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Is it really important to update the content regularly?
What if it is a site that sells only one thing? Or what if the site is more seasonally accessed?
Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.
The only thing harder than fresh content, is refreshing old content.
Ya, fresh content is critical for repeat visitors. Even an ecomm site that does only one thing. The more content you add, the more potential for someone to like the content and link to it. The more content you add, the more opportunity for search engines to take a liking to you.
On a one product site, hit the directories and see what other folks are doing in your sector for content.
Nothing breeds success like fresh content.
A web site is no different.
Keep it fresh with a redesign at the minimum every 2 years, every 1 year if you can swing it.
content should be refreshed often.
Brett is right: content that other sites like can bring in more inbound links, and that can help some search engines like you...
But first things first: are your sales pages doing their job? If not, it doesn't matter whether or not you're high in the search engines! Are they converting visitors into sales? If so, if you've optimized those pages to get the best possible return, then you can turn to ways to increase the number of visitors you're getting.
Content can definitely bring in more visitors, but you should always carefully track and evaluate the cost of your content, and make sure its working to convert to sales. If its NOT doing so, its a drain of your resources.
For example, if you're only selling one product, it may be more efficient to buy pay-per-click targetted searches to your product than to spend time and money adding 10's of pages of content. It may be cheaper in the long run to hire an search engine optimization service than to try and do weekly updates. (But I'd go and ask that question in the SEO forums!)
One thing in favour of continious content: IF you do it right, it allows you to make repeated sales attempts with the same audience. For example: a newsletter with a 1,000 subscribers gives you the chance to try several different sales pitches in test runs. And statistics show that repeat sales are much easier to make than initial ones, so a newsletter that goes out to visitors who have already purchased may be a better bet than one targetted at those who haven't!
Finally: continious content isn't a lot of help if the product you're selling is a "one-off", something you purchase once and forget about it. Also, if its a low-cost item, continous content won't be very helpful, because it should be a make-or-break decision, either people buy it 'cause they need it or they don't...200 newsletters about using the product probably won't change their mind.
Message boards are great, by the way, for keeping things fresh.
That's true, but it's important to also say that having an unused, 'dead' message board is worse than not having one at all. We rarely advise clients with new web sites to add a message board; it won't get any posts and when the first set of visitors to the site see an empty message board, they can't help but think this is a web site where nothing is happening.
I guess now you archive that page, and hope it stays high in ranking?
Does anyone have experience with that? Would it matter if that archived page is or isn't an exact copy of the front page?
Although my index page shouldn't change much until next year I do have a plan for this. Basically I am adding tons of content to the rest of the site that corresponds to the terms that are important to me. That way I hope the site as a whole will rank for my terms and I can change the index page when this is the case.
The hardest part of this is getting deep content links to these pages from other sites. People always seem to want to link to my index page. ;)