Underperforming content weighs your site down. It’s routine practice for major brands to audit their content and remove things that aren’t providing value and see a lift in traffic as a result.
Cleaning up your website cruft is like pruning your garden. Removing stale and dead content allows the rest to thrive.
If you want to know why your law firm should regularly conduct a content audit and how we recommend doing it, we break it all down in this article in a step-by-step fashion with plenty of illustrations to help along the way.
What is a Content Audit?
A content audit is the process of evaluating the content on a website in order to understand its strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of a content audit is to identify how well the website’s content is performing and to make recommendations for improvement.
Why You Should Do a Content Audit for Your Law Firm
It’s not uncommon for law firms to produce content that brings in little to no value for their business. This includes content that was hastily published on a whim or to celebrate some announcement that is no longer relevant.
Content that isn’t driving value for your business causes problems in two ways:
- Low-quality content affects your site’s overall ability to rank. If you have a lot of low-quality content, Google will begin to view your site as being low quality in general. It’s the equivalent of failing classes in college—everyone drags your overall GPA down.
- If your content isn’t driving your business value…why does it exist? Every page on your site should have a job. They won’t always tie directly to revenue, but they should have a purpose that aligns with your business objectives. Imagine an employee didn’t bring any value to your business. Would you continue keeping them on staff?
Even good content can begin to lose its value over time, especially when it gets outdated when things like laws change. If your content isn’t relevant and up to date, it will begin losing traffic from search engines.
Updates in the law aren’t the only reason your content declines in quality though.
Quality is relative.
When new competitors enter the market and produce content or when incumbent competitors update/upgrade their content, your content can easily become less valuable.
You should be auditing your content at least once per year or more if you’re in a hypercompetitive market.
Assessing the Value of Content
Most content audit frameworks focus on 3 core metrics when evaluating the quality of a page:
- The amount of traffic a page receives.
- How much organic traffic the page gets.
- The number of backlinks the page has.
This is shortsighted and doesn’t reveal the true value of your content though. These metrics are all marketing metrics and don’t always translate into value for your firm.
We recommend adding taking things a step further and assessing business metrics instead. Our approach evaluates:
- The amount of traffic a page receives.
- How much organic traffic the page gets.
- The number of high-quality backlinks the page has.
- The number of conversions a page receives.
- The amount of high-intent, revenue opportunity conversions a page receives.
Traffic is a good indicator that your content is popular with Google, but conversions and revenue generated are the best indicators that your content resonates with people and the problems they have that you can solve.
We’ll break down, step-by-step, how we perform this for law firms that hire us to grow their revenue.
How to Do a Content Audit for Law Firms
There are a few things we need to do an audit like this:
- A tool that can crawl your website like Screaming Frog
- Access to Google Analytics
- A CRM to track leads and revenue
- Conversion goals properly set up in Google Analytics (including offline conversions)
- A tool to collect page-level backlink data like Ahrefs
Step 1. Import a List of Your Website’s Pages
There are a variety of tools that can do this. You can use tools like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs. We use Screaming Frog when doing this because it gives us significantly more data, but to make this example more accessible, we’ll use Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Note: You can also get a list of your site’s pages from your sitemap. This free sitemap import tool by Ardent Growth can speed that process up (you’ll need to input each sitemap URL you have into cell A2 of the Start Here tab one at a time currently).
Within Ahrefs, we:
- Open up the Ahrefs Site audit tool & select the most recently crawled log of the website we’re auditing.
- Select Page explorer under tools.
- Add a filter for “is valid (200) Internal HTML page
- Add a filter for “Is HTML Page”
- Apply these filters
We add filters for “is valid (200)” and “is HTML page” so we only assess the current pages on the site are relevant for content auditing purposes.
After that, we adjust the columns in the table report before we export. Specifically, we remove one column and add one.
We remove the “first found at” data column, found under the Meta information dropdown.
We then add a column for No. of referring domains, found under the Ahrefs metrics dropdown.
With these data added to our table, we can export the report and import it into the Ahrefs Site Audit tab of our Content Audit tool built with Google Sheets.
Step 2. Import All Pages Data from Google Analytics
Next, we go to Google Analytics to get more accurate organic traffic and conversion data. To do this, we log in to Google Analytics for the site we’re auditing and open up the All pages report.
Found by going to Behavior → Site Content → All pages
Note: This is for Universal Analytics, not Google Analytics 4.
We set the date range to capture data for the past 12 months. This gives us enough data (and time) to assess how a page is performing.
You can set date ranges for your data by:
- Clicking the date range in the upper right of Google Analytics.
- Setting the first date field to be 12 months prior.
- Clicking the Apply button.
Then we add a segment for Organic Traffic by clicking Add segment, searching for Organic, and checking the box next to Organic Traffic.
- Click Add segment
- Search for Organic
- Check box next to Organic traffic
- Click Apply
To export as much data as possible from the Google Analytics interface, we set the row threshold to show 5000 rows. If you forget to set this, and export your data, you won’t capture everything.
Note: If your site has more than 5000 pages, Google Sheet extensions like Search Analytics or SyncWith are great free tools to get the data you want.
Once we have the rows set to show 5000 pages, we export these data from Google Analytics as a CSV file.
Scroll to the top of the Google Analytics interface:
- Click the Export button.
- Click CSV
With this data exported as a CSV, we return to our Content Audit template in Google Sheets and import the data into our GA All Pages tab.
- Select cell A1 in the GA All Pages tab
- Click File → Import
- Select the Upload tab
- Drag and drop the CSV export from Google Analytics
- Select Replace data at select cell
- Click Import data button
Step 3. Import Landing Page Conversion Data
Next, we get landing page conversion data and import it into our tool within Google Sheets in the GA LP tab. To do this, we first visit the Landing Pages report by going to Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages.
We then set the Conversions filter to include All Goals.
Note: If the Google Analytics view is set up to count non-impactful goals like scroll depth, page paths, time on page, etc., then we do not select those goals and instead select the most relevant goal for our assessment. For example, something like form submissions, call button clicks, or live chat conversions.
You can only select All Goals or a single goal from this report, which isn’t ideal.
To set ourselves up for success in the future, we then create a new view within Google Analytics and configure the goals to only include impactful ones. The current view with less impactful (but still useful) goals is kept and can still be referred to in the future, but the new view enables us to perform a more detailed analysis in the future with cleaner data.
With our goals selected, we double-check to ensure our date ranges still line up with the data we exported from the All Pages report (e.g. last 12 months) and that both of our segments are still in place: All Users and Organic Traffic.
We then export our data as a CSV and import it into the GA LP tab of our Content Audit tool.
Step 4. Import Attribution Data from Model Comparison Tool
Next, we get attribution data for our conversions from the Model Comparison Tool within Google Analytics. To get to this data, we go to Conversions → Multi-Channel Funnels → Model Comparison Tool.
We then select which conversions are high-impact (e.g. form submissions, call button clicks, chat conversions, etc.), ensure the Type is set to All, and set our lookback window to 90 days (the maximum).
- Select high-impact conversions.
- Click Apply button
- Ensure Type is set to All
- Set the Lookback Window to 90 days
Then we set our attribution model to First Interaction.
We use First Interaction (also called first-touch attribution) because this model attributes the conversion value to the first interaction a user has with your site. Given that most content on an attorney’s website is information and falls higher in the marketing funnel, first interaction is the best model to effectively measure the value your content is driving for your firm.
After that, we add a secondary dimension for Landing Page URL to get page-level attribution data into the report.
To do this, we:
- Click Secondary dimension.
- Search for “Landing page” and select Landing Page URL in the dropdown.
Note: The data we get from this report will only be showing data
Once again, we set the number of rows we display in this report to show 5000 (though it’s unlikely it’ll ever be this many) and then export the data as a CSV and import it into the GA MCT tab of our Content Audit Tool.
Step 5. Import Backlink Data
Now it’s time to get backlink data for the pages on the site. We use Ahrefs’ Best by Links report within Site Explorer to do this.
- Input the domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer
- Open the Best by Links report
- Set the HTTP status code filter to be 200
- Export the full report as a CSV
With the CSV export downloaded, we then import that into the Links tab of our Content Audit Tool.
Step 6. Review the Recommendations & Make Decisions
Our template automatically organizes the data and runs it through some conditional logic to return a set of recommendations in the Recommendations tab.
In the Recommendations tab, we’re able to pull in our website’s URLs, traffic breakdown (pageviews and organic sessions), backlink metrics, conversion data (both landing page conversions and first-click attribution conversions), and our recommendations for the page.
We don’t take these recommendations as final though. We review each page and make our final recommendations in a column labeled “Determined Action.”
There are certain nuances that warrant considering such as:
- Is the page used for anything else in the marketing funnel (e.g. Google Ads, email marketing, social advertising).
- Does the page play a critical role in the user journey through the site (e.g. an information page someone reads before navigating to a contact form).
- How new is the page? If it’s not very old, it likely hasn’t had enough time to pick up rankings and meaningful traffic. If so, we wouldn’t just delete or 301 redirect it.
- Does the page serve an important role regarding site architecture and isn’t expected to drive meaningful traffic or conversions (e.g. category pages)?
Reviewing Pages Flagged for Delete (404)
When reviewing the recommendations, we like to use the filters and start by reviewing the pages flagged for deletion.
Category & Author Pages
It’s not uncommon for category and author pages to get flagged for deletion—in these cases, we would update our final action to Leave Alone (200). Some folks will recommend you noindex them but we like to leave them indexed for site architecture and EAT purposes.
Additionally, when a page covers a niche topic that doesn’t get a ton of organic traffic but can contribute meaningfully to conversions, we leave it alone as well.
Reviewing Pages Flagged for Redirect (301) OR Update
If a page isn’t getting a ton of meaningful traffic and has backlinks, we’ll consider redirecting it to another more relevant page to boost its authority.
However, if the page is covering a niche topic or has been recently published, we’ll set the Final Action to Leave Alone (200) — especially if it has any conversion data associated with it in the LP Conversions or Impactful Conversions columns.
For niche topics, the way we gauge this is based on how much traffic we would expect a page like that to get. If it’s performing below average, we’ll also check to see if we can refresh the content and breath new live into it to get its traffic growing before simply redirecting it.
The main cause for redirection is when a page was created that simply doesn’t need to exist. Things like old press announcements, stories about car accidents (your a law firm, not a news outlet), or pages that are too closely related to another page that covers a similar topic and has better traction.
Pages Flagged for Manual Review
A page gets flagged for manual review when it:
- Gets decent traffic.
- Doesn’t get much (if any) traffic through organic channels
This is the most nuanced of all recommendations and there are a few different potential paths we consider:
- Leave Alone: If the page is relevant to the business, such as a core category page or landing page that has conversion data associated with it, then we keep it.
- ‘Noindex’: There are some cases where we still want to keep a page up because it gets traffic from non-organic sources (e.g. from social or Google Ads). However, having it indexed can sometimes cause mixed signals with Google — especially when the content on that page could compete with another page on our site that we want to rank. When this happens, we flag it to be noindexed. We take particular caution before doing this and weigh all the pros and cons.
- Update: Whenever we know a page has potential business value but just isn’t getting organic traffic, the usual culprit is lack of relevancy, authority, or quality. When this is the case we flag the page to be updated so we can revamp the content to see if it improves over time. We’ll also consider targeting it with backlinks if its future potential value warrants it.
- Redirect (301) / Consolidate: When there’s a page on the site that’s targeting a similar topic, is better written, and performs better, that’s when we consider redirecting the underperforming page into the new one. If there’s content on the underperforming page that would be useful to include on the better page, we relocate that content (consolidating) before redirecting the page.
We always manually review pages and carefully consider the best options before redirecting them.
Content audits are something you should be doing at least once a year if not more. The frequency at which you audit your content for performance is a function of your publishing velocity. The more you publish, the more you should audit.
Doing this process can be manual and tedious, but that’s no excuse for ignoring it. That’s why we build tools and processes to help speed things up.
We automate what we can when it comes to data collection and organization so we can spend more time on analysis and strategy.
That’s where the most value lies.
If you haven’t audited your law firm’s site in a while (or ever), start planning to do so this quarter. If you don’t know where to start or want a team of experienced SEO professionals to help, reach out to us.