Unless you’re new to the SEO world, you must have heard that fresh content helps improve organic SERP rankings on Google. But what does fresh content mean and how quickly do you need to update your content to rank higher? You’ll find answers to all these questions in this detailed guide. Our search engine optimisation experts have explained the importance of content freshness and tips to incorporate it into your website. Keep reading!
Content Freshness – An Overview
In the internet world, websites are living and breathing entities. Once your website is “live”, it allows users to access and interact with it. The more updates you add, the more content people will get to interact with, keeping it alive and healthy. However, search engines view a website without any updates or changes as inactive or dead as they have nothing new to offer.
Google first came out with this concept back in 2011. To keep your website active and alive, you need fresh content. Besides users, this content also engages with search engines. When you post new content like web pages, blogs, downloads, etc., on your website, search engines visit your site and rearrange it on the SERP. This means that the more frequently you post fresh (high-quality) content, the more frequently a search engine will visit your website, hence higher rankings.
However, posting quick updates and posts alone doesn’t guarantee a higher rank; there are many factors that play a role in your SERP ranking. Google search engine uses Googlebots, high-tech programs aka web crawlers, to scan the internet for sites. These bots index a website based on various algorithm factors. This means your website updates must be algorithm-friendly and high quality to push it higher on search engine results.
A website that posts regular updates, but has low-quality content stuffed with keywords will not only rank lower but might get penalised by Google.
How Google Measures Content Freshness
Google considers multiple factors to measure the freshness of your content. These factors include:
- The date when your page was first indexed by Google
- The number of changes you have made to the updated page
- The number of changes you have made to the main body content of the updated page
- The rate at which the page changes
- The rate at which your website adds new pages
- The freshness of backlinks on your web pages (freshness of external sites linked to your page can improve your freshness score)
Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)
Another thing to consider is Query Deserves Freshness (QDF). It’s a mathematical model that determines when users are looking for new information and when not. Some queries require fresh content while others don’t, which can confuse site owners about what to update and what not to. Let’s break it down into two queries: fresh queries where users require the latest information, and stale queries where users don’t necessarily want the latest updates.
Google explained fresh query categories in its Search Quality Rating Guidelines as:
- Recurring event queries like sports events, elections, conferences, TV shows, etc.
- Breaking newsqueries
- Product queries— ongoing but always-changing
- Current information queries
When a person is interested in learning the latest Google updates, it will be looking at an article from the same month and year. Similarly, when someone wants to know rain predictions, they would look at a website updated a while ago. If your content revolves around fresh queries, you need to update the main body of the content to rank higher.
Stale or ‘Unfresh’ Queries
Things like food recipes, historical facts, definitions and explanations of broad topics, etc., don’t rely on recency. Queries related to these categories are considered ‘unfresh’ or stale categories. So how does one rank their website higher if their content doesn’t rely on the latest news or “fresh queries”? In such cases, you can rank an old and accurate page higher by revising its backlinks.
As we mentioned, the freshness of backlinks is also an important factor to gauge content freshness. So if you regularly update backlinks on an existing page, it can rank higher than a newer page with a similar category but withot (or broken) backlinks.
Steps to Improve Your Website’s Freshness Score
- Check the search engine result page and see how recent the top-ranked websites are in your relevant industry. This will also tell you whether your content requires recency or not.
- Depending on the type of content you provide, you should publish time-sensitive content regularly or update evergreen content frequently so search engines can crawl and index your site often.
- Update old pages and content regularly. This includes the content itself along with the published date.
- Prioritise pages that are already ranked higher to maintain a consistent rank on SERPs.
- Make sure the published time Google assigns your website URL aligns with the date/year in your titles.
The last point is quite important because most site owners forget about it. Suppose your page’s title is “Ten best digital marketing companies of 2022 in Australia.” Since it is a time-sensitive topic and belongs to the “fresh” queries category, you will most probably change the year 2022 to 2023 in its title (along with other content updates). But you need to change the date and year it was published as well. It’s a common mistake for websites to not align their publishing date with the title and rank lower.
As shown in the screenshot below, Hubspot changed the year in the title but its publishing date says 2020. Both users and search engines will view the publishing date and will rank it lower on SERPs.
Improve Your Content Freshness with TocToc
If you want your content to rank higher on SERP and provide value to your target audience, hire the content marketing team at TocToc. We have years of experience in the industry and are well-versed in Google’s algorithm and ranking methodology.