06 Aug, 2015

The correlation between website traffic and regular content updates

I've blogged before that websites have similarities with buying property. For property it's location, location, location, and for websites it's optimization, optimization, optimization. So this blog looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly of trying to keep your website at the top of search engine listings, thereby driving traffic to your site and customers to your business.

As an example I'm going to use one of my personal interest websites that has been running for over 15 years, and in that time it's seen ups and downs in Google rankings.

For the first few years, because it was so unique, it was always #1 on page 1 of Google for pretty much every search term related to the site content. Then competition started to appear and it became more challenging to keep that top spot. Other stuff got in the way including personal issues, employment demands, and even moving to a completely new country. The website started to slide in the rankings due to neglect, and this is the crux of this blog—a neglected website is a dead website to the search engines and they will treat it accordingly; meaning your site will lose its traffic.

Here's a look at Google Analytics for the website from May 1, 2006 (when we switched to using Analytics) to July 31, 2015.

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As you can see, there have been periods of ups and downs over the nine years the traffic has been tracked on Analytics. The big issue, however, was mid-October 2012 when the big slide started. The website was being neglected for various reasons; it didn't have regular updates and new content. Google also made major changes to their algorithms, and this impacted many websites very hard indeed. The website plummeted in the rankings overnight, site traffic started to disappear, as did advertising revenue from it.

Finally, in September 2013 we launched a new responsive (mobile-friendly) website and began the long slow slog back up the rankings.

What made the difference? Regular updates. The proof is in the pudding—or in this case the graph—it clearly shows a slow rise back from the ranking doldrums. To borrow Victor Frankenstein's famous quote: "It's alive!" (Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 1818), and Google decided that the site was indeed alive and once again worthy of attention.

But in all seriousness, what breathed life into the site was making the effort to do regular content updates. Building the site as responsive didn't harm its progress either, but as Google had yet to start penalising non-responsive sites in mobile search results it was down to the hard work of regular content updates, and letting the search engines see that the site wasn't deceased from lack of attention.

If your website isn't performing well in search results, or it is losing ground in search engine rankings, then it's not a terminal issue. Sites can be resurrected with a little, regular effort—as proven in this example. We use our personal interest sites to trial new ideas, technologies, etc. so that we know what works, what doesn't, what we can do about it, and in this case why we should practice what we preach.

Your website can be great again with some effort. Nothing comes easy where website content, search engine ranking, and site traffic are concerned. But with good, unique optimized content, regular updates, and a little TLC your site can revive its flagging fortunes.

If you have a Content Management System website or e-commerce site, where you can do regular updates yourself then I urge you to do them. Don't procrastinate, as Google isn't forgiving where websites are concerned. Small regular content updates to any website are vital to the site and to its position in search engine rankings and getting that all important site traffic—if prospective site users can't find you they can't visit you, if they can't visit you they can't buy from you, if they can't buy from you you might not stay in business long enough to rue neglecting your website.

Related blogs:
You can't just build it and they will come anymore
Is your site mobile-friendly? If not, Google has a nasty surprise for you