So how many times have you heard the advice 'you just need to keep adding fresh content' for search engine optimization to work? Blog, blog, blog or add at least one article a week or something like that. Is it really necessary?
Only in a very narrow sense so let's get that out the way. Current affairs are where fresh content matters. You'll have seen that when you carry out a search on Google, from time to time, the first few results are news stories. But not every time because not every search term is related to a current newsworthy piece.
That doesn't mean the search term is out of the news. I once set up a Google Alert of news stories that involved bed linen or duvets. I got alerts every day. Who would have thought bed linen and duvets got so much attention. Why? Because they are usually involved in murders - wrapping up bodies and the like. I know, macabre.
But carry out a bed linen or duvet related search and you are not going to see murder stories as the first results. Google understands (through something known as Natural Language Processing) that those articles are not actually about duvets, they just involve duvets.
On the other hand a search involving the name of the President of the United States is always likely to bring up news stories because that person is always in the news.
In this very narrow field freshness is key. Users want the latest news about the POTUS, not a news article from 3 months ago even if that one has more backlinks or was a longer article or was better written in some way.
No, it really doesn't matter. There is plenty of content out there on the web that was produced years ago and ranks much better than something published yesterday, even something really good that was published yesterday. That's a separate issue search engines are working on.
Search engines use plenty of signals that tell them when older content is simply better than newer material. This is especially true because in some cases things don't change. The best way to write some parts of the code which make up a website page haven't changed in years so just because you've written an article about it yesterday is no reason why it should outrank a highly popular forum post from ten years ago.
And some things change slowly. What are the "Ten best Japanese restaurants in New York?" Well the article about that written two years ago on a highly respected website may include some eateries that have closed down but that's still no reason why your "I just started a blog and wrote about it" post should rank higher.
You can stand a chance of ranking better if your article is simply better but we're back then to talking about Natural Language Processing, not freshness.
Fresh content and better rankings is one of those SEO stories that won't go away for a couple of reasons.
Firstly it kind of makes sense on the surface - surely newer content is better because its more likely to be up to date? Right? But I think we've covered that. In most cases newer does not mean better in the eyes of search engines.
Secondly people confuse results with actions. If you create one piece of really good content every week for a year then your visitor numbers are going to go up. If you stop producing content you might notice your visitor numbers start flat lining. This lack of growth isn't because your content is no longer fresh. The content you produced is probably doing just fine. Its because you aren't producing anything new that can rank for some different keywords.
And don't for a minute believe those who tell you the Internet is "full". That there is no new content left to create. 90% of the content on the web is not worth the pixels that display it. There is always room for better content.
If you write 300-500 word articles for a Private Blog Network that's just all stuff that Google would love to put out with the garbage as soon as someone writes something better. And that someone can be you. It can then rank for years if no one can convincingly out do your quality.
If you are outside the news arena there is nothing to suggest search engines care about how fresh your content is. They care about how good it is and how relevant it is. Have you noticed how everyone is adding the current year to their articles at the moment .... even thought they created the content half a decade ago? That's to be relevant to search terms like "Best SEO tips [year]. It makes the seem more relevant but not fresher.
Yes the myth of freshness carried an air of believability but stop and think for a moment. Does it really make sense or is there a different reason why a piece of content ranks so well. Could it just be because its a bloody good bit of content?
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.
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