How stale and dated is your website? ~ Encyclopedia - Online Marketing With Google Yahoo MSN

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How stale and dated is your website?

We have all had that money maker website that ranks really well but are desperately afraid to touch anything on it, incase whatever it is about the site that Google’s secret sauce is so in love with gets destroyed in the process. But unfortunately, Google doesn’t necessarily like it either when a site hasn’t been updated in years, despite those killer rankings.

Not only that, humans don’t really like it when they can tell a site hasn’t been updated in ages either, and they couldn’t really care less whether Google loves it or not. And after all, sure, Google can drive the traffic, but if the mass majority of your visitors leave out of disdain when they see you 1999 web design, is it really worth keeping it looking as it did when you first launched it with your Frontpage 97 design skills? Which brings me to the question…

So when was the last time you really updated your website? And then the next obvious thing…

What makes your website look stale, outdated and old?

Copyright date

Does your copyright date still say 2005? Or worse, 1999? Copyright date is a common way that people check how current a site is. And no, people are usually smarter than to be tricked by those javascript “today’s date” scripts that were so popular a few years ago. So make sure your site’s copyright notice is updated, and if you want to show that your site has been around since 1999, change it to 1999-2008 instead.

Font choice

Some fonts are, well, so 1999. If you have Comic Sans MS anywhere on your site, change it immediately (here is a link for the three people that have no idea what font this is). In fact, if the temptation is to great (and for many do-it-yourself webmasters, it seems to be the font of choice) go and remove it from your computer completely. Your conversion rate will thank you for it.

Background images

True, some sites definitely suit having a background image, especially if it is a tasteful Web 2.0-ish design that isn’t too distracting. Note the part about the tasteful design because not all webmasters get that part, especially when they have some photo they want to show off and have it sized to the entire browser window. But the only reason you should have a photo background image on your site is if it is directly related to what the site is about. For instance, a beach resort might have a background image showing the beach, which could be acceptable, so long as the text is still legible. Best practices would be to have a plain background beneath the text so people can actually read what you are trying to tell them, but too many people try and put the text right over top of the photo and inevitably, some of the text will be very difficult to see. And the biggest piece of advice when it comes to webpage backgrounds… if it is clouds, or anything space related, ditch it immediately.

Cache date

Look and see how many people are viewing your site via Google cache and you’ll probably be shocked. But if Google’s last cache date of your home page is six months ago, you’ve got some work to do.

Centered text

Yep, way back when the [center] tag was new, people went nuts with it and everything on the site, including all written text such as articles, was centered. Well, the [center] tag is not new anymore, and very few things should be centered except titles/headlines and subheaders.

Animated “under construction” signs

I also thought these went out about a year after animated gifs first became all the rage, but I still not only see them on older sites, but also on newer site that should know better. If a page is under construction, you are better to not add the page to be accessible to the public in the first place, or at least put a small amount of text on the page so it is passable as a legitimate page and not telling the world that you just haven’t had time to do it yet.

Sparkly anything

Sparkly animated gifs had almost died a quiet death when the MySpace crowd brought them back with a vengeance. There is no reason why any legitimate website should have sparkly images if it is targeting anyone over the age of 13, unless there is a damn good reason for it… and I am still waiting for anyone to supply me with a damn good reason!

Link exchange pages

If you still have link exchange pages on your site – usually aptly titled Link Exchange Page 1, Link Exchange Page 2, and so on, and of course with the pages being called something obvious like links1.html. If you are going to have link exchange pages, be a little less obvious about it. Smart webmasters stopped calling them link exchange pages years ago. Sorry, no examples to protect the guilty!

Homepage refers to outdated events

The last summer games were quite the event, but if your homepage is still showcasing them, you should really update the homepage or change it to a retrospective slant, so people aren’t wondering why you are featuring something that happened a couple of years ago as “new”.


While design can be subjective to a certain extent, it can date a site especially if it is done without columns or a CSS file in sight.

Color scheme

Do you remember the old school html tags when colors used to be specified by name instead of HEX #, and the most popular colors were cyan, blue and purple, usually on a black background? Well, if your site still has them, you seriously need to consider a new color scheme for your site. Nothing can date a site faster than having a black background with cyan text… unless you happen to have a site catering to gamers, and then it seems to be the norm.

Last updated June 17, 2004

If you haven’t updated in the last six months – or worse, years – remove the last updated date from your homepage. The only time you should really use this is if it I the first time you have updated in years, or if you have a massive repeat visitor base that you want to alert to what has recently been updated.

Of course, there are always those odd ball exceptions. This site hasn’t changed much about its design in ten years, right down to using the same neon confetti background image.

When you have a website that has killer rankings, webmasters can be somewhat apprehensive about updated what is on the page incase Google’s secret sauce isn’t so happy about those changes. But you also need to ensure that your visitors don’t come to your site and immediately do an about face because the site looks, well, old. If you have one of these websites, changing the above things can ensure your site doesn’t look outdated, even if you update the content and homepage very infrequently.

Still not convinced? Change bits and pieces at a time over a period of weeks (or even months!) so you can evaluate exactly what Google is thinking of your much needed changes. This will also give you the opportunity to backtrack if suddenly things start to tank and you think your updating had something to do with it. And I can’t stress enough… make sure you keep backups of everything before you make the changes, and keep them for each change you make. This will make it easy to undo your changes to figure out what went wrong.
So if you have any of those oldie but goodie websites, take some time to make sure you aren’t committing one of the above faux pas which immediately dates your website, even when the content – while not recently written – is still valuable and updated.


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