A question we are often asked is “how many years should a website last before needing a rebuild?”
This question is expansive and there is no specific answer, but here are our thoughts on what contributes to the service life of a site. We will cover many of the factors and then provide a summary on how a website rebuild may/may not help these factors.
In terms of SEO, a website should no longer be considered a “build and forget” proposition. In the 2010 – 2018 period, we could build a website which had exceptional technical SEO and we could almost guarantee that it would start ranking highly within a few weeks for the majority of industries when coupled with a geographical location in the search query entered into Google.
Nationwide and worldwide rankings took slightly longer due to the increased number of websites in competition. We were successful in achieving the number one worldwide ranking for a corporate speaker client in their respective area of expertise, and one thing you need to understand with search rankings is that the more specific keywords that you are chasing, the higher your chances of being ranked at the top are. If you are chasing broad keywords, the chances decline significantly.
In the past few years, a key metric Google use to rank your website is “Your New Content” which you may have seen on Google’s Search Console Insights page. Whilst the inner workings of Google Search are a closely guarded secret, you can be assured that if Google is tracking a new performance metric, then it will undoubtedly contribute to your search performance. It displays content from the past 30 days, so this is a good indication on the minimum frequency you should contribute new pages to your website.
We make an educated guess (from testing hundreds of websites) that the SEO technical score used to contribute as much as 80-85% of a website’s search rank position on Google in the mid 2010’s through to 2020. This is formed from testing client websites against their competitors for the same keyword search.
We now believe that the technical score contributes around 50% of your website search ranking with other metrics such as site speed, the addition of new pages and content, age of domain name (and the length of time it has held a particular search position), bounce rate, Google reviews, click through rate, website traffic and quality backlinks now being used to make up the rest of the rank position.
Having a website built and not touching it again is no longer a way to get to the top rank positions for the keywords you wish to be ranked for.
A performance metric Google started heavily tracking a few years ago is website speed. Speed of your site gives a better experience for website users, and it is a known fact that a website which loads slowly contributes to a higher “bounce rate”.
Bounce rate is a metric which tracks how quickly a user who landed on your website through search, went to another internal page or left the site completely. When the user left within a few seconds (which slow loading times contribute to), then this performance metric knocks you down a peg in search.
The websites we built back in the 2010’s, are far slower to load than websites we build currently. A website built with new software (even with the same appearance), can load as much as 50-70% faster with current technology. Code is now written much more efficiently and with the reduction of the amount of code needing to be interpreted by web browsers to perform the same task or display the same information, comes increased speed.
This same speed increase applies to new generation file types which reduce the size of images (eg. using a .webp file instead of a .jpg cuts image size by about 25-35%) and also video.
The ability to add new pages quickly, often and more efficiently is now vital to satisfy the content performance metric used in search.
Websites we created prior to 2020, were generally created with mainly static pages. Each page was designed from scratch to house the information and whilst this meant amazing SEO technical scores, it also took a lot longer to perform changes, updates and add content.
A Content Management System (CMS) creates “dynamic pages”, using a framework we design which is then populated by a data source. Sites we built prior to 2020 used an internal link (called an API) to software such as Google Sheets, which contained the content for the page which was then accessed when the page is loaded. Because the content may need to be accessed by an external website, it took longer to load which meant the speed was slower.
Adding a new page to a website using today’s web design software is very fast. The backend is very user friendly, and we can even add information and tips to help the client (with things such as suggested word count used in SEO) under each content field.
Fields used in an articles page (such as this one), are as simple as the title, heading, introduction text (shown on the articles menu), and an image. It may also contain things such as a button which can show the article first in the list before it is sorted using the method on the site (such as date published, name etc.).
To enter an article for a client (depending on the length of the article and extras such as images, sound and video embeds) now takes around 15 minutes. In 2020 and prior, this may have been closer to 45-60 minutes. Complex articles can still take time however we are looking at a saving of approximately 75% from articles being entered prior to 2020.
The CMS content can also populate items on other pages such as the Article Menu and lead-ins to CMS items.
We can train clients over a Zoom call in an hour or less and we can even setup the CMS so that all the SEO settings are dynamically updated from the content fields. For example, the page title can be setup to use the article title and can be paired with any other static info (such as the website/company name).
Staff bios, articles and blogs, events, reviews, projects and case studies are all examples of CMS generated content on a site that can be quickly updated by website owners or the web designer through the CMS backend.
In an e-commerce store, the same principle can also be used to update product information, prices, images and availability/stock levels.
If you have information that can be stored in a database and populated into pre-designed templates (that use the same formatting), we can build it using a CMS.
You have a website, and it has strong technical SEO. Your client books are closed, and you have no wish to increase the amount of revenue. Competitor websites have no updates made and are inactive in their marketing. If you are in the top position of Google search and don’t wish to update your site, then it really comes down to aesthetics and user experience. This scenario doesn’t require a rebuild unless a competitor starts marketing activity on their site and your rankings begin to drop and you wish to retain your search position/ranking.
Your competitors are active. Your site has strong technical SEO, but the site is a few years old. New listings and competitors often push your listing down. You should consider a website rebuild to instantly obtain a more favourable website speed using the current technology and look to integrate a CMS into the site so you can regularly add pages and content either yourself, or for minimal cost by a web designer.
You have an older website (more than 2 years) and rely on Google position to find new leads. If your website was to drop off page 1, your organisation would start to haemorrhage revenue and work would dry up.
You need to have a rebuild completed and should consider investing in a regular SEO update plan along with content if you don’t have time to create. If you rely on Google position to generate new clients and revenue, your website should have regular work performed on it and you should develop a strong rapport with the web design agency.
If you have a website which uses current technology, it most likely doesn’t need a rebuild in terms of SEO performance and the ability to make updates and add content efficiently. It will likely be able to be improved without a rebuild. Keep in mind the "new content added" metric now used by Google. If your site is easy to add to and update, this would likely have a stronger result in increasing and maintaining search position. Not adding content because of a website which is difficult to update is counter-productive to maintaining search position.
We haven’t touched on website aesthetic or user experience, which contribute to the success of a website, but can generally be addressed on a regular basis by your chosen web designer.
When choosing to rebuild a website, be sure to do your research on the designer/developer. Just because you are having a rebuild carried out on a newer platform, doesn’t automatically mean that the favourable Google search position/s you currently have will transfer straight across when the new site is published. Also keep in mind that many website designers will not include SEO work as part of the build which can lead to disastrous consequences.
A rebuild requires careful planning to ensure that the transition to a new site doesn’t cost you search positions, and your chosen web designer should give you very direct answers using examples when you ask how this will be maintained.
We witnessed a high-profile business recently who decided to take their website design and maintenance on in-house by building their own website. Unfortunately, every Google search position for every service they offer that did not link back to their home page, no longer exists. This will likely have a massive effect on their revenue and lead source in the immediate future. You can read the full article here.
If you rely on your website performance to bring in customers and generate leads, you need to engage a professional who can explicitly explain how they will ensure the transition to the new website will be as seamless as possible in relation to current search position before thinking about how much it can be improved.