Building a website takes time, but even when the build is considered “finished”, the work isn’t done. One of the most common questions we get from our clients is: “How often should a website be updated?”
The short answer is, your website should get a complete design overhaul every two to four years. Google is constantly changing, and so are design trends. Smaller updates to add new content and update outdated content should be done more often. Google is always reassessing your content, so should you.
Updating your website is essential to developing your brand online. Keeping your website up to date keeps your customers informed about what’s going on, and can increase your website’s value in the search engines.
While a rebrand is definitely a website update, not all updates need to be drastic. It can be as simple as refreshing an old blog post to try to increase its traffic volume or adding a new blog post a few times a month.
How often your website should be updated depends on a number of factors, including:
- Its scale
- The time you have to invest
- Your industry
- The competition
- Your goals
- User trends/usability
- Design trends
Most businesses develop a long-term plan that involves adding new content on a regular basis, as a way to draw in new potential customers. And the more content you create, the more avenues those people have to connect with you.
The technology we use to build and access the web is constantly evolving. As such, user standards are constantly changing. Years ago, we were okay with splash pages that kept us entertained while we waited for pages to load. We used to be forgiving if a website wasn’t all that mobile-friendly.
That’s not the case today. People get impatient and expect pages to load almost instantly. Even three seconds is too long to expect someone to stick around. And though that may be the case today, things could look completely different five years from now.
In the earliest days of Google, you could put keywords in the metadata and rank, even if your content had absolutely nothing to do with those keywords. Those days are long gone, of course…which is why you need a team of experts to support you every step of the way.
Google continues to evolve to provide a quality experience for its users – the searchers. Take for instance the introduction of Google Core Web Vitals.
Is your website ready?
Signs It May Be Time to Update Your Website
Before we go any further, here are some questions you should ask about your website. If you answer “No” to any of these questions – it’s definitely time to update your website.
Does your website display correctly across multiple browsers?
It should look the same on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and other commonly used browsers.
Does your site function well on mobile devices?
Ideally, your design should be responsive, meaning that it automatically adjusts design elements according to the size of the screen it is viewed on. Though it will look different on a desktop compared to a tablet, the user experience shouldn’t change overall. Need to test your site to see how it performs? The Mobile-Friendly Test is the best place to start.
Source: Google Search Console
Does your website use current technology?
Flash used to be all the rage, but now, it’s considered outdated technology that isn’t user-friendly. Many sites now rely on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress because they make it easy for people without a tech background to make content adjustments on their own. WordPress powers 40% of the web today since it is a flexible solution that works for corporate websites, online stores, and hobbyist websites alike.
Does your website look modern?
With limited technology came limited design capability. The internet was slow, which meant things like video, let alone live streaming, were impossible to use on your website. As with fashion trends, web design and development trends have continued to evolve. Take a look at what Apple looked like in 1998, 2008, and 2018.
Source: Wayback Machine
As with technology, design preferences have changed. From once being enamored with animations (today’s GIF obsession aside) and MIDI songs playing alongside bright graphics, to a love for flat design, we’ve come a long way. In between, the trend focused on bringing real-life to the screen, with faux texture, drop shadows, and more to bring 3D to the 2D screen. Today’s flat design trend has Windows 8 to thank. The minimalist design approach focuses less on aesthetics, and more on usability.
Is your website optimized for Google?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your website is easy for people to use while taking steps to help it show up on the relevant search engine results pages. It’s not a simple process that happens overnight — and it’s not something most people can do on their own.
Is your website up to date with your current branding?
If not, it’s time to make sure everything matches. Failure to align your website with the rest of your marketing materials and collateral can create confusion among your audience.
Does Google Core Web Vitals show your website thriving?
If you haven’t already, take a look at your Core Web Vitals Report in the Google Search Console. Depending on what you see, your website may need minor edits or a major overhaul. These signals focus on the user’s perception of their experience interacting with the websites they visit. By measuring these signals, Google aims to continue making improvements to promote positive online experiences.
The three main core web vitals to focus on now (more will be added in the future) are:
- Largest Contentful Point: Also known as LCP, this measures your website’s loading. This is the time it takes for a page’s main content to load. Ideally, it should be 2.5 seconds or less.
- First Input Delay: Also known as FID, this measures website interactivity. This is the time it takes for a page to become interactive. Ideally, your measurement should be 100 ms or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: Also known as CLS, this measures your website’s visual stability. This refers to the amount of “unexpected layout shift” of visual page content. Ideally, your measurement should be less than 0.1.
Source: Google Search Console
You can also run a page audit to see how well your content is doing. The audit will provide suggestions for improvements.
Source: Google Developers
Are you providing a quality user experience?
Your website could provide people with the answers to their questions, but it’s not optimized for the users, it won’t matter how much work you’ve put it into. Google wants to make sure the people visiting your site get a good user experience on every page.
If you’ve determined your website needs some updates, Orbit Local can help. Whether you’re looking for traffic-generating content to bring in more organic traffic and build brand awareness, or you want a complete revamp of your site design to bring it into the 21st century, our team is ready to go.
What Website Updates Generally Include
If you’re not sure where to start with website updates, a website audit will give you an idea of what changes you can make to get the most benefit, fast. A comprehensive website audit considers technical issues, user experience, and SEO.
Auditing takes a look at the state of your current site to determine things like:
- Crawlability – can the search engines access and crawl your site’s content? If there are no issues, the bots can follow links from one to the next without problems. But, if you have broken links, the bots can run into dead ends, which makes it hard for them to get all the information about pages on your website. There may be content the crawlers cannot access, which may impact your rankings.
- Indexability – are the search engines able to analyze and add pages to their index? Just because Google’s crawlers could crawl your site, doesn’t mean it can index all the pages. Things like your overall site structure, internal link structure, server errors, looped redirects, robots.txt blocking, etc. can affect both crawling and indexing.
- Server errors & Status codes – Whenever there is a server error, a website displays a status code. The status code indicates the problem. If you’ve ever seen a 404 error – that’s a status code. It means the page cannot be found.
- Informational responses (100–199)
- Successful responses (200–299)
- Redirects (300–399)
- Client errors (400–499)
- Server errors (500–599)
- Security – A GoDaddy study found that 73.9% of hacked sites are hacked for SEO purposes. Hackers destroy the site’s rankings by adding links, additional web pages, and sometimes, even start to display a different website altogether – but only to Google. The result is rankings plummet, and sites are even blacklisted. To keep it from happening to you, staying on top of your website’s security is critical.
- Speed – how quickly the website loads. Most people won’t even wait three seconds, causing slow loading sites to have lower conversion rates (and lower search rankings.)
- Your website traffic volume – how many visits you’re getting every month
- Bounce rate – how quickly people return to the search engine after visiting the page they clicked on.
- Keywords you’re currently ranking for – the words and phrases people are searching for that return your website in the results
- Broken links – links to websites that don’t work anymore
- How old content may be impacting traffic and rankings – areas where you can update the content to increase its ranking and traffic potential
- Usability – how easy it is for people to use
- How your competition is faring – how your competitors rank for certain keywords
- Where content updates may make the greatest impact – what changes will yield the best results fast
The kind of website hosting provider and plan you choose can affect speed, security, usability and other elements of your website; therefore, be sure to choose the best web hosting service for your small business.
After the audit, it’s easier to get an idea of the kind of updates you should make to your website. Adding fresh content can help, but if the foundation isn’t where it needs to be, that’s not where your attention should go at first.
Creating a Plan of Action for Your Website Updates
When Orbit Local audits your website, we’ll present our findings along with recommendations for website updates and a timeline to follow.
It’s crucial to make sure that Google can crawl your website, because if it cannot, then nothing you do to improve it will matter. The first step is to make any necessary technical changes at the code level.
From there, you can build a strategy for updates based on your goals. If you want to improve brand awareness, you may need to build or improve your social media presence and marketing strategy to use with any new content you create for your website.
Look at what others are doing in your industry, whether they are a direct competitor or not. While you don’t want to copy them exactly, finding out where they’re ranking for certain keywords, how often they update their site, and the kind of content they create can help guide your strategy.
A good rule of thumb is: your company website isn’t about you; it’s about your customers. It’s a tool for people to engage with you. It’s not enough to repackage your website every few years with some press releases thrown in for good measure. Today, there are plenty of tools available like Google Search Console and Google Analytics that will help you figure out what your users want so you can give it to them.
Businesses with a strong online presence aren’t necessarily focused on how often a website should be updated and the number of updates within any given period of time – but instead on things like:
- Creating valuable content that serves their audience, whether that’s blog posts, white papers, infographics, or other tools and resources
- Building authority, trust, and credibility
- Growth-driven design (GDD)
How Growth-Driven Design Helps Your Business
By connecting your marketing and sales data with your website, you can make ongoing updates to regularly produce small improvements. This is often far more affordable and practical than completely redesigning your corporate website every couple of years.
Rather than trying to address all of the issues at once, you instead treat your website as a living, breathing, project. Prioritize tasks based on your current situation and goals, monitor the results, adjust accordingly, and keep moving.
By integrating your real-time data, it’s easier to reshape your website in a way that truly speaks to your customers. You’ll need to spend time planning and preparing for a GDD initiative just like you would with a website overhaul, but once the site is live, regular updates, no matter how frequent, ensure your site remains an effective tool for communicating with your audience.
At Orbit Local, updating websites is our business. If it’s time to make some changes, contact us today! No matter where you are in your business journey, our experts can build a strategy to shoot you straight to the stars.