At Eri Design, websites are what we do. Website redesigns are often necessary, especially if the existing website is outdated and ineffective. However necessary this process is, it is a timely and costly project, with an enormous effort from both the client and the agency. With all of that time and energy spent on creating and tailoring your online business presence, don’t you want to protect and increase your website’s lifespan?
The internet adapts and reacts based on user actions. Just because your website is live on the internet does not mean it is adapting. In today’s digital environment, the average lifespan of a website is 2 years and 7 months. The less the site is updated and optimized, the older and staler it gets. Keeping a website fresh and healthy is a manual process.
Before diving into different optimization strategies that will increase your website’s lifespan, it is important to understand Google’s mission. As the most prominent search engine, its mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” In essence, Google wants to make it so that every search yields a result that the user intended. How Google sees your website as a source of information for users is crucial for your site’s survival. It is important to keep this in the back of your mind when you are strategizing your optimization.
This blog will detail the different optimization strategies you can use to keep your website fresh. Implementing these strategies should happen consistently, not yearly or even quarterly. So as long as you have a website, keeping it optimized will be an ongoing project. These six strategies are:
- Consistent and up-to-date content
- WordPress Updates (If your site runs on WordPress)
- Up-to-date security and network accessibility
You should always be striving to provide the best user experience for your users on your website, just like Google does as a search engine. As soon as you can no longer produce a good experience, it is time for an update.
Consistent and up-to-date content
Keeping consistent and up-to-date content on your website is a big part of increasing your website’s lifespan. Google knows how often you put out new content because robots are consistently crawling your site’s pages, looking for it. If you are stagnant in your content production, producing new content is not going to catch you up. That is why consistency is so important.
But How much is “Consistent”?
Some marketing experts suggest blogging once, if not twice a week. Neil Patel argues that producing too much blog content can drown your readers, and says “The faster you churn out content, the less likely it will be to provide value for your audience. The rate at which you produce content should be strategic, but it shouldn’t be too often so that it consumes all of your marketing efforts. Remember, valuable content is more important to Google’s mission as a search engine.
In addition to creating new content, you should also keep in mind your older content, and how that can be updated to extend the longevity of your websites. You may have posts and pages that are years old, so what do you do with them? Keep it on your website, however, instead of republishing it, write new content that relates and links back to the older content. This ensures that your old content is not burying the new. By doing this, you are telling Google that you have something new to say about a topic. For more insights on forming your content strategy, check out this blog we’ve written on the topic: 6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help you Evaluate your Current website Content and Strategize for the Future.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Think about Google’s mission statement that I introduced earlier in this blog post. Their main goal is to provide information for internet users. SEO allows you to make your website and content more appealing to search engines. Google has updated its algorithms and performed updates and will continue to do so throughout the years to fulfill its mission. Your website needs to keep up with its improvements. SEO pioneer Bruce Clay argues that optimization is about longevity, and that “the only thing that is constant in search is change. If you are good at the game, you win. If you do not adapt, then you die, but SEO does not. SEO is forever.” 
One piece of SEO is updating the keywords for which you are trying to rank. Monitoring which keywords you rank well for and comparing them to search trend results will help you understand what keywords you need to include in your new content to improve your ranks. To ensure the longevity of your SEO strategy for your website, be consistent with your keyword research, and be cognizant of changing user trends.
Another aspect of search engine optimization is maintaining the health of your external links. External links are sources of information that you link to in your content. They help improve user experience by providing more information on the topics in your content. External links also show that you are a trustworthy source of information. While external links do a lot for SEO, you must frequently check in on them to make sure they are still working. The last thing you want is your users clicking on links in your content to learn more about a topic and get sent to a 404 page.
To increase your website’s lifespan, you must perform regular WordPress maintenance. WordPress performs minor updates automatically, however larger updates are up to the website admins to perform. Making sure your WordPress version is updated is crucial. As time passes without an update, the creators of your plugins release newer and newer versions that ultimately become incompatible with your version of WordPress.
In addition to having a current version of WordPress, as mentioned above, maintaining a consistent plugin update schedule is critical. Consistent updates ensure that your website is up to date and that you have the most current versions of assets. Plugin updates often involve fixed security issues and bug fixes. The ultimate goal of installing a plugin is to add functionality to your website that you didn’t have before. You should maintain that added functionality. Matteo Duo states:
“It’s not plugin updates per se. It’s ignoring these updates that sprout issues quickly. This is the beginning of quite complex problems because there are a wide variety of issues that could be generated from literally not paying attention to plugin updates.” 
PHP is another element that occasionally needs updating. PHP is an HTML-embedded scripting language used to create dynamic web pages. Maintaining your PHP ensures your site is performing well and protects your website from security vulnerabilities.
Up-to-date security and network accessibility
Nothing hurts a brand’s reputation quite like a security breach or network downtime. You want your users to trust that your website is a safe, secure, and reliable place to house their data. Maintaining security and network accessibility is essential for maintaining your website’s lifespan because that means investing in the longevity of your brand. Consistent security and network checks will help identify vulnerabilities in your system before others do. You can either conduct these tests manually or use tools to make sure that your website is secure.
As more and more website design trends emerge, it is crucial to maintain your website’s usability–meaning that your website is easy to use and navigate. Every website on the internet has different goals that they want its users to complete. It may be a purchase, a form completion, or a download. Having effective website usability means that it is easy for users to complete your website’s goals. Websites that are not usable, will not see returning users.
In this digital age, users expect your website to be easy to use and get information. Google takes this incredibly seriously too. Sites that are not user-friendly will be lower in the search results. While new design trends may be nice to have and look at, not every trend will be suitable for your website and your business goals. To increase your website’s lifespan, ensure that you are always making decisions with your usability in mind. If usability does become an issue, fix it immediately. Once a user visits your site and does not find what they are looking for, they will leave, and the likelihood of them returning and giving you another chance is slim.
Website accessibility has become a hot topic in the discussion about website usability. Essential Accessibility states that “any websites that do business in the United States are legally required to provide equal accessibility to all people following Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ”. Just as wheelchair ramps are required in all new buildings, websites need to be accessible to everyone looking for information.
In the United States, website accessibility is monitored by the ADA, who flags websites that have barriers for people with disabilities. Those sites then go through an audit process, and legal actions can arise if the website continues to not be accessible to everyone.
Another organization that cares deeply about the accessibility of your website is Google. When Google bots index your site, they are looking for several things. Within the last few years, Google started rewarding sites that were compliant with higher search results.
If a house is structurally sound, that house will theoretically last. Making sure your house’s internal structure is maintained will allow you to make cosmetic changes when you see fit. If the internal structure of the house is falling apart, then the design changes on the outside will not make a difference in the long run. A website’s lifespan is like a house’s. Websites will always go through periods of design changes, however, to make them last, the inside is what matters.
Thinking about website strategy? Let us know, we’d love to get started!
 Google- Google
 Neil Patel- The 6 Best Ways to Avoid Becoming Outdated When Creating Content
 Essential Accessibility- Web Accessibility Lawsuits: What’s the Current Landscape?