Keeping it Fresh – Google’s “Freshness” Update

Last Thursday Google announced a significant change to their ranking algorithm which aims to return “fresher” and therefore more relevant search results for approximately 35% of search queries.  Following the recent “Caffeine” infrastructure change, which provides a much faster and larger indexation of the web, this freshness update provides more timely and recent results.

Google said:

‘We completed our Caffeine web indexing system last year, which allows us to crawl and index the web for fresh content quickly on an enormous scale. Building upon the momentum from Caffeine, today we’re making a significant improvement to our ranking algorithm that impacts roughly 35 percent of searches and better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness’.

Which types of searches will be affected?

Google giving prominence to “fresh” content is nothing new. QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) is an algorithmic component which promotes newsworthy, topical content for queries requiring frequent updates, such as breaking news and hot topics. Previously impacting just 17.5% of search queries, this has essentially doubled, with fresh content now getting rewarded more than ever.

As different searches have different “freshness” needs, this algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these types of searches and the level of freshness required. These include:

  • Current Events, News & Hot Topics – For events, breaking news or hot topics, you want to find the latest information immediately. This change will return high-quality, real-time content which may be just minutes or seconds old. Major brands, celebrities and a variety of news sites have already been rewarded with greater search visibility.
  • Reoccurring Events – For events which take place on a regularly recurring basis, such as annual conferences, federal elections, company earnings or the Olympics, this change will ensure you see the latest information ahead of content from previous years.
  • Frequent Updates – For information which changes often, such as the best SLR camera, Mazda car reviews, the cheapest flights to NZ, or other ecommerce/ transactional queries, this change will ensure results are accurate and up to date.

For example, a search for “earthquake” in the US now returns relevant content about the latest earthquake in Oklahoma, just a few hours old:


Evergreen content, which includes historical or long-lifespan content requiring no or few updates, will not be affected by this change.

While this change is yet to be rolled out internationally, a number of key actions have been identified for your organic search campaigns:

  • Identify relevant industry-specific keywords which may require “freshness” updates
  • Closely monitor rankings and traffic for search terms likely to be affected
  • Incorporate industry-specific “Trends” and “Hot Topics” within your keyword research process
  • Regularly update content to keep it fresh
  • Include news, articles, blogs, videos and reviews as part of your overall content strategy
  • Use RSS Feeds to promote content, there is a strong correlation between “freshness” links and RSS
  • Include timestamps within XML sitemaps
  • Implement time tags if using HTML5
  • Encourage social sharing, it is believed social engagement may influence which content is displayed.

If you focus on addressing these areas, when it comes time to being rewarded, chances are you will be up for it.

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