How Content Freshness Affects Search Engine Results

One of the main intended outcomes of using SEO, is to get pages ranked in the main search engines. In order to achieve this a thorough understanding of how Google as the largest search engine, operates is an obvious advantage.

image website traffic

“Website Traffic” by hywards (

However that information is not always easy to find, especially since Google uses over 200 factors in its latest search engine algorithm.

This article focuses specifically on one factor that is known to influence page ranking and google search engine findings, and that is content freshness.


The Importance of Fresh Content

One of the factors that Google considers is the freshness of the content, with preference given to fresh content so that older content loses its ranking score over time.

This is not a new factor for search engines, since as far back as 2003 Google has filed patents that highlight the influence of page freshness or document content updates.

In research undertaken by Justin Briggs in 2011, he explained how the amount of content updated was also important to ranking.

Blogs sites often have a roll that is updated each time a new post is published, which means that this page is constantly updated and therefore very fresh. However the amount of change is relatively small since it is often just an excerpt.

This compares to pages where large sections of material or content are updated, which would then be allocated more freshness points. All of these factors built upon the new indexing system that Google introduced called Caffeine.

Google and Caffeine

The freshness factor is not new to Google and really became of interest back in 2010, with the introduction of a major overhaul to their indexing system called Caffeine.

As you can see from the diagram below the old system was very linear and took time to trawl through all the web pages and catalogue them. With the new system it is more dynamic and is constantly being updated from various sources including images, blogs and social media.

image Google Caffeine indexing system

Google changed its approach to indexing in 2010 with the introduction to Caffeine

The main focus was to provide fresh results quicker, so that information is always up to date for searchers. This can now be done as not all parts of the web need to be updated at the same time.


Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) Keywords.

Some content is affected by freshness more than others and these are often referred to as Query Deserves Freshness or QDF keywords.

QDF keywords are words or search phrases that have a short timespan, or relate to events that change regularly such as football results or celebrity marriages.

These searchers will be looking for the most up to date content and search engines will be looking for the most recent posts and to give priority to really fresh content.


Links and Page Freshness

As well as content, Google can also see the dates that links from other websites were added.

This is another indication of whether the content is still relevant and therefore fresh, or whether the links are old and the content is considered stale.

This is where the value of backlinks is also important because links from stale websites will also affect your freshness ranking score. Whereas links from updated authoritative sites will increase your ranking potential.


Changing Anchor Text and Impact on Ranking

Anchor text is used by Google to understand what a website is about.

If the anchor text changes significantly within a website e.g.the website started with anchor text on interior design and over time the links become anchor text on astronomy. Then Google might decide the website has now changed topic completely and will remove all the old interior design text links from the ranking.


Does Changing the Date Written Affect SEO and Ranking?

Sometimes bloggers will update the date written section of the page, in order to try and alter the freshness value of the page.

image hand pushing click

“Hand Pushing” by two bee (

However content freshness starts with the date that the page was first crawled by the search engine. Therefore just changing the date written will not affect SEO and freshness ranking.

It might affect click through rate (CTR), if people are searching for recent responses, since not all blog themes show the last time the post was amended or updated.


Do Website Comments Affect Freshness?

Any update to your site content can count as adding fresh content, so website comments are a valuable resource.

Engagement is an indicator of people finding your site relevant, as well as an opportunity to update your site. It is also a chance for you to add more internal site links and provide additional content material.


Using Social Media Content and the News Sites to Monitor Freshness

The other interesting factor that Justin’s paper mentioned was that the search engines also analyse social media sites for emerging and trending topics.

image social media

“Social Media Shows World Wide Web And Blogging” by Stuart Miles (

The so called micro blogs such as Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn are also assessed and analysed before decisions are made as to where their results will fit into the main url rankings.

In a Moz interview after the freshness update in 2011, they referred to the figure Google mentioned of 35% of search queries being affected by the latest update, with a stronger focus on recent posts and content.

This doesn’t mean that only new content will rank.  Older topics may also become temporarily recent, such as after the death of an actor or singer, which will often see an increased interest in their previous works.

Fresh Content Implications for SEO & Content Writers

Most of the changes in relation to freshness were developed a number of years ago, but they set the path that Google would continue to develop.

Modern algorithm updates such as Hummingbird have all been designed to enhance readers’ experiences and ensure that the content returned in search queries is relevant.

Freshness still has a key role to play in ensuring that readers access the most up to date and relevant material available on a  topic. For a content writer there are a number of implications to consider.

  • review older content on blog sites and update outdated material
  • continue to promote older posts on social media
  • website comments are another form of updating content
  • ensure consistency across your website topic so that anchor text doesn’t lose value

Further Reading

The following posts might also be of interest for further reading on Google and ranking.

If you have any further comments on freshness and ranking please feel free to share in the section below, and as always please feel free to share this article on social media, thanks.

2 thoughts on “How Content Freshness Affects Search Engine Results

  1. Sami

    The topic of SEO is almost hypnotic for all new website builders! Any and all help is appreciated.

    I did like your explanation of the way Caffeine works. I have been reluctant to get involved with the social media! Your information made me rethink this mindset, as I understood more the way it works to help our efforts.

    Learning to work online is an ongoing effort, and any help is definitely good.

    Thank you for the definition of how caffeine works, and how It would help me as well

    1. Marie

      Hi Sami thanks for stopping by and commenting, I admit it can be a little overwhelming with all this information. First priority is always to produce good quality content and then worry about everything else.

      Social media is important because it is so huge in other people’s lives and therefore, like Google we have to take notice of what is happening. However as with most things I would pick and choose what works for you and focus your attention on doing some aspects well rather than trying to do everything at once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *