How Fresh Content May Influence Google Rankings

fresh content

Back in 2011, when Google changed their search algorithm in a bid to produce results that were ‘fresher’ it was difficult to predict exactly what the outcome would be. Five years later, we’re being told that one out of three searches is now impacted by the freshness factor and that overall results have changed for about 35% of all Google searches.

What is ‘freshness’?

Put simply, there is now ‘fresh content’ and ‘stale content’. Freshness is determined by the age of the content and with Google’s freshness algorithm in play, it’s more important than ever to update. The speculation mill of SEO blogs and websites puts the number of searches affected by the ‘freshness’ factor at a hefty 35%. When exactly a blog or landing page was written i.e. a week, a day or an hour ago, is now likely to have an effect on its place in Google’s rankings.

When might a search be influenced by ‘freshness’?

Casey Henry quotes Amit Singhal, a former Google Fellow on Moz blog –

“Different searches have different freshness needs.”

This suggests that Google will judge all of your web documents in terms of freshness but rate individual pages depending on the type of search query. For example, some keyword or key phrase searches are more likely than others to benefit from updated content. These include:

Hot topics and events that have happened very recently such as ‘Brexit’ or celebrity news

If your blog focuses on current events, it’s more important than ever to stay one step ahead. Hot topics and recent events are among the most popular searches on Google, and new data appears rapidly while they are trending. Capitalise on this by adding new posts regularly and inviting visitors to comment on them. Google will recognise comments as ‘fresh’ content and reassess your position in the ranking.

Events that take place regularly like Wimbledon or the European Championships

Freshness has had an impact on the ranking of articles that deal with major events, so you’re less likely to see results from three years ago now. If your hotel website likes to tell visitors what’s happening in the city, be sure to add fresh content.

Categories or information that may be subject to frequent change, such as ‘best TVs for PS4’, ‘latest exchange rate’ or ‘fastest sports cars’

For example, if you have a car rental business or a make-up blog then your keywords are likely to come under the category of ‘things that may need frequent updating’. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a blog or with articles that invite comment.

How exactly does Google determine ranking?

Google is by far the world’s most popular search engine and it uses special programmes or ‘crawlers’ to search the internet for websites. These bots then index sites according to several algorithmic factors that are set by Google. Indexing is partially based on a collective reading of the type and number of keywords used, how frequently the site is updated or a count of incoming links to the site. When you add new content or updates, the bots enable Google to become aware of the changes and alter or re-assesses your ranking accordingly.

Therefore, new content optimises your website in terms of Google freshness and the more often you update, the more likely you are to get a higher ranking.

Updating, the easy way to freshness

In many instances, it does appear that Google is rewarding fresh content with higher rankings, so updating your content can prove highly advantageous. This should be done regularly and comprehensively. There is little point in altering a few sentences as the changes would likely be too inconsequential for the search bots to notice. Google looks for new content in larger blocks. Freshen complete pages of text regularly and it is more likely to influence your ranking on Google.
Aim for a winning combination

While updating is essential if you want to be ranked by Google according to freshness, it’s worth bearing the old adage in mind here – ‘quality over quantity’. Post relevant content that is well researched and engaging and visitors are more likely to keep reading and, more importantly, they are more likely to share that content or return to it again.

That said, Google wouldn’t have introduced the freshness factor if it didn’t consider it important. That’s one good reason for you to consider adding new, high-quality content frequently. However, it doesn’t mean that you should make random changes or update at every opportunity. Take a balanced approach; Google’s parameters for ‘frequent updates’ range from daily to at least two or three times each week.

As we’ve mentioned, ‘freshness’ is having an impact on as much as 35% of all searches, and as Moz rightly points out, that’s considerably more than the Panda update which only affected about 12% of all searches. Yet whatever the exact figure is, one thing is clear – you can’t afford to simply ignore ‘Google Freshness’. Providing your website users with content that is informative and of the highest quality is essential. However, it’s now also necessary to ensure that it is updated regularly if you want to score high in the freshness ranking stakes.

Written by DianeMC


  1. Dariusz Jurek - October 14, 2016 @ 9:52 pm

    Nice article, thanks. I think Google has still huge problem with to find out which content is out of date and which do not need update.

    • greatcontent - October 19, 2016 @ 9:14 am

      Thank you, Dariusz. As a copywriter, it is kind of nice to see Big Google struggling to catch up with human intelligence. As a marketer and tech passionate, I believe it will find a way around it eventually.

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