Has your blog flat-lined? Or are your whitepapers lying there lifelessly? It’s time to perform a post mortem to see what happened.

It can be hard to find time to fully audit and assess your underperforming content, but it is literally one of the most valuable marketing activities you can ever undertake.

If you don’t know why last year’s content failed, you’re dooming this year’s content to the same fate.

With that in mind, here are the steps you should follow to conduct a proper content post mortem, and the information you should be looking for along the way.

Step 1: Check For Vital Signs

Make sure your content is actually dead! You might be able to revive it.

You may stare at a blog or a downloadable and say, “Why did this fail? It’s actually really good.” If you feel like there’s something worth saving there, you’re usually right.

Sometimes, some very simple tweaks can revitalize a piece and unlock the traffic and SEO juice you were hoping for.

If something is dated, it probably doesn’t have much of a chance for a second life. So feel free to throw out your 2018 Christmas buying guide. But if something is more evergreen, ask yourself what you could do to revive it.

Step 2: Know the Time of Death

In the world of SEO, the time of death is 3 seconds. 

You will lose over half of your visitors if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load on a mobile device.

The first thing that SEO experts like Paul Teitelman do when assessing a site’s SEO value: Check its load speeds. And Teitelman has stated slow speeds are holding back the site’s SEO value in about 70% of those cases.

Too many companies (and their marketers, for that matter) will run a site speed test on the home page at the start of the year, see a decent speed, and assume they’re fine.

This is Wrong for Two Reasons:

  • Testing the home page does not test the entire site
  • Your site speeds will slow down over time

You need to test all of your blog pages, landing pages, and service pages individually. And you need to do it more than once a year.

How often? The more important the page, the more often you should test it.

The good news is that a slow site is often very fixable. There are a number of things that could be slowing you down. Finding them all can be an intensive search. But that work could basically give you a whole new website.

In fact, far too many companies will scrap a slow website. They invest thousands of dollars in building a brand new site, when all they really needed to do was compress some images and clear out the back end… for free.

Step 3: Check For Foul Play

Did this content die of natural causes or was it something more malicious?

Foul Play, in This Case, Could Be Google Killing Your Blog Because It Violated Their Guidelines With Something Like:

  • Spammy links
  • Duplicate or stolen content
  • Keyword stuffing

Or Maybe it Contains Something That Goes Against Typical SEO Best Practices, Such as:

  • A lack of keyword strategy in the body or the backend
  • A lack of responsive mobile design
  • No internal or external links
  • Broken images or links

Any of these things can be an instant content killer. But the good news is that, if you fix something like a bad link, the piece of content can recover to have a long and fruitful life.

In any case, these “small mistakes” are teachable moments that make sure you don’t make the same mistake in the future.

Step 4: Find The Cause of Death

If you’ve ruled out foul play, it’s time to dig deep and find out what killed this piece of content.

There are hundreds of things that could kill a blog. But you can most likely find the problem, if you ask these questions:

  • Is this piece well-written? Or does it contain spelling errors and typos?
  • Is it well-written, but perhaps not using language that will resonate with your audience?
  • Is the headline engaging and interesting?
  • Are the images boring?
  • Did you bury the lede or fail to deliver what the headline promised?
  • Does this piece offer real value? Or is it just recycled goods?
  • Is your competition creating better content? If so, how?

Yes, this will take you a bit of time. Having to go through every single piece of content and ask all of these questions may seem like a frustrating waste of time. But continuing to make the same mistakes would be a bigger waste of time.

You can do this once a year, or you can do this once a quarter. It all depends on how much/how often you’re publishing. The important thing is that you do it!