In this tutorial I reveal how to evaluate all the content on your blog. This will reveal important ways you can improve site structure and boost your content conversions.
One of the most important parts of running a successful blog is knowing how to organise your site. In other words: content structure. SEO and usability demand it.
At first, this may seem easy.
If you are running new WordPress site (for instance) and you have less than 50 pages, it is going to be relatively easy to organise the content on your site, because you can fit the entire site structure into two “levels”.
What’s a level?
“Levels” refer to the number of links a crawler like Google must run through until it hits any given page.
For instance, let’s say we have five pages on our site. They might be organised into five levels like so:
As the user or crawler goes through the site they need to:
- Pass through 0 levels to get to page 1
- 1 level for pages 2 and 3
- 2 levels for pages 4 and 5
This is also called the crawl depth.
One of the most important parts of organising blog content is making sure all important pages are on levels one and two.
As you can see, it might be relatively easy to organise a site that has just a handful of pages. However, it is not so easy to know how to organize large sites with lots of content.
It can be difficult to organise your site when your content structure is too deep
If you have been blogging for a few years you have likely created lots of different webpages. Your sitemap might contain hundreds , thousands, or even millions of URLs, all of which are being crawled by Google and other search engines.
Writing this guide, I wondered how many URLs Twitter has indexed in Google. The answer is eight hundred million.
Organising a large site with lots of content can clearly be a challenge.
The more URLs we have indexed (and the more blog posts we have) the harder it will be to organise our site.
However, not only is it harder to organise larger sites, it is also far more important.
Why it’s important to organize sites with lots of content
It is very important to organise large sites that have lots of content because such a site runs the risk of:
- Pages getting lost in the pile, buried in the sitemap, too many links-deep
- Link juice not flowing properly between pages
- Users not knowing how to navigate to a certain page or simply not knowing that your site has certain pages.
Consider the benefits of a properly organised site
When your site is properly organised, you will increase organic traffic and boost search rankings.
A properly organised site helps visitors navigate around different blog posts. That means better user satisfaction thanks to the improved UX, and satisfied users who are more likely to purchase your product and complete a transaction.
It also leads to increased pageviews, which is important for Google and other search engines. One of the key ranking factors Google considers when ranking content is pages per session. By having a cleanly organised site with a good content structure, we make it easier for users to find content, and this in turn increases the Pages Per Session metric, meaning higher ranking positions in the SERPs.
That’s just part of it.
There is also the simple fact that people enjoy a well organised site and will stay around for longer (increasing “Dwell time”—another important ranking factor on Google).
Simply put: You have high quality content. Help your users make the most of it.
Too many webmasters and content producers fail to organise site content
Organising your site can be a daunting task.
That’s why many people message me to ask me to help them to organise their sites (and I am usually happy to oblige).
As a professional content strategist in Hamilton, I get many requests to run content audits and to organise sites and blogs.
Have you been putting off a site restructure?
Hey, I get that.
You’re busy and the idea of spending countless hours going through thousands of pages to reorganise your site… well, it’s just too darned much.
That is why so many bloggers and webmasters simply let the Content Management System (such as WordPress) take care of the organisation for them.
How WordPress Organizes Sites (Problems Galore)
WordPress and other CMSs (content management systems) use indexes like tags and categories to help organise sites. But these functions often do as much bad as good.
Many of my contemporaries have written about the negative SEO effects of too many tags and categories.
The essential point is this: If you have too many tags and categories indexed, you will waste crawl budget on useless tag and category pages, and you will pass link-juice to pages that you don’t want to rank highly anyway. This is a problem because a certain amount of link juice gets lost on each link. You can read more about this on SitePoint.
You want your actual blog posts to rank, not your tags and category pages.
It gets worse.
WordPress also creates author pages and even pages for the date!
With Yoast’s SEO plugin you can deindex these pages and exclude them from the sitmap (more on Yoast), but it is much better to simply not have tons of wasted URLs.
Search engines like efficiency: a reasonable number of URLs each with high quality content.
And that is the golden rule of organising a site: reduce unnecessary URLs and make sure each URL has a purpose for existing.
When we reorganise a site we are looking to minimise the number of useless URLs and maximise the value of the URLs that we do have.
What it means to have a well organised blog with a good content structure
In a moment we are going to actually reorganise one of my sites. But it’s hard to hit a bullseye if you can’t see the darts board.
So, what exactly is a well organised site?
How will we know when we have a properly organized blog?
A well organised site meets the following criteria:
- · Minimum number of unnecessary URLs
- · Each URL has a reason for existing
- · Each URL has actual weight and worth
- · Each URL offers value to the customer
- · Each URL feeds into the overall purpose of the site
We will know once our content is organise properly because:
- · Our SEO will improve
- · We will see improved search engine rankings
- · Visitors will be visiting more pages (more pages per visit in Google Analytics)
- · URLs will be less in number, and higher in quality
- · We will see a logical site structure
- · The level of internal links will be reduced (see the point above about link levels)
- · Increased bottom line.
How To Reorganize Blog Content With a Site Audit
To make this process clearer, we are about to actually reorganise the content of a site that is life: TheDailyMeditation.com.
The process we are going to go through looks like this:
1) Get a complete list of all indexed URLs
2) Import the list into Excel
3) Get Analytics and Webmasters Tools statistics on the same excel spreadsheet
4) Find blog posts and URLs that are weak
5) Group weak blog posts into groups so we can merge them (more on this later)
6) Delete and 301 redirect low-quality blog posts that cannot be merged
7) Choose which posts to put where in the site structure
8) Rebuild the internal link structure
Part 1: Getting a complete list of URLs
In order to organise our site, we first require a complete list of all indexed URLs.
Sadly, this is not as easy to create as it should be. It would be great if Google offered a free tool to download a list of indexed URLs for a site. No such tool exists.
So, what do we do?
There are tools like URL Profiler that can help. But some webmasters have been blocked by Google for using it (because it sends too many requests to Google).
If you’re using WordPress, as I am, there are some plugins available.
Take a look at this guide on WPBeginner. It will show you various options for exporting a complete list of URLs on WordPress.
However, even that does not show all URLs because it does not include tags, categories, author pages, and date archives, all of which WordPress creates.
Another option is to download a list of URLs from Google Analytics. If you have not set any filters, your Analytics data will include visits from bots, which hit all your URLs, so you will be able to get a complete list of URLs that way.
Here’s how to generate the URL list using Analytics
- · Visit your Analytics property
- · Make sure filters are off
- · Set the date to be since the beginning of the site
- · Press the “Export” button in the top right corner.
- · Choose your file format (I chose CSV)
- · Download the file
- · Open it in Excel.
Finding spammy URLs to delete
You should now have a list of all indexed URLs open in Excel.
Next, organise the spreadsheet by pageviews.
If you are using excel
1) Highlight the whole stylesheet (CTRL + A).
2) Go to the “Data” tab
3) Select “Sort”
4) Sort by PageViews : Values : Smallest to Largest
Take a look at the bottom of your spreadsheet, at the URLs with the least page views.
Now look through those pageviews for any similarities. What you see here will vary depending on your specific website. However, if you are using WordPress you will probably see that there are hundreds of different URLs for tags and category pages, perhaps URLs for author pages, and URLs for different dates.
The website I’m working on currently has over 1000 URLs for tags. That looks like a good place to start deleting URLs.
Yoast’s SEO plugin takes care of a lot of this
If you have Yoasts SEO plugin installed on your wordpress site, you can very quickly remove a lot of junk URLS.
To remove unnecessary URLs using Yoast SEO
1) Login to your WordPress site
2) Go to SEO > Titles & Metas
3) Go to the Archives tag.
4) Disable author archives.
5) Disable date archive
6) Now go to the Other tab
7) Noindex subpages of archives (this may vary depending on your site).
Those steps alone will massively reduce the number or URLs. This will help to optimize your Google Crawl Budget and will improve your overall SEO by improving the flow of link juice around your site.
Improve content structure for SEO by merging blog posts
So far, we have cut out lots of unessential URLs. And it was pretty easy up to now.
The next part of the process involves more decisions, more artistry, more risk, and more reward.
What we are going to do next is to go through our list of URLs and write down important statistical data pertaining to the performance of each of our blog posts.
This has to do with how you value URLs in your site.
To measure this, we are going to look at:
1) Whether a blog post is getting traffic, and if so how much
2) Whether a blog post is actually achieving anything with regards to our bottom line / conversions
3) Whether the blog post is very closely related to another blog post (in which case we will merge the in order to improve SEO so we have 1 great post instead of 2 low quality posts)
4) Word count
5) Quality ranking of the post
6) Any other notes you deem important to your site (this will depend on the niche and vertical you’re working in).
Essentially, we are going to do this by running a content audit on our inventory.
How To Do A Content Audit On Your Blog Inventory
Open your Excel spreadsheet and paste all your URLs (which we downloaded previously) into Cell A.
Insert a new row at the top of your Excel spreadsheet (the one with the URLs on it) and enter the following titles in the top row of cells:
- · Relevancy (how relevant a post is to the overall blog)
- · TRAFFIC
- · $$$ (bottom line)
- · Wordcount
- · Tags
- · Similarity
- · Quality
- · Rewrite
- · Move
- · Total
- · Level
You should now have a spreadsheet with one row. The row should show the titles above. Column 1A should have a list of URLs for your blog posts.
This spreadsheet is going to be invaluable for the future of your blog. Why? Because it contains all the data that you need to determine how to organise your blog.
Let me show you why all this data is so important, and how to use it.
Note that you can also use this criteria when planning a blog post.
Why your new analytics data is so valuable
We have seen how important it is to have good site structure and good organisations. But to organise a site we need to know what to keep, what to get rid off, and how to interlink between blogs posts.
This is where each of the titles above comes in.
Let me show you why each of those titles matters so much.
Relevancy of Blog Post
The first column we have in our spreadsheet is called “Relevancy”. This denotes whether or not a blog post is highly relevant to the overall blog.
It is usually a good idea to stick to the same general topic / niche when creating a blog. That way Google and other search engines understand what the blog is about and rank it accordingly.
Irrelevant blog posts muddy the waters and send the wrong signals to Google.
So, the first thing we look at when analysing a post is whether it is actually relevant to the overall blog.
Also factor in whether this blog post is relevant now. In other words: is it old info that is now worthless? If so it is no longer relevant.
To fill in this section of your spreadsheet, write a number from 1 to 100 in this column (1 for “not relevant at all” 100 for “highly relevant”)
TRAFFIC to blog post
Simple. Is this post actually generating any traffic at all?
In this column write the traffic figure your post has gotten from all time.
Amount of profit blog post is generating
Determining the amount of profit from a single blog post could either be very easy or very difficult, depending on how you monetise your blog.
If you are using Adsense it will be incredibly easy (just look at your Google Analytics data).
If you are selling a product or a service it will be harder to gauge how much money a blog post generated. You might like to instead list the number of times people went from this page to your sales page, or the number of completed transactions that involved this page in the sales funnel. Jason Clegg has written a great post about website sales funnels on ConvertWithContent.
Wordcount of blog post
Write down the number of words in a blog post. Short posts are generally less valuable than bigger, pillar posts, and might be better off merged into a larger post.
Write down the wordcount for each blog post in the spreadsheet.
This is used for organising the different posts. Write a list of actual tags used on the post or a list of words describing the post and what it is about. I’ll explain more on this below.
Similarity / Uniqueness
We know that it is bad for SEO to have blog posts that are too closely related. This leads to SEO cannibalisation, which robs you of your rankings.
Make a note out of 100 to denote whether this post is unique or whether it is very similar to other posts on your blog (1 = similar / 100 = unique)
A simple score out of 100 to denote the quality you personally perceive in the post.
Rewrite / Merge / Delete / Keep
This section of the spreadsheet denotes whether or not we should keep the post, rewrite it, merge it with another post, or delete it. This is very useful because it tells you the best course of action for each post.
This is the overall score for a blog post, which we will look at in a moment. Leave this section blank for now.
This is the level where the post will be placed in the internal link structure. Leave blank for now.
Fill in the spreadsheet with the information from each section above. This may take some time depending on the size of your blog.
Merging blog content to reduce URLs
As mentioned above, it is important to remove URLs from Google search and from the blog’s sitemap when they are of little value to the content strategy.
What we have accomplished so far is this:
- · We’ve generating a list of URLs
- · We’ve rated each URL based on its value
- · We’ve made notes about which blog posts to merge
- · We’ve made notes about which blog posts to delete
- We now have an excellent idea of the value of URLs on our blog.
- And we can now boost our SEO by merging and deleting posts.
What to do next
- Merge low-value posts into posts that are on a similar subject and of higher value (Kenny Novak has written a good guide to this on BlogPros)
- Delete irrelevant and low value content by deleting the post and using a 301 redirect to homepage (or another blog post). You can do this with the excellent All 404 Redirect to Homepage plugin.
- Move valuable blog posts and URLs up the site structure, thereby improving SEO of important pages (I will write about this soon. Follow me for updates.)
Why this Will Improve Content Strategy And Search Ranking Positions
What we have done in this tutorial is:
- We have analyzed blog content
- We have valued each blog post in terms of traffic, conversion strategy and so on
- We have deleted low quality blog posts
- We have merged related blog posts
The end result of this is that there are less URLs for Google to crawl on our blog. This improves the flow of link juice to important pages (high traffic landing paged and pages the convert).
This improves our SEO, boosts search rankings to blog posts that matter, and improve the user’s experience.
The spreadsheet we have created also helps us decide what to do with old content. Should we merge it, edit it, delete it, or perhaps increase the flow of link juice to that page?
The result is a massively improved content structure and a huge reduction in the number of unnecessary URLs. And ultimately, this will result in increased traffic to your blog.
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