A question SEOs get asked frequently is “what about fresh content for SEO?” Basically, businesses want to understand how having new or fresh content on your site can help you rank better.
This is a super important concept to understand, and is one that is all too often misunderstood.
Let me be very clear from the start what “fresh content” is not:
Fresh content is not updating content on existing pages (homepage, etc) often to try to appear “fresh” to the search engines.
If you are doing that, stop. You’re wasting your effort.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what fresh content is and what it means for SEO and your business.
When SEOs talk about fresh content, what they usually mean is “timely” content. Timely content around a topic matters for breaking news sorts of topics. These can often be seen in Google’s search results by a Top Stories section of links for the query. For example, for a recently (at the time of writing) released song by a well-known artist:
Below that is a video listing, but then other articles that are recent as well (and may or may not be in the Top stories news group).
These Top stories boxes can even appear for one-word terms such as [immigration], which is a hot topic in the United States these days:
But then below that box are regular results that a searcher might expect at any time:
Those pages have not been updated in a long time. Instead, they are from Google’s perspective the most relevant answers to this query.
What we often see is that a page will rank well for a query because it is taking advantage of QFD, which stands for “query deserves freshness” and is defined as:
“Search requests that deserve up-do-date search results” (source)
Basically, these are trending queries where people expect fresh content.
What we often see happen after a period of time (when search volume goes back down) is that content that ranked because it was timely and relevant will get pushed down the page and results like the above standard results begin to settle in to their long term ranking position.
One such example is [did the holocaust happen], which spiked in search volume in December 2016 because Google was ranking a Holocaust denial site in the first spot.
When it spiked back in December, we saw a lot of sites like SearchEngineLand.com and others covering news that ranked quite well. After some months, though, we see some resource sites that should rank longterm that are sticking around at the top as well as some of the news sites with date published annotations.
Often times people think that adding new pages to their site alone will help with better rankings. The truth is, having more high quality and relevant pages on your site can lead to more traffic because:
- You have a wider pool of keywords you can target
- With outreach and promotion, this new content is more likely to get links from other sites, which leads to higher rankings for that page and the site as a whole
Contrary to popular belief, though, you cannot train the search engines to come back to your site more or less often (though you can direct them according to how often your content is updated via your XML sitemaps). As a general rule, the more links your website has the more often Google or Bing will come back and crawl because they are discovering your site through their web crawl more often.
This is also the value of fresh links. The search engines want to discover content as quickly as possible after it is published (via a variety of means – social media and XML sitemaps primarily), and so if your site is being linked to from fresh content and often, your site will be seen as more relevant to topics.
So in a nutshell, new content:
- Helps you rank for more keywords because you have more pages to target a wider bucket of keywords
- Helps you rank better because it is the easiest to promote to earn new links back to your site
- On other sites can help you rank because there are new links to your site, and that helps your site be seen as relevant today.
Updated Content and What It Does
I started off this piece by talking about how “fresh content for SEO” is not updating the “SEO content” on your homepage monthly and thinking that will help you rank.
However, there is an argument for overhauling existing content on a page and how that can help you rank measurably better. As Cyrus Shepard talked about here,:
The age of a webpage or domain 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.
He illustrated it thus:
Basically, making small changes to your page (blocks of text, etc) may be completely ignored and thus not help you out at all.
However, if you take a page and overhaul the content to update it for the modern day (and potentially even writing it on a new better-optimized URL and then redirecting the old one), you can see a measurable uptick in traffic. Here’s one example that I did:
Based off this (and others agree), you may be better served to go back and overhaul content that ranks ok (think bottom of the first page or top of the second page) and see a rankings boost from that, coupled with new outreach.
The concept of fresh content for SEO can be very powerful when you understand and leverage it correctly for your business. If you’re a small business and not a media company, you won’t be appearing in those Top stories groups, and that’s ok. Instead, try doing something like this case study by Wallaroo Media points out and create longterm valuable content to drive consistent and qualified traffic to your site.