So you publish a new blog post or how-to video twice a week – does that mean your site is fresh as a summer rose?
Not to the search engines. There’s more to website freshness than posting new content.
Many marketers don’t take the full scope of freshness seriously enough, favoring new content but neglecting old content. I’m going to pull the synchronicity card here. It’s a great way to understand why it is important to regularly update and edit your site to improve your Google rankings.
Stale bread, the socks you wore yesterday to the gym, outdated milk, and mushy, brown bananas. They all equal one thing: unpalatable.
That’s how the Google bots feel about your stale web content. Basically, no thank you. (Except for The Exception; more on that later)
What happens when your site is unfresh?
When you don’t update your site enough, it starts to be viewed by search engines as a static entity. It’s deadwood, good enough for moss and mushrooms, not for marketing.
Why does this happen? There’s a simple explanation and a more nuanced one.
This simple one goes like this: less updating simply translates to less crawling. The Google bots and other web crawlers that the search engines send out will index a site that isn’t fresh, less.
This is because there is less going on for these little guys to index. They gravitate to where the action is. It’s a fundamental law of the Internet universe.
The more nuanced answer is two short, powerful words: Google algorithms.
Google looks at a series of factors when determining the relevance of a site, a lot of which have to do with freshness. So keeping your content as fresh, up-to-date, well-edited and revised, and as valuable as you can will lead to a higher ranking. It makes sense when you really look at the job of search engines. Their whole purpose is to identify valuable, relevant content for searchers. Outdated and obsolete material is not relevant.
A website that doesn’t have enough new, fresh posts and is loaded with unfresh content will eventually be characterized by:
- Less engagement
- Higher bounce rates
- Lower rankings
- Search traffic plateaus
You get a double boost from focusing on freshness.
- First, from the number of updates to your site, which attracts the web crawlers
- Second, from the quality of your freshness actions, which improves your ranking when you are indexed more frequently
It’s a big win. Unless … you prioritize quantity of updates over relevance and value and publish new content or make changes that do not serve a purpose.
Too fresh is no better than a green banana
Over-updating just for the sake of attracting web crawlers is just as useless in terms of increasing the value of your site as keyword-stuffing is. You run the risk of reducing the quality of your site and lowering your page rank. Every piece of new content you publish and every change that you make should make your site more valuable to searchers.
SEO expert Cyrus Shephard explains that the way Google’s algorithm looks at freshness is highly complex. It takes into account the size of changes made (i.e., a new header vs. changing 3/4 of the body text), which components are altered (comments and date/time tags are not as important as updated body text), and other factors that signal the quality—not quantity—of updates.
Google even considers a spectrum of which search terms require what degree of freshness. For example, search terms that indicate hot, trending, or news topics would naturally be connected to higher freshening expectations than evergreen content.
This brings us to The Exception: Good evergreen content. Older and static can in some cases be perceived as better than a very “alive” older post.
“For some queries, documents with content that has not recently changed may be more favorable than documents with content that has recently changed.” –US Patent Document Scoring Based on Document Content Update
What does this mean? Google always seems to favor authoritative, well-aged, evergreen content. Think of it this way: What value could be added to a well-written blog post chronicling Poland’s Solidarity Movement – or a bio piece on Charles Darwin – by updating the text? Not much, as the information wouldn’t have changed. The natural value changes may be a steady increase in links from other authoritative sites over time and more comments.
How to make your content fresh enough
What can digital marketing professionals do to ensure that their content is as fresh as a ripe, perfectly yellow banana? Not green, not brown – yellow.
Here are the freshness factors that can help you make your content more attractive to Google:
- Publish regular, new content consistently.
- Go back and freshen up your old content regularly. Fix broken links, add or change visual content to blog posts or web pages. Make sure everything is accurate, current, and well-written in terms of clarity, organization, and style and then republish using the same URL and keywords. HubSpot also recommends adding an editor’s note when republishing your older posts.
- Add new pages to your website, if relevant. Some webmasters have recommended a 20 to 30% increase each year, although as always, only if they add value.
- Attract new links from authoritative sites. Earning fresh links is probably the most powerful way to boost your freshness factor.
- Watch your click-through-rates and time spent on each page – Google, it appears, likes to see a steady increase in engagement when looking at how fresh and relevant content is. A steady or sudden decrease could lower your page rank.
- Respond and encourage comments.
Making your site garden-fresh is one more way that you can make your content more relevant and useful to your site visitors. It will boost your website traffic and your engagement. It will make your content marketing more effective and help to secure your site’s strength over the long-term.
See for yourself—compare how your metrics respond to your freshening efforts.
For more insight on effective content marketing, see 5 Content Marketing Trends To Watch In 2017.