In Part 3, we looked at Website Authority. In SEO Best Practices for 2017 – Part 4, we look at website freshness and how this it impacts SEO on your website.
SEO Best Practices in 2017 – Part 4 : Website Freshness
In Part 1, we explained how Website Performance provides the building blocks of SEO. Then in Part 2 we looked at the On-Page SEO bases you must cover in order to increase your webpage SEO. And in Part 3 we reiterated that content marketing positively impacts website authority increasing SEO.
In part 4, we look at Website Freshness.
SEO Best Practices in 2017 – Part 4 : Website Freshness and SEO
Why Website Freshness Matters
It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but the truth is Google wants to see that your website has been around a long time, yet it wants to see fresh content. So it’s helpful to take a look back in time.
Back in 2003, engineers at Google filed a patent that would later shake up the SEO world. “Named Document Scoring Based on Document Content Update“, this patent not only offered insight into the mindset of Google, but it also provided an accurate road-map of the path Google would eventually take, and refine for years to come.
Over those years, that original patent spawned several more child patents. These are often nearly duplicate patents with slightly modified passages. and today, many of the algorithmic changes we see today are simply improvements of these original ideas conceived years ago by Google engineers.
One of these major updates was the Google Freshness Update in 2011, which places greater emphasis on returning fresher web content for most queries. Exactly how Google determines freshness was never (as always) disclosed by Google, but over the last few years, it has been analyzed by SEO folks over and over, and tweaked by Google over and over as well.
SEO Best Practices in 2017 – Part 4 : Website Freshness Matters
How Google Scores Fresh Content
Google blogged once that “different searches have different freshness needs.” So much like you look for freshness dates on milk, Google looks for fresh content on your website, then rewards you with a better search ranking.
The implication is that Google measures all of your website (text, images, etc) for freshness, then scores each page according to the type of search query. While many queries need fresh content, such as a particular Sunday football game score, Google still uses some older content for other queries, like the Apollo moon landing for instance.
These are the types of Google searches most likely to require fresh content:
- Recent events or hot topics: “earthquake in Peru” or “2016 election” (or news in your industry)
- Regularly recurring events: “NFL games today” “CWP training classes” (calendar type events)
- Frequent updates: “our best new item” “this new service provides…” (new products or services)
Google’s patents offer incredible insight as to how web content can be evaluated using freshness signals, and rankings of that content adjusted accordingly.
Over all, if your site has fresh content weekly, you are in good shape. That doesn’t include changing a line here or there….Google bots look for new content.
There are no hard and fast rules, but over the last few years there are general guidelines from experience and plain old SEO trial and error.
Website Freshness Metrics
- Born On Date – This is the first time Google crawls your brand new website. This “born on freshness date” gives an immediate SEO boost which decays over time as the content gets older and older. As time goes by without any updates, Google labels these as “Static Sites”.
- New Content – The age of a webpage isn’t the only freshness factor. Search engines can score regularly updated content for freshness differently from content that doesn’t change. In this case, the amount of change on your webpage plays a role. For example, the change of a single sentence won’t have as big of a freshness impact as a large change to the main body text, or adding new page regularly, which Google calls “Dynamic Sites”. This is why a professionally set up business blog with content marketing and SEO is so important. This keeps your domain “active” with fresh content.
- The Rate of Document Change (How Often) Impacts Freshness – Content that changes more often is scored differently than content that only changes every few years. In this case, consider CNN or USA Today, which update multiple times a day and have a high degree of change. Google bots crawl and index sites like these as often as you and I breathe. But a google blog stated it best…“For example, a website whose content is edited or added to often will be scored higher than a site whose content remains static over time.”
- Google Also Measures User Behavior – What happens when your once wonderful new content becomes old and outdated? Your freshness has faded. For example, your website has a blog and the last entry was over a year ago, or you have a schedule of events or a calendar and the last entries were months, or even years ago. As content becomes outdated, potential customers spend less time on your site. They press the back button to Google’s results and choose another website. For instance if a year ago a user spent 4 minutes on your site, and then this year 15 seconds looking at an empty blog, news or event calendar. This factor called ATP – Average Time on Page, and is a big SEO factor on rankings as well. It’s important enough to say again. The longer someone stays on a website domain, the higher it will score in searches.
The bottom line is keeping your “Old” domain name “New” with fresh content, most easily done utilizing content marketing, is one of the very best ways to increase your webpage SEO, which in turn, increases your domain authority.
Instead of revising individual pages, fresh websites often add completely new pages over time (as is the case with Content Marketing). Websites that add new pages at a higher rate earn a higher freshness score than sites that add content less frequently.
SEO Best Practices in 2017 – Part 4 Summary
The goal here shouldn’t be to update your site simply for the sake of “keeping it fresh” and hoping for better ranking. If this is your practice, you’ll likely be frustrated with a lack of results.
Instead, your goal should be to update your site in a regular, timely manner that benefits users, with an aim of increasing clicks, user engagement, and fresh social media links. These are the clearest signals you can pass to Google to show that your site is fresh and deserving of high rankings.
Aside from updating older content, other SEO best “freshness” practices include:
- Create new content regularly.
- When updating, focus on core content, and related keywords and long-tails.
- Keep in mind that small changes may be ignored. If you’re going to update a page link, you may consider updating all the text around the link as well.
- Steady growth is almost always better than infrequent spikes of inconsistent growth. If the Google bots can set their watch by your updates, all the better for you.