The importance of fresh content

Digital marketing 2020

Have you ever updated an old piece of content? Well in 2019, Google will now favour you in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for doing so.

Freshness signals are increasingly important across all verticals.

Good user experience means that Google needs to prioritise the most up-to-date, current and relevant results in the SERPs.

What is the ‘freshness’ ranking factor?

The freshness ranking factor isn’t a new thing.

Google has always looked at relevant, up-to-date content as an important ranking factor. The difference is, given the 200+ other ranking factors Google uses to decide where to index content, freshness has never played as crucial a role (except in news related searches)… until now.

Back in 2011, former Google employee Amit Singhal explained how different searches have different freshness needs. This is still true today. Singhal deduced that there are three key areas that Google deemed required ‘fresh’ content. They are:

  • Recent events or hot topics: ‘#metoo’ or ‘Government shutdown’
  • Regularly recurring events: ‘Donald Trump’ or ‘BP revenues’
  • Frequent updates: ‘Best phone in 2019’ or ‘New Toyota car review’

Content that falls under one of these categories should be constantly updated and maintained.

Evergreen content, for example, will be less impacted by freshness than a current news story.

How Google determines the freshness of your content

There are eight important ways Google deems the freshness of a piece of content. They are:

1. Freshness by ‘inception date’

The inception date is the date at which Google first comes across a piece of content and indexes it. In most cases, this date is often close to the publication date, however, smaller websites with fewer backlinks will likely have an inception date quite a while after the publish date.

The big thing to know about this is that, over time, the freshness score based on this factor alone will decay, and older content well page its inception date might suffer in the SERPs.

2. Change influences freshness

Freshness also considers the age of a web page or domain, and regularly updated content will likely be favoured, however, the amount of change made will influence freshness.

Change a single sentence in a blog post, and not much will happen. Rewrite paragraphs and Google will take note and consequently, help you out in the SERPs.

3. Core content changes matter more than other areas

Amending H1 and H2 tags, as well as the main body copy will be looked at in terms of freshness differently to, say, changing advertisements on the page, or date and time tags.

4. Content that constantly changes will be indexed differently

Content that is constantly changed and refreshed will score differently to content that only changes once every few years.  

5. New page creation

Websites that add more pages to their site over the course of a year, for example, might gain a higher freshness score than sites that don’t add new content regularly.

6. The growth of new links

The amount of growth your content gets from referral sites will also factor into its ‘freshness’. If Google sees a spike in the number of people linking to your content, it’ll consider that content more relevant and consequently, it’ll favour it in the SERPs.

7. Fresh site links

Links from sites with high freshness scores will help Google understand relevancy, too. It might be beneficial, then, to try and gain links from news sites who are constantly updating their content.

8. Click-through rate is important

If Google see that a link further down its page is receiving more links and a higher on-page time, it will consider that website to be more relevant for that keyword match and consequently, it’ll favour that content.

The newest result isn’t always best

Just remember: Just because your content is new, it doesn’t mean it’s what Google will favour most.

In many cases, older content that has more weight behind it will be favoured over what might be deemed typically ‘fresh’ content.

A good way to understand this is to Google your search term and look at both the publication and inception dates of top-ranking pieces of content. If there’s a pattern in content age, consider that your benchmark.

The most important thing to remember is to be fresh, be relevant and be useful.

Google will favour you if you’re all three.

About John Kramer

My name is John Kramer, and I am a Malaga-based SEO fanatic. Marketing is my passion. With over 15 years of experience in digital, I am constantly energised by the ever-changing landscape of search. A seasoned marketer with a passion for helping small and mid-sized businesses succeed in the digital age. Proud father, husband, and outdoor enthusiast.