If you have an older site, one that has been around for 10+ years, you may have noticed newer websites taking positions you once owned on search engine results pages (SERPs). Why does this happen? Is it due to spamming? Or freshness?
The latest Google webmaster help video from Matt Cutts addresses the topic of what an older site can do to maintain its ranking over time.
Sometimes, Cutts said, owners of older sites become complacent about their website. They fail to keep it up to date and keep it fresh.
This isn't that unusual, because often times when a site ranks very well and for a long period of time, the webmaster is often worried about changing anything that could affect the rankings. As a consequence, that site can become outdated, with searchers gravitating towards fresher sites.
"Take a fresh look at your site," Cutts said. "A lot of the times if you land on your site from a search result, even if they've been in business for 15 years, 14 years, sometimes they haven't updated their template or their page layout or anything in years and years and years. And it looks like, frankly, a stale sort of older site, and that's the sort of thing where users might not be as happy about that."
It can be dangerous to coast.
"I wouldn't just say 'I'm number one for now and everything is great' because newer sites, more agile sites, more hungry sites, more sites that have a better user experience, they can grow and they can eclipse you if you don't continue to adapt and evolve and move with the times," Cutts said.
He has seen many newer sites come up and take the top spots from well-established sites that just simply got too complacent in their positioning and work ensuring their site was updated to be what searchers were expecting to see.
"Are you still providing the best user experience?" Cutts said. "If something is not as fresh as some of the experiences that you get from some of these newer websites, that can have fantastic design, then eventually people might prefer that experience and up migrating and leaving you behind."
So it seems that the issue isn't so much that there is a particular algorithmic reason why newer sites can eclipse older well-established sites in Google's search results. Rather, it seems that newer sites overtake sites by providing a better user experience (e.g., they are newer and perhaps designed with responsive design in mind), or offering other features that an older site that hasn't been updated regularly is lacking.
Google isn't the only search engine where this is the case. Bing's Duane Forrester offered an important reminder in a recent blog post: while a website may have had great success with SEO in the past, there's no guarantee that will continue indefinitely for any website:
Hinging your future on a single tactic, whether it's social, seo, paid search, email, etc. is a recipe for disaster. Over time, things change. And that change may just happen to you. Sure, I hear you saying, "we're diversified". Are you? If you're investing most of your time in SEO, you're not diversified.
What if a business idea or vertical falls out of fashion? Or becomes so lucrative, the only way in is to pay? Is your business capable of weathering that change?
Too many businesses today stay laser focused on one idea or approach and when a change happens, they are stunned by their loss of traffic.
Times change. The web has changed. What users expect from the web has changed. Search must therefore keep up with the times.
Business models that made sense 5 years ago might not be viable moving forward. Tactics that worked 3 years ago might not work tomorrow.
With any marketing strategy for any website, regardless of whether the site has been around for more than a decade or just recently launched, you need to ensure that you give searchers what they want to see, as well as what makes sense for your website from an overall SEO perspective. This includes adding great quality content as well as and ensuring that an older website doesn't become too stale.
No one single thing will guarantee that a website ranks well in Google or Bing. There are multiple moving pieces in their respective algorithmic puzzles.
The web, searchers, and search engines are always evolving. Webmasters must evolve and adapt with these changes to continue enjoying success in the SERPs.