An SEO maxim is “Fresh content means higher search engine rankings”, but is this really true?
Certainly generating fresh content is a great idea from the perspective of attracting and informing human visitors, but do search engines (and realistically we mean Google) give higher weight to new content compared to old?
The straight answer is that there are numerous benefits from ensuring your web site continues to have updated, relevant and fresh content. Human readers like fresh content, but search engines love it provided it is optimized, original and relevant. In fact, top search engine rankings without new content is a practical impossibility which shows just how important fresh content really is.
SEO Strategies Rely on New, Optimized and Relevant Content to Work
SEO practitioners are working with relative values and not absolutes.
By this we mean SEO practitioners will do things such as compare the client site to other related, top-performing sights and compare client performance with their performance. A typical SEO strategy will seek to replicate and improve on what the top performers are doing, while simultaneously taking a view on which of their SEO techniques are delivering improvements and focus more effort there.
SEO is reiterative i.e. try a strategy, assess the results, amend the strategy, try again and repeat and repeat and repeat…
Fresh content needs to be used to ascertain what works for a client website and what doesn’t, and in this respect SEO is more akin to an art than a science.
Frequently, clients ask the question, “Why is this so vague – why can’t you just dump content on the web site and get high rankings?” – and the answer is concerned with how fresh content interacts with the large number of other factors which go to determine search engine rankings.
When you use fresh content, you need to understand how it works with other search engine factors such as back links, keywords and phrases and the relevancy of the content to your search engine ranking objectives. To understand this in practice, just imagine what uploading a bunch of content dealing with Ford Mustang Shelby’s will have on a website which is looking for high rankings for heart surgery! If the client site is looking for a high rank for heart surgery, adding fresh content which is not relevant to this objective will serve to dilute the website and risk lowering the search engine rankings!
What is important is that any content should be optimized for both search engines and human traffic. This requires good copy skills but, we are focusing on the search engine view here and not catering to people issues.
Relevant Content and Optimization
Optimization of content requires careful consideration of the following factors and others:
- On page SEO, e.g. optimizing headers and tags, making the site easy to crawl by web spiders;
- Keyword research and density; and
- Interaction with human users and other sites, e.g. link building, encouraging comments.
Relevancy heads the list and it is vital!
We can say that search engines are trying to allocate extra weight to content which is relevant to the search being conducted.
Relevant content gains high ranking no matter whether it is old or new. As time passes, the probability is that old content will become obsolete, but revisiting the page and performing a review to establish whether it ought to be refreshed or left alone should be the first step. Note the word “review” – old content is not bad for search engine rankings unless it has lost its relevancy; making old content more relevant can contribute to higher ranking, but simply removing or altering content can result in a drop in ranking.
The crucial issue is optimizing content in terms of “relevancy”, not simply optimizing based on whether the content is new or old.
Why Bother with Fresh Content at All?
Well Google and other search engines do give weight to fresh content; we simply don’t know how much weight is allocated, but “new” can be perceived to be more relevant because it will be closer to reality at this moment in time. New content will become old content though, and the perception is it will lose some of its relaevancy.
Note: we are not saying adding new content of itself will increase rankings!
What this means is you can perform a huge optimization project on your site and max the SEO benefits out, but if you then do nothing further, the SEO benefit you achieve will be eroded by time. Think of SEO as a shark which has to keep swimming to avoid drowning – the shark can never stop and neither can the SEO process.
This is why adding fresh, but relevant, content is crucial – try adding new content which has nothing to do with your keywords or subject matter and see what that does to your rankings!
Adding new content will provide some desirable benefits, but to optimize the impact it must still be relevant:
- Increases the interaction with human traffic and makes your site more interesting to surfers;
- Can help increase the number of inbound links to the website; and
- Encourages search engine spiders to crawl your site more often.
Fresh content will attract human readers and search engines like it too, however it has to be used properly within your SEO strategy. New content must be relevant and optimized to gain the maximum impact on your search engine rankings while simply adding fresh content by itself can damage the rankings you currently enjoy.