News shouldn't be kept on a website longer than one month. After that it only gets in the way.
As we have analyzed search behavior on a number of websites, we have noticed that news keeps coming up very prominently in the first page of search results. However, customers were rarely if ever searching for news. They were trying to find a product, get support, locate a procedure, see if there were job vacancies.
News is overplayed on many websites, particularly intranets. The reason is simple. Intranets tend to be controlled by communicators. It is only natural that you will heavily promote the things you do as a professional. The result is a homepage that allocates far too much space to news.
But news has an even bigger impact on the quality of search results. News loses its relevance and usefulness very quickly. In some instances it takes 24 hours, sometimes a week, but certainly after a month, most news is not just useless, it's counterproductive.
Old news infects search results like weeds. It can rank very highly in search results for a variety of reasons. Customers are trying to find a product to buy it. They click on what looks like the product page, and instead end up on a press release page about the product. This really annoys customers. They don't want the press release. They want the product.
Clean old news out of your site as quickly as possible. Remove news from search after a month. If you feel compelled to keep older news stories somewhere, bury them in an archive somewhere very deep in the website and make sure they will not be indexed by any search engines.
It seems almost contradictory to say that you should hide a page from the search engines, but there are times when it makes a lot of sense. Last year, I dealt with a specialist health website that was dedicated to researchers. It helped them get grants, team up with other researchers, etc.
But 90 percent of its traffic was coming from the general public. 95 percent of its email queries were also from the general public. Its small staff were completely overwhelmed. So, they began to hide their pages from Google and other search engines, and started using exclusively complex and technical language that only researchers would understand. Life became a lot easier.
On the Web, we often have the cult of getting found and of maximizing page impressions. Recently, I searched for "British Summer Time" and one of the first results was from the UK Department of Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform. When I clicked on the result it brought me to a page that told me I needed to go to Directgov, another government website.
How much search behavior involves customers arriving at the wrong webpages only to be told they need to go to another webpage? (Or not given any directions at all?) How much of your web traffic is genuinely useful and productive?
When you strip out all the noise from the data what are you left with? Whatever you are left with is at least real. It would be better to create a website for the 10 percent of visitors that really need you than the 90 percent who don't.