Diagram's Allison Casey spills all her insider SEO tips on migrating your content the right way.
The following is a transcription of the above presentation:
Speaker: Welcome to Diagram Views Unfiltered, mini episodes where we answer your questions to make you digital heroes at your organization.
BILL: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Diagram Views Unfiltered. Today, we’re talking to Allison, our Digital Marketing Director, about why you need an SEO content audit in your CMS migration plan.
ALLISON: Hey, Bill.
BILL: How’s it going?
ALLISON: Good. Excited to be here. This is a really cool topic. As the team knows, I’m pretty much a Google and SEO geek, so happy to help people understand how to find out their SEO value of their site as part of the migration plan.
BILL: Awesome. Cool. So, what is a content audit, first of all?
ALLISON: So, I think I want to specify that the focus today is really an SEO value content audit, because there’s a lot of different ways that you can think about content audits in general. So, we’re going to focus on a content audit that can help you make good decisions about what content to migrate or not.
As you know, content migration can be the most complex and overwhelming part of the plan. It can be the part of the plan that the content editors or the project manager worry the most about, because it’s such a beast. So I’m going to be talking through that process, and how do you understand and, you know, document and find metrics that can help you understand the pages that you should migrate from an SEO perspective.
Now, the other ways that content audits are used could be to put together content strategy, so you’re identifying underperforming pages; pages that you need to optimize. That’s a great topic too, we could probably do another episode just on a content marketing focused content audit, but let’s dig into SEO value a little bit more.
BILL: Cool. Let’s do it. So, first of all, when do you think about a content audit? Where does this fall in the realm of your digital strategy?
ALLISON: Yesterday (laugh). We find that most people are not thinking about it or planning for it soon enough. Like I said, it’s a beast, it takes a lot of time, and it should be really one of those first things that you’re planning for, to make those decisions.Doing a content audit earlier on in the process can save you time, it can save on the budget, because ultimately why you’re doing this is to not spend time migrating content that has no value.
BILL: It’s just not the sexiest part of the project, but it is one of the most important parts.
ALLISON: It is. And if you set yourself up for success earlier rather than later, you kind of have the sense of the amount of time that you’re going to need to dedicate to that. So that gives you time to, you know, make sure you have enough resources,enough people to actually perform the content migration, or if you need to outsource it because you don’t want to deal with it.
BILL: Which happens a lot. All right. Let’s set the stage a little bit. So, you’re redesigning your website, you’re putting it on a new, modern CMS. Your old website has all kinds of stuff, it’s been around for years, you’ve accumulated just tons of different types of content.
BILL: So, what are we talking about here? Are we just talking webpages, or what’s the type of content that actually matters?
ALLISON: Yeah. So, that’s actually another part of the process that usually goes hand-in-hand with a content audit, is you need a list of everything that you have to move, right? Pages, PDF files, audio files, videos, metadata, all of the things that need to get migrated. I like to, kind of, pull in an analogy of moving. Which also isn’t a fun process. I’ve moved enough to hate this part.
But you kind of think of, like, I’m going to buy these boxes, pack up my stuff, but I don’t want to spend the time to move things that I never use or am never going to use again, right? So you’re sorting through closets and drawers, and figuring out, like, oh, yep, this is great, I’m going to use this or, no, let me throw it out. So that really is - the content audit part of it is that, is understanding what you want to move or not, but you need that content inventory, to have that list to go through.
BILL: So, what about the SEO value of the content? I think we can understand the content that explains who you are and what you do, some of the things that you want to make sure that your audience is hearing, but what about the SEO importance? What does Google consider to be valuable?
ALLISON: Yeah. A lot, right? If you’ve been, you know, incorporating an SEO into just your overall digital marketing work, trying to build rankings, trying to build authority through great content, trying to attract a lot of users to your site. The key thing about the audit is that you don’t want to lose that as part of a migration, because sometimes, you know, maybe you’re sitting in marketing and you don’t necessarily have the decision to migrate, to select a new CMS.
So, what your job is, is to make sure it goes smoothly from a content perspective. So, there’s a lot of different things, and let me kind of break that down a bit. So, backlinks. If you’re familiar with backlinks, it’s just simple links from other sites to yours. Especially if the site that’s linking to yours is a high authority, you know, some news sites or just respectable sites, that authority is actually passed to yours from Google. That just is a signal for Google to say, hey, this is a link, it goes to this site. This very high authority sites finds this content credible, so let’s, you know, give some props to this site.
So, understanding what pages have backlinks is really a critical part, because for the most part, you don’t want to not migrate pages that have high quality backlinks to your site. Why you want to do that is, if you are getting rid of those pages that actually can be a negative thing on your authority score, and that can lead to Google saying, “Hey, this new site is not as cool as the previous site.” Another thing, keyword rankings. So, that’s a big part of SEO work, having pages that Google finds of authority but then, you know, will show as people are searching for relevant terms to your business.
Again, if you’ve already been doing SEO work, you know that you’ve got some keyword rankings that exist on certain pages, and this obviously is a main source of your organic traffic. It’s showing in the Search Engine Result Page or SERP, people are clicking on it and that’s driving the organic traffic. So, understanding what pages are already ranking for certain keywords is another important part of this process. And then, I also like to include as part of the Excel that you’re using to document all this stuff, go ahead and throw in keyword search volume. That’s going to give you a pulse of, you know, what traffic is already coming or potentially could come to your website, or if there’s an opportunity to do some optimization work later on.
But you also want to document, just, overall site traffic. So other channels that drive traffic to your site: referral traffic, direct, email traffic, social traffic. Really all of the digital channels out there, you want to document that.
BILL: Is all of traffic the same, or would you say that some traffic is better than others?
ALLISON: Yeah. I would say, you know, there’s a lot of ways to identify the value of different channels. The true business value is does this channel drive leads or revenue? If you’re an eCommerce site, you’re using enhanced eCommerce in Google Analytics to, at the page level, get revenue numbers. Direct, is that kind of that nebulous bucket of traffic where Google either doesn’t know how to classify it, or it’s something as simple as people are typing the URL. But I always say getting eyeballs to the site means getting the right kind of people on the site.
You want to maximize every channel that you can, but ultimately there’s certain actions that you want people to do on your site so that can determine the value. But there’s reasons to not discount other channels in that. Again, having organic traffic - because, you know, we’re talking about making sure you understand the SEO value of pages - is a key traffic metric. But take the time to document all traffic, because if you’ve got a - let’s say you’ve got a site that’s generating a ton of referral traffic for you, you don’t want to get rid of that page.
BILL: What about a Google search engine results page? So, everybody wants to be page one. Does that play a big role in determining SEO value?
BILL: How it ranks, currently?
ALLISON: Absolutely. And Google Search Console is a platform, obviously, from Google and they provide great reports. It’s kind of one of those I find, like, a lot of clients don’t even use it, but there’s so many treasure troves of information there. So, through Google Search Console, you can understand the number of times that your pages have been displayed, it’s called impressions, and that’s globally.
So, it’s not just, you know, page one or page two, it’s really any time somebody searches for a certain keyword or phrase, was your site displayed? It gets documented and shown as an impression. The other thing that Google Search Console is great for is documenting and showing you the click-through rate. So, of course your site gets displayed. What we want is, you know, people to click through.
BILL: An actual visitor.
ALLISON: Exactly. I always say page one is great. But it’s a vanity metric if nobody’s clicking to your site from page one. But understanding the percentage of when your site is shown, the number of impressions versus the actual click is another metric that you want to document for the SEO value of a page. It also give you insight into other work that you can do to get the click, that could be making changes to your title, making changes to your meta description. But ultimately, any page that’s getting a good amount of click-through traffic, you want to make sure you migrate it.
BILL: So, once they click, once they get there, what are you looking for?
ALLISON: Engagement. So, I like to track time on page. It’s not the only engagement metric that you should be looking at, but for the purposes of SEO value of a page, it’s good one. It means they’re, hanging around long enough to read through your content and it gives you a sense of how valuable that page is to an actual user.
BILL: All right. So, what do you do when Google doesn’t love a page? Doesn’t rank highly, you’re not getting much click-through, but you know the page has value and should have more but doesn’t. What are some of the steps you’re taking, then?
ALLISON: So the good news is, you can grab a bunch of metrics from a lot of different sources. Say there’s SEO value, you know, maybe there’s rankings, maybe it’s shown a lot in the SERP. But you’re going to have instances where a page, from an SEO value perspective at the pure metric level, isn’t super exciting. Maybe it’s only one keyword ranking, and that phrase isn’t super relevant to your business, or maybe it’s low in organic traffic. That doesn’t mean you completely negate the value of it, you put it on the do not migrate list because there is some subjectivity in this process.
The bad news is you’ve got to review every single part of your content inventory to see if you should migrate it or not, to understand it, because maybe it generates a lot of leads. Maybe it’s a high-performing page from a revenue standpoint, for eCommerce sites, or maybe it’s critical for people just to understand who you are as a company, you know, your service pages, your about us, who you are as a company type page. It could be something as simple as, we are experts and we need this content to show that expertise because we have great things to say about various topics.
Metrics can tell one story, but you are going to have to gut check these pages for other types of value that the content brings to your website. Like I said, content migration is a beast, so it’s not going to happen overnight. There is a lot that you have to do, which of course is why we recommend that you start this process early on in your content migration plan.
BILL: Sounds like very good advice. So, you’ve mentioned Google Analytics a lot. What are some of the other tools that you use to gather all this amazing data?
ALLISON: Mm-hmm, yeah. Like I said, there’s great news that you do have tools and software that can make this process of gathering the metrics a lot easier. Also, there’s way that you can automate some of this data collection, and we’re happy to talk more about that with you and get that implemented. Other great news, we have a free spreadsheet that you’ll be able to download, I think the link is going to be -
BILL: Free is good.
ALLISON: - free is always good - that’s going to be available as a download on the main page where this episode lives. But some of the tools that we use, Google Analytics, that is the gold standard of where you’re going to get information about how visitors are coming to your site and how they’re using your site, so all of the channel traffic that I referenced, time on page or bounce rate et cetera.
Another tool that we use is Screaming Frog, and this is going to be instrumental in your content inventory, so that first part of the SEO content audit process to get that big list of things that you have to think about migrating. My favorite SEO tool is Semrush, all of the glorious keyword rankings and pages that have keywords, you can also use it for backlinks. But another well-known and respected backlink platform is Ahrefs, so we love to use that as well to understand the authority of the site that’s providing that backlink.
And then, of course, Google Search Console, probably one of the most underutilized tools for a content audit, this is where you gather the site impressions, click-through rates. The other cool thing is query data, so you can understand what was put into the search box when your site was displayed.
BILL: Cool. And then, we’ll put all this in the comments below, links to see all this stuff, and of course you can always talk to someone at Diagram. We would love to explain this stuff.
ALLISON: Yeah, absolutely. You know, so really just to kind of recap, the SEO value content audit is absolutely a critical part of your CMS migration plan. Don’t skip it, start early, and have some ease of mind that by doing this process you’re going to save time, save on budget, and ultimately hope for Google love after the migration, for the most part, because we all know that getting love from Google is hit or miss.
BILL: All right. Very useful and valuable information. Thank you very much, and thank you to everybody listening. Be sure to subscribe to be informed when new episodes are released. We’ll see you next time on Diagram Views Unfiltered.
Ready to get started with your SEO content audit?
We've created an Excel template to help you organize your content. (It's the one Allison referenced in the episode, if you're playing for points.)
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