Just think of all the time it takes to maintain a website’s news, blogs and other dynamic content. Is it really worth it? Or could your time be better spent on other things?
- by Peter Labrow
In the early days of the Web, a website with a few pages was seen as sufficient to promote a business. Sometimes referred to as a ‘brochure site’, this kind of website would be static – never changing from the moment of its creation.
These days, many sites are alive with ever-growing content: news, blogs, events, articles – you name it. To the website owner, this type of content can represent a significant investment in time – time that could (perhaps) be better spent working on the core business.
So what’s the advantage of continually adding this type of content to your website? Surely a Web-based brochure is enough to tell people about your company and its services?
It’s certainly important to get the ‘core’ part of your website spot on – the positioning pages that tell people what you do. It’s true that, for many companies, these pages may seldom change. But there are several reasons why small static sites get outperformed by larger, more dynamic ones.
First, let’s look at the impact on your website’s visitors. The advantage of a small site is that visitors should be able to find what they want more easily – though, with the right design, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case with a larger site, too. But once a visitor starts looking around your site and comparing it with those of your competitors, the differences become clear.
- With up-to-date content on its website, a company looks like it’s on the ball, keeping up with trends and perhaps setting the pace.
- Blogs (for example) provide a means to communicate informally with visitors, delivering content that just wouldn’t work in any other medium, and doesn’t naturally sit in your more marketing focused positioning pages. They also help your visitors to experience the ‘personality’ of your company in a way that positioning pages simply can’t.
- News keeps people up to date with your progress as a business, again giving people a different insight into what you do.
- A growing bank of case studies shows the impact of your services on real customers, and provides the opportunity to showcase projects and endorsements.
- An events calendar events show people where they can come and meet you, perhaps at trade shows or industry gatherings.
The list goes on. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) people can subscribe to news feeds from your site – these deliver up-to-date content to people’s e-mail client or Web browser, without them having to even visit your site. Or, you could have some kind of e-mail subscription, where people sign up for updates and the website automatically notifies them when updates are available.
Compare the richness of such a website with a static site, and it’s obvious which company most people would choose to deal with. Getting people to engage with you on the Internet is largely about engendering trust – which is what most of this dynamic content does.
There’s another important factor to consider: search engines.
Search engines ‘learn’ how often your site is updated, and, over a period of time, settle into indexing it with a roughly corresponding frequency. That’s how Google picks up on news quickly – because it pretty much indexes leading news sites all of the time. At the other end of the scale, a site that’s never updated can go months without being visited by Google.
When you do update your site, it can take ages for the update to appear in the search engine results – which is very frustrating when your competitors’ sites have their new content indexed more or less right away.
Frequently updating your website can also help you get higher search engine results too – because a site that is constantly updated is more likely to provide relevant content, which is what Google is all about.
There are exceptions to this, as with all things – for instance, a static site with a large number of pages linking to it (especially if those links are added to all the time) will rank highly anyway. But, in general, having regularly updated content – by which I mean content that is added to that which is already there – will help you get higher in the search engines.
A website that is never updated looks identical to search engines to one that has been forgotten and has been left to fester and gather dust. Dead – and therefore not relevant, so it stands far less chance of performing well in search engines.
When you do come to change your long-standing static website for a new, constantly updated dynamic site, you’ll find that the legacy of the static site will linger for months. Google doesn’t like ‘big change’ – an entire site being replaced – so all websites are ‘sandboxed’ when they are revamped to a large degree. This essentially means that, for a period when Google has to learn to trust you again, you will fall out of the search engine results.
It happens to nearly all sites and there’s little you can do about it other than wait. But, if you had a dynamic site, with lots of pages being updated, Google will already be indexing you with a high degree of frequency. It will approach your new site with pretty much the same mindset, and your time in the sandbox is reduced.
With a static site, the change can be excruciating – it can take months and months for you to get your new dynamic site onto a decent indexing schedule and longer still to get properly ranked.
Another consideration to show the importance of regular updates to your site is the growing size of the Internet. The rapidly increasing size of the Web makes it statistically harder and harder to have a high-ranking site. In effect, the ‘background noise’ of the Internet becomes greater as it grows, slowly but surely pushing down the height of the playing field that you once thought was level. The smaller your site, the less frequently you update it, the more this effect can hurt you.
It would be wrong to say that small, static sites have no place on today’s Internet – there’s scope for all sizes of website, and some businesses would genuinely struggle to fill something more than just a few pages.
But dynamic sites, with rich, continually updated content have many benefits other than the obvious ‘keeping people aware of what’s going on’ in your business. It may take time to create that content, but it’s time well spent.