ORLANDO, FLORIDA-You’ve built a website with high-quality content that is search-engine friendly, done the on-page optimization and invested the time in a link-building campaign, but your site still isn’t getting the rankings you want.
According to our CEO Ali Husayni, the site may be missing one of the essential parts of ranking well on Google: fresh content.
“There is a strong correlation between frequency of posting and a site’s rank on Google,” Husayni says. “Websites that are doing well will have the original content, on-page SEO and link profiles, but they will also be posting fresh, high-quality content on a regular basis.”
The majority of our site’s traffic each month is generated through the content we post on the blog. If we fall short of our goal for number of posts in a month, we can expect to see a significant decrease in traffic within a week or two as Google begins to place other sites with fresher content on search results.
How Panda Made Fresh Content More Important
Freshness hasn’t always been as big a part of Google’s search algorithm as it is now. Their ultimate goal is to provide their users with the best search results, so they are constantly adjusting the algorithm. The freshness factor was one of those changes and now it is essential to rank well.
“We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want,” says Amit Singhal, who is a senior vice president at Google.
They made 52 changes to the search engine algorithm in April, according to a blog post summary from Matt Cutts, who is part of the search quality team at Google. Three of those specifically related to content freshness and made minor adjustments to promote content that appears to be fresh while excluding what is fresh but low-quality. Last year’s big update named Panda made the biggest difference, though.
Panda was Google’s way of assessing website quality and penalizing low-quality sites using black-hat and gray-hat SEO practices like cloaking, content scraping and keyword stuffing. Panda and its subsequent updates were bad news for black-hat SEO. Cutts said Panda affected about 12 percent of queries to a significant degree, meaning a regular user might notice.
How Google Determines Freshness
Google never reveals the exact algorithm used to rank pages, but Husayni maintains that the key to SEO success in general is a combination of quality content, popularity and relevance.
“Those same characteristics-the ones that drive the most traffic to a website on Google, generate the most conversions and invite the best engagement from users-are just as important in determining freshness,” he says.
But just because content is freshly published doesn’t guarantee it is going to be on the first page of a Google search results page. Clearly Google will look at more than just a time stamp or they didn’t solve any spam problems at all. Businesses should keep time stamps and their XML sitemaps up to date, but content still has to be high-quality to make it to the top.
“The best way for small businesses to keep their site fresh-and therefore relevant in Google’s eyes-is with a blog, an excellent way to distribute the high-quality content they created,” Husayni says.
How To Find The Lucky Number
Unfortunately there is no magic number of times a business has to post to stay fresh. It just depends on too many factors for a one-size-fits-all answer, including the competitiveness of their market and their type of business.
“Fast-paced industries like SEO require very frequent updating, but others may be able to post twice a month to stay fresh,” says Husayni.
Figuring out your individual needs can be done by looking at reports in Google Analytics and checking the data for Google+ with Webmaster Tools. You should be able to tell if you are posting often enough if your traffic and rank remain steady. The reports from the analytical tools can also show you what people are responding to the most, based on social media signals like +1′s, Likes and Tweets. This is a quick tutorial on how to find out what pages on your site have been +1′ed. (link to blog post about checking +1 information-not published yet)
If deciphering Analytics’ reports is something you don’t have the time to do or something you want a little training in, you can also schedule a free SEO consultation with our SEO expert, Ali Husayni .
Quality Matters As Much As Quantity
A common objection heard from small businesses is that coming up with high-quality content on a regular basis is too time-consuming, but good content doesn’t have to take a long time. It helps to start with a good understanding of exactly what Google deems high quality content, which we’ve talked about in many of our previous posts. You may be surprised to find that choosing topics for articles and press releases is easier than you think. These posts not only fulfill the freshness component they also give you an opportunity to optimize anchor text for search engines and build up backlinks to your site that contribute to overall ranking. Just be sure that you’re not hurting rankings by making the most common mistakes in generating site content.