I like to treat my content sites as what they truly are: leaving, breathing entities that need tender, love, and care. If you work on building content sites long-enough, you realize websites need to be monitored and updated.
Yes, content sites are more “passive” than other types of investments. However, they do require care.
As an owner of a portfolio of websites, I like to do annual audits on all of my sites to get them freshened up for the new year. I usually do this around January to February each year but technically, it can be done at any point in time, and even multiple times.
As you grow your portfolio, it’s important to focus on “moving the needle” and investing too much time on audits frequently will have diminishing returns. I’ve found that yearly audits yield excellent results.
In this write-up, I am going to cover exactly the three major content audits that I do every year for each of my high-performing sites.
Let’s get to it!
3 Must-Do Yearly Audits
Update, Redirect, or Delete Content
A content audit is one task I do on an annual basis as the age of my site and the number of articles on the site grows.
In general, not every article you post will rank and bring in traffic. Some will flop, and some will skyrocket traffic. A content audit will outline exactly which ones are a flop which will then allow you to decide on what to do about it.
There are four outcomes in an audit for each article on a website:
- Keep the article as-is
- Update the article with new or modified content
- Redirect the article to another better article via 301s
Let’s break out each of these.
Keep the article as-is
If your article is receiving traffic above a pre-set threshold over the past year (e.g., more than 365 pageviews) and/or has existing backlinks (e.g., one or more links), then you have the liberty to decide if you want to update to push the keywords higher or just keep as-is.
In the content audit, I tend to keep the pages as-is if they meet my thresholds and only update if I see immediate wins.
Update the article
If the page is not getting enough traffic (e.g., less than 365 pageviews in a year), but has backlinks, then it’s worth it to update the content or even rewrite to target the keywords better.
The content gets updated if and only if it makes sense to do so.
If there is a better article on your site that is covering the same topic, then it’s in your best interest to do a 301 redirect.
Delete and 301 Redirect
In this situation, the article on-hand is not getting enough traffic but has quality backlinks similar to the above situation. But in contrast, there exists another article on the site that covers the topic better.
It’s your best bet to delete this article, but keep a note of the URL slug. You will do a 301 redirect from this URL slug to the more improved article. Now, over time, the SEO benefits of this deleted article will pass onto the better article hopefully giving it a boost in the search engine results.
In some situations, I like to take good parts of the deleted article and merge it into a better article. This gives the merged article freshness and a better chance of ranking for the combined keywords.
This is the easiest action to do; just delete the article. This will mean any visitors that visit the page in the future will be redirected to the 404 not found page of your site.
I do this rarely as there is always an article, category, or even homepage that is a good fit for a 301 redirect.
However, if there is not a good fit, you can delete the article as a last resort.
A good example is for finance sites, where the owner does income reports. Over the years, as these monthly reports are posted, they get outdated. No one wants to read a detailed income report for a month in 2016 when we are in 2021. The best option for the owner in this situation to delete the article and just have it forward to the 404 not found page OR if the owner has a pillar page about income reports, just redirect to that page. It all depends on the situation.
Note: To perform a proper content audit, check out the spreadsheet created by Ahrefs in this article. I use this tool for my audits and it’s free!
I like to perform a manual backlink audit. This audit flags very poor links and it is a purely manual process of reviewing each backlink. These domains where the backlinks come from are then disavowed using the Google Disavow tool.
Note that Google has discouraged the use of the Disavow Tool unless blatantly obvious that you are being negative SEOed.
However, if I am reviewing the backlinks on a site, and I spot very low-quality links that obviously should not be there, I take the step to disavow them manually.
This is just one way to keep a tight ship and the site clean.
In general, I keep tabs on the revenues of a site monthly and also try to catch any major broken links and affiliate network changes proactively.
However, each year, I reach out to all my affiliate program managers to ask them to increase my rates. I like to do annual negotiations because any sooner does not give the brand enough data to run their numbers, and also you do not want to seem like you are trying to squeeze money out of them; it has to be mutually beneficial.
This is a typical email I send:
Happy New Year! We are revisiting all partnership relationships for [WEBSITE]. We would like to continue working together and placing you in more locations throughout our site.
We would like to discuss a payout increase for the anticipated growth in traffic we plan to send to your brand.
Could you do an analysis and come back with what you can offer us?
Let me know your thoughts.
In the emails, you should let them know what they will get in return for the higher payout. Usually, my sites are growing, and I am testing new placements of where to place affiliate links, and thus I am sending more traffic to them. I like to tease these ideas so they get excited and can give the higher payout offers. The goal is to come up with a win-win situation for all parties.
In general, even a small increase in your payout per sale/lead will result in a higher exit price when and if you decide to sell the site.
Payout Negotiation Case Study
In January 2021, I did a renegotiation, For my website case study site in the dating niche, I promote a brand at $80 per sale.
I sent them the above email, they ran the numbers and notified me that they can put me on a “tiered” structure where on the days where I have more sales (i.e., more than 5 sales), I would get a boost in commissions to $90.
After running the numbers, this equates to an additional $1,500 per year based on our 2020 numbers.
Ideally, it would be great to get the $90 payout for all sales but this is still a win-win. The brand does not commit to the higher payout upfront so no risk for them, and I get more revenue overall throughout the year since I have some high-payout days.
Annual Audits Lead to More Revenue
Performing the Content, Backlink, and Revenue audits on an annual basis will result in increased revenue and traffic.
These audits do not take a significant amount of time (and can be outsourced) but the growth opportunities from implementing these are significant.
Try them out today!