(Please, please update your websites…)

With so much written on the subject of SEO, getting links and building authority, one glaring oversight seems to prevail across all channels.

While striving to keep your content fresh and useful, don’t forget to also keep it from spoiling outright. In other words, please update those old pages on your website

As a business grows, and a website along with, it content accumulates and pages may multiply like rabbits. With time, some of that content is bound to become obsolete – stale in any case. Concepts, promotions, even links expire. What you’re left with may be a page or entire site people find but cannot use or worse suspect or even distrust.

Keeping your site current and banishing expired content is critical for a site’s stickiness. If visitors find broken links and out of date information, the sit will quickly be dismissed as amateurish and irrelevant.

It would be nice to, say, deflect blame for those out-of-date pages.

Ie: “I’ve pay someone for that” or “That’s not my department.”

But the reality is appearances are everyone’s responsibility.

In a small business, the owner-operator may be her own webmaster – a heavy load, as, done right, maintaining a website is at minimum a full-time job.

In a mid-sized company, there’s probably someone who’s job responsibilities specifically include web matters such as online marketing. It that’s the case, keeping an eye out for expired content should also be part of the discussion of work responsibilities.

In both cases, an outsider (consultant) can bring fresh eyes to the problem – specifically looking out for expired content, broken links or other areas with clear room for improvement.

Larger firms have entire departments focused on web design, SEO, online marketing et al but even these major websites are not exempt from neglect and oversight.

I touched on this a recently in connection with a pet food company’s charitable giving. The page on their site that promoted their donation methodology was a year out of date.

In the case I mentioned in “Miscommunication,” I didn’t suspect or distrust the company. I truly figured the oversight – not updating or deleting the page – was, just that an oversight. But my email exchange with the company left me feeling annoyed – and even a little insulted. (Shame on me and that morning’s thin skin!)

I’ve experienced this problem much closer to home, and if it wasn’t my own business at issue, it might have been laughable that in two cases the same character was to blame.

Years ago, as a member of a local chamber of commerce I was dismayed to find my contact information and web address were incorrect in a printed directory. Incredibly, it took the group weeks to make the correction in the online version.

Recently I emailed the host of a directory to request updates along these same lines. The willing reply came back apologetic when the administrator couldn’t find a link to the directory. — I provided the url, and we subsequently determined the one responsible for dropping the feeder link was the same responsible for the chamber’s failings. A month’s gone by, and it’s still not fixed. (Perhaps, here’s a fellow who should get out of the business.)

Sorry if this all sounds rudimentary, or overly simplistic. To be fair it is.

The point I’m making is that it’s also very important – and no one seems to write about it.

The other side of this “Keeping current” coin is making sure your site is providing the best service it can.

Customer retention, repeat business and referrals are a key part of the brick and mortar business experience and these age-old principals correlate quite closely with the needs and requirements of online business.

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Recently I listened to NPR’s discussion with Jason Ackerman, co-founder of Fresh Direct the online grocer and food delivery service, part of the “From Scratch” series “about the entrepreneurial life.”

One of the things that stuck with me was the fact the produce is graded daily and Ackerman said the results were posted each morning on the website.

Publishing to the web has the potential for instant gratification. You don’t have to wait days or weeks for proofs, printing presses to be fired up or freight delivery windows. Just put the systems in place to make updates or corrections virtually ‘instant.’

I’ve used this in the promotion of outdoor events that were subject to rain dates – and tracked visitor traffic to the site as a means of measuring effectiveness.

Folks visited the site prior to getting in their cars when skies were questionable. It was effective, because we’d managed expectations and let consumers know the website would be source of ‘late-breaking’ news.

Not every business can or will invest in a text-alert system, like treacherous weather systems or for school closings, but if for instance a Yoga studio’s clients know cancellations will be posted x hours before classes are due to begin, good will may be preserved.

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