You probably know that recently updated blogs and web content seem to perform much better in SERPs. This strong performance is because the Google Freshness Factor aims to display the web’s freshest content at the top of page 1.
Identifying when content requires freshness and when it doesn’t, it’s one of several vital elements Google uses to select high ranking content.
Leveraging Google Freshness to your advantage is one of many things you can do to keep your content in Google’s good books.
Find out how the algorithm works, what it’s looking for and how you can use it to boost your organic traffic.
Google’s Freshness Algorithm chooses to show the most recently updated and relevant content to users for specific search queries.
Older, outdated, highly ranking pages rank lower down in SERPs to make way for pages with fewer views but fresher content.
In many cases, search engines prioritise content that’s been very recently published if it’s shown to include trending topics.
Some content, of course, doesn’t need to be fresh.
Out of these two topics, which do you think would need to be more frequently updated?
In the first situation, the content needs to be fresh to remain relevant to users. The best SEO tools this year may not be the same as last year.
Since the highest-ranking piece of content for the second topic is likely to be written as a detailed well-researched guide, it does not need as many updates to remain fresh. In fact, if you search for the topic in Google, the top result dates back to August 2018.
Google recognises that not all content needs to be fresh and regularly updated.
So if your content is high-ranking and not subject to limited shelf life, it doesn’t need to be updated as much as content that goes out of date more quickly.
One method that Google uses to determine freshness is by using the Quality Deserves Freshness (QDF) algorithm.
Its main objective is to decide when users want new information and when they don’t.
The QDF algorithm comes into play when there’s a trending topic creating a buzz or when there’s a rise in specific search queries.
To determine this, Google monitors:
While websites and users are discussing any kind of trending topic, the QDF algorithm remains active. Google will favour fresh results for that specific topic and push it to the top of SERPs to satisfy user search intent.
Google tends to categorise content topics as one of the following:
The key here is that if your content is full of keywords that users are actively discussing all over the web, Google may view your content as fresh, which will give it an advantage over older potentially outdated pieces of content.
Before you panic that you’re not continually updating your content with trending keywords, remember that Google determines what kind of content doesn't need to be updated so often to remain relevant.
You may be wondering if Google’s QDF algorithm automatically considers some of your site’s content irrelevant if it’s been a while since it was published.
Google’s freshness algorithm assesses two kinds of content freshness:
While your high-performing evergreen content doesn’t require updates on a very regular basis, you should consider that websites that consistently add more content tend to perform better in search results.
If your site has a blog and adds a new post every few days, it will perform better than a website that publishes an article once every couple of months.
A healthy balance between publishing fresh, relevant content as well as updating your evergreen content from time to time is the best policy when it comes to ensuring site-wide freshness.
Despite the importance of Google’s Freshness Factor, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s the most crucial element of your content strategy. Not all of a site’s content needs to include hot topics and buzzwords.
Evergreen refers to the kind content that doesn’t go out of date quickly, which could include ‘how to’ articles, tutorials or guides.
While super fresh, relevant content that’s published during a peak trending moment may rake in piles of organic traffic, a solid piece of evergreen content could bring you more traffic in the long term.
While high-ranking evergreen content can be left alone, it’s essential not to forget about it altogether. If you don’t make a few updates from time to time, it may fall victim to content decay.
Even the most well-researched, authoritative and informative evergreen content requires an occasional update to keep it relevant in Google’s eyes.
Sometimes high performing pieces of content gradually begin to slip in rankings over a long period of time. A decline in rankings could be for several reasons, including:
If you’re monitoring your rankings and CTRs, then you’ll realise when a piece of content starts to decline over a period of several months.
You can then prevent this from happening by:
Site managers often think that updating already published content is a pain and not worthwhile. They might prefer to create and publish new material instead.
Follow a simple checklist and stick to a regular content update cycle.
You’ll find that not only is it easier to update content than start from zero, but it pays dividends when it comes to leveraging Google’s freshness algorithm to your advantage and boosting your organic traffic.
Here are the top reasons why you should get started on updating old content:
When you update multiple pieces of content across your site, you’ll ultimately attain high levels of growth and improve your site’s rankings.
Now we know how important the Google Freshness Algorithm is, let’s figure out how to leverage it to your site’s advantage.
Luckily, it’s pretty simple to optimise your site and content for Google Freshness.
You can do the following:
While it’s traditionally a popular SEO tactic, changing the publication date should be done with caution.
Although it’s possible to receive a boost in organic traffic and improve your rankings just by the simple modification, Google is pretty smart at realising when users are trying to cut corners.
If Google thinks you’re trying to game the system, it may give your site a penalty which is detrimental to rankings.
We recommend that whenever you change any piece of content’s publication date always to add some new material.
This will ensure that Google sees that you’re improving your site’s content and making it more relevant or useful to readers.
Sometimes this is all you need if you have a bunch of blog posts hanging around on page 2 of the search engine results pages and want to push them onto page 1.
Remember that freshness is just one of the many elements of content that Google takes into account when determining a page’s ranking.
Although ultra-fresh content may give you a sudden sharp increase in organic traffic, this is not the only way of working the algorithm to your advantage.
A solid content strategy combining regularly published trending content with authentic evergreen pieces will give you site-wide freshness and offer you the best chance of performing well in rankings.