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SEO 101

Google Freshness Algorithm: How to Use it to Increase Your Organic Traffic

Here's how to use Google's Freshness Algorithm to increase your website traffic.
Holly Stanley
Freelance Content Writer for B2B, SaaS, and Digital Marketing Brands
Google Freshness Algorithm: How to Use it to Increase Your Organic Traffic
March 23, 2023
October 8, 2020

Leveraging Google Freshness Algorithm 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.

What is Google Freshness Algorithm? 

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Older, outdated, highly ranking pages rank lower down in SERPs to make way for pages with fewer views but fresher content.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? 

  • Top SEO Tools this Year
  • Best Dog Breeds for Small Apartments

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 freshness algorithm: Google search results for best dog breed for small apartments

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is high-ranking and not subject to limited shelf life, it doesn’t need to be updated as much as content that goes out of date more quickly. 

What Determines Whether a Piece of Content Is Fresh?

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:

  • Google news 
  • Search query trends - particularly any increase in specific topics
  • Blogs

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:

  • Regular updates - topics that Google expects to have regular updates like the Oscars or political elections.
  • Hot topics - trending topics that everyone is talking about and are creating a buzz - think celebrity breakups or the release of the new iPhone.
  • Frequent updates - content that requires frequent updates to remain relevant like new SEO tools, or latest summer fashion trends. 
Google freshness update: Google search result for new iphone

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. 

How Does Page and Site-Wide Freshness Come into This?

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: 

  1. Content freshness on any given web page
  2. Freshness of content across a whole site

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. 

Google Freshness and Evergreen Content

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. 

A screenshot of a blog post on Grow Hack Scale website

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.

What Happens if You Don’t Update Your Content?

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: 

  • A competing site has published a more comprehensive version of your content.
  • Users are clicking on a more recently published piece of content than yours.

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: 

  • Updating stats and facts
  • Increasing the word count and going into more depth

Why Should You Implement a Content Update Cycle?

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: 

  1. It’s easier to rank higher for content that’s already ranking rather than start from scratch with a newly published piece. Often, all it takes is a few small tweaks to your page before you begin to see significant improvements in rankings. If you’re stuck for ideas, try our On-Page SEO Checklist to make sure you’re on the right track.  
  1. Google has to update the date stamp for your content in SERPs, which increases the CTR. Users are much more likely to click on the most recently published piece of content over the other options. 
  1. It encourages higher user engagement with your site. 
  1. Since updating old content is easier and quicker to do, you’ll find that there’s a higher ROI compared to publishing new 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.

How to Optimise Your Site/Page for Google Freshness 

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: 

  • Update the time stamp on existing content. 
  • Publish new content on your site.

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. 

Wrapping Up Google Freshness Factor

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. 

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