Protect Your Brains From Zombie Websites!

We recently had the pleasure of migrating many of our hosting clients off the server account we’d been using for many years. While migrating the sites, we ran across some sites that have hardly been touched since they were first posted. One was nearly 15 years old! I admire a business that can be successful with a website that is approximately 17 billion Internet years old (and they are successful), but it’s not something I recommend for everybody. A zombie website like this might work for some, but for most companies it’s likely to eat their brains (that’s a metaphor — “brains” here is your business).

Of course, it can be a lot of work to keep a site up-to-date — to keep that portfolio fresh, to keep the list of services accurate, to remove the references to the awards your company received when George Bush was president — but it’s pretty important for lots of reasons. 

For one, having obviously outdated information on your site makes your company look sloppy. But most importantly (depending on how you use your site) search engines like content to be fresh. Search engines notice when a site is updated. While the algorithms they use for generating search results are closely guarded secrets, marketers agree that a site that is updated fairly frequently will draw more attention from Google. 

Google’s business plan depends on people using their tool for finding things on the web, so they are committed to providing high-quality search results. It does that by automating the process of determining what sites have valuable content and which sites have content that is superficial or very out-of-date. A site that is updated weekly is going to look a lot more relevant than one that is updated, say, once a year.

But it doesn’t HAVE to be that much work. To some degree you’ll get more benefit if you put more into your marketing efforts, but keeping things up-to-date doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some ideas for refreshing your site:

On the very easy end:

If your site has an “about us” page or bio, read that page. You are almost certain to see something you will feel compelled to add or change. In this case, compulsion is good, it gets things done. This goes for any home page content too. Business changes. Industries change, if you haven’t updated these pages in more than a year it’s a good bet you’ll see things differently now. If your site is in WordPress (or other content management system), it could be easy to just log in and make some quick changes. Easy-peasy.

If your site lists awards, memberships, or other recognitions, take a look and be sure everything is up to date. Personally, I don’t think you need to keep that award that is dated 2012, and chances are that if you have that, you have more recent awards to be added.

For medium effort:

Does your site have a portfolio or gallery? Do you have any new projects you could post? At least take a good look at the portfolio. There may be projects you feel no longer represent your work. Or you’ll be motivated to add the latest things you’ve been working on.

If you have a blog or list of informational articles that haven’t been updated in a while, it’s time for a new post. A new post could be a page long, though to be truthful, longer posts are best by current standards. There should be good quality content there, but just the fact that something new has been posted will be helpful. (Also, old blog dates can be removed.)

Heavier lifts:

It’s been true for a while that a blog (or periodic articles) is a good way to make your site more appealing to search engines — and more valuable to find (for the most part, those go hand in hand). Posting something informational every month (or week) is a big commitment, but maybe not as much as you think. One thing to do is to keep a document where you jot down topic ideas as they come to you. Another idea is to enlist colleagues or staff to work on different topics (larger companies will hire a writer to generate periodic content). Still another is to break larger topics down into smaller bites and post them over several weeks. Even posting something new every six months is going to provide some benefit, but it really should be more frequent to get the most value out of the effort.Especially for sites that have been around for several years, it might be time to revisit the general site design. Tastes change on the Web, and the look that was current and slick in 2010 is likely giving a different impression today. This doesn’t have to be a huge task — with tools like WordPress it can be pretty easy to update a site’s look. Remember how much work it was when you first posted your site? Most of that effort was creating the content. Well guess what, you’ve already got the content, so what’s left is just the fun stuff.

I know what you’re thinking. Here are the web-folks suggesting we all need more web work. What a surprise. OK, guilty as charged, but it’s true that this is an area where freshness is rewarded. Web marketing works best when information is added or changed so that a website is vibrant and alive.

Rather than a zombie out to eat your brains (remember: metaphor).


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