5 signs that your website needs a content refresh

For many businesses, a website content refresh is one of those jobs that keeps getting kicked into the long grass. “We’ll wait until we can redesign the site too” and “we’ll wait until we’ve hired someone who can write” are common excuses to keep putting it off. But what if, every day, you’re leaving money on the table by serving your potential customers content that leaves them cold? And what if you could improve their experience, and their chances of becoming a paying customer, by simply rewriting, reformatting or creating a few key pages on your site? Here are five indicators that your website needs the content equivalent of a spring clean.

1. Declining or stagnating organic search traffic

A drop in the number of visitors your site attracts via organic search can be a clear sign that your content needs attention. Google and the other search engines use a large number of factors to determine where your site ranks in search results for specific keyword phrases and, in general, the higher you rank the more visitors you’ll get. One of these factors is the readability of your copy. Another is the proportion of visitors who click through to your site and then bounce straight back to the search results page, signalling to Google that their needs haven’t been met by your content.

It’s easy to find out if your traffic from organic search is declining if you have Google Analytics set up on your site: under ‘Acquisition’, click through to ‘All traffic’, then ‘Channels’ and then click on ‘Organic search’ in the table.

declining organic search traffic

Remember to set a realistic date range in the top-right dropdown. A decline in organic search traffic over a few days is probably nothing to worry about. A persistent decline, or failure to grow, over many months is a sign that your content is performing poorly.

2. Poor user engagement metrics

Users returning to search results pages isn’t the only indicator that there is a mismatch between the needs of your users and the content that you’re serving them. If your customers, or prospective customers, can’t find answers to their questions on your website, they’ll leave without taking any of the actions which are so valuable to you (e.g. making a purchase, registering).

Take a look at the ‘Audience’ overview in Google Analytics. What’s happening to the following metrics over time?

  • Average session duration
  • Pages per session
  • Bounce rate

poor website user engagement

(Try comparing a recent period with a similar period in the past – year on year comparisons are often reliable as they’re unaffected by seasonal changes to your traffic.)

If these metrics have worsened considerably since your last major content refresh, now might be a good time to reassess what it is that your users need in terms of content, and how you’re delivering it to them.

3. Low conversion rates

I recommend to all my clients that they track conversions on their website with Google Analytics (or a similar analytics package). Being able to analyse the behaviour of your most valuable website visitors is crucial to understanding which are your most profitable channels, pages and calls to action.

If your conversion rates are stuck in a rut, even though you’ve been trying to optimise the length of your forms, colours of your buttons and emotive imagery, then you probably need to take a fresh look at the entire user journey. What content are you using to try to convince users at each step along the way? Does the messaging still resonate with your target audience? How can it be improved?

4. Declining social shares

Just like good content ranks higher in search engine results, it also gets shared more on social media. Social shares are a clear sign that people find your content valuable. If you’re noticing a decline in the number of shares your content is getting, despite your continued efforts to promote it, then your content probably isn’t delivering for your key audiences like it used to. It might be time to rethink the topics your content tackles, how it’s formatted, and the voice in which it’s delivered.

How can you quickly find out how much your content is being shared? For batches of pages you can use a tool like SharedCount, which returns the number of shares a given URL has received across five major social platforms.

declining website social shares

But to spot long-term trends, check out the ‘Network referrals’ report in Google Analytics (under ‘Acquisition>Social’). This gives you a broader view of how many clicks your links are attracting across social media. Again, try comparing two similar date ranges and look for a definite decline over a sustained period.

5. You can’t stand to read it

The surest sign that your website content needs an overhaul is that you wince every time you load it up. You might even feel a bit sheepish about adding the URL to your email signature. If you’re embarrassed by the language, tone, spelling and grammar, wordiness, or illogical arrangement of content on your website, then imagine how your users feel about it.

Don’t put off a content refresh until you next redesign the website. While it may seem like a minor issue for some businesses, it really will make a huge difference to how your potential customers perceive you and your chances of converting them.


By Jamie Griffiths

Jamie Griffiths is a freelance content strategist, copywriter and SEO consultant who lives and works in Hackney, East London.

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