Through patent filings over the years, Google has explored many ways that it might use “freshness” in an article as a ranking signal. In 2003, Google’s engineers filed a patent that shook the SEO world. The patents not only offered insight into the mind of Google’s engineers, but also seemingly provided a roadmap for Google’s algorithm for year to come.
In this post, there are not all the ways are attempting to describe the ways that Google may determine freshness to rank web pages, but instead focuses on areas which are most likely influenced through SEO.
When “Queries Deserve Freshness”
In an article of Amit Singhal explained how “Different searches have different freshness needs”.
The insinuation is that Google measures all your documents for freshness, and then scores each page, according to the type of query.
Singhal describes the types of keyword search likely to require fresh content:
- · Recent events or hot topics.
- · Regularly recurring events.
- · Frequent updates.
Google may determine exactly which queries require fresh content by monitoring the web and its own huge warehouse of data, including:
- · Search volume: Are queries for a particular term impaling.
- · News and blog coverage: If a number of news organization starts writing about the same subject, it’s likely a hot topic.
- · Social media: A spike in mentions of a particular topic may indicate the topic is “trending”.
While some queries need fresh content, another may be better served by older content.
Fresh is often better, but not always.
So, here are 10 ways by which Google may determine the freshness of your content.
1. Freshness by commencement date
Initially, a web page can be given a “freshness” score based on its inception date, which decays over time. This freshness score may boost a piece of content for certain search queries, but degrades as the content becomes older.
The commencement date is often when Google first becomes aware of the document, such as when Googlebot first indexes a document or discovers a link to it.
“For some queries, older document may be more favourable than newer ones. As a result, it may be beneficial to adjust the score of a document based on the difference (in age) from the average age of the result set.”
2. Amount of change influences freshness: How Much
The age of a web page or domain is not the only freshness factor. Search engines can score regularly updated content for freshness differs from content that doesn’t change. In this case, the amount of change on your webpage plays a role.
For an instance, changing a single sentence won’t have as a big impact of freshens as a large change to the main body.
Also, a document having a relatively large amount of its content updated over time might be scored differently than a document having a relatively small amount of its content updated over time.
In fact, Google may choose to ignore small changes completely. So, when you update a link on a page, you need to cleverly update the text surrounding it. This way Google may be less likely to ignore the change.
Consider the following:
“In order to not update every link’s freshness from a minor edit of a tiny unrelated part of a document, each updated document may be tested for significant changes (e.g., changes to a large portion of the document or changes to many different portions of the document) and a link’s freshness may be updated (or not updated) accordingly.”
3. Changes to interior content matter more: How important
If the changes are made in “important” areas of a document will signal freshness differently than changes made in less important content.
Less important content:
- Boilerplate material.
- Date/time tags.
On the contrary, “important” content often means the main body text. So, if you are simply changing your sidebar, or update your footer copy, probably that won’t be considered as a signal of freshness.
This brings up the issue of timestamps on a page. Some master like to update timestamps regularly – some time in an attempt to fake freshness – but this exist conflicting evidence on how well this works. Suffice to say, the freshness signals are possibly much stronger when you keep the actual page content itself and updated.
4. The rate of document change: How often
Content that changes more often is scored differently that only change every few years.
For instance, consider the homepage of the, The Hindu, which updates every day and has a high degree of change.
“For example, a document whose content is edited often may be scored differently than a document whose content remains static over time. Also, a document having a relatively large amount of its content updated over time might be scored differently than a document having a relatively small amount of its content updated over time.”
Google may treat links from these pages differently as well. For instance, a fresh “link of the day” from the Yahoo homepage may be assigned less significance than a link that remains more permanently.
5. New page creation
Instead of revising individual pages, fresh websites often add completely new pages over time. Websites that add new pages at a higher rate may earn a higher freshness score than sites that update content less frequently.
“It can also be determined as a function of one or more factors, such as the number of ‘new’ or unique pages associated with a document over a period of time. Another factor might include the ratio of the number of new or unique pages associated with a document over a period of time versus the total number of pages associated with that document.”
Some webmasters advocate adding 20-30% new pages to your site every year. Personally, I don’t believe this is necessary as long as you send other freshness signals, including keeping your content up-to-date and regularly earning new links.
6. Rate of new link growth signals freshness
Not all freshness signals are restricted to the page itself. Many external signals can indicate freshness as well, often times with powerful results.
If a webpage sees an increase in its link growth rate, this could indicate a signal of relevance to search engines. For example, if folks start linking to your personal website because you’re about to get married, your site could be deemed more relevant and fresh (as far as this current event goes.)
“… a downward trend in the number or rate of new links (e.g., based on a comparison of the number or rate of new links in a recent time period versus an older time period) over time could signal to search engine 125 that a document is stale, in which case search engine 125 may decrease the document’s score.”
Warning: an unusual/ increase in linking activity can also indicate spam or manipulative link building techniques. Search engines possibly bring down this behaviour. Natural link growth over time is usually the best bet.
7. Links from fresh sites contains fresh value
If your site gets links from those sites which have a high score themselves can raise the fresh score of the site. Links from sites that have a high freshness score, can raise the freshness score of the sites they link to.
For instance, if you obtain a link of an old, static site that hasn’t been updated for years, this may not bring the same level of freshness value as a link from a fresh page.
8. Traffic and engagement metrics may signal freshness
When Google presents a list of search results to users, the results user chooses and how much time they spend on each one can be used as an indicator of freshness and relevance.
“If a document is returned for a certain query and over time, or within a given time window, users spend either more or less time on average on the document given the same or similar query, then this may be used as an indication that the document is fresh or stale, respectively.”
You might interpret this to mean that click – through rate is a ranking, but that’s not necessarily the case. A more nuanced interpretation might say that the increased clicks tell Google there is a hot interest in the topic, and this page – and others like it – happen to match the user.
9. Changes in anchor text may devalue links
If a subject of a web page changes dramatically over time, it makes sense that any new anchor text pointing to the page will change as well.
For instance, if you buy a domain for racing cars, and then you change the format to content about baking over time your new incoming anchor text will shift from cars to cookies.
Google might determine that your site has changed so much that the old anchor text is now stale and devalue those older links entirely.
The lesson here is that if you update a page, don’t deviate too much from the original context or you may risk losing equity from your pre-existing links.
10. Older is often better
Google understands the newest result is not always the best. Consider a search query for “Magna Carta.” An older, authoritative result may be best here.
In this case, having a well – aged document may actually help you.
Google’s patent suggests they determine the freshness requirement for a query based on the average age of documents returned for the query.
“For some queries, documents with content that has not recently changed may be more favourable than documents with content that has recently changed. As a result, it may be beneficial to adjust the score of a document based on the difference from the average date-of-change of the result set.”
A good way to determine this is simply Google your search term, and gauge the average inception age of the pages returned in the results. if they appear more than a few years old, a brand new page is hard to compete.
Your goal should update your site in a timely manner that benefits users, within an aim of increasing clicks, user engagement and fresh links. These are a few of clearest signals you can pass to Google top show that your site is fresh and deserves a high ranking.