Resources Hub » Blog » Identifying Underperforming Content: A Guide To Content Analysis

This is a guest post from Deana Kovač at Point Visible.

How many times have you heard that tired old “content is king” adage?

Probably a few too many.

But when it comes to content, you really can’t ignore its effectiveness, especially when it comes to growing your strategy.

How we produce content might change, but audiences everywhere want to absorb new information quickly and efficiently. In other words, content is here to stay, and all you can do is work on improving your own.

The benefits of having well-crafted content in place are clear: Quality content marketing drives visits, increases conversions, boosts brand awareness, improves email campaigns, and allows your brand to develop a personality.

See the best content marketing examples of 2019 here.

The one downside of content production? It requires you to invest resources like time, creativity, and money—especially if you have underperforming content.

What is underperforming content?

Underperforming content is anything that isn’t achieving the ROI you’d hoped. If your blog isn’t getting traffic, or your videos aren’t being watched, or your emails are lacking engagement, you’re experiencing underperforming content.

Naturally, there’s a way to circumvent the costs we discussed above and improve your numbers, and it comes in the form of content analysis and content upgrades.

Read on to discover how you can pinpoint your underperforming content and make it work for you.

How to identify underperforming content

First, let’s dissect what underperforming content actually looks like.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll divide it into three categories:

Content that once performed well, but no longer does:

Your blog might host several articles that were once popular, driving traffic and sales. But for some reason, you’re now seeing that these once-popular posts have dropped in both rankings and visits.

This is the type of content that lends itself well to upgrades and revamps.

Content that never performed well:

On the other hand, you might also have pieces that are dead and have never actually had much potential.

These could be pieces about obsolete topics that no one is searching for anymore, pieces about obsolete tech or tactics, etc.

You’d do best to remove this content from your blog and redirect any links it may have acquired over the years to pages with more potential.

Content that hasn’t been successful but that has potential:

This is content that can work very well, if you spruce it up a bit. (We talk more about this below.)

How can you tell which content isn’t performing but could? Here are some of the metrics you should be keeping an eye on, to ensure your content is doing the best it can:

  • Pageviews – If they’re low, not many people are seeing what you produce. This is clearly an issue you want to fix—but only for pages that meet other criteria.

This is an example of how you can see pageviews on underperforming content using SEO sites.


  • Time on page – If this number is low, site visitors end up leaving fast. This often means that what you have to say doesn’t answer their questions. The way to remedy this is to write a more in-depth piece, going into more detail and providing actual value to the reader.
  • Keywords the page ranks for – Most pages will naturally rank for many keywords, and you don’t have to focus on adding specific words to the text anymore. What you should be paying attention to is the anchor you use when building links to your pages.

This is an ahrefs screengrab showing organic keywords.


  • Social shares – If your content was once shared a lot, this can be a great sign that you can use the same piece again and give it a facelift.
  • Backlinks – If a piece of content is acquiring backlinks on its own, it’s a great sign. You’ve done something well, and people are linking to you as a resource.

This referral path screen grab shows which sites are backlinking to your content. If it's underperforming content, you'll want to redirect the links to new links.


  • Organic visits – If this number is low, people aren’t finding you in search. In other words, it’s time to bust out your SEO toolkit and upgrade your page and try to revamp the content.

There are several tools you can use to acquire these metrics: Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the obvious candidates, but you can also buy an Ahrefs subscription to gain access to some additional insight.

You might also keep your data in a spreadsheet, where it will be easy to access and understand.

Make sure you analyze data over a period of time (e.g. month after month). This will give you insight into the trends and potential trends you can tap into.

Curious about email benchmarks data and how you compare? Our guide can help.

What causes content to drop?

Once you have access to all of your data, you can start asking the fun questions: Why is something performing well vs. why is something underperforming?

We’ll only be looking at the latter case. Here are some of the more prevalent causes for underperforming content:

Outdated information

Search engines love fresh information, as do users. If you have a post that was last updated several years ago, all you need to do is add in fresh information and numbers and republish at today’s date.

Better content published by another source

There are literally millions of blogs being written right now. It’s likely content is being published about something you’ve already covered, and it’s possible that it’s more relevant to users.

If so, it’s possible that post will perform better. When looking to upgrade a post, look at the posts that are performing best in Google for said topic.

Wrong choice of keywords

If you’ve tried to rank your post for a certain set of keywords and succeeded, you might still be facing a high bounce rate.

This will most often mean that visitors don’t see the point in your post and aren’t looking for what you have to say.

The solution to this is venturing into your Search Console and Analytics, taking a look at what you’re ranking for, and what brings in the best traffic.

Use this information to curate content to the visitors you already have.

Grammar errors

There’s nothing worse than trying to read a post that’s informative but poorly written.

Make sure you always fix any errors and typos. You can use any number of online tools available, and even Google Docs has automated fail-safes for grammar.

Poor formatting

Humans are visual, meaning a blog post without some visual variety (e.g. short paragraphs, subheadings, images, etc.) won’t likely be read.

How you format your post is half the job, so make sure you use subheadings, bullet points, reputable links, and high-quality images.

The video below discusses how you can balance content in your emails: This also applies to how you format content on your webpage.

What content can you save?

There are three main choices to consider when it comes to cleaning up underperforming content.

Delete a post completely and redirect all links pointing to it to other posts; write a brand-new piece from scratch and replace an existing post; upgrade a piece you already have in place.

Delete what can’t be saved: no traffic, very poor rankings, and no interest in the subject.

Write new pieces on topics that are popular on subjects that interest your target audience, but which have been done poorly before.

Upgrade well-performing pieces that have shown potential.

Here’s what can help you make the best choice:

  • Keyword potential: Ahrefs has a great feature, which allows you to determine how easy it’ll be to rank for certain keywords. If you have a post you can rank easily, the choice is simple.

This is a graph showing search volume for underperforming content.

This is an Ahrefs screen grab showing search volume.


  • Search volume: if certain keywords are often searched for and you already have a post on the subject—no brainer.
  • Trending and viral topics: this one is a bit tricky, as we can never actually guess what will go viral. On the other hand, you can use Google Trends to gauge the potential of certain topics, and try to direct your own work in a relevant direction. On the other hand, be warned: evergreen topics perform better over the long term than viral posts, so don’t chase a trend merely for the sake of it.

This is a screenshot of Google trends.

  • Time and effort: creating great content takes a lot; you can’t expect to do it in one sitting. Focus most of your energies on posts with the most potential, and those that could bring in the best ROI.

Repurposing content vs. remaking it

Another point we should discuss is repurposing content (as opposed to updating it) and how beneficial this process can be.

Turning a blog post into a video, a video into a podcast, or a podcast into a blog post can be a great way to create something new, without spending too much time and effort on the project, especially since you already have the data.

The choice will largely depend on what your audience likes and how easy it is to reshape a topic.

Some topics won’t work well in different formats, but will greatly benefit from an upgrade of the same format.

Let’s illustrate this concept with an example.

At one time, this post on web hosting didn’t rank for anything. It was a chunk of text with plenty of info but not much digestible content.

Once they changed the layout, added in a table of contents, implemented a box with pros and cons, and updated their outdated information, it began ranking.

This is an example of an updated post that was previously underperforming content.

Think about how you can do the same: Improve user experience by making it easy for visitors to get the information they need from the page.

Add useful links for further reading; improve the images; write new meta descriptions and titles.

In short, try to make it both informative and accessible.

A caveat on blog performance

Finally, we need to mention that there’s no hope for great content to rank if it’s hosted on a bad website that isn’t performing well.

What this means is:

  • Your domain name needs to be in line with your brand. Try not to have any numbers, superfluous interpunction, etc. in the domain name.
  • Choose a reliable host.
  • Ensure all of your on-page elements are up to snuff.
  • Be careful where you promote your blog. Don’t build links on shady websites and don’t use content farms.
  • Think of the user first, and the search engine second. UX is gaining traction as a ranking factor, and you need to ensure visitors have a pleasant experience with you, rather than trying to outsmart an AI.

Wrap up

We may roll our eyes at the “content is king” cliche, but cliche or no, content is still pretty important.

In order to do well online, useful and interesting content is crucial.

What those two terms mean will differ from user to user, from brand to brand. Your task is to match your voice with that of your target audience.

And, yes, producing content is expensive—which is why you can turn to your existing posts and work on them, rather than invest in something new.

Performing a content audit once a year will allow you to not only to make the most of what you have, but it will also allow you to gain a new sense of the direction you need to be going in the future.

This is a headshot of Deana Korvac, a marketer at Point Visible.

Deana is an internet marketing specialist at Point Visible, a digital agency providing custom blogger outreach services. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and singing karaoke. Also, her day just can’t start without a hot cup of coffee.

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