You have a website, maybe it’s brand new; maybe it’s been online for a while. You have decided on the information that you want to show on it, and you have created the pages that provide that important information. You’re on the web, part of the digital age. Your customers and interested visitors will flock to you, won’t they … or will they?
It is not quite as simple as that. According to World Wide Web Size, the Indexed Web contains at least 4.85 billion pages (as at February 2016). This means that there your website faces considerable competition when it comes to people finding it in Google and the other search engines.
Now, before you give up in horror at the sheer scale of things, it is not necessarily that difficult to make your site visible. Many (probably most) of these sites are technically dead and have not been updated in years. The reality is that most websites have a very short practical life. People operate them for a while before they become disillusioned, or real-life gets in the way of cyber-life, and then the sites go into virtual hibernation – asleep but not totally dead.
Google and the other search engines realise this. They can see that in most cases if a site sits in stasis, unchanging, it is ceasing to be relevant and useful to people. So for that reason, the search engines actively reward websites which regularly update their content and penalise static, unchanging websites.
People who visit a particular site through using the search engines are known as organic visitors. They search using a keyword term to solve some problem. By definition, they do not know which website they will end up at. They are asking Google, Bing or Yahoo to find them a list of sites to solve their problem. If you want your site to be recommended to the searchers as a place worth visiting you need to provide fresh, useful content, which is better than your competitors. Even if you have written killer content in the past on a topic, you will be in danger of being overtaken by newer sites, if they better answer the searchers’ questions.
People also come to your site by other means. For instance, if you write a blog post and then publicise it using social media and email, you will gain a mix of referral, social and email visitors. If you don’t bother to write new posts, you simply will not gain these visitors. Once they have seen your site once (or a few times if there is a lot of content there) there is no incentive for them to return if you post nothing new.
You can probably see where I am going here. Fresh, new content leads to new visitors coming to your site. This will either be because of your promotion of that new content with email and social media or because the search engines see you have valid new material which they then rank higher in their search results. On the other hand, if you leave your site unchanged, you will most likely find that visitors dwindle. This will be because people do not return, feeling that they have seen all you have to offer, or the search engines “give up” on you and consider your site just another one of the 4.85 billion, dying a slow death.
So How Regularly Should I Actually Update My Website?
I’m sorry, but I have to give that infuriating answer of, “it depends”. Every site targets at a different audience who all have differing needs.
In most cases, however, you are going to want your site to look alive and active. For this to happen, you are going to need to make changes on a regular basis.
Sure, if you run a small business and have less than fifty visitors, there is little need for you to make daily changes to your website. I would look at making some change to even these small B-B sites on a weekly basis, however.
At the other extreme, if you create a site focusing on a popular niche such as sports, tech, lifestyle or fashion you may find yourself updating your site multiple times per day.
If you believe that you already have pages detailing your business’ most important content, then you should perhaps consider writing a blog. A once-a-week blog post is an excellent way to keep a website alive, and it can provide the search engines with new material to add to their rankings. If you concentrate on writing about some long-tailed keywords with each blog post, you have a good chance of performing well in organic search. You also have new material which can lead to referral visitors, which can be socially shared, and which you can promote via your email list
Your regular readers, particularly those who have willingly provided you with their email address, are genuinely interested in reading your posts, and learning more about you or your business.
Many websites try to actively involve their community. These websites gain new content very regularly. If their readers are highly engaged, it is possible that they happily write comments to posts, and may even participate in a site forum.
In many ways, it depends on what the site is for. If you operate a small specialist niche website promoting your content, weekly posting may be sufficient. If you want to engage with your customers, you will need to provide resources to allow daily updates to your site. Hopefully, your site will last longer than the average 100-day lifespan. If you make regular updates to your site, then you have a good chance of being a website survivor.