Blue Ferret Content Consulting

Websites Can "Rust" Too - 6 Places Where They Can Get Rusty (and What It Does to Your Traffic)

I've said for years that websites age. Ideally, you would want them to age from frequent use, doing its job day in & day out.

But they will age whether people visit them or not. Like classic cars sitting under a tarp in an old barn. Eventually, they start to rust.


Rusty Port Hole


What's 'rust' on a website? It's a place where the reader's perception "catches." You're reading along, thinking this site may have the info you're looking for...and then you stop. That passage doesn't make sense. Or it sounds different from the rest of the content. Out of place, out of touch, something to that effect.

In any case, the reader's internal dialogue snagged. The narrative broke. The story you're telling cracked.

You don't want that to happen. It has exactly the effect you'd think...lowering engagement and conversion rates.

Why? Because now the reader is skeptical. Say you looked at a used car you wanted to buy, thinking it was in great shape. While checking it out you rounded the front bumper, looked down...and saw a big patch of rust across the driver's side. Are you buying that car now? Nope.


Rust on a Website = Loss of Trust

What do readers think of "rusty" website copy?

"This business is old/out of touch. They might not have the product I need (or it might not fit our company's needs). Is their website even accurate anymore? Better look for an alternative."

In that moment you've lost all trust. There's almost nothing you can do to bring trust back at such a point. It's damaging to reputation and to business...and the worst part is, it's totally preventable.


Traffic Going Down

Uh oh...


Let's keep the rust off your websites, shall we? Here's 6 places it can show up over time. Some you'll recognize right away; others might fly under the radar if you're not careful.


The 6 Places where Websites Rust Most Often

  1. Microcopy on the Contact page. There's a reason marketing teams test contact pages relentlessly! The content on this page, even though it's often short, can rust quickly. One audience perception changes, and the Contact page starts to fail.

  2. Calls to Action (particularly on homepage/major product pages). "Read More" rusted over years ago. Try calls to action that speak to a reader's humanity.

  3. Homepage content left unchanged for months/years. Nothing looks worse than a homepage so out-of-date it screams at its readers, "We never think about you!"

  4. Blog post titles & descriptions. Some posts age like wine; others need revision to stay accurate/relevant/in-touch. Revising these helps SEO too.

  5. Story flow across the site [you could also call this 'Narrative']. Story flow/narrative can break from adding new pages, without connecting those pages to the existing information architecture. Careful editing of the pages 'around' the same topic will accomplish this...but you have to do it.

  6. The Promises. These are the inherent promises your product/service descriptions give. They're implied by your choices of language & imagery. Adding/changing audiences causes the Promises to go out of sync. Unless you adjust your content strategy & edit the site to match.


How to Prevent Website Rust

As with normal rust, it's better to prevent it than deal with it once it's spread. All it takes is a little attentiveness over the course of the year.


Rust Creeps Up - It's On You to Watch For It

Ultimately, site owners don't determine whether their websites are rusty or not. Its visitors do. And they won't tell you in words. They'll tell you in the form of lower traffic, poor search rankings, bad-or-no conversions, etc.

Not something you want, right? Well, better keep the website's management on your calendars. Or it will inevitably happen.

#blogging #business writing #content development #content management #content strategy #reading #website management #websites