How to Detect and Improve Underperforming Content: A Guide to Optimization

Content is all you should focus on if you want to rank on search engines like Google. 

However, not all content-rich sites rank highly on search engines.

A survey by Ahrefs shows that at least 90% of content does not get any traffic from Google. It means 9 out of 10 pages will not likely receive organic traffic. 

The reason is – underperforming content. Most website owners spend time and money creating new content but forget about older content on their sites. 

Most sites don’t rank on search because they don’t identify and improve underperforming content. 

This guide will help you learn how to audit older content on your site and make the right adjustments to optimise them. 

Let’s begin!

Why is Content Important for SEO?

Content is important for SEO because it provides the information that search engines use to understand the context and relevance of a webpage. 

Good quality, relevant content can help to improve a website’s search engine rankings by making it more likely to be indexed and ranked for relevant keywords and phrases. 

Additionally, content can also help to attract and engage visitors, which can lead to increased traffic and conversions. 

Overall, having high-quality, informative, and useful content on a website is essential for improving its visibility and performance in search engine results pages.

What is Underperforming Content?

Underperforming content is content that does not rank well on search. It could be commercial pages, editorial posts, or informative content that are not performing according to your business or campaign goals.

Underperforming content could also be content that used to attract a good amount of organic traffic but no longer shows results. This type of content does not drive any traffic to your website despite all the effort, time, and resources you are investing in it.

You need to put more effort into optimising your underperforming content if you want it to rank on Google and other search engines. 

What are the Causes of Underperforming Content?

There are many reasons why your content may not appear on the first page of SERPs. 

However, one of the primary reasons is that your content is not good enough to beat other content pieces on the internet on the same topic. 

Here are the top causes of underperforming content:

1- Content is Not Matching the User’s Intent

User intent is one vital metric that even the most professional digital marketers still get wrong. When a user enters a particular keyword on Google search, they have an intention.

For example, if a user is searching for “how to change a tire,” and the content on the webpage they land on is about the history of the automobile, it does not match the user’s intent and will be unlikely to provide the information they are looking for. This can lead to a poor user experience, high bounce rates, and low conversion rates. 

Additionally, if search engines detect that the content on a webpage does not match user intent, it may result in lower search engine rankings for that page. It’s important for content creators to understand the user’s intent and create content that aligns with the user’s needs and expectations.

Therefore, when creating content for SEO, you should aim at user search intent

2- The Length of Content is Less Than The Top Ranking Pages

Improper content length is one reason your content won’t rank at the top of search results.

You should ensure the content you publish on your blog is at par in length with the top results for your target keyword. 

For instance, if the top-ranking article on your focus keyword is 5,000 words, writing a 500-word article on your site will not rank you at the top.

The ideal length for content varies depending on the target industry. 

You can calculate the average length of the top ten ranking articles for a target topic to get the ideal content length you should write.

In most cases, you should aim for a content length of more than 2000 words. 

When creating content, you should explore the topic deeply and offer your readers valuable information and helpful insights. 

3- The Page Has Outdated Content 

Another reason your content does not rank on Google is that you don’t offer fresh, updated, and highly informative content. 

Outdated content refers to content that is no longer accurate or relevant due to changes in the information or topic it covers. 

For example, if a webpage contains information about a product or service that is no longer available or has been updated, or an article that contains facts that are no longer correct or statistics that are no longer accurate. 

Outdated content can be detrimental to a website’s SEO and user experience. Search engines may view the website as less relevant and authoritative, resulting in lower search engine rankings.

Additionally, users may become frustrated if they find that the information they are looking for is no longer accurate, which can lead to high bounce rates and low conversion rates. It is important to regularly review and update content to ensure that it is accurate and relevant.

4- The Page Has Fallen Out of Google Index 

Your content might not rank on Google if it falls out of the Google index. 

For example, your page may also not be ranked by Google if your website developer has mistakenly put a no-index tag on the page without you knowing.

Here are the other top reasons your website pages are deindexed:

  • Technical issues: Crawling and indexing errors, such as 404 errors, can prevent Google from properly indexing a web page. 
  • Low-quality content: If a webpage contains low-quality or thin content, Google may determine that it is not valuable or relevant enough to be included in its index. 
  • Lack of backlinks: Backlinks are an important factor in determining the authority and relevance of a webpage. If a web page has few or no backlinks, it may be removed from the index. 
  • Violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: If a webpage violates Google’s guidelines on things like spam, cloaking, or manipulative link building, it may be removed from the index. 

5- The Page Contains Duplicate Content

One of the significant reasons your content is underperforming is that you publish plagiarised content. 

  • Avoid creating multiple pages with substantially duplicate content.
  • Don’t scrape content from other sites.
  • Avoid using boilerplate content, as it creates several pages having nearly the same content.
  • Avoid creating similar affiliate program pages that offer little to no value for the readers.
  • Avoid copying ideas and provide a unique approach to your writing. 

Plagiarised content damages your site’s reputation and affects your SEO ranking. 

Before publishing the content on your website, you should ensure it is clean and not a duplicate of other web pages by finding and fixing duplicate content.

Always maintain the authenticity and credibility of your website content by checking for plagiarism before publishing.

6- You Have Redesigned Your Website

When you redesign your website, it undergoes many changes. Google and other search engines may take a lot of time to understand what is happening, affecting your ranking.

To ensure your site does not lose rankings, make sure you use proper rel=canonical tags for any URL changes you apply to your site.

Also, take care of the internal links since the removal of internal links might cause the rankings to decline.

7- The Page is Not Optimised For Keywords 

The other reason your content is underperforming is that the content is not optimised for the right keyword. 

When creating content, you should focus on a keyword you want to rank on. It may be difficult to rank if you don’t optimise your content for a specific keyword.

Non-optimized keyword content doesn’t address the readers’ pain points. Therefore, Google considers such content less valuable to users and will not rank it on the first page. 

When Google and other SERPs do not prioritise your content for a relevant keyword in your industry, it affects your overall ranking.

8- The Page Offers a Poor User Experience 

Your content may be underperforming because the page offers a poor user experience.

Your page will not do well if it takes a lot of time to load. Page speed is crucial to high site rankings.

Your content will underperform if you don’t tell your readers what they should do when they visit your website. If your content is missing call-to-action or CTAs, your target audience will not take any action after reading the content.

For instance, if you are writing content intending to sell your products and services, you should have a clear CTA asking your readers to order your products. You don’t want to assume that your readers will buy from you just because they have read the best article from your blog.

An interactive CTA on your blog will help improve UX and conversion rate. Therefore, when your content lacks a clear CTA, you are missing an opportunity to rank on organic search and increase your conversion.

Poor engagement leads to a poor site experience leading to higher bounce rates, which ultimately impacts organic rankings. That’s why the link between user experience and SEO is important.

9- Content Does Not Contain Power Words on Headings 

At least 80% of users will read the headline and avoid the rest of the content. Most users will judge your content from the headline. 

Therefore, you should ensure you use catchy and powerful words in your headings.

Powerful words on your headings will affect your ranking and click-through rate. 

You want to focus on generating curiosity from your target audience. 

When you can capture your audience’s attention, they are more likely to click on your web page, and this way, you increase the traffic to your site.

How to Spot Underperforming Content

Now that you know the reasons your content might be underperforming in the organic search results, let’s learn how you can identify underperforming content on your site.

The best way to spot underperforming content is by tracking your organic keyword ranking data to find out the pages that have dropped in rankings in the past few weeks.

You can use Google Search Console to detect underperforming content pages for better SEO in the following ways: 

  • Analyse the Search Analytics report to see which pages are receiving the most clicks, impressions, and click-through rates (CTR) from organic search. Pages with low CTRs or impressions may indicate underperforming content. 
  • Check the Coverage report to see if any pages have been indexed but are not appearing in search results. These pages may have issues with their content or technical SEO that are preventing them from performing well. 
  • Use the Performance report to check the average position of your pages in search results. Pages that are consistently ranked low may be underperforming and in need of optimization. Use the Sitemaps report to see which pages have been submitted via the sitemap and which ones have been indexed. Pages that are not indexed may have issues with their content or technical SEO that are preventing them from being indexed by Google. 
  • Use the Mobile Usability report to see if there are any mobile usability issues that are preventing pages from performing well on mobile devices. 
  • Use the Security issues report to see if there are any security issues that are preventing pages from being indexed by Google.

Here are the metrics you should look into if you want to find out if your website content is underperforming:

  • Page views
  • Bounce rate
  • User comments
  • User dwell time
  • Sessions
  • Social shares
  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Organic traffic

When you collect information on the above metrics, you can better understand why your web pages are underperforming. Once you have these metrics, it is time to learn how to fix the issues on your own.

What to Look For in a Content Audit 

When conducting a content audit, there are several key factors to look for in order to identify areas for improvement: 

  • Relevance: Is the content still relevant to your target audience and aligned with your business goals? Quality: Is the content well-written, well-researched, and free of errors? 
  • Engagement: Is the content generating engagement in the form of comments, shares, and likes? 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Does the content include relevant keywords and meta tags, and is it optimised for search engine ranking? 
  • Performance: Is the content driving conversions, leads, or sales? Are the pages with this content getting good traffic, time on site, bounce rate, etc 
  • User Experience: Is the content easy to read, understand and navigate? Are the images and videos high-quality and properly formatted? 
  • Consistency: Is the content consistent with your brand voice and style? 
  • Duplicity: Is there any duplicate content within your website or across the web? 
  • Analytics: Is there any data that supports or contradicts the assumptions of the content? 

By identifying areas for improvement in these areas, you can develop a plan to update, optimise, or remove underperforming content to improve your website’s overall performance.

How to Optimise and Improve Underperforming Content 

Here are the steps to optimise your content and make it better:

1- Add Enough Keywords to Your Content 

Your content will not rank at the top if it doesn’t have enough keywords. 

When adding keywords to your content, it’s important to include them in the following areas: 

  • Title tags: The title tag is the text that appears in the browser tab and also appears as the clickable headline for the webpage on a search engine results page (SERP). So make sure that you have your main keyword in the title tag. 
  • Headings: Use your main keyword in the main heading (H1) of your content, as well as any subheadings (H2, H3, etc.). 
  • Meta description: The meta description is a summary of the content that appears below the title tag on a SERP. It should contain your main keyword and give a brief description of the content. 
  • Body content: Use your main keyword throughout the body of your content, but make sure to use it in a way that sounds natural and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the content. 
  • Alt tags: Alt tags are used to describe images, so include your main keyword in the Alt tags of any images used in your content. 
  • URLs: Use your main keyword in the URLs of your pages when it makes sense to do so. 
  • Internal links: Use your main keyword in the anchor text of internal links within your content. 
  • Conclusion: Use your main keyword in the conclusion of your content so that it has a strong finish. 

It’s important to use keywords in a way that sounds natural and doesn’t disrupt the flow of the content. 

To get the best results from a keyword, you should include a variation of the focus keyword on image alt text and at least one heading. 

Also, don’t stuff keywords in your content, as it can negatively impact your search engine rankings and make your content difficult to read.

2- Make Your Headings Clear and Catchy

If your content is not performing well enough on Google, the headings can be the issue. 

Most searchers tend to overlook details, and you should, therefore, make your titles and heading noticeable to searchers.

Here are a few tips you should implement to make your content heading catchy:

  • Use clear and descriptive language: Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be confusing for your audience. Instead, use language that is easy to understand and accurately describes the content of the heading. 
  • Keep it short and sweet: Headings should be brief and to the point. Use as few words as possible while still accurately describing the content. 
  • Use action words: Use action words to make the heading more engaging and interesting. Words like “Discover,” “Learn,” “Unlock,” etc. 
  • Use questions: Consider using a question as the heading to make it more engaging and interesting for your audience. 
  • Use numbers: Using numbers in your headings can make them more catchy, for example, “10 Tips for…” and “5 Secrets to…” 
  • Use formatting: Use formatting such as bold, italics, or different font sizes to make your headings stand out and attract attention. 
  • Test different options: Try different variations of headings and see which ones resonate best with your audience. Use tools such as Google Analytics to see which headings are getting more clicks and engagement. 
  • Keep the style consistent: Make sure that the headings throughout your content are consistent in terms of style, formatting, and tone. 
  • Use keywords: Use keywords that are relevant to the content of the heading and also rank well on search engines. 

Finally, make sure that the headings are easily scannable so that the users can quickly understand what the content is about.

3- Update Old Content 

If you have old content on your website, you should consider optimising it to make it more relevant to your target audience. 

Sometimes the content covers a topic that is no longer trending and irrelevant to your audience. You should consider a complete rewrite for this kind of content. 

Here are more tips for revising old content to increase conversions.

  • Identify which pages or posts on your website are outdated or in need of revision. 
  • Find relevant keywords to rank your article, and include them in the piece. However, you should not add a lot of keywords.
  • Make the necessary updates to the content, including new information, images, and links. 
  • Check the content for spelling and grammar errors, and ensure that the formatting is consistent and easy to read. 
  • Use SEO best practices, such as keyword research and meta tags, to optimise the updated content for search engines. 
  • Check for any broken links or images, and update or replace them as necessary. Test the updated content on multiple devices and browsers to ensure compatibility and proper formatting. 
  • Publish the updated content on your website. 
  • Consider using redirects if you change the URL of the content so that the users are not facing a 404 error page. 
  • Finally, update the date of the post to indicate it is fresh content. Keep a backup of the old content in case you need to revert back to it.
  • Add some long-tail keywords to the content to make it rank on voice search.
  • Upgrade the title tags and meta description to align with what your audience is looking for.
  • Make your content more informative by linking to resources. 
  • If you have statistics on your content that are more than two years old, you should consider replacing them.
  • Add visuals like images and screenshots to your content to make it more engaging.
  • Add some CTAs to make your content interactive.
  • Review the content and make a list of updates or revisions that need to be made. 

4- Fix all the Technical Issues in Your Content 

Issues in your website architecture can derail your progress on search engines.

There are several steps you can take to fix technical issues in your content: 

  • Proofread your content thoroughly to catch any spelling or grammar errors. 
  • Fix broken links, 404 error pages, slow page load times, or compatibility issues with different browsers or devices.
  • Check for broken links and images, and fix or replace them as necessary. 
  • Test your content on multiple devices and browsers to ensure it is compatible and properly formatted. 
  • Use tools such as Google Analytics to track user engagement and identify any areas of the content that may be causing confusion or difficulty for users. 
  • If you are using a Content Management System, make sure you have the latest version and all the plugins are updated. 
  • Check your website’s code for errors or bugs and fix them accordingly. Optimise your website’s images, videos, and other media to decrease the loading time.

5- Adjust the Content to Match the User’s Intent 

You should always have your target audience in mind when creating your content. Know what the user is looking for when searching the keyword.  

Find better ways to make your content more informative and relevant to search intent. 

To adjust the content to match user intent, you can take the following steps: 

  • Understand the user: Understand the user’s needs, goals, and interests by researching your target audience. 
  • Identify user intent: Use tools like Google Analytics or keyword research to identify the keywords and phrases that users are searching for. 
  • Create content that matches user intent: Use the keywords and phrases identified in step 2 to create content that matches the user’s intent. This can include blog posts, articles, product descriptions, and more. 
  • Optimise for search engines: Use SEO best practices to optimise your content for search engines, making it more likely to appear in search results for the keywords and phrases identified in step 2. 
  • Test and refine: Continuously test and refine your content based on user engagement metrics and feedback. It is also important to keep in mind that user intent can change over time, so it’s essential to keep track of the trends and adjust the content accordingly.

6- Add External and Internal links to Your Blog Posts 

Your content may be underperforming because it lacks backlinks. If your content is all about your brand and fails to add other resourceful links, it may not rank well.

You should add external links to reliable and informative sites on your content. 

Having external links on your website makes it more credible and authentic. You can make your website an authority in the industry when you add links to the content you publish.

7- Improve Engagement by Adding Visual Elements 

Adding visual elements, such as images, videos, and infographics can improve engagement by making the content more interesting and easy to understand. 

Users are more willing to go through your article when you add screenshots and videos to the content.

If you can, you should have an image on the content for every heading or section. 

Visuals can also help to break up text and make the content more visually appealing. 

Additionally, using images and videos can help to convey information more effectively than text alone. It is important to make sure that the visual elements used are relevant and high-quality.

Having visuals on your content can increase the content’s social shares, which improves your conversion rate.

8- Make your Content Easy to Index and Crawl 

Here are the tips you can apply to make it easy for Google to crawl and index your website:

  • Use a sitemap: A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the URLs on your website, making it easier for search engines to find and crawl your pages. 
  • Optimise your URLs: Use descriptive, keyword-rich URLs that accurately reflect the content of the page. 
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly: With the increasing number of mobile users, Google gives a higher priority to mobile-friendly websites in its search results. 
  • Use internal linking: Internal linking is the process of linking one page of your website to another page of your website. Internal links help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website, which can help improve crawling and indexing.
  • Use schema markup: Schema markup is a type of structured data that helps search engines understand the content on your website, making it easier for them to crawl and index. 
  • Avoid blocking search engines from crawling your website: Use of robots.txt file, meta tags, or any other means that block search engines from crawling your website should be avoided. 

By following these best practices, you can help search engines easily find, crawl, and index your site.

Final Thoughts 

Underperforming content is a common problem on most websites. However, most people don’t know how to detect if their website is not performing well on searches. 

This article has mentioned how you can spot-check all the issues that make your website underperform.

Find out the cause of the underperforming content before you can fix it. You want to ensure that your content is in line with user intent. If not, you can rewrite it, add keywords, and work on the headers to make it more user-friendly. 

Make all the SEO and content changes to make your content useful for search engines and target audiences. With the right tools and skills, you can fix all the issues on your content to help it outperform.