How to use the Google “Query Deserves Freshness” or QDF model to your advantage

The Query Deserves Freshness or QDF algorithm was first discussed by Amit Singhal in a New York Times article about the Google Algorithm in June. During the second half of 2006 Google was trying to figure out a way of showing new content for some “hot” search terms while keeping the more competitive keywords spam free.

The issue came to a head when Google Finance was launched and didn’t rank for its own name.

Freshness, which describes how many recently created or changed pages are included in a search result, is at the center of a constant debate in search: Is it better to provide new information or to display pages that have stood the test of time and are more likely to be of higher quality? Until now, Google has preferred pages old enough to attract others to link to them.

The problem is that Google has to give more weight to older content to keep the quality of the search results high. The solution is a mathematical model that tries to determine when users want new information and when they don’t.

THE QDF solution revolves around determining whether a topic is “hot.” If news sites or blog posts are actively writing about a topic, the model figures that it is one for which users are more likely to want current information. The model also examines Google’s own stream of billions of search queries, which Mr. Singhal believes is an even better monitor of global enthusiasm about a particular subject.

As an example, he points out what happens when cities suffer power failures. “When there is a blackout in New York, the first articles appear in 15 minutes; we get queries in two seconds,” he says.

Mr. Singhal says he tested QDF for a simple application: deciding whether to include a few news headlines among regular results when people do searches for topics with high QDF scores. Although Google already has a different system for including headlines on some search pages, QDF offered more sophisticated results, putting the headlines at the top of the page for some queries, and putting them in the middle or at the bottom for others.

The QDF model takes a number of factors into account, including:

  • Search volume
  • News coverage
  • Blog coverage
  • Toolbar data (maybe)

Google has a patent on the methods they use to gather this data including a sampling technique that allows them to gather statistically accurate data without having to trawl through all the logs for a particular query.

QDF is clearly a very interesting model but what really interests me is how I can use it to drive traffic to my websites. This is where the Hot Topics tool comes in.

As you might have guessed QDF is a great way for newer sites to publish content and leapfrog the Google trust filter for queries that Google thinks are fresh. The key is to post about breaking news stories as soon as possible, hope Google indexes your story quickly and watch the traffic come rolling in. Once your site ranks highly it becomes a self reinforcing authority and is referenced by other people researching the topic.

So, next time you are stuck for something to write about make sure you choose something fresh. Find something people are blogging about and searching for in much greater numbers than last week.

A good example today is the search for “canoeist” which is probably a very low volume term. Today thousands of people are searching for information about the canoeist who went missing 5 years ago and turned up in London at the weekend. The search results are now full of references to this new story. Notice how Google has given higher rankings to stories released within the last 2 days whereas other articles about canoeists from very well trusted sites are down on page 2 and 3.


By Patrick Altoft. at 5:35PM on Monday, 03 Dec 2007

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.


28 Responses to “How to use the Google “Query Deserves Freshness” or QDF model to your advantage”

  1. [...] uses an innovative algorithm called Query Deserves Freshness or QDF to make sure that new pages are given top rankings for queries that see a sudden spike in [...]

  2. [...] technique is to use Googles QDF to your advantage. You can find more information about this here How to use the Google “Query Deserves Freshness” or QDF model to your advantage ——————————————— End of Part [...]

  3. [...] doing their best to deliver relevant content that is fresh (by taking steps such as creating their Query Deserves Freshness model), so far Twitter has proved that once again, human contributions simply cannot be matched by [...]

  4. [...] Another advanced technique is to use Googles QDF to your advantage. You can find more information about this here [...]

  5. [...] all, but it did happen to rank and fall for some reasons. However, according to is not the case: How to use the Google “Query Deserves Freshness” or QDF model to your advantage "As you might have guessed QDF is a great way for newer sites to publish content and leapfrog [...]

  6. [...] place. Possibly they could look at some search terms and decide that the searcher is looking for a fresh result and could turn to a separate set of results using buzz sites like twitter to gather link [...]

  7. [...] is QDF in play. Every time I shoot out a series of posts (which are just essentially product listings) the [...]

  8. [...] Re: Google and popups. I guess your site was in the top results due to the QDF factor which G is known to use for newer sites/content. You can read more about the QDF factor HERE [...]

  9. [...] cases where “query deserves freshness” (QDF) , new links can boost your rankings even for highly competitive terms (for a short period of time, [...]

  10. [...] cases where “query deserves freshness” (QDF) , new links can boost your rankings even for highly competitive terms (for a short period of time, [...]

  11. [...] rank far faster than any other standard website content. This is due to a concept called ‘Query Deserves Freshness‘. To take advantage of this you can blog or keep your general website content fresh (although [...]

  12. very interesting post enjoyed it immensly. Good question about backlink age, any thoughts?

  13. tatil says:

    Thank you for your information I would like to remove my vacation in the word What can I do

  14. [...] decided to promote blog posts in the rankings only from that point. So the first post missed any QDF boost. Jan Moir tweets, according to Trendistic, really went hot at about 9-10am, peaked at noon, and [...]

  15. [...] what does this smean? well its real evidence of integration between search and online media. In QDF searches, we can expect more of this and further expansion of regular search [...]

  16. There are some niches where QDF is obvious e.g. celebrity gossip, sports and so on. While in some other area QDF might not be that important and might be something that needs to be analayzed e.g. plane landing on hudson river, changes the intent of people searching for hudson river. That is where the real challange is.

  17. [...] on lisääntynyt, ja hänen mukaansa tweetit vaikuttavat sijoituksiin ainakin Googlen QDF-algoritmin kautta. Facebookin vaikutus Google-sijoituksiin on hänen mukaansa sen sijaan vähäisempi [...]

  18. Gerben says:

    Hmm, could be one of the reasons we got hit by the MayDay update of google. (rethinking our process).

  19. It's that constant debate between memory and conciousness in SERPs. Ultimately, the end result should weight SERPs toward either depending on the nature of the SERP and the personalized intent of the searcher. At least, that's what I think will be the case… we're all search guinea pigs until then.

  20. Zack says:

    Thanks for the info but what I’m really looking for is specific tactics and strategies that I can use to trigger the QDF… Blogging is one way anyone have any other suggestions?

  21. [...] should use Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) which determines what topics are hot. This helps smaller websites and companies compete and get [...]

  22. Quora says:

    What SEO/SEM tactics to use or avoid now that it’s clear Google / Bing are using Twitter/Facebook mentions to lend weight to search results?…

    Is it “clear that Google / Bing are using Twitter/Facebook mentions” to weight search results – at least in any sort of significant way? I’ve seen a lot of articles about the social influence on search results, but I have yet to see either: 1. Hard …

  23. art says:

    will this influece the “did you mean” query? my client bought a name that sounds very similar to credit reporting agency and we cant seem to influence it..90 % of the listings are ours on the first page..cant see to shake the “did you mean” this one..and feedback?

  24. Gerald says:

    Great post!!!!!

  25. I have been testing this theory with a weekly blog under the same category and it works, every week Google replaces the old blog with the latest news for that subject.

  26. Mike Rugs says:

    Very interesting post. Anything that helps to pick the “almighty google’s brain” is an interesting read in my books. Thanks for this post.

  27. [...] magazine, is essentially a weekly, but the online space works differently – both readers and search engines prefer fresh content, updated daily (if not several times a day). By the looks of it the online [...]

  28. Hassan Raza Khan says:

    Great work :)

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