Okay, maybe not totally dead, but instead merely "mostly dead." There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead, as any fan of The Princess Bride should recognize.
Google likes fresh content. They talk about "surfacing fresh content" in their every official blog post and every time an official Google representative is interviewed. We follow their guidelines very closely and try to measure how quickly your website will rank when you post new content.
We've been so busy paying attention to ideas of posting fresh content that we neglected analyzing what happens when you don't update anything. If your website is 3 years old or older you should pay close attention to this Daily Golden Nugget.
Several of the jewelry stores we worked with closely went out of business during the 2009 recession. In some cases the jewelers closed up shop and never even told us to turn off their websites, leaving us to discover their closing long after the last showcase was sold off.
As a strange test, even though the stores were closed, we decided to leave 3 websites live. Yes, it was, and still is misleading for the poor consumers who happen to find those sites and call the phone numbers only to be connected to Bob's Bait & Tackle. But how often do you get the opportunity to monitor the demise of a once thriving website?
For the last 3 years we've monitored Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics and saw how the SERP impressions slowly decreased, and how the visitor traffic slowly dropped off. Without giving it too much attention we simply assumed other jewelers in those local areas were increasing their SEO and therefore pushing these defunct jewelers to deeper SERP ranking.
What we failed to realized was the affect Google "Freshness Score" was having on these sites.
One of the sites was a full e-commerce system with thousands of products online. In its heyday it had more than 200 visitors per day, but now that's dwindled to a mere 14 per month! The other two sites have equally abysmal monthly visitor counts.
Last week another jeweler asked us to review their website. They've had a website running since 2004 and it used to bring them a lot of business up until about 2 years ago, and now no one seems to be able to find them.
So they called us for help.
Their home page has a Google PageRank of 3. That PageRank indicates a respectable number of inbound links to their home page, but after 8 years they should be at a 4 or 5 by now. We tested search queries for "jewelry store" and "diamond ring" and "engagement ring" but they never appeared in the SERP unless we searched for their specific name.
To further test we decided to do a Google search with a string like this:
site:jewelrystoredomain.com diamond ring
That search should have returned all the pages on the site that had the phrase "diamond ring" on it. But it didn't! Apparently Google doesn't have this site in its search index. To confirm this we tried a few other random phrases and discovered that only the home page and the contact page are in the Google index.
Once we got access to their Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools we recognized the diminishing pattern of their statistics. It matched the diminishing pattered we'd been tracking on the other 3 defunct websites since 2008!
Sure enough, even though this jewelry store was alive and well, they'd not updated their website since late 2008.
We've gone back to look at our other 3 abandoned websites and have now realized that they too have been removed from the Google index.
So what actually happens when you don't update your jewelry website? Well, you sort of just fade away to oblivion.
Google has automated ways to read the time stamp on HTML pages and image files. Apparently their freshness score helps them decide when to purge abandoned websites from their database.
The bottom line of today's Daily Golden Nugget is that jewelry websites not updates for more than a year start to diminish in ranking. Those not updated for 2 years rarely show up in the SERP, and those not updated for 3 years or more seem to be expunged from Google's database.
And remember, as Miracle Max said, "Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all-dead, well, with all-dead there's usually only one thing you can do; go through his clothes and look for loose change." If you've abandoned your website for more than 3 years you might as well delete it or use the useful "loose change"/forgotten content that you find in your website to start over.
Our conclusion to this is not scientific at all, but seriously, how can you test this situation without long term study? Anyone going out of business that wants to give us control over their website? It's like donating your body to science!
Have fun stormin' the castle!