How to Think About Content Freshness

You’ve probably heard it … content is king. Actually, it’s not. It’s Caesar. It’s overlord. In other words, content is pretty doggoned important. If you have a business, especially with an online presence, quality content that remains relevant and valuable to consumers is a marketing tool that continues to grow in influence. Pertinent content that keeps your page as high up in search engine rankings as possible is an integral, even critical, part of promoting your business. If you already know that, then you probably also know that content freshness is important. But how important is it to keep your content fresh, and what kind of a role does freshness play in your pages’ rankings? The answer might surprise you.

Content everywhere

There are so many different types of content, to discuss them all would take a hundred pages. In fact, depending on where you go for your information, the term ‘content type’ means different things to different people, with some of them even being interchangeable or showing up within subcategories of each other. The most common types of content are blogs and articles.

Blogs

Blogs make up a huge part of the content on the internet these days. Blogs vary greatly in style, depending on purpose. Many people don’t know it, but the term ‘blog’ is short for ‘web-log,’ which is an online journal. Blogs started to become popular back in the 1990s, and are more popular than ever. In the past, blogs were typically written by an individual and covered a single subject. However, today blogs are used by small businesses, large corporations, think tanks, colleges and universities, advocacy groups, and more. Today’s blogs are often written by more than one author, often many authors, who create content that can be informative in nature. It can also be more of a discussion, or even for entertainment purposes. Blogs are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent post appearing on the top of the page. Blog posts can vary in length, from long messages to brief updates. There are no rules about writing blog content, and this is one of the reasons these are so popular. Many people use blogs to write about their personal feelings, beliefs, or complaints. Blogs can be informative or expressive, and they often are used to persuade. Twitter is often referred to as a ‘micro-blog,’ because it is typically used for personal expression regarding any subject the user chooses to write about, and it is restricted to a very small number of characters. Keeping blogs fresh is often very important because the audience that follows a blog typically likes to see new posts on a routine basis. For a blog, staying fresh isn’t as important for search engine rankings as it can be for its readers. But, as with all content, relevance can be key to keeping a blog at the top of search engines.

Articles

Articles represent another very large part of content. Articles typically contain content that is written for informative purposes. Articles can be written regarding a myriad of subjects, including current events and news topics, lifestyle, cooking, gardening, pop culture, and entertainment. Articles are sometimes written with the goal of answering relevant questions, often regarding pertinent topics of the day. These often will be found written in a ‘how-to’ style, or even a ‘top 10’ format. Additionally, articles are generally easy to read, from 300 to 800 words, and are written to be short and to the point. Freshness can be important for articles, as they often are written with a relevant topic in mind. However, some articles are ‘evergreen,’ meaning their content never really goes out of date.

The importance of being fresh

So, just how important is freshness to search engines, anyway? Matt Cutts, head of the Web spam team at Google, says freshness doesn’t necessarily equal higher rankings. Most searches users perform are for one of three purposes: navigational, informational, or transactional, meaning they are looking for a company, a how-to, or they’re shopping for a product. Freshness often has to do with ‘QDF,’ referring to a query that deserves freshness. And that, apparently, is the key … does this query deserve freshness? Is freshness necessary? If the content concerns topics of the day, then, yes, freshness is required. However, not all content needs to be updated on a regular basis. Some content is long-term, or ‘evergreen,’ meaning the content is informational or referential in nature. Evergreen content never really goes out of date. It’s content regarding material that can be used over and over, and the quality of evergreen content is very important. For this type of content, freshness isn’t really a factor, since it doesn’t have to change.

According to Cutts, Google uses 200 questions or signals in deciding page rankings, and freshness is only one of them. Often the type of content is what dictates its need for freshness. For this reason, frequently updating content does not necessarily mean freshness or give it a higher ranking. In fact, simply changing a few words here and there or changing a byline date does not fresh content make. Cutts adds that web pages that were good yesterday are often still good today. Web owners can often miss out on other factors that go into search engine rankings if they’re too concerned with freshness.

If content is king, then freshness is really only one of his subjects, employed to help content when it needs it and when the time is right. SEO experts recommend employing as many of Google’s 200 factors as possible when creating a website. With the many factors search engines like Google use to determine page rankings, constantly worrying about freshness really isn’t necessary. As long as your content is valuable to consumers and contains the quality your website and your customers deserve, your page rankings won’t suffer.

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