The Definitive Guide to Increase Rankings with These 4 Content Freshness Tips

Freshness is one of the more recent factors that Google has added to its algorithm in the last couple of years. In fact, the Caffeine web indexing system was meant to help it find and identify fresh content among the massive amount of stuff that gets published every day…an impact that affected 6-10% of searches.

Let me show you what this looks like in practice.

Take the US Open. Search for “US Open” and you’ll see these results:

us open

The top news query is only 16 minutes old. The next one is one hour old. More importantly, the scores from the latest games are at the very top, which is Google’s way of trying to guess semantically what the user wants.

But not every piece of content published needs the relevancy that a good freshness score can deliver. Here are some examples of content that could benefit from the freshness score:

  • Current news – Whether it’s a riot in Syria or the bailout of a country, you want the most relevant and the freshest piece of content out there. This means the most relevant content could be less than ten minutes old even though it is not the most authoritative.
  • Seasonal or bi-annual events – These events include elections or the US Open – events that occur periodically but predictably. Before Caffeine, you might have searched for elections and gotten results from four years ago when you wanted today’s news.
  • Practical, but aged content – Some content is really practical but old, and so Google wanted a way to evaluate competing pieces of content based on freshness. Recipes and historical stories are really relevant even if they were written two years ago.

More than likely, you will fall into that last category…useful, but old content. So, let me tell you how to reach the top of the rankings by increasing the freshness of your current content.

Tip# 1 – Creation of new pages will impact freshness

Search engines will judge a website with more pages added differently than a website with fewer pages added. In other words, a blog that publishes content seven days a week will get scored differently than a blog that publishes once a month.

There are pros and cons to each approach. For example, the advantages of more frequent content are:

  • Indexing your content frequently - The frequency of your content will train the crawlers when to come back to your site. If you publish content once a month, then the crawlers will more than likely only come back a few times a month. If you publish content on a weekly basis, then they may come around a few times each week…or even daily.
  • Raising your authority – New content on a regular basis will suggest to the search engine spiders that you are relevant or at least trying to remain relevant. While not conclusive, that relevancy may indicate to the search engine spiders that you are an expert. The other piece to indicate authority is the credible links coming into your pages and the social signals.
  • Increasing your traffic – Study after study indicates that more frequent blogging leads to increase in your rate of traffic.

The disadvantage of publishing frequently is that it is hard to publish quality content consistently. Some of your posts will suffer.

If you publish on a weekly or monthly basis, on the other hand, you may not get the bump in traffic, but you can create high-quality content consistently. Popular blogs that publish less frequently are Useit and Kaiser the Sage. The quality is always exceptional.

You can get the advantages of both approaches. Here’s how:

  • Invite other writers – Both Social Media Examiner and KISSmetrics’ blog publish high-quality articles on a daily basis by using guest writers.
  • Create a schedule – If you don’t want to use guest writers, you’ll need to discipline yourself. The first step is to have a schedule of posts.
  • Brainstorm new ideas – That schedule is going to be full of new ideas you will generate. Pick one or two days a week when you sit down and research and create blog post concepts.
  • Write a month-long series – Choose an over-arching theme for a particular month and write one section of that theme each day. At the end of the month, you’ll have a quality guide like 31 Days to Blogging.

Tip #2 – Document changes affect fresh content

Another way you can use freshness to influence rankings is by updating past documents. Let’s review the three elements of updating past documents and how you can influence each element.

The first is the size of the change:

  • Review your posts daily – The day after you publish an article, re-read it and make all the changes you find necessary.
  • Modify posts when linking to them – When you link to one of your posts from a new article, quickly review that post. Are there any changes in structure you can make? Any new ideas you can add? Do you need to change the headline or image?
  • Audit your content Schedule periodic reviews of old content so that every year you are auditing all of it. For example, every three months you could review 25% of your content.

The second is the rate of change. How often changes are made to a page will also matter how they are scored.

  • Design your home page to change daily – If you have a blog, this will happen naturally. An online magazine like Wired changes its home page daily too. Drudge’s home page changes as he updates the headlines. Can you change the image? The headlines?
  • Create and update hub pages – A hub page is a location where you centralize articles around a topic. As you publish more articles on these topics, update the hub page with the new links.
  • Encourage comments – Comments are a way to generate keyword-rich user-generated content, but they are also a great way to indicate to search engine crawlers that your content is relevant, engaging and valuable. If people aren’t commenting on your articles, then the search engines predict that you are not an authority and will downgrade your page. For a good guide on generating more comments, see the article How to Grow Your Blog by the Rule of 10.

The third is the importance of a page. Your freshness score is influenced by what page you change and how much change you make to that page. Large changes to less important pages might equal very small changes to very important pages. But it’s generally agreed that updating less important pages is better. Here’s what to do:

  • Identify your less important pages – The first way you can split your content into important and less important is this: your high-navigational pages like Home and About are important while everything else is less important. Next, identify those posts that don’t get a lot of traffic or social shares.
  • Remedy the problem – Ask yourself why the less important posts didn’t get as much attention. Not detailed enough? Was the headline lame? The structure cluttered and unorganized? Whatever the problem is, fix it.

Tip #3 – Time on-page

Google will consider a page on which visitors spend more time fresher than a page on which visitors spend less time. In other words, Google knows that people spend more time on new and relevant content.

Here’s how to increase time spent on-page:

  • Use images – BuildZoom discovered that SEO-optimized press releases with images outperformed press releases without images when it came to time on-page. The outcome was 2:47 versus 2:18. By the way, don’t forget to optimize your images for high page load speed.
  • Use video – While results may vary, you can expect a bump in time on-page of about 10 percent by using video. The key is placing it in the middle of your content and not at the top of the post.
  • Use Facebook plug-ins – Use Facebook social plug-ins, and you can potentially increase time on-site and on-page. This form of social proof helps keep people on a site and can even encourage more comments.
  • Increase page load speed – From both an SEO and user perspective, page load speed is important. Search engines can get their cues on page load speed from users. In other words, if users are bouncing from your site while a page is still loading, that could count against you. Here’s how to decrease your page load speed.
  • Write compelling copy Increase your time  on-page by writing great content and SEO-friendly posts, which is just another way of saying, “write in such a way that makes people love your content”. Check out the Quick and Dirty Guide to Content Marketing and How to Write SEO-friendly Blog Posts with These 13 Questions.
  • Design to highlight content – Another way you can boost time on-page is by displaying your best content with hub pages or “most popular posts” plug-ins. In addition, you could use a WordPress slideshow plug-in to display “Featured” content on the home page.

Tip #4 – New links to page

Your freshness score is also influenced by the rate at which a page gets links and the age of those links. In other words, if you are getting links from new pages, Google will adjust your freshness score more positively than in cases of you getting links from older pages.

That means the way to increase your freshness score is to get more new links. Here’s how to encourage fresh links:

  • Stay on top of trends – If you can respond to the hot topic of the moment, then you’ll attract links and social signals. For example, when the Penguin Update rolled out, you could have attracted links by writing a post explaining how to recover from the update. Use Google Trends and Google Insights to help you discover trends.
  • Quote authorities – Interview an expert in your industry and then post that interview on your blog. The expert will probably link to it as will some of the bloggers in his or her audience.
  • Update an old post – To increase the freshness score for an older post, try to update it in such a way that will encourage people to link to it with new blog posts. Then promote that update.

For the most part, you’ll get most of your links from new pages. It just makes sense…people will be responding to your new content with their new content. But there are times when an older page (like a hub page) will link to your content.

Conclusion

Freshness is just one piece of the Google algorithm puzzle. Learning how to influence it will only get you so far, so it pays to have a comprehensive SEO strategy. That strategy should focus on developing valuable content, which will naturally influence freshness and other factors.

But as you saw, there are some tricks you can use to influence freshness directly and thus influence your search rankings. These tricks specifically address the issue of increasing time on-page, which is why a guide like this is important.

What other methods have you used to influence rankings through freshness?

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Comments

  1. What about snippet codes on pages??

    • Rich snippet is really a way to differenciate yourself from other Search engine results and will definitly increase your click trough rates, thus enhancing your rankings !

      • Differentiating yourself from everyone else also helps to drop your bounce rate. I wonder if that helps increase rankings since your bounce rate is dropping. I added authorship to one of my sites and saw my bounce rates drop from 70% to near 0%.

        I think it just gives people the feeling that you are someone to listen to or trust. Especially if they see your picture in the search results.

      • Yep, because if you were an average user you would click on the rich snippet result.

    • I don’t think it will have the same effect.

  2. Great stuff here. Content marketing is rising. :)

  3. How important is it to “design your home page to change daily”?

    For example, SEOmoz.org has a static home page that changes very infrequently. The home page at Copyblogger.com also is mostly static — new posts show up in the slider at the very, very bottom of the page, after all the static content.

  4. It’s a great checklist. I think it’s best find the balance between chasing the latest news, which not what most businesses would want to do keeping their blogs up to date, and staying relevant for the audience. Once you’ve got that right, you should be fine with both the reader and Google.

  5. I love that you mention connecting up content with trending topics and seasonal events! This is a great idea, Neil, and could easily be scheduled into an editorial calender to create a month’s worth of posts at a time. Thanks for the really excellent tips! My mind is buzzing with ways to provide more valuable content for my readers :-)

  6. I have advised my students (they generally work on evergreen niche websites) to post 2-3 useful, long, well-researched articles, following your philosophy. Most of them are getting 2-3x times the shares, many natural links and growing like crazy in this tough online times…
    For keeping the freshness of their site, I advice them to add about 2-3 short news info articles on top of the authority ones..to adapt and take advantage of freshness factor!

  7. Hey Neil.. As usual great article with lot of guidance .The only thing I am little surprised where you said about increasing page load speed…..Just for curiosity & pagespeed is already installed in my chrome so I checked the speed of this article/page and found it is just 70 to 72 which is not ok I guess.
    This observation just come out of curiosity nothing else :)

    • Hey Nitin, I think page load speed is only a problem for SEO and usability if it is going to take an incredibly long time (5 to 10 seconds) for a page to load. For most websites, load speed should be fine.

      For example, a website will not outrank another simply because it loads 1 or 2 seconds faster. Other factors such as relevance and authority still have higher importance.

    • Yea, you want your page to be as fast as possible. The faster your load time, the higher your rankings will go.

  8. Nice one, thanks. This works great if you have a blog. I try to encourage my clients to write a blog, even one article/month is better than none but it’s actually not that easy and many of the companies that I work with will not do even that. Hopefully after your article my “encouraging techniques” will be more effective :) Good tips, thanks /Michal

  9. A neat solution is to use a plugin like Related RSS which puts unique, targeted, relevant news feed content on every post of your site. It does this instantly by grabbing news based on the post tags and makes every post more active and fresh.

  10. As a new law practice, we were sure to incorporate a blog. But getting into the habit of regular posting now seems critical. I like your idea of setting a schedule or authoring a series.
    Great blog thanks for the valuable ideas.

  11. This is one great piece that will go a long way in helping my team. Thanks Neil

  12. Hi Neil. Thanks for this fab article that contains some really practical ideas for ensuring freshness, along with well explained theory about why it’s an important factor to consider in relation to Google’s ranking algorithm.

    I love the ideas about reviewing and tweaking old content to keep it fresh. I think this is a great tactic, especially for content that is evergreen. I think Hub pages are also a really quality idea.

    You asked for ideas about freshness. Here’s what we do at the the Micro Business Hub.

    On the Home Page we publish the title & image of each article in that week’s series (each week is themed). In addition we have a large “today’s post section” with the image, link and extract of the most recently published article.

    The other reason we did this was to encourage visitors to explore a series of articles, or come back if there was an article not yet published which they wanted to read and so encourage repeat visits.

  13. I have realized that posting 2 to 3 short posts on my blog has really increased the traffic and the ranking. I haven’t been so focus on quality (maybe i should more)..manly on quantity and uniqueness. I can see from your post that this science it is quite complex!

  14. Hi Neil!

    Excellent post and I believe the no.1 tip is great and that’s the positive way to do it but producing content on daily basis certainly a great challenge but one can reduce it to 2 blog post in a week can be realistic and get able easily.

  15. HI Neil
    Fantastic approach to explain how keeping all your content ever green along with adding new content will help to gain authority. In short by editing and evaluating old posts we are increasing the quality of content but for a large site (Tech sites, News sites), doing so won’t be a feasible idea..How do you suggest to deal with archive content? (Content which made a news but not in search anymore…?)

  16. Based on some of the posts, i’ve read i’m really thinking about going from trying to blog several times a week to blogging once a week. However, I think that can’t be set in stone. Like the post mentions, if there is some sort of relevant event creating content around that topic can greatly help.

  17. Hi neil, i recently posted a blog comment for your last post, and i tooked the time to create a list of place to share infographics to really bring value in the thread, i spend some big time to create the page http://www.wakondamarketing.com/place-to-share-infographics/

    but you did not accepted my blog comment ? did i acted against your policys ?

    • Hey JP,

      Your comment may have been automatically sorted into the spam folder, WordPress does that with comments that have many links. I don’t recall seeing your comment, I wouldn’t have deleted it unless I thought it was spam. I will keep an eye out for your comments in the spam folder in the future.

  18. Hi Neil,

    I really enjoyed your guide to content freshness! Keeping content fresh is an incredibly important aspect of ensuring search engine success and user/audience retention. You had some really great tips and insights on increasing content freshness within your post.

    I work for WebKite, a content management system and vertical search engine that transforms data sets into dynamic, interactive, and intuitive websites. Our platform is an excellent method for keeping content fresh and increasing search engine rankings. WebKite technology automatically generates text that adapts to a user’s preferences, gives context for facts, and dynamically updates as facts change. This provides data that’s adaptive to users and increases SEO. The platform also automatically adds new items as the data source is updated, creates reciprocal links between items and lists, and fosters unique user generated content through social tools such as reviews, ratings, and lists. These incredible tools keep content fresh which helps search engines discover and understand your content.

    The WebKite platform is an unfair advantage in the search competition and consistently keeps your content fresh without the implementation of a relentless content posting and updating schedule. Learn more about WebKite: http://webkite.com/

  19. WOW. Great tips thanks for sharing. It seems like people are getting too caught up in the SEO and forgetting the point of the search engine which is to help people find the GOOD stuff.

    As a blogger your goal should be to create the good stuff right? If its good people will find it or am I missing something?

  20. First off, excellent post – I’m glad that I found it!

    Second, I noticed two major mentions of links in this article. First, you talked about how it is a good idea to update previous posts when you link to them. Second, you mention how acquiring new links to content can signal freshness.

    Seems like a very simple strategy to almost instantly improve a site’s freshness –> link to old content as often as relevant; and make changes to the old content as you link to it.

  21. Apologies for the double post!

  22. Thank for these tips Neil..it’s always harder to be on top spot!

  23. Neil,

    THANKS for another SUPERB post!

    With this post, the previous one, and many other ones on your site, you are providing us with the complete Roadmap for what needs to be done, step by step, with clear instructions, a concrete check list. So for anyone doing this or aspiring to do (such as myself), it is just a matter of actually getting down to it and do the work, consistently and steadily, every day. Really no excuses.

    Thanks for all your wisdom and motivation!

  24. theworld01.blogspot.com this is a good site for any type of such information.

  25. Another good way to add more content (especially if you cannot change your static homepage) is to add a widget. Perhaps a Twitter feed or a text widget with a bit of content about your business that you can change each week.
    That way, your page remains essentially the same but new content has been added.

  26. Good stuff here. Every once in awhile I do go back into old blog posts and do some updates. I also try to work on linking back to old content as well, using it to help highlight what the new posts are about.

  27. Great idea on the 30 day series. That should keep me rolling for a while. I also love the idea of sticking some video in the middle of the post and fine-tuning previous blogs.

    Images have always been a frustrating point for me because they’re time consuming. I usually go to flickr to find some creative commons photo I can use. Can you recommend other sources?

    Thanks!

  28. Great stuffs! A good checklist for those who are seriously considering to grow their blogs like myself.

    I think apart from publishing “news” adapted from other sources for the sake of being fresh, it is also important for bloggers and content marketers to add unique insights to the news. This gives better reasons for readers to follow your blog because rehashed news will simply increase the level of noise that they receive.

  29. Hi Neil
    We re-package old posts all the time. when we started off we would have good content but we did not place enough links in the copy to other linked resources or info and in our opinion, these links are what make a post valuable, so we go back in and add good, relevant links and resources.

    I think if you do that and add at least 50% of new content to it then that is acceptable, however I am prepared to be shot down!

  30. Hi Neil.

    Yes – This is one of the problems with publishing regularly, is the change of the quality of your content suffering. As you’ve mentioned, if you publish less regularly be sure to keep the quality of the content worth the read. (And yes, some of the sites you have mentioned have some pretty nifty content and views from time to time, though sometimes I just feel like it takes too long to get to the point.) – As you need to keep your target market in mind when deciding the length, quality, and how frequently you will post on your blog.

    • Yep, I personally shoot for quality over quantity. Ideally you want to do both, but it is costly. For example we post once a day on the KISSmetrics blog, but it costs us thousands per month to do that. :(

  31. Freshness content always helps Google Bots regular visits which helps us for promotion nice tips Neil

  32. Hi Neil,

    Thanks as always for sharing…yes I have always seen the new posts when I do a Google search but now you have brought home the fact that Google does consider freshness and I should too.

    This is fantastic stuff. Thanks for this.

  33. Hi Neil,

    Great post, full of ideas that deserve to be put into practice. I’ll do a test next period, I will bring updates to old articles to see what are the effects, especially to see if I can improve my search engine ranking.

    Thanks for sharing.

  34. Nice post Neil, I agree Freshness of content is a key factor. All these points are great and for the most part, should always taken into consideration.

  35. I have to get behind the frequent blogging thing 100%. It has worked on every site I have ever done SEO with and is always money for new keywords I have to tackle.

  36. hey Niel,a big thank you for this…i m gonna definately try this and come back here and tell you abt the results..i hope to be on the 1st page sooner than ever :)

  37. I try to keep my content up to date by uploading new photos and new blogs. the only prob I have is there is only so much you can do for a car valeting sit. I did have ideas for blogs but can only last 3 -4 months before i can rut

  38. Yeh you are right. Creating a blog is easy, But maintaining it is difficult. I agree at the point that posting daily may affect your quality of blog, thus no returning visitors! But guest posting is a great way to increase traffic.

  39. Well, i just started off today :) let see how it goes.

  40. Great post with lots of tips & tricks. I noticed a lot were hitting on fresh internal pages vs static home pages and you mentioned that will still be fine. What is the best way to keep yourself up in the rankings if you have a more corporate site with almost no updates or news?

  41. Great tips, this really help me, anyone knows what are the requirements to get into Google News?

  42. Neil! I can’t thank you enough for the tips. At this point I can use any ideas and tips as I can get. Hopefully this will help me!

  43. I think social media has really made the need for fresh content by the internet audience more important than ever.

  44. Any ideas on how to encourage people to like or +1 your page? Contest, incentives? I have a insurance quotes website.

  45. Really awesome tips from great SEO guy, Neil,thanks!!

  46. Neil,
    Nice. I hadn’t thought much about re-editing my older posts. But whether or not re-editing them boosts SEO ranking, taking another look and editing/improving is probably a good idea to improve post quality anyway.
    Nate

  47. Hi i’m looking at changing the layout and theme for my wordpress website does this make a difference

  48. Commenting really does affect rankings, even when talking about a shorter time frame. I noticed a review I made outrank some with way better link profiles, as well as social shares.
    As you said, the page is crawled more often, Google sees the content added (which is by the way highly relevant judging by all the naturally and organically generated keyword phrases, so Google assumes the high relevance of the page as well) and gives a boosting in rankings.

    Regarding the discussion about frequency in posting, I tend to always choose more in-depth articles which are posted less often, than vice versa. They always get the most of attention, link love, comments, social shares… Not only that, by they get labeled as evergreen content, which is really beneficial over the long run. I guess that’s why I enjoy sites like ViperChill.

    This article also falls under that category. Enjoyed the read Neil!

    • Thank you Slavko,

      I am glad you understand the value and importance of comments. I also find it better to post less frequently in order to maintain the quality of my content. I haven’t hear of that site but I will check it out. :)

  49. TheNational.net :

    fresh content is always worth million bucks :) if you have some time neil, have a look at the content of my website & give me your frank opinion about it, thanks a million in advance.

  50. Creating and updating pages on a specific site or a blog is key to keeping your ranking high in the SERPS, especially with Google’s new algorithm updates. When those pages reach a good PR and get quality traffic, they’ll of course help the PR of your main site and of course more traffic to your main site !!!!

  51. Hey Neil,

    Great article. I just find that consistently producing fresh content for your blog to be a bit difficult when you have only so much time and you also have to produce content for your guest posts as well. Any tips on how to speed up this process? Either way, great advice as always.

  52. Nice post, Neil!

    I particularly like tip #2 where you discuss changing the home page daily, and updating blog older content.

    Does updating an old blog post really increase the freshness, or does Google only consider the date the original content was created?

  53. Some great tips have just been re-reading some of your posts as I’m just starting to re-design my website so all these tips will come in great use

  54. Another great article Neil. You really do give the farm away :) virtually on every post you write. It definitely is a fine line to balance frequency and quality so your suggestion of guest authors is a really good one. Maybe I will write one for your blog one day :)

  55. To Get into google news a site needs 3 digit unique id too in the permalinks as per the new instructions by matt cutts

  56. Super useful tips. Haven’t really paid attention to the freshness of my content but will start doing so.

  57. Man, I really have to start updating my site more often, i have plenty of info to put up but too busy with new projects to get it done. That’s it – no excuses anymore, a feature on my website can be a part of the clients overall package!

  58. Always great articles. Thanx a million Neil :)

  59. This is great! Ive always wondered how some blogs who had post that are a few years old show up as being recently updated. They rank a page for a specific term and then update that page with fresh content and they show up higher on Google with a recent update showing on the Google results. It definitely draws attention

  60. Daily Maintaining a blog with new post is not as easy. In addition, it’s necessary to write unique content for your blog to ensure a high ranking in the search result page. I completely agree with you , that posting on a daily basis may harm your blog quality, and you may lose valuable visitors.

  61. Another great post. Can you comment on whether it is know if Google weights its assessment of your site by how much of your site has changed as well as the frequency of change? What I mean is, if you get, say a new comment a day of a few words, does that have significantly less weight than three paragraphs of fresh content per day?

  62. I like to read every single one of your post, because you have very good tips!!

  63. Hello!,,,,,

    Hi!,,,,,,,,,,Thank for these tips Neil..it’s always harder to be on top spot!

    Thank you so much!,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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