Content freshness is one of the more nuanced areas of SEO, which is why it’s often misunderstood.
The fact is that if you publish more often or regularly refresh your content, you’ll master this ranking factor. Having fresh content on your website is good for SEO, but only when the content adequately answers the intent of the search query.
Not sure exactly what fresh means when it comes to content? Let’s take a deeper look at the meaning of fresh content, what Google has to say on the subject, and how you can approach freshness as an SEO best practice for your website.
- Fresh content is important, but updating and posting frequently for the sake of freshness isn’t likely to help your rankings.
- Freshness is more pertinent to your SEO strategy if your content is mostly news-related or if you’re in a fast-moving niche.
- You can improve your content strategy by leveraging both evergreen and fresh content – there’s value in both.
What Is Fresh Content?
New or updated content is fresh content. If you’re regularly publishing blog posts and updating old content that has gone stale, you’re improving the freshness of your site.
Freshness makes sense when you really look at the job of search engines. Their objective is to identify valuable, relevant content for searchers. Outdated and obsolete material isn’t relevant.
A website that doesn’t have enough new, fresh posts may see:
- Less engagement
- Higher bounce rates
- Lower rankings
- Search traffic plateaus
You can get a double boost from focusing on freshness.
- First, from the number of updates to your site, which attracts web crawlers
- Second, from the quality of the updates you make – for example, if you improve the content and garner backlinks from high-authority sites, this could give your content a boost
However, freshness isn’t always going to help your content rank well. As Google’s Matt Cutts explains, regularly updating the pages on your site isn’t something that will automatically help your site rank higher.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors in its algorithm. Freshness can be an important factor, particularly if you’re in a niche where your audience is looking for timely content, such as a news site or a fast-moving industry such as video games or cloud services.
But, for most brands, freshness isn’t that big of a deal. What matters more when it comes to SEO best practices is producing quality content that is relevant to your audience.
In fact, for a lot of topics, the evergreen factor is more important than how often you update the content. To leverage content freshness for your website, it’s important to understand what type of search queries might get a ranking lift from freshness and which should be viewed as your evergreen stars.
Fresh or Evergreen – Examples of Each Type of Content
Let’s dive into freshness
Google launched the freshness algorithm update in 2011. One of the key takeaways of this update is the Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) concept. The purpose of QDF is to detect whether a search query is trying to access current information or not.
Here’s an explanation of the QDF algorithm:
For some searches, how fresh the content is does matter. For example, if someone is looking for information on the latest winter storm, this season’s design trends, or timely content in their niche, then freshness factors, such as when the content was published, could impact ranking.
What about your brand – what if it’s not in a fast-paced industry?
You still want fresh content. There will always be SEO events that call for timely or seasonal content. A great example is the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, content producers have been hard at work delving into how the COVID crisis has impacted work, business, and life.
Here’s a video we produced on Weathering the Storm:
A look at evergreen
Evergreen content remains relevant, useful, and helpful over time. If a searcher is researching a topic that won’t change much from one year to the next, they’re probably looking for evergreen content.
Evergreen topics are, for the most part, constant. For example, how to make a pie crust or how to create a content strategy. The same information is relevant year after year.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t update your evergreen posts. These topics may not be time-sensitive, but that doesn’t mean some things don’t change. For example, if there’s a new tool that can help someone make a pie crust – or a content strategy – you may want to include it in your post.
It’s also worthwhile to update content to reflect current SEO best practices and to simply improve the writing. Si Quan Ong from Ahrefs suggests tracking the performance of your evergreen content. If your rankings drop over time, that’s a sure sign your content isn’t as relevant as it could be.
When refreshing evergreen content, replace outdated stats, obsolete processes, or insights, and fix any broken or irrelevant links. You may also want to replace visual content that’s outdated, such as old screenshots or videos.
Another step, especially if you’re noticing your old top performers slipping, is to look at the posts that are ranking well for the same keywords your blog post is focused on. What can you do to make yours better?
How to Leverage Freshness to Help Your Content Rank Higher on Google
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 of updates. Not quantity.
So, what can you do to leverage fresh content for SEO?
- Publish new content, but don’t sacrifice quality for frequency. Posting engaging, helpful, relevant content once or twice a week is far more likely to boost your SEO than posting short, thin posts every day.
- Update old content, but do it with purpose. Don’t change the wording or add a new paragraph simply for the sake of changing things around. Fix broken links or clunky writing, go deeper into the subject, work in insights that add value.
- Stay balanced. Evergreen content forms the backbone of your content strategy, which is why marketers focus on building a large library of timeless content. Timely pieces have their place too. This is where you are writing posts, producing videos, or using other types of content to answer search queries for your audience related to what’s going on in the world or in your niche right now.
- Engage readers. Respond to and encourage comments. Create content that’s worth sharing on social media, and that’s useful enough to attract backlinks from authoritative sites in your industry.
- Track, measure, and refine. Look to underperforming content or blog posts that are losing steam to determine which ones to refresh. When you update and improve the content, pay attention to how your content metrics change as a result. These insights can help you understand what works and what doesn’t for your brand.
- Be consistent. Posting regularly can help to build trust with your audience and establish your reputation as a thought leader. This consistency, in turn, can lead to more high-quality backlinks, more engagement, and higher rankings.
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