Not everyone knows that Google is all about keeping it fresh. But as a matter of fact, Google’s preference for newly updated content is tied to the most basic level: a search algorithm that rates content on the basis of how new it is.
That algorithm basks in the name “Document Scoring Based on Document Content Update,” and it’s been in usage since 2003. Yes, Google’s preference for frequently updated content is in itself nothing new.
Of course, the Document Scoring algorithm hasn’t stayed completely static either. The original patented algorithm, as well as a score of amendments and updates throughout the years, make it clear that Google continues to give importance and preference to sites which update regularly.
The Importance Of Keeping It Fresh
As mentioned, this factor has been an important part of the ranking process for some time. And it shows. Even just a cursory glance at the first update to the algorithm, back in 2011, reveals that the update alone had an impact on up to 35 percent of all Google search queries.
So what’s the reason behind why Google has bestowed so much importance on the freshness factor?
Well, it all boils down to what’s best for the user. Ultimately, Google is designed to be a crowd-pleaser. People use it because it returns results that are useful to the searcher. But it isn’t easy to keep that position as a go-to search engine. Google has to continue to prove its worth, and part of how it does that is by watching for updated content in order to return relevant results.
The more recent the information contained on a page, the more likely it is to be relevant to an internet user. That’s just the bare fact, and really doesn’t reflect on the quality of the information, to begin with. Whether an article is well-written or poorly-written matters less, for the purposes of this algorithm than how recently it was published.
In short, age reduces the value of content. At least from the perspective of Google.
It doesn’t happen all at once, of course. There’s a gradual component to it, as each day passes and the value of a given webpage slowly decreases. Google takes that into account, as well. From the first day that the search engine indexes a page or returns it as a result, the value of the content will degrade with the perceived relevancy of the page.
Of course, from our perspective, we know that time does not equal valueless content. At least, not with everything. If you need to write a book report on a 2008 re-printing of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the odds are that you are not going to find a fresh, newly posted article on that very subject to help you out with the details.
No, you’ll have to do your research and find the relevant articles that were published before. Those articles are still relevant to you now. Time does not equal valueless content from your perspective.
But that might be a more rare example. It’s much more likely that we want to keep up with the news of the world, things that are happening in politics, the weather, the movies, and other subjects which are definitely impacted by how fresh and new the content is. More Google searches are done for information that impacts us now than for research-type content.
So it makes sense that Google prioritizes fresh content for those events. That’s what the users want, that’s what the users get.
Creating Fresh Content Based On Buzz
Along with these two types of content, the “research” and the “news,” there’s also a cyclical third type of content: buzzword content.
This type of content is more specific than just “news.” It’s the upcoming, the “current interest.” It’s whatever is hot and happening, whatever is of public interest in the moment.
And including keywords that reflect those buzzwords can do a lot to increase your rankings. Google pays attention to how many people search for any given subject. So if on Wednesday morning there are suddenly millions of searches for “Elvis impersonators in the Lake Tahoe area” and you just happen to run the only searchable Elvis impersonator site in Tahoe, Google’s going to boot your site right up to the front lines.
However, if you don’t update your site regularly and someone else opens a site for the same thing, their site will take precedence over yours. Google prioritizes newer content.
Details Of Prioritization
Timestamps are included as a part of Google’s search results. This is reflective of the importance of freshness not just to Google’s freshness-loving algorithm, but to the freshness-loving users of Google, too.
If the office gossip tells us that Bill Gates just held a news conference to announce that he’s donating his fortune to the first ten people who send him a selfie, you’ll be frantically looking for the latest coverage on the event. Perhaps you only search for Bill Gates, expecting that the news conference will pop up first. You want the newest news, not something from months ago.
Google knows that. So even if there were some interesting events surrounding Bill Gates a few months ago, Google will assume your intent to find the most recent information, and put that at the top of the search results.
Apart from the timestamp, there are other factors that Google uses in order to evaluate the freshness of content. User behavior is a big one.
For example, if your site hasn’t been updated in months, but it’s suddenly seeing an increase in click-through rate, Google keeps track of that. User behavior suggests that there’s a renewed interest in your site, and Google starts to rank it higher based on the CTR.
In the same way, an increase in inbound links to that same old page, or new comments on a blog article, also send a signal to Google, telling it that your site has found relevancy once again, even if you haven’t updated the content.
In fact, this is one of the ways to sort of sidestep the freshness issue. If your page is of such perennial worth that people keep searching for, clicking on, linking to, and commenting on it, then that user behavior in itself generates a “freshness” rating. Your content is evidently still relevant and worthy.
Time does not equal valueless content.
How To Keep Your Content Fresh
Time is, however, an important factor invaluable content, at least from Google’s viewpoint. And time is also a finite resource. Many of us who run websites and blogs don’t always have the time we would want to dedicate to keeping our site fresh.
So how do we boost our efficiency and our Google rating at the same time?
The simple, easy answer is to adopt a content management system and use it to post regular updates to your blog. Blogs are one of the most reliable ways to implement good SEO strategy, and a good CMS is the best friend a blog can have.
Blogs are recommended as avenues for fresh content simply because they offer so many more opportunities to create relevant content, without having to revamp the structure of your main website.
Of course, blog posts that have done well in the past are just as susceptible to slippage as web pages in general are. But they’re a little easier to update, generally speaking. Add in extra content, update the photos and graphics, and you’ve resuscitated valuable content.
Keep in mind that it does take more than just changing a word here and there, or taking a sentence out. New content needs to be actual, you know, content. And if you’re less concerned with the freshness than you are with keeping your SEO in line, it’s okay to revise the article purely to plug in some new keywords. But it won’t necessarily up your freshness rankings unless you also add in more than just a few words.
Not that this is recommended as your only “freshness” strategy. The best way to keep on top of Google’s freshness algorithm is to literally keep on top of it: update content regularly, create something new, make it useful to your viewers, and Google will pay attention.
As mentioned before, a good content management system is a boon to busy bloggers. It’s also basically a way to have your website jump up and down, wave its arms, and attract Google’s attention, over and over, without having to put too much time into posting new content.
WordPress and other management systems allow you to input and schedule posts, automating what could otherwise be a very rigorous and demanding updating schedule. To maximize the attention of the freshness ranking, aim to post at least a few times a week, if not more.
But it can’t just be pointless drivel. Remember, Google is a crowd-pleaser. It’s looking for information that matters to its users. So just posting for the sake of posting, even if it’s several times a day, won’t necessarily help you in your ranking, in the long run.
Time is necessary in order to produce good content. Can you aim to create something valuable and in-depth once or twice a month? Regularly updating your blog with value-rich content will prove to be more useful to your freshness rating as well as the overall ranking for the site over time.
And updating your blog can be a boon to your regular website, too, as long as they work together. Add in a widget that pulls in content, highlights, or even just titles from your most recent blog posts, and you’ve got a consistently updating feature.
Put simply, static websites don’t continue to do their job on their own. Without updating, over time, your ranking will go downhill. The simple fix is to update, update, update: add in new content, revise old content, and remember to keep it fresh!
If you need help updating or creating new content for your site we’re here to help.