By 7 years ago in SEO

Fresh Content: Myth or Magic?

The phrase “search engines love fresh content” is used hundreds of times every week by people answering beginners questions on SEO forums. Can you really get higher rankings just by adding new content to your static site?

I’ve always hated the phrase “fresh content” because it adds to the misinformation that people who claim to be “SEO’s” use when trying to educate other webmasters about SEO. Visit the popular forums and the four main pieces of advice handed out are “content is king”, “submit your site to directories”, “exchange links with relevant sites” and “add fresh content”. Thanks to this advice the web is full of sites that syndicate duplicate content from article directories just for the sake of publishing something “fresh”.

Ironically this low quality content is probably doing more harm than good.

Crawl Rate

Websites with content that changes frequently (such as news sites & blogs) often see increased spider activity as Google tries to make sure all the latest stories are indexed quickly. One of the factors Google uses to determine the best rate to crawl a website is the frequency the content on the site is changed. As a general rule if you alter the content on your site more often you should see Googlebot visiting on a more regular basis.

In a patent dating back to 2003 (granted in December 2007) Google entitled Anchor tag indexing in a web crawler system (analysis) Google explains how they could place urls in a series of crawl layers to determine how often the page needed to be crawled. For example news.bbc.co.uk would be in the “real time” crawl layer to be crawled almost continually whereas an average blog homepage might be in the “daily” crawl layer to be visited once per day.

The crawl layers could be altered daily by computing a score based on the documents PageRank and frequency of change. Pages with an abnormally high or low daily score might then be moved up or down a crawl layer.

daily score=[page rank].sup.2*URL change frequency

Topical traffic

Rapid spidering and indexing combined with the fact that blogs and news sites often write about topical content means new articles often appear to receive a rankings boost. If the article is about a subject that lots of people are either blogging about or searching for Google uses elements of the Query Deserves Freshness algorithm and thinks “Hey, this search query suddenly has a lot of interest, let’s rank some new pages higher to make sure our users find the most relevant and up to date information”.

Hence new content is given a boost but usually only if it is determined to be topical.

Normal traffic

Adding fresh content to an otherwise static site just for the sake of it is a mistake, especially if the content isn’t original and useful. For example if you have a 5 page brochure site there is no point adding pages of articles just to get a fresh content boost, it won’t work. What you should be doing is adding high quality articles containing topical content to benefit your readers.

Links

One of the main reasons websites with often changing content see a boost in rankings is nothing to do with the fact Google likes fresh content – the reason is purely down to links. Sites with topical or useful content attract links in far greater numbers than a 5 page static brochure site and will receive boost in rankings because of it.

Page architecture

The way most news sites, blogs and CMS systems are built means that new content is passed maximum PageRank right at the moment it’s published. Blogs list the latest post right at the top of the homepage and then allow it to move further and further down over time until finally it reaches the archive pages. Other links such as RSS syndicators and some forums that display your latest post all add up to an initial burst of PR followed by a natural reduction.

The way the PageRank of a document degrades over time causes a natural decrease in rankings, unless the page receives external links in which case the rankings may remain static.

Conclusions

  • Repeated publishing of new content is likely to increase the frequency that Google spiders your website
  • The act of publishing fresh content doesn’t automatically give you a rankings boost
  • Topical content does normally get a temporary boost in rankings
  • Never use content from an article directory just to gain a fresh content boost
By Patrick Altoft. at 11:36PM on Tuesday, 15 Jan 2008

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events. Follow Patrick Altoft on Twitter.

comments

14 Responses to “Fresh Content: Myth or Magic?”

  1. Sucker says:

    My main reason for fresh content is this:

    Say I have a site about LCD TVs and good rankings for Sony LCD TV and Panasonic LCD TV, but I don’t have a page about a new brand, Futuronamo LCD TV. I’ll add “fresh content” about Futuronamo and hope for better rankings for that term.

    So it can be useful in one way or another, even if it’s not what you expected. :)

  2. Mike says:

    I agree that you should never add content just to have new content.

    At the same time, I had a couple blogs that I hadn’t written anything on in months. I added a post or two to each of them in the last couple weeks and went from getting no search engine traffic to getting a handful of hits a day. The odd thing is all of the search traffic has been for the old posts.

  3. Osman says:

    Yet another excellent post Patrick!!

    I’ve worked on finance/real estate sites in the past and I have suggested ‘fresh content’, to support the ranking of ‘product pages’, ‘site stickiness’, internal linking, create RSS feeds and to drive traffic on non-optimised search phrases, and I have to say this has help the cause somewhat. Don’t forget this generates repeat visits depending on the article.

    Obviously you need to generate links, however you can submit these articles (tweak the headline) and you can submit these to social bookmarking sites to drive traffic.

    I too do the same on my own site, and rank 1st page for my core search phrase.

  4. Steve says:

    Great article. I know the big thing is to never use duplicated content that is not a good thing the eyes of Google.

  5. Peter says:

    Well thought out article!
    Fresh content alone definitely won’t bring Googlebot to your site.
    Also I noticed that quality backlinks will bring Googlebot to your site more often even when the site is full of duplicate content.

    btw I maintain a free Google crawl tool at http://www.seometer.com
    Feel free to stop by if you are interested.

  6. Fresh content only gets a boost when it is picked up by for example Digg or StumbleUpon.

  7. Joy says:

    THanks for the tips Patrick..I will surely keep them in mind always..^^

  8. Matt Ridout says:

    Nice post!

    The quality of the content makes all the difference, having something worthwhile and linkable which is maybe posted once a week would benefit the sites rankings a lot more than having updated content that no-one wants to link to.

  9. Pete says:

    Nice article… You made me realise that what we (as SEOs) mean when we say ‘add fresh content’ and what a client may interpret is often two very different things…

    This type of post is really important when it comes to clarifying details like this.

    And that gives me some inspiration for a post of my own :)

    Thanks

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  12. jan says:

    Fresh content does get you indexed more often but also you must have links from frequently spidered websites.

  13. [...] Content: Myth or Magic?UK based website Blogstorm believes that certain kinds of fresh content can actually damage your SERP’s. In particular, they suggest that you don’t post new content just to have new content. Low [...]

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