WebKite Blog

Periodically we publish thoughts and ideas about he state of the web and the state of structured data publishing. Topics range from small business marketing to cost efficient advertising.

Has Your Content Expired?

You’re searching for the best camera online and you find a review of Canon 40D only to find out that the review is from 2007. If that review were food, it would be stale. Outdated content in search results is about as useful and appetizing as moldy food. Just like the produce section of your grocer, freshness is a highly valued factor in search results.

Fresh, relevant content is essential for the success of every website. In addition to providing your target audience with information about your business or products, web content provides web crawlers with information about your website and where it should rank in a listing of relevant search results.

In November 2011, Google Search began using a freshness algorithm, designed to give users the most up-to-date search results.

After all, who really wants the top items on their search engine results page to be articles from three years ago? Google’s freshness ranking algorithm impacts roughly 35 percent, or more than one in three searches, and is able to differentiate between search freshness needs1. For example, the algorithm places emphasis on returning fresher web content for certain queries such as major events, regularly occurring events, or those with frequent updates1.


But when does fresh content become stale? Is your content rotten 3 days, 3 hours, or 3 minutes after it has been published? There aren’t always hard and fast rules for when content becomes stale. It depends largely upon the type of content. Different searches have different freshness needs2. For example, NFL statistics lose freshness as new games are played each week but reviews of hybrid vehicles take longer to become stale due to the length of the vehicle production cycle. Social media has its own set of expiration dates.

Whether it’s reviews of the best DSLR cameras, statistics for top NFL quarterbacks, or data about gas prices; content must be fresh and up-to-date. Only the freshest fruits and vegetables get noticed in the produce section of a grocery store and the same is now true for content in search results. The more often you have fresh, unique, and high-quality content, the better your site will rank.

This doesn’t mean that your site will reach the top simply by posting new content all the time. But the more fresh content on your site, the more your site will be crawled. If you don’t update your site regularly with fresh content, it will not be frequently crawled or indexed. This results in your site ranking low on search engine result pages.

Besides Google’s preference for fresh content in search results, there are other factors pitted against your content in the battle for top rankings. There are at least 8.6 billion pages of content on the Internet competing for visitors3. In addition to the rapid growth of the Internet, product life cycles are shrinking and new products are being introduced at a much faster rate: in 2008 over 120,000 new products were released in the U.S. grocery, drug and mass merchandiser channels4. Now more than ever, stale content doesn’t stand a chance.

Okay, so you recognize the importance of fresh content but even the freshest of content has a limited shelf-life. Unlike canned goods, your content will inevitably become stale over time. Without frequent updates and new information, your content will decay and become the low ranking moldy produce of search results. Also, as your content becomes outdated people will spend less time on your site and go back to the search results to choose a more up-to-date URL5. Google picks up on such user behavior metrics and will rank your site accordingly5.

The odds are not in your favor as you try to keep pace with businesses that are equipped with content development teams that churn out fresh content. The fight to keep your content from spoiling and slipping to the bottom of search results requires a constant commitment to fresh content. How will you stay fresh?

In order to ensure that your site has fresh content, set a schedule for regularly updating your content. Your content updating schedule will depend heavily upon the type of content on your site. You don’t necessarily have to post new content every single day. But if your site relies upon up-to-the-minute presidential election coverage, you will need to update your content more frequently. Also, websites that add new pages at a higher rate may earn a higher freshness score than sites that add content less frequently5. You can increase the number of new pages on your site by regularly creating blog posts.

The bottom line is if you want to be a top-ranking site, you must keep your content fresh and relevant. By optimizing your site for freshness, you’re more likely to rank higher and increase your traffic. Stay tuned for the next post on how WebKite keeps content fresh!



Cited Sources

Amit Singhal, “Giving you fresher, more recent search results,” Google Official Blog, Nov. 3, 2011. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/giving-you-fresher-more-recent-search.html
Cyrus Shepard, “Freshness Factor: 10 Illustrations on How Fresh Content Can Influence Rankings,” The Daily SEO Blog, Dec. 12, 2011. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-fresh-factor
June 7, 2012. http://www.worldwidewebsize.com/

Nielsen Wire, Jan. 30, 2009. http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/new-products-generate-21-billion-in-sales-in-2008/
Cyrus Shepard, “Freshness Factor: 10 Illustrations on How Fresh Content Can Influence Rankings,” The Daily SEO Blog, Dec. 12, 2011. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-fresh-factor

Additional Sources

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