How to keep your website relevant and fresh

May 8, 2020

We all know that our website is a critical tool for digital marketing, and can (and should) be one of our most relied upon business tools. But websites that are static, stale, outdated, or irrelevant completely defeat that purpose. Imagine walking into a grocery store, and seeing signage from 10 years ago, or trying to follow mislabeled aisle markers (The peanut butter used to be in aisle 11, but was moved to aisle 3 in 2014 -- no one bothered to update the aisle marker), or walking down an aisle that hasn't been cleaned in months, or worst of all, getting stuck in a dead end with no clear way to get back to where you started.

You probably won't ever visit a store that bad (and if you do, for God's sake, don't trust their deli meat), but it's actually very common to find websites with issues that are very similar to what I described. Out of date branding, poor design, broken links, dysfunctional navigation, and outdated content are far too common for business websites.

The good news (yes, there is good news here) is that you don't have to hire a web development agency to redesign your busted site every year, if you follow a simple process to keep it in tip-top shape all the time. The key to this process is to catch issues early, and remedy them before they actually start to cause problems

Here's what I recommend:

Regular Audits

I know, the word "audit" makes this sound like the most tedious task in the world, and definitely something you don't want to do. But hear me out!

An audit, in this case, is nothing more than regularly and systematically visiting your website from the perspective of a user. Spend 30 minutes (with a notepad ready to document your findings) and literally click through as much of your site as you possibly can. Test all of the navigation menu buttons, open several blog posts, click on-page buttons, submit a test contact form, read your product content, check the company information in your footer, etc., etc., etc. Back to the grocery store example -- imaging that you're the manager of the store and you want to make sure it's ready to open to customers in the morning. It's probably good practice to walk up and down each aisle quickly to look for problems or opportunities for improvement.

Important note: At this point in the process, I recommend that you attempt to immediately fix ONLY those things that take less than 2 minutes to fix. If you find a typo, fix it. If you find a broken link on the homepage, fix it. If you find a broken page layout due to an outdated CSS file, DON'T FIX IT -- write it down in your notebook in a list of website improvements to prioritize later. Then, actually prioritize it later.

The first time doing this is the hardest. You're going to find a lot of things wrong with your website -- and that's ok. That's exactly why you're doing it. As much as it hurts to see the flaws, you NEED to be aware of them in order to fix them. Now that you know what needs to be fixed, you're 10 steps closer to giving your readers the experience they want/deserve.

But this isn't a one-and-done type of task. I recommend that you add a reminder to your calendar every quarter or every month (depending on how often content is updated on your site) to go through the audit again. If you get in the groove of doing this regularly, you should find that every time you do it, it gets easier and easier. This is because you're not letting little problems stagnate and grown into bigger, more severe issues.

Publish New Content

Duh -- a good way to keep content fresh is to publish fresh content.

Ok, seriously, you should be publishing content far more often than you currently are. That means 2 things: 

  1. Adding to and updating your 'core' website content. This is the content that makes up the main sections of your website. Descriptions of your products, services, approaches, teams, etc. You don't have to constantly re-write these areas, but you should continuously go back through your content and ask yourself "Are there any potential outstanding questions that my readers might have about this topic?" Then answer it. By writing new content.
  2. Dynamic and Chronological Content. This is your blog, case studies, testimonials, multimedia content, news releases and others. It's not the 'core' content, but it can go a long way in adding bulk (in a good way) and context to your business's story. Again, start the process by investigating questions your audiences may have, and simply answering them in the format that makes sense. Maybe it's a long-form blog post. Maybe it's a video clip. Whatever form it takes, it should have a home within your website's continuously growing library of content.

Update old content

Your web content isn't written in stone, and often the first place to start when looking to revamp content is with previously written blog posts or core content. Take a look at your web analytics. Those landing pages that are getting the most traffic and engagement -- look for ways to make them better. Can you update the research? Can you add new context? Can you add multimedia components? I'm not recommending that you completely delete and rewrite your content (In fact, do NOT do that -- that will have a terrible effect on your search rankings). Rather, I want you to go back and enhance your content to be even more relevant today than it was when you first wrote it.

Featured Content

Whether you publish a blog per week, or only 6 per year, you want your audiences to be able to see the ones that are most valuable or relevant, right? That's where 'featured content' comes in. This is a design element within your website (you may need a designer/developer to help you set this up) that allows you to pick the content you'd like to feature, and then display it front and center in a highly trafficked area of your website.

This may take the form of a 'slider' on your homepage that rotates through your top blog posts, or a list of your on-sale items, or a gallery of your new videos or photos.

Featuring content allows you to keep the surface level content of your website relevant, even if you're not producing massive amounts of new content all the time.

Refresh Design, Don't Re-Design

Ok, I know I said at the beginning that you don't need a designer to keep your website fresh, so I'll call this step optional. As you're going through your website audits, publishing new content, and resurfacing old content, keep a close eye on the design and user experience of your site. Are there minor annoyances? Are there areas that could be improved? Do you have any ideas about how content can be displayed or navigated better? Chances are, the answer is 'yes' to all of these questions.

If your website was designed relatively recently, you may not need to do a complete redesign to fix small imperfections. I recommend keeping a running list of things you wish your website did (or didn't do), and a couple times per year (or even once per year), work with your web designer to fix/implement these enhancements. This is sometimes called "iterative design," and it means you don't have to go through he painful process of a complete redesign any more often than is absolutely necessary.

You may find that some of your biggest annoyances on your website can be fixed in just a few hours by a web designer familiar with your site/platform.

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