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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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