Google’s ranking algorithms are a tricky little thing.
For starters, they change them all the time. Like, all the time. And when they do, it’s not like they come out and say, “Okay, here’s what you have to do to rank now.”
In fact, more often than not, we’re left to wade through complex patent filings and convoluted, evasive press releases to interpret for ourselves what these changes mean.
What we know for sure, though, is that fresh content is vital for improving your Google rankings. It’s part of the reason why content marketing is one of the fastest-growing marketing tactics on the planet.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you’ve got to master these three things:
- The Freshness Factor
- Blogging Your Way To The Top
- Keeping On Top Of Content – Website Edits
What Is “Freshness Factor”
“The freshness factor is an element of search algorithms that gives greater weight to newer content over older content for some search queries. Search engines introduced the freshness factor for searches related to trending topics, recurring events (sports scores, awards and so on) and breaking news. The freshness factor prevents old, highly ranked pages from appearing first when new content is more appropriate to the query.
The freshness factor may also be called the Google freshness factor.”
The Freshness Factor
Google isn’t always forthcoming with exactly how they rank individual pages. So, when you’re trying to beat the algorithms and find your way to the top of the search results, you’ve got to play the game a little bit.
That means poring through patent filings, making some assumptions on how any changes might affect search results, and ultimately, a bit of good old trial and error. Luckily for you, content marketing wizards have been playing that game for years, and have come up with a concept called The Freshness Factor.
Here’s what we know: 9 times out of 10, fresh content trumps dated, stale content. This is especially true for certain types of search queries. Let’s say you’re looking for a new email marketing automation platform, and you plug a search into Google.
Which is more likely to give you the most relevant, accurate information, a post from 3 years ago, or a post from 3 months ago?
The world moves quickly, and information becomes out of date just as fast. Remember, Google’s job is to get the most relevant information in front of their customers first. Old content is then, by default, less relevant.
Of course, this is a general rule and may not apply to all search types. For example, articles on historical events may actually be given more authority if they are older and have been verified by several other sources. In this case, it’s unlikely that the story is going to change, so newer content may not necessarily be more relevant.
In either case, keeping your content fresh is crucial to your customers’ experience on your website.
Think about it like this; over time, your business develops, grows, and molds to the needs of its customers. As a result, your service offering might change. Perhaps your target audience shifts slightly as you realise more success in an alternate market. Maybe you stopped offering a service because it didn’t give you a very good return.
Whatever the case, over the course of 12 months, you could well find that your website content becomes severely out of date.
This has an impact on your Google rank too. The more engaging your website content, and the more targeted it is to your audience, the more likely a customer is to spend time browsing. If your content isn’t optimised for your audience, chances are they’ll just leave. This harms your bounce rate, which is another contributor to Google’s search rankings.
Blogging Your Way To The Top
In the vast landscape of content marketing, blogging is by and large the king of the jungle.
Unfortunately, the humble blog is often misunderstood. Many businesses publish content on a weekly or monthly basis without any thought for SEO, user intent, or the value they are providing to their customers. Ideally, blogging should be all about those three things.
Think about it like this; you can only rank for so many key search phrases per page. And you can only have so many pages on your website that are relevant to your company’s products or services.
Sooner or later, if you want to start ranking for more and more search phrases, you’re going to have to publish some educational content, and that’ll probably be in the form of a blog. You’ll spend hours doing keyword research and determining where you can optimise your website for search results, and you’ll come up with a handful of long-tail keywords that will inspire ideas for blog posts. Long-tail keywords are those 3-4 word phrases that are highly specific to your product, such as “buy organic purple cauliflower”, as opposed to simply “buy cauliflower”.
That’s a great starting point for creating fresh content that influences your Google rank. Still, if you really want to maximise those results, you’ve got to make sure your blog posts provide tangible, actionable value to your customers. Ask yourself the question, “Can the reader take something away from this that will noticeably change their life or their business?”
If you can answer that question with a yes, then your reader is likely to:
- Stay on the page for longer – Google likes this as it says, “This is interesting and informative.”
- Click through to other pages on your website – this says to Google, “That was helpful. I want to know more.”
- Share your post on social media – Google reads this as “This page is so valuable that others need to know about it.”
The most successful blog posts exist
at the intersection between strong keyword optimisation
and providing real, actionable value.
Taking Your Content Marketing A Step Further
The thing with blogs is that you can’t (and shouldn’t), do it all at once. Let’s say you’ve finished your content planning, and you’ve got 20 blog post topics that you know are going to provide genuine value to your audience.
You wouldn’t be wise to write and publish them all right now, if you even had the time to.
One of the ways Google assesses freshness is the number of new pages added over time. As a general rule, sites that consistently add more pages (that are relevant and provide value), are likely to see better rankings.
The best way to do that? Publish new blog posts every week and adopt the Topic Cluster model.
This is a way of organising your blog posts so that they point to one another, and link to other relevant content on your website. Not only does this guide your website traffic toward more helpful content, but it gives Google even more context about what each page is about.
Keeping On Top Of Content – Website Edits
Building a website is not a set and forget activity. Not only should you be adding pages regularly to influence your Google rank, but you should also be performing routine maintenance.
It’s like servicing your car. Sometimes you just need an oil change; sometimes, you need a full-on website redesign.
That applies not only to the architecture and design of your site, but also includes refreshing your content regularly.
When it comes to keeping content marketing best practices, you should be:
- Prioritising large changes over smaller ones
- Refreshing your most important website pages (like your home page)
- Making changes to content frequently
Small Changes vs. Big Ones
Okay, you probably shouldn’t go completely rewriting your services pages every week, but when you’re aiming to make an impact on your freshness factor, large changes will have a greater effect.
Google expects small changes on a regular basis. Big changes, such as a redesigned and rewritten home page, are less common and tell Google, “Hey, we’ve got something new and improved over here!” This is a tactic used by the best of the best in content marketing.
Refresh Your Important Pages
There’s little value in regularly updating your team bios or navigation bars. Your high-traffic landing pages such as your home or service pages are key targets for upping the freshness factor, however.
Making Changes To Your Content Frequently
The highest authority websites are making content changes regularly. That doesn’t mean totally redoing your website every month, you’ve got to give Google’s bots a bit of time to actually crawl your pages and index any changes. Then you need some traffic there to assess if that change was valuable or not.
You can make frequent changes to your site by updating body text regularly, and publishing new blog posts every week or so. This will also ensure your website content is accurate and up to date, resulting in a better overall customer experience.
If you’re serious about improving your Google rankings, then you need to dive deep into the world of content marketing. And that goes much further than a bit of keyword research and some snazzy copy on your site.
You need to be nailing that freshness factor, publishing highly actionable blogs on a regular basis, and making frequent, systematic changes to your important pages.
That’s a lot to keep on top of! Good thing we’re content marketing experts. Need a hand? Let’s chat.