What Is Content Freshness

What Is Content Freshness In Blogging & SEO?

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Content freshness is a term that gets flung around in the blogging spaces, but you might be confused about its true meaning as a ranking factor.

It’s a term that’s been circulating in niche blogging and SEO for more than a decade, but it’s not always clear what it means. Let’s try clear that up.

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Content freshness, in the eyes of Google, refers to how often the content on your site is updated or how recent the information is. It’s a factor that Google uses to determine your site’s relevancy in response to a user’s query.

Now, let’s delve into the concept a bit more and understand its nuances.

The Timeline of Content Freshness

Alright, so what do we need to know about content freshness?

First, let’s look at the timeline of how content freshness came to be a part of the Google algorithm and its ranking.

A Brief Overview 

2010Google introduces the Caffeine update
2011Google introduces the Freshness Algorithm
2019Google introduces Featured Snippets Freshness

Google’s Introduction of ‘Caffeine’ 

In the summer of 2010, Google made a major update to its search algorithm.

They called it Caffeine. This update was all about speed, but importantly, it also introduced the concept of content freshness:

Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered. Whether it’s a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before.

Google Search Central

What did they mean by ‘fresher results’? Well, it was their way of saying they were now prioritising new or recently updated content.

Your content couldn’t just be relevant and keyword-optimized; it also had to be fresh.

Google introduces ‘Freshness Algorithm’

In November 2011, Google rolled out a game-changer known as the “Freshness update”.

It wasn’t just a simple tweak but a major overhaul of the ranking algorithm that influenced between 6-10% of searches.

Further improving its considerations around freshness, particularly with high-volume queries on trending topics.

Google introduces ‘Featured Snippets Freshness’

Several years later, in 2019, Google added algorithm changes that would bring the freshness concept into importance, specifically for featured snippets.

Featured snippets were introduced in 2014 and needed an update to enable the “Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)” aspect into snippets.

Sometimes when you use Google, you’re seeking information when timeliness matters, even if your query doesn’t spell that out. For example, when you search for something like “income brackets,” it’s likely that you’re looking for this year’s tax information, not last year’s.

— Pandu Nayak, Google blog for search

Makes perfect sense.

Content freshness has now had several layers that enable Google to consider the freshness of content, especially when it relates to queries that increase dramatically in volume due to a world event.

Why Google Cares About Freshness

Google’s main goal is to serve its users with the most relevant and up-to-date information regarding their queries.

Fresh content is critical because it helps your site rank higher in search engines. If your site is never updated with new information, then Google will start to view it as stale and irrelevant.
– Brian Dean

And how does Google ensure this? By prioritizing fresh content! 

“35% of Google search results are new content” (Search Engine Land)

Google doesn’t blindly favor all new content. It considers the ‘Freshness Factor’ along with other ranking factors like the content’s quality, relevance, and the site’s authority.

So, while freshness is an important aspect, it’s not the only one. 

How Google Determines Freshness

Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough to analyze multiple factors: 

  • Content Updates: Regular updates to the content indicate its freshness. But remember, trivial changes like adjusting a few words or fixing typos might not count.
  • Link Freshness: If your content is attracting new backlinks, Google sees this as a sign that your content is not just fresh but also relevant and valuable.
  • User Behavior: Google also takes into account user behavior signals, like how often users are visiting your page. More visits could indicate that your content is fresh and relevant.

It’s a common misconception that frequently changing the publication date of a post makes it appear fresh.

Many SEOs will go with the “Republish” tactic that updates the published date from an old one to a new one.

Google is smarter than that. It knows how old a page actually is simply because of the URL it has in its index — how long it has been indexed is the true age.

Freshness is one of the most important factors in determining search engine rankings. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you need to keep your content fresh and up-to-date.
– Rand Fishkin

It looks for significant updates in the content, not just the date changes.

So, in a nutshell, Google cares about content freshness because it strives to offer its users the most relevant and current information.

And it determines this freshness based on multiple factors, not just the publication date. 

While content freshness is important, don’t let it overshadow the quality and relevance of your content. After all, Google values these aspects just as much!

The Role of User Behavior in Freshness

User behavior and interaction with a post significantly contribute to its perceived freshness.

When users find your content valuable and engaging, they interact with it in various ways that indicate freshness to Google. These include: 

  • Click-through rate: If your content receives a higher click-through rate, it demonstrates that users find your title and description appealing. This can be a signal to Google that your content is fresh and relevant.
  • Time on site: When users spend more time on your webpage, it indicates they find your content useful and engaging. This extended dwell time could be a signal of content freshness.
  • Social shares: If users share your content on social media platforms, it demonstrates that they find your content valuable and it is currently relevant.
  • Comments: User engagement through comments can also be a signal of content freshness. When users comment on your post, it shows that they are engaged and find your content valuable, and want to talk about it.

It’s important to remember that user behavior is just one aspect of content freshness. Google uses a combination of factors to determine how fresh your content is.

But, the more engaging and valuable your content is to users, the fresher it will appear to Google. 

This is clearly a case of the users showing the way. Not only do they consume your content, they also play an integral part in keeping it fresh via their interaction.

So, essentially, you should want user interaction to be as high as possible.

Freshness vs. Evergreen Content: What’s the Difference?

You might be confused at this point about the role of “evergreen” content. Isn’t the point of it to make it once and reap the benefits?

Well, freshness still plays a factor into something that has longevity.

When we say “fresh content,” we’re talking about new or recently updated content.

It could be a brand new blog post you’ve just published or an old one you’ve updated with the latest information.

Google loves fresh content because it indicates that the website is active and up-to-date. 

On the other hand, “evergreen content” refers to always relevant content. It doesn’t depend on current trends or recent events.

It’s called “evergreen” because it remains relevant throughout the year.

An example of evergreen content might be a “How-to” guide or a blog post on “The Basics of SEO.” These topics will always be searched for, regardless of time or season. 

But freshness still plays a role in evergreen content.

Evergreen content can and should be kept fresh through regular checks and updates to ensure it is still relevant.

This important piece is about considering search intent which can and does change over time.

Search intent isn’t static. It can and does change over time based on factors like:

  • Shifts in user behavior or preferences
  • Changes in trends or industry landscapes
  • Evolution of language and slang
  • Updates or changes to Google’s algorithm

What worked yesterday might not necessarily work today. That’s the dynamic nature of search intent.

This is why it’s really important to be reviewing your published content regularly to ensure it’s still meeting the demands of users’ search intent.

It can affect your ranking status in multiple ways:

  1. Relevance: If search intent has evolved, your content might no longer be as relevant or useful to users as it once was.
  2. Ranking: If your content doesn’t align with current search intent, it could negatively affect your ranking in search results.
  3. Engagement: If users aren’t finding what they’re looking for in your content, they might not stick around, leading to decreased engagement.

Keep your content updated, and you’ll ensure freshness for the moving landscape of user searches. It is a never-ending requirement of the publishing business.

Strategies for Keeping Content Fresh

Fresh content is more than just adding new articles or blog posts to your website. It’s about updating your existing content to stay relevant and updated.

So, how can you achieve this? Here are some strategies:

So, you want to keep your content fresh and up-to-date, but how do you manage that, right? With so many posts and pages on your blog, it can get a bit overwhelming. Here’s a tip that could make your life a lot easier: 

  • Use a spreadsheet: Detail when each post was published and when it was last updated. It will allow you to see at a glance what needs refreshing and when. It’s like having your very own content calendar.
  • Hire an editor/VA: You could just hire someone else to prioritize this themselves. They’d need to research about each keyword topic on a monthly basis and look to apply updates to include anything that has become new or trending about it.
  • Use Plugins: Some WordPress plugins can help you keep your content fresh. For instance, the Campout WordPress plugin I’m building is designed to help publishers and SEO professionals keep their content updated in a much simpler way.

That’s covered this topic about content freshness. Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions about it!

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