Older websites are like astronauts without a rocket and with no jet fuel: going nowhere fast.

Most of the projects we work on are what I call “website evolutions”: businesses with existing sites that need to be reimagined to keep up with today’s user on a rapidly changing web, and in order to serve marketing objectives.

The most important thing to understand is when to focus on SEO, and when it’s time to blast off to the next level.

This is your website’s tipping point.

Around 84% of today’s users will research purchases, particularly large-ticket or high-risk purchases, and will engage with anywhere from 5 to 10 pieces of information before making that decision.

A modern website is strategically designed to optimize this experience, maximizing the accessibility of information in order to assist the user in making the decision… and hopefully convert them into a customer in the process.

Because these sites are usually 3-6 years old, rarely have they kept up with technology trends and the ever-changing rules of the game. They have SEO equity inasmuch as the content has some worth (called “weight” or “authority”), draw some traffic, and have domain age and history (called “trust”) on their side.

Unfortunately, that’s about all they have going for them.

A common mistake is thinking that your shiny new website – complete with a frictionless user experience, engaging branding, and chalk-full of useful and persuasive content – is the final destination. It isn’t; this is only the beginning, and this is when you should be putting all of your efforts into SEO.

The first priority is to build domain and keyword authority and trust. These are the primary factors that search engines like Google use to decide where you rank in keyword search results.

There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit to help you get started, like including a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use pages on your site, or ensuring your social bios link back to your site.

Getting your business listed on profile sites like Yellow Pages and BBB allows you to borrow from those sites’ trust-scores to augment your own. And I’m just scratching the surface here.

Domain and keyword authority is mostly driven by new, relevant, and well-optimized content. You should be producing at least 500 words of fresh monthly content for a new website, but more is always better.

Just don’t mistake quantity for quality. Pages with less than 300 words lose SEO value, so make sure all of your site’s pages make the cut.

I highly recommend using Google Analytics to identify keyword opportunities you want to hit, or ones you want to improve, and creating content focused on those topics.

A common obstacle we hear from business owners is a lack of time or lack of ideas. A great way to address this is by using broader content opportunities, like talking about changes in your industry, current international or local events that tie in with your business, or highlighting upcoming events you’ll be hosting or attending. These topics are simple and can easily include your prime keywords.

If you stay dedicated and consistent, you’ll be rewarded with significant improvements in organic search results, increased traffic (and hopefully leads and sales), reduced bounce rates, and increased engagement.

And that’s when you reach the tipping point.

The gains through these efforts will plateau, since there’s only so much search volume per keyword. At Forge and Smith we watch carefully for this behaviour, usually around the 6- to 8-month point post-launch.

This is when we advise a shift in priority away from SEO-heavy activity and towards social engagement, paid advertising and information marketing techniques.

Why, you ask? Your improved authority and trust scores have improved your net visibility, so you’re landing higher up on more searches. This can now leverage more direct marketing activities.

AdWord spends, for example, will now show up in stronger and more relevant searches and actually create measurable conversions with lower bounce rates.

Social activity from launch will have garnered a body of followers that you can now engage directly. This is also the time to start building a body of more in-depth content that answers questions or assists the user in answering their own questions (called “self-serve content”).

The important thing to remember is that websites have grown well beyond the digital brochures they once were.

Websites as content hubs have replaced the old role of a sales person, and have truly become the most common first point of contact your brand will have with a prospective customer. For this reason, your work on your website is never over.

Think of it as a garden that needs regular weeding and watering: Take good care of it and it’ll win you awards and accolades; neglect it and you’d better invest in a weed-whacker.

Forge and Smith creates crafted digital strategies for all types and sizes of business. If your site needs to get with the times, start a conversation with us today.