Search Engine Optimisation

Content Freshness: What Is It?

Will publishing new content on a constant basis help you rank better?

Will publishing new pieces of content on a regular basis or updating old blog posts help you rank better in organic search results?

Yes, but not just by changing the date or frequency or just by having new content up that doesn’t make sense.

Google is very much aware of these types of “hacks”.

What Is Content Freshness?

The last major algorithm update that highlighted content freshness was in 2017. This was a game-changing update that introduced time as a relevance indicator. This was done to make search results more relevant to a user’s intent. This allowed Google to display trending, frequently updated or entirely new content preferentially to content that hadn’t changed in years.

This doesn’t mean that Google will always favour new content over the old content. It’s all about the relevance of your search queries. This notion lead to many “hacks” being used that just didn’t work. Like updating a publication date and doing nothing else to the content for example.

Freshness Versus Frequency

A fundamental misunderstanding is a difference between frequency and freshness. Frequency is how often you publish content and freshness is the date that content was originally published.

Posting content frequency will help your site get crawled more often as search engines want to see what has changed. This doesn’t mean that your will rank better, it means that it will be indexed faster.

Frequency is not a ranking factor but freshness is. This was confirmed by John Mueller in this tweet. Posting frequency is not something Google cares about but they do care about how up-to-date your content is.

How Does Google Determine Publication Date?

Google looks at many factors which include, but not limited to, the date your article says it was published. They also look at your structure markup but they rely on multiple factors as all of these things can be manipulated or potentially not work properly.

What if a publisher doesn’t provide a clear date?

Or, what if the structured data on the page is missing or incorrect?

Google says that they will only deem a piece to be updated if they that it has been “substantially changed”

Google Guidelines for publication date
Screenshot from Google Guidelines, June 2022

Basically, they want the content to have large changes in information or another compelling reason to see that content as “fresh”.

Does The Publishing Date Matter?

The short answer is yes, Google will preferentially publish newer content unless there is a more relevant piece of content out there. You will often see older content outranking newer content. If you have a proper look, you will notice that the older piece is normally much longer, more informative and more relevant to your search. The recency of an article matters but not as much as its relevance to the search.

One more thing to mention is that Google will give certain topics heavier weightings when it comes to their freshness. Let’s have a look.

What Type Of Search Queries Does Freshness Apply To?

Certain terms will tell Google if you are looking for something new or not. As an example, if you search for “how to make a desk”, the recency of this information shouldn’t matter as much. If you made a desk in 2012, it’s going to be the same thing in 2022. Here you will see older content.

If you had to search for something like “how to make the best desk” then you are telling Google that you want the most up-to-date version of a desk, you want to see the latest content around this. Here you will see the newest information.

So What Does This All Mean?

If Google doesn’t look at the frequency or any changes to publication dates then should you stop updating articles? Definitely not…

Keep your content up to date, keep your users in mind and keep your content quality as high as possible. If something has changed since you wrote that content then update it. This will show Google that your content is relevant. Make the edits visible so that readers can see its new content. Always keep your users happy as this is what search engines really want at the end of the day.

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Content plays a pivotal role in SEO. If you’d like to learn more about how content affects SEO or any of our other marketing services, then please contact us!

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