It’s Official: Static, Brochure-Ware Websites Are Dead

Filed in Blogging, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on November 29, 2011 16 Comments

tombstone

If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you don’t have an online marketing strategy.

I’ve been saying that for some time now, and I think it’s never been more true than it is today. If you want to succeed online in any industry that’s even remotely competitive, you must have an effective content marketing strategy. I’ll explain that more in a moment, but the key point is this: Static, rarely-updated, brochure-ware websites are dead. I think they’ve been dead for some time now, but Google really put the final nail in the coffin with its latest algorithm change that emphasizes the value of (and the need for) fresh content.

Google Wants Fresher Search Results

Earlier this month, Google made a huge announcement that I think probably hasn’t been written about enough. (Certainly not by me; I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks now.) Search results “are best when they’re fresh,” Google said in its announcement. “Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent,” Google’s Amit Singhal wrote.

To be clear, this isn’t going to impact all small businesses in all industries in every location. In fact, I’d guess that purely local businesses might not be affected at all — searches like “seattle bakery” or “kansas city dry cleaners” probably aren’t the types of searches where fresh content is necessary.

But Singhal said this is a ranking change that affects at least one result on about 35% of all searches, and clarified to say that about 6-10% of searches would be changed “noticeably.” That’s huge.

What It Means for Small Business Websites

As I said above, I don’t think a bakery in Seattle is going to be impacted by this too dramatically. How often is there breaking bakery news? In Seattle?

But there are millions of small businesses that aren’t doing business just in their immediate local area. And millions more that are operating in industries where there is regular news or where things change on a regular basis. In those cases, Google is saying it will reward quality websites that offer fresh content.

If that describes your small business, your static and never-updated website is officially dead. In many industries, I believe it will be nearly impossible to get natural search visibility in Google with a small, brochure-style website that doesn’t offer fresh content.

How to Succeed Going Forward

As I said at the beginning of this article, if you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you don’t have an online marketing strategy. So it’s time to develop a content marketing strategy. And keep in mind that this content has to exist on your website; using Facebook and Twitter are fine, but that’s not where your content strategy lives. It has to live on your website.

Here’s what I’d do as soon as possible:

  1. Get your team together and discuss the pros and cons of starting a company blog. Cons: Blogging isn’t easy, not if you plan to do it the right way. More and more business are blogging, but many will get it wrong. Don’t be one of them. Pros: When done right, blogging can mean more search traffic and more inbound links. A great blog can be the best weapon in your SEO holster.
  2. If you DO decide to start a blog, start by deciding A) who will be in charge of it, B) who all will write for your company blog, C) how often will you publish new articles (I recommend at least twice per week if you can do it), D) what content policies will you need, and E) what other guidelines need to be in place. (I highly recommend allowing comments on your blog posts, for example, but there should comment guidelines in place.)
  3. Before you launch your blog, create an editorial calendar. You’ll use this to guide what articles you’ll write, who’ll write them, and when they’ll be published. Be sure to read my article, A Simple Sample Editorial Calendar to Keep Your Blogging on Schedule, for more guidance in this area.
  4. Write a lot before your blog launches. Before you even add the blog to your website, have the first month or two of articles already written — or at least as many of them as you can. Writing material in advance will help with making the launch smooth; you won’t be desperate for article ideas, nor will you be hurt if someone misses an assignment.
  5. Know where to watch for new blog content ideas. I’m sorry, but I have a hard time accepting it when I hear bloggers say they can’t find anything to write about. I wrote a series with all kinds of tips for this: 5 Ways To Find New Blog Content. Oh, and when you’re writing, don’t worry about how long your blog posts should be.
  6. Know your ultimate goals and be able to track what you’re doing. If you’re already using a web analytics program, it should be easy to tie your blogging in with existing company business goals. Those goals should have something to do with selling products and/or generating leads — whatever helps your bottom line. Don’t worry about less important numbers like how many RSS subscribers you have, how many times your articles are retweeted, etc. Those things are nice, but getting a hundred retweets isn’t going to help you meet payroll next month.

One last thing: It’s okay to choose NOT to start a blog now. If you’re not ready to make the commitment, that’s fine. But keep in mind, you still need to have some kind of plan to consistently expand your website with quality content. Can you start a weekly newsletter and put it online? Can you create a Glossary or a Frequently Asked Questions page and expand it regularly?

Whatever you do, don’t settle for a static, brochure-style website. It’s dead. If you’re in a remotely competitive space, you need more from this point forward if you want to succeed online. One last time, because it’s worth repeating:

If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you don’t have an online marketing strategy.

(Tombstone image created via JJ Chandler’s tombstone generator.)

Comments (16)

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  1. Rene says:

    Matt, nice article, but frankly, I do believe you’re jumping the gun a little on this one.

    To quote the same Google announcement you are referring to:
    “There are plenty of cases where results that are a few years old might still be useful for you. [fast tomato sauce recipe] certainly saved me after a call from my wife reminded me I had volunteered to make dinner!”

    In other words: Google will do its best to separate valuable, evergreen content, from content that is news-related (and therefor time-bound).

    Rene
    Community Manager, SiteKreator

    • Matt McGee says:

      Rene – thx for your comment. I think if you look up at the text of my article, I do say that there are many types of small businesses that are unlikely to be affected by this, which I think echoes the Google quote that you shared.

      Keith – I don’t think I’ve ever “listed” this blog anywhere, aside from perhaps on some of my social networking profiles. Being active online is, to me, the best way to get visibility — certainly better than looking for listings in blog directories and things like that. Read other blogs. Join their conversations with quality comments. Respond to discussions on Twitter, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, etc. You can even get exposure from providing quality answers on sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers. (I used to do that a lot, actually. Check my archives for “Yahoo Answers” posts.)

      Cody – tooth care tips, what toothbrushes are best, what toothpastes are best, are electric/battery powered toothbrushes all they’re cracked up to be, do dental whitening strips really work, etc., etc. :-)

  2. Lewis Warren says:

    Some good points of consideration here, on immediate thoughts; I must say that I feel the benefits of having a blog module out weight those of not having one. However this is only if you can stick to the plan/schedule, otherwise there’s not really much point. I also think your point 6 is so crucial as it is often very easy to lose track of your focus when your blogging is months down the line

  3. Good stuff Matt. And I like the new look of your site!

    I’ve been trying to put up new blog content 2x/week, but my biggest stumbling block is trying to figure out how to get it out there. Other than facebook, twitter, etc. (and being on the year-long Technorati waiting list), do you have any recommendations on where to list a blog so it’s actually seen?

    Thanks!

  4. Cody Baird says:

    Keith,

    I had a similar question about getting my content out there. I just started my company blog last week. I really like this post on SEER Interactive’s Blog about guest posting on other blogs that have followers/readers that would enjoy your content as well.

    http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/top-5-tips-for-guest-blog-research/2011/10/26

    There is a really cool tip on using Google reader to alert you about blogs that are looking for guest posts so that you can reach out to them and share your content. If people like what you say they will be visiting your site/blog after reading your guest post.

  5. Thanks, Cody! Much appreciated.

  6. Cody Baird says:

    Matt,

    I so SEO/LSO for Dentists. Do you have any ideas or fresh content advise for my dental clients? We are already working on blogging and editorial calendars. I was thinking event calendars on their sites…? Or maybe a review focus for the site instead of other review sites….? I’m guessing that fresh content isn’t as important for dentists, being that they are local but I was hoping that a steady stream of fresh content would push their sites ahead of the local competition. Getting them to post on their blogs regularly is like pulling teeth as well. (nice pun right? ;) )

  7. Kris says:

    I switched to a WordPress blog recently and am taking old material and serializing it. I guess that is one idea. Here some for the Dentist: history, the tooth, dental instruments for horror movies. Cheers.
    I’m getting the impression of being herded into Adwords with all these changes. Just sayin’.

  8. Phil Rozek says:

    M2, thanks for the superb post. I will use it as a manifesto and beat my clients over the head with it; many of them are in bad need of a way to crank out free, service-relevant, useful-to-humans content.

    Love the tombstone picture, by the way. Very tempted to try to rip it off :)

  9. Mark says:

    “Whatever you do, don’t settle for a static, brochure-style website. It’s dead. If you’re in a remotely competitive space, you need more from this point forward if you want to succeed online.”

    Great advice, Matt! Glad I’ve shifted to WordPress for easier updating and posting for most of my sites although as someone mentioned above evergreen content might be less affected than news-oriented ones. Pretty cool tombstone image you have there.

  10. robert says:

    I totally agree. FAQ pages are great for optimization and they definitely provide additional information in regards to what the person searching may be looking for. I also believe a testimonials page can be great for optimization too, especially when it’s well written and the person giving the testimonial has mentioned the product or service in the testimonial.

  11. Anita Clark says:

    Blogging can and will take on a life of its own…very good idea to setup all the particulars you outline, especially #2.

  12. Andy Kuiper says:

    Blogging isn’t for everyone, if you create a blog for the wrong reasons, you may wish you’d thought it through a bit. Blogs are great, IF they are kept up, as Matt points out; It’s okay to choose NOT to start a blog now. …you still need to have some kind of plan to consistently expand your website with quality content.”

    So for those reading this, don’t commit to a blog “because it’s good for SEO and/or your website visitors”, if you are not ready or able to blog consistently, creating new content will do the job too :-)

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