quality of your data / content.
  3. The options you have to manage low (and high) quality content.
  4. A 100% FREE Google Sheets template that automates a HUGE portion of this tedious process.


The end goal is to have a decision next to every URL on your website – delete, redirect, update or leave as it is.

To make that decision, you'll need to review pages manually. It's necessary for human eyes to review pages that:

  1. Provide no value to your target audience.
  2. Are no longer relevant, up to date or correct.
  3. No longer exemplify your messaging, brand and marketing.

Problem is, it's just not a good use of your time to manually review every page on your site. So, my talented friend David Krevitt wrote a Sheets file that automates over 90% of the process for you.


This template is essentially a free piece of advanced software that took a lot of David's time to build. All he asks is for your name and email in exchange for it!

  • 1. A full list of your site's URLs.

    We need to review and analyze every URL on your site. This data can be easily pulled using Screaming Frog or from your Sitemap.xml file (our tool uses Sitemaps).

  • 2. Analytics data.

    This data helps us understand content quality by looking at organic visits per page, bounce rate and conversion rate. We set parameters to help determine outcome of that page.

  • 3. Backlinks.

    Backlink data helps determine if a page should be deleted or 301 redirected into a similar piece of content. Good links are hard to come by and we want to preserve link equity by properly managing content with links.

  • 4. Server log files (optional).

    A server log shows us how many times / often search engines are visit each page on your site. If a page is low quality and gets crawl often, it will change how we manage that page (i.e. 301 or update as opposed to delete / 404).

Once you have this data added to a spreadsheet, you'll need to match the URLs across tabs. Even for advanced Excel users, this is a difficult process so I'm not going to waste time talking about it.

Our Sheets template automates all of this – make sure to download it.

Now, you'll have every URL on your site with corresponding:

  1. Organic traffic
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Conversion rate
  4. Backlinks

The analysis starts by crosswalking the Sitemap with organic traffic data:

Here's a process diagram showing how we can eliminate URLs to review manually applying the data + logic…

  • If the page DOES get organic traffic…
  • ….and has a low bounce rate, we want to leave it alone (200).
  • …and has high bounce rate, we want to review for content quality (QR).
  • ….and has a high conversion rate, we want to leave it alone (200).
  • …and has a low conversion rate, we want to review for content relevancy (QR).
  • If the the page DOES NOT get organic traffic…
  • ....and has NO links pointing to it, we want to delete it OR (404).
  • ....and DOES HAVE links pointing to it, we want to redirect it into a similar page (301).

Here's a process diagram showing how we can eliminate URLs to review manually applying the data + logic…

Content Audit
Content Audit x


1. Leave as is (aka 200)
If a page does receive organic traffic, has a low bounce rate and high conversion rate, we want to leave that page alone.

2. Quality review (QR)
If a page has does receive organic traffic, has a high bounce rate and low conversion rate, we want to review that page for content relevancy. After manual quality review, you will want to delete (404), redirect (301) or rewrite the content to improve it.

3. Delete (404)
If a page has no organic traffic and no backlinks, it has little value to your site. You should manually review it or delete it from your site.

4. Redirect to similar content (301)
If a page has no organic traffic but does have backlinks, you want to preserve link equity by setting a 301 redirect into a similar piece of content.


Our Google Sheets file automates this entire process and spits out recommendations on how to manage each page on your site. All you have to do is enter your Sitemap URL, sync your Google Analytics data and pull your links from Ahrefs. The video below shows you step by step how to setup and use the template for your site.


The goal of our audit template is to cut down on the manual work of reviewing every page on your site for quality.

However, some manual review is inevitable as machines can't read content for quality (YET).

If you followed our template you will have every page on your site with the following recommendations:

  1. Quality Review (QR)
  2. Leave as is (200)
  3. Redirect into similar (301)
  4. Delete (404)

Let's walk through the manual process and your final options for dealing with the pages.

1. Quality Review (QR)

Execute this option if a page...

  • Gets steady traffic from search engines (100 or more a year)
  • That traffic has poor engagement metrics

If a page is performing well in search and has low quality engagement metrics, we want to review it for relevancy.

Google doesn't want to send traffic to your site if they're not going to enjoy it. If they bounce right away, it's a signal to Google that your website was not a good result for that query.

For that reason, we want to make sure the content on our site is up to date, relevant and delivering value to our visitors.

If you have URLs that triggered a QR, here's what to do...

  • Visit those pages individually
  • Read them for quality - is it well written? Does it make sense?
  • Read them for relevancy - is this topic still relevant? Is is on point with our brand?

From here, you have 3 options to manage:

  • Rewrite or update the content to reflect updates, branding, keywords, etc.
  • Delete the content if the topic is no longer relevant.
  • Redirect the content into something more up to date and relevant.

I can't tell you how to make the exact decision, but any of these will suffice.

2. Leave Content As-Is (200)

Execute this option if a page…

  • Gets steady traffic from search engines (100 or more a year)
  • Gets quality traffic from search engines (good bounce rate, driving conversions)

If a page is performing well in search and has quality engagement metrics, we want to leave it alone. Why mess with a good thing?

3. Redirect into similar (301)

Execute this option if a page...

  • Gets NO traffic from search engines (100 or less a year)
  • Has inbound links pointing to it

301 redirects pass on 100% of link equity - if a page has links pointing to it, this is always the best option.

If you have URLs that triggered a 301 result, here's what to do...

  • Find a piece of content on your site that's similar.
  • Set a 1 to 1, server side 301 redrict from the old content into the new.

If you've acquired links over time, a large part of your audit will be redirects. It's best to build out a URL mapping file in Excel and pass to a developer to ensure this goes off smooth.

4. Delete (404)

Execute this option if a page...

  • Gets NO traffic from search engines (100 or less a year)
  • Has NO inbound links pointing to it

There's a ton of information in the community claiming 404 pages are bad for SEO. This is only true when the wrong pages are deleted and not properly redirected.

For example, if you're migrating your website to new URL structures:

  • Old:
  • New:

If you don't redirect the old into the new, you'll be left with a 404 page that search engines won't be able to index and rank.

However, if you deem that old page no longer valid, it gets no traffic and has no inbound links, the best option is to delete the page and remove it from Google's index. This creates a leaner, more relevant site that is crawler friendly.

If you have URLs that triggered a 404 result, here's what to do...

  • Delete!

If you find the page has value to other areas of your business, i.e. internal traffic, social media, etc, then you may not want to delete it from your site. Instead, you might want to setup a canonical or "noindex" tag. This will be discussed next.

5. Set Noindex or Canonical tag

Execute this option if a page...

  • Gets NO traffic from search engines (100 or less a year)
  • Has NO inbound links pointing to it
  • Has value to your website OUTSIDE of SEO

You may not be comfortable mass deleting or redirecting pages on your site. If that's you, there's 2 more options.

  • "Noindex tag". This tells search engines NOT to index this page, deleting if from their index. This will help to clean up your site WITHOUT removing the page.
  • "Canonical tag". This tag points to another page on your site and tells search engines to use that as the authority reference on your site. Again, this helps to clean up your index without removing pages.

These are both viable options but should be used secondary to 404 or 301 options.


  1. This is an exceptional article. It presents the information like a great infographic on steroids! It’s refreshing to read in an age of blah blah me too SEO articles! I appreciate being out ahead of this important and growing trend in SEO. I have a big little site in a competitive local Seattle market, and I intend for our school to be the a marketing force there.

  2. This is frickin awesome Ryan. Thanks a lot for sharing man. I’m in the process of doing a content audit for an ecommerce store and this will save me a tonne of time.

    One thing I did come across which I’m not sure is a restriction or bug….

    The first analytics account I tried this on, it wouldn’t work and kept giving me lacesout data in supermetrics.

    I then realised I didn’t have full privileges on that analytics account so I tried it on what where I definitely did and it worked ok.

    Not sure if that’s a requirement for it to work or not. Just thought I’d point it out in case anyone else sees the same error.

    Thanks again.

    • Ryan Stewart

      yeah, youre gonna need full access to get the report to its full capacity

  3. Really a great article! I’m planning to start auditing our blog and will definitely be using this blog post as a reference / refresher :) I think everyone should be auditing their content nowadays, especially with how the authority on things is determined which can also change on the fly.

    How often do you perform audits?

    • Ryan Stewart

      i actually just went back through our site this past week (when writing this post) and deleted a TON of articles that i didnt feel like represented our brand messaging anymore.

  4. Talk about timing! I’ve been wanting to content audit the heck of our site for the longest time. Thanks for the template, Ryan!

    P.S. How many times did you redesign your site in a year?

    • Ryan Stewart

      like, 8. we believe design is like fashion, its never done, always evolving based on the season.

  5. This is amazing Ryan. 10/10 stuff right here!

    This will save my team weeks of work. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for investing your time into this Ryan. You are leading a trend that is already snowballing…. Keep it going :)

  7. This is really a great tool Ryan. I used this on some smaller sites and it worked great.

    I have two clients that have tens of thousands of backlinks and more than two thousands posts on their sites, and it was bogging down in sheets. Can this be exported to excel after I import the analytics and sitemap data?

    That way I could copy and paste the AHREFS data and have it analyze from there.

  8. Thanks for this Ryan, I am actually doing it manually for a client and it was taking a long time to match up all data points, the spreadsheet would make it easier. But, something like this for excel would be great for larger sites. Thanks again.

  9. Completely awesome post here, Ryan.

    This is something I’ll be doing because you always want to make sure your best content is up to date.

    Will be using this and referring people to it as well.

    Great stuff.

    – Andrew

  10. I am new to ecommerce. This seems like it would hell but – Does this need to come after the site has been up and busy for a while? Or after google adwords has been used? Or is it better to clear up before? Thanks!

    • Ryan Stewart

      this generally applies to older websites that have produced a lot of content over time

  11. HELP! Not a comment on your work! Oy!

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