Article: Web Primer – Keeping It Current

In my previous article, I mentioned a number of things that search engines look for when deciding where to rank your website among the other results.  In general, the things that make your site attractive to search engines are the same things that will make your site appeal to human visitors too.

This is probably most obvious when you look at how often a website is updated.  Search engines will give more weight to a site which is updated regularly, on the grounds that newer content is more likely to be relevant.  Your potential customers will probably make a similar judgement; a site which contains obviously out-of-date content – such as details of events which happened months ago –  can do you more harm than good.

I appreciate that it is not always easy to keep your site up to date.  On a practical level, you may not find it easy to make changes, or the ability to make changes may be in someone else’s hands.  If you are not in control of your website, then you have no power to influence whether it generates a useful return on investment, which is an uncomfortable position to be in.  If your web developer is worth their fee, they should be able to explain the different ways in which you can maintain your site yourself.

One of the most common ways to keep a site up-to-date is to develop a news database, which lives on your website.  You typically add news using a simple web form, and as part of the process you give the news an expiry date.  That way, the website knows when the news is no longer relevant, and can hide it automatically once the date has passed.  You never have to worry about obsolete content again.

Another benefit of a news database is that one simple form submission can automatically trigger changes on many pages; for example the front page could be updated, listing the headlines of the top 5 news items, as would the news list.  There would also be a brand new page for each news item, which is full of relevant text.  All of this is exactly what a search engine likes to see.

Finally, if you categorise your news, you could show different news on different pages, which is hugely useful for your human visitors.  As they browse your site, they are always being offered news which is recent and relevant.  If you look at the website of Lynx Networks (lynxnetworks.co.uk), you will see that each service and sector has its own news, so that as you visit the pages which are most relevant to you, you are always being offered news and case studies which tie in with your interests.

By making really intelligent use of a news database, you will enhance your site for both visitors and search engines, which makes your chances of getting a return on investment that much greater.

Monday, November 24th, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development

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