Why should I update my website?

Imagine if any time you googled “all blacks england score” the first thing that come up was from way back in 2002 (England, 31 - New Zealand, 28). Or when you searched “most popular christmas gift” the results returned were from the dial-up days of 1998 (remember Furby?). We all know the old Star Wars movies are better than the new ones, and everyone agrees that the Egyptian pyramids are more impressive than the mall downtown...but sometimes newer is better. And that’s often the case with online search results. Here are two more specific reasons why you should keep your website up-to-date:

Fresh content serves your customers

Since day one, the internet has thrived on sharing information. And, as a business, you definitely have some information to share. If you’re a carpenter you might be able to offer some handy DIY tips. If you’re a catering company maybe you could share a few great recipes. By “giving away” a bit of your expertise you’re showing potential customers that you know what you’re talking about and you’re developing loyalty with your current customers. Blogs are one of the best ways to do this (we’ve discussed this before specifically in relation to accounting firms). If you’re a Rocketspark customer, then blogging capabilities are completely integrated with your site.

But it’s essential that the information you’re sharing is fresh out of the oven. Research conducted by marketing communications firm, ExactTarget, shows that people don’t like stale content. 38% of Facebook and 52% of Twitter users unsubscribed to a brand because their information became repetitive and boring. But it’s important to note that this isn’t just about keeping up a steady stream of information—it’s about creating top quality information. Breaking down ExactTarget’s data a bit further, it’s clear that people want companies to provide fresh information that’s also quality (not just chit-chat) and that’s not just thinly-veiled self-promotion. This research was conducted in the social media realm, but the principle is the same for your website: keep it fresh!

Fresh content improves your search rankings

A couple of years ago Google updated their system so that newer content is (sometimes) favoured over older content, meaning that shiny new information is more likely to appear higher in the search results. Content with a more recent inception date tends to rank higher than older content, so adding fresh content can help keep your site ranking where it should.

But that’s not true of all search queries. When a user types in a search query Google decides whether that query needs recent results or not. As Senior VP of Google, Amit Singhal, put it: “Different searches have different freshness needs.” “Freshness-sensitive” search queries (or, as Google calls it, “QDF”: Queries Deserving Freshness) fall into three basic categories:

  1. Recent events/hot topics e.g., recent earthquake, celebrity death.

  2. Regularly occuring events e.g., national elections, English Premier League, Super Rugby.

  3. Frequent updates (information that’s constantly changing) e.g., smartphone reviews, sneaker prices.

If your potential customers are typing in search queries that fall into any of these categories, then having fresh content can really help your cause (the third category is the most likely to be relevant to some business owners). Google says this freshness bias at least somewhat impacts about 35% of searches and quite noticeably impacts 6-10% of searches.

So the question is, does your site need to be fresh? The answer really depends on how likely relevant searches are to be deemed freshness-sensitive. If your customers’ likely searches fall into any of the three categories above, freshness can really help with your search rankings. But if not, then generating new content might not be as important for your search rankings. If that’s you, then Google search guru Matt Cutts’ advice is to focus on quality: “There’s some content that’s evergreen, that stands the test of time—it might be better to work on those articles.”

What if you want a fresh site but don’t want to mess with what you’ve got? One strategy is simply to add pages to your site. Adding pages improves the overall freshness of your website, keeping it relevant. Some experts recommend that you increase the number of pages on your site by 20-30% a year. And the best way to do this? Blogging (see above).

Not all updates are equal. The amount and type of changes you make to your site matter. A small tweak in the wording won’t be as “fresh” as big changes to the text. And fiddling around with the site’s navigation won’t be as effective as changes to titles or main text. In fact, minor adjustments are not likely to have much impact on rankings at all.

Conclusion - do you need to update your website with fresh content?

Being current helps. Fresh content serves your customers and it improves your search rankings. But only sometimes. Customers don’t just want new information—they want good information. And not all search queries require fresh content.

So while generating fresh content is a good habit to get into, it’s not something that should keep you awake at night. Yes, be fresh, but the most important thing is to be quality. Because creating quality content that stands out from the crowd—now, that never gets old.