The Google Freshness Update

On November 3rd, a new update to the Google search engine algorithm shifted the search engines focus onto newer content. While this update did not have the same radical effects as the Panda update in February, it has changed approximately 35% of search engine result pages (SERPs). Some of the more relevant points about this “freshness” update were discussed by SEOMOZ in their recent video.

The Freshness Update

The guys from SEOMOZ explain that this algorithm change focused mainly on the most popular keywords, also called head terms. Popular queries are most often for the newest information on a topic. The “freshness” update seeks to provide this by ranking up the newest information. This is especially true of date specific content, like popular news stories. A search for “occupy wall street,” for example, provides a large number of links from the last few hours and days. The same is true of entertainment related keywords, such as “top chef Texas” or “latin Grammys”. They also noted that Google is very likely taking advantage of RSS feeds in combination with other data to identify the newest results for a keyword’s top ranked sites. As a result, maintaining an RSS feed may become more important in content marketing.

The Scope of Google’s Update

While this update affects 35% of SERPs, a recent update to Google’s original blog post noted a difference between “impact” and “noticeable impact”. In the case of the freshness update, only 6-10% of results were noticeably impacted. This means that the algorithm update was a much smaller change than Panda, even though the scope may have been larger.

Reacting to the Freshness Change

SEOMOZ gave a few important “take-aways” from the changes.

  • Website administrators should be monitoring their SERPs for keywords that are showing very recent results. These results will be the ones to target with fresh content.
  • As always, websites should have new, relevant content. This may mean dividing larger updates into smaller, more frequent optimized posts.
  • Google is probably using social sites to identify the most popular updates for a particular keyword. It is important to publish pages along with a number of social networking updates and backlinks.

The message that Google has sent with this update is no different than the one they gave web developers with their Panda update. They want to provide users with strong, authoritative content that is both relevant and recent. A peak at the last week or two of traffic should show how pages have been affected and whether there is a need for new content. While it is tempting to react to this change by flooding a site with new content, Google’s blog post notes that many keywords do not use this freshness-preferred method for ranking. Searches that are not necessarily time-dependent will continue to be focused on the quality over quantity. In these cases, the traditional SEO techniques of the last year should continue to be effective.

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