The Way We Work
December 13, 2011 by Jenna Weiner

Google recently announced one of the most significant changes to its search algorithm since the Panda update earlier this year. This time the key word (no pun intended!) is freshness.

In a recent post on the company blog, Google Fellow Amit Singhal introduced the search update, which will affect 35 percent of searches.

With this change, Google will now assess which types of searches would benefit from the freshest information and will rank results accordingly. For example, if you are looking for a recipe, results that are even several years old might still be useful to you. However, if you are looking for sports scores, breaking or trending news, or an upcoming event, you will be presented with the newest results at the top of the list – without the need to specify a time period in your search query.

Singhal writes, “Given the incredibly fast pace at which information moves in today’s world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, and depending on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old.”

The back end of this change is made possible thanks to last year’s introduction of Caffeine, the web indexing system that allows Google to quickly crawl large amounts of information.

What does this mean for you and your website or blog?

Your content should be three things: fresh, fresh and fresh. The fresher your content, the higher it will likely rank. Not only does this have implications for the frequency of your publishing, but also on the type of content you publish.

For example, if you have something to say about topical, trending issues, frequent publishing will likely give your search presence a good boost. Not sure what the current trending topics are? Google Trends and Trendsmap are great places to start.

Does this mean you have to publish a full blog post every hour? Of course not. Including topical references in your press releases and social media updates can help you fill in some of the gaps.

Important caveat: This does not mean you should publish frequent content on trending topics just for the sake of doing so if you have nothing significant to say. Not only can doing this get you excluded from search results (thanks to the Panda update), but it is unlikely to do you any favors in terms of attracting qualified traffic to your site. If you have nothing valuable to say, it does not matter if you are at the top of search results — your bounce and conversion rates will likely suffer.

That being said, if you do have something valuable to say about a topical, trending issue, say it — and promote it. You can give it even more reach by using the appropriate hashtags and cross-promoting it on different channels (social media, your blog, etc.).

In addition to this freshness update, Google’s Engineering Director Scott Huffman recently introduced 10 new search changes.

Most of them are minor, but two may have an impact on your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy:

  • More comprehensive indexing: This means that long-tail keywords are being given more attention and are more likely to rank for relevant searches.
  • Original content indicators: “New signals” were added to allow Google to determine which is the original page out of a number of similar results. With this in mind, you may want to make an even greater effort to publish unique, original content. Heavily excerpting other sources instead may cause the article or post to get buried under more original results.

Of course, given the extreme secrecy around Google’s full search algorithm, we non-Googlers can only speculate about the implications of any of these changes. What do you think about these updates? Have you adjusted your SEO strategy in any way as a result? Let us know in the comments section below!


Jenna Weiner

Content Marketer

Jenna Weiner is the former content marketing manager at oDesk and was the editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog. With a background in business and technology writing, she specializes in content marketing and strategy, public relations, and branding. Before joining oDesk, Jenna was a writer and editor for Monitor Group’s marketing department (now Monitor Deloitte) and was the Business & Technology Section Editor for Brafton Inc.… read more

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