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How Much Does Fresh Content Matter in SEO?

One principle of SEO that is fairly widely accepted and taught by SEOs is the benefits of having frequently updated content.

The idea that Google and other search engines feed on fresh content is one that I’ve heard talked about on many occasions. However it doesn’t always seem to be so. I was just doing a Google search for digital photography and noticed one of Weblogs Inc’s blogs still ranking 3rd for the term – despite having retired 9 months ago and having no fresh content added (although there are continual changes to other elements of the page via it’s footer). The same blog ranks 3rd in Yahoo.

I guess it goes to show that frequently updated content isn’t quite as important a factor as other elements of SEO (particularly all the other WIN properties linking to it).

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I don’t think that freshness of content weighs in that much compared to visitors and page popularity. I would think that Google ranks “Freshness” not only by creation date, but also by how actively the page is accessed – a news article about the iPhone won’t be accessed as much nowadays as it was in January.

    I would find it much more intruiging to know whether post frequency plays a role with Google, as they are aware of blogs and are indexing them seperately, or distinguishedly.

    On my blog I’m still experimenting with the post frequency, as I am usually afraid that content will just “sink away” if it’s overcapped by fresher content.

  2. While I’m not sure how much fresh content helps on homepages, it surely helps on sub-pages. By adding content to a site, there are more keywords, more titles, and more indexed content that google can display to users.

  3. JuliaxXx says:

    Time migh have some things to do on certain stuff like “news” but if you are doing digital photography it does not because the content can be old and still valid. Do you know what I mean ?

    I will write more about it on my site so if you happen to read it please leave a comment ok ?

    http://www.bontb.com

  4. JuliaxXx says:

    And Just to add to my post , you know that time can be faked so therefore your “freshness” of post cant be taken serious as your other stuff.

    Let me give you an example !

    My site just got blown away by hosting company, they did not have a backup for full week !! thats about 50 posts !!!!!! ( i hate it ) anyways all the 50 posts have been picked up by google, now they are cached, but ! what i did i took the texts and re-add them, so their dates are as of today not as May 8th :)
    Do you know what i Mean ?

  5. John Bokma says:

    Hi Darren,

    That’s quite a bold statement based on looking at a website.

    Anyway, my experience is that pages you update frequently are fetched more often by Googlebot. And that doesn’t sound illogical. Hence if you stop updating the index page of your website Googlebot might eventually slow down, but not to a halt.

    Position of your page on a SERP has of course nothing to do with it. But if you want to have new pages added fast to Google it’s in my opinion good to link to those new pages from pages you update frequently.

    One final note: this is based on several observations I did some time ago. Currently I don’t follow the whole Google thing close because most of the pages I write nowadays score quite OK without me doing to much effort.

    Anyway, I recommend to release early, release often, and keep important pages fresh.

  6. W.Medina says:

    I still hold to the tried and true. The more visitors you get the more “interest” search engines believe you have – so better ranking they give.
    linking, content,freshness all play thier part – but my money is still on visitors.

  7. Matt McGee says:

    Fresh content doesn’t directly help rankings. Frequently updated content will get the crawler to return to your site more often.

    But it has to be combined with other trust factors (such as links) to create authority, and that’s when your rankings improve. Once you’ve built up a certain level of trust/authority, you can hold on to high rankings without the freshest content. I suspect that’s what’s happening with your example, Darren. And you have enough authority here on ProBlogger that you could shut down tomorrow and still rank well for various terms for a long while.

    In theory, since that blog you mentioned is no longer active, it’ll stop acquiring new inbound links, which would open the door for another blog, with fresher content and more link growth, to eventually take its place in the SERPs.

  8. Katie Baird says:

    A respected colleague of mine consistently ranks as the #1 blog in the industry I work in, and yet she had added no new content since October. (After reading this post, I headed over there and did note that her next post since October was dated April 25, 2007). Her Google toolbar page rank is a 3, yet she is at the top of the heap every time you google the industry title, out of more than 1, 300,000 results.

    I think I read awhile back that once you reach the top, it’s your spot to lose, and it’s not easy to lose that rank once you have attained it. With so many clicks on your site once you attain that position, it seems as though you have that spot for life!

  9. Incase of Blogs, Google gives more preference to frequently updated blogs especially incase of small. This is my experience.

  10. Chaz says:

    Boy this is a tough one.

    I have one website that I haven’t update since late 2004. I make more in Google AdSense now than I ever have before. Google still crawls it with the same frequency it appears and MSN pounds it like it had a million pages but it doesn’t. I think it had 8. It is a simple how-to style site.

    I launched a community site about 2 months ago now and noticed someone else launched a week before me on the same theme. Theirs is a WP site and has exactly 1 page of content. They rank above me in Google! I have more content, more instances of keywords and more backlinks. They have no backlinks I can find.

    Search engines can be mysterious but certainly freshness may not play the part that SEO tells us. That sells out conferences but it isn’t selling advertising.

  11. Gavin says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I used to own a very large bodybuilding forum that used to update daily and we had top 2 in the world for the keyword “bodybuilding forum” long after the forum was shut down.

    I think i had something to do with the fact that we were in the top 2 position for a long time due to regular search engine submissions and a large number of websites linking to us.

    Also i think it takes google a long time to re-index

  12. Jeremy says:

    HI Darren, I just realized I put in the wrong website for this comment (the site is thehousingbubbleguide.com, not blog.com), can you delete the above comment which is in moderation and approve this one instead? If not, next time I will have to sit and wait to be approved again as well =)

    It’s an interesting question, and one that hit me lately.

    I only have one site thus far with any significant amount of posts (and not the one linked to above), but I let it sit for pretty much five months, seeing that my Google traffic had dropped off the cliff and I was just frustrated with the viability of what I was doing. The Google traffic dropped off due to (I believe) an article with some terms that could be taken in the wrong way out of context.

    Anyway, five months later I noticed that my traffic is as high as it has ever been on that site (not high – like 50-75 visitors a day) over the past two months, and that most of it was coming from Google again.

    Now, you have to realize this is without any fresh incoming links as well.

    I just stopped posting and my traffic picked up. Weird, huh?

  13. The Geek says:

    Good content is much more important than fresh content.

    Of course, good + fresh is even better.

  14. Rhys says:

    I agree with The Geek. I did a quick search for Mahir (internet meme from ages ago) and his site – rather than news articles/wiki pages – still comes top, even though it probably hasn’t been edited in a while.

    Freshness I believe helps getting you onto google in the first place, as Google is expecting blogs etc. to update (I am already 2nd for “North Wales Money” on google), so maybe it works more in that way.

  15. This has actually happened to me several times; I search for relatively simple terms and the top results aren’t necessarily recently updated.

  16. TheAnand says:

    I think i saw sumwer that google ranks pages that r more often clicked than those which have solid content, which means, you need to have that killer title to rank better

  17. Reggie says:

    My teaching children English website ranks top in Google for “teaching children” and “teaching children English” but it hasn’t been significantly updated since 1999, and only contains a few pages. It’s pagerank is currently only 3/10.

    I figure it is because the site was linked to by a number of .edu sites at a time when there wasn’t very much on the Internet.

  18. Ginene says:

    I know that freshness doesn’t always matter. I have come across some work from sites that stays on the top list that have never been updated. They only supply lists of work from home jobs or information on other forums. I guess it depends on what subject you choose or keywords.

  19. Mark E says:

    I manage a number of sites which get between 2000 and 20,000 unique visitors a day. Three of these sites have fresh content added regularly and, with more content, the traffic grows. An example is http://www.life-after-birth.com. As ‘internet marketing blog’ says, it’s because more content = more keywords, pages, etc.

    However, this site, http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com, hasn’t had any fresh content added for about a year – and apart from a couple of weird wobbles when the Google algorhythm changed, traffic has remained constant for about two years.

    So I would say it’s about more content, not new content.

  20. Dave says:

    I’ve always held the belief that fresh content is king, and frequent updates to a site will help its ranking on the various search engines.

    However, one of my sites (not a blog) had a recent 6 month break from updates while I worked out if I wanted to continue running it (yes) and whether it needs a redesign (definitley yes) and while I concentrated on a few other projects. During this 6 month break, traffic from search engines hardly dropped and earnings stayed pretty static. This turned my SEO logic on its head slightly, so I’ve been playing around with posting frequency on other sites to see what the effects are. Jury is still out froma blog perspective, but I’m probably going to update my ‘static’ site less frequently than I was 12 months ago, as it seems to have had little effect after 6 months off.

  21. Jon Symons says:

    Matt is correct, it matters in combination with other trust factors. I have a site that is obviously “on the fence” trust-wise with Google. Every time I add new content 3 to 7 days later the traffic from Google referrals multiplies by 10 (my rankings for many terms goes from the 4th to the 1st page of the SERPs.)
    If I don’t add content, it will stay “on” for about 5 to 7 days then go right back down. My traffic graph on this site looks like a row of buildings; each one having a vacant lot beside it :)
    The WIN blog will eventually have the same thing happen to it…it was after about 8 months of not adding content that my site dropped for the first time.

  22. Chaz says:

    Relevant + old is the key to some of these results.

    Google’s patent application for their search engine algorithm is heavily weighted on age.

    That probably explains why my older site that has never been updated is doing better now. That coupled with more people finding and linking.

    I guess age is one way to weed out made-for-adsense and spam sites.

  23. Fred says:

    when i first started blogging, i used to bark at those successful bloggers near their door on how to get to the top of search engine … most said concentrate on your content – it will take you up there automatically … and so i blog and blog with 3 – 4 fresh posts daily without fail … i managed to get PR4 but the organic traffic seems not to be coming at all …

    when the PR review came recently, my PR remains and organic traffic still sucks … so i can conclude that you can blog and create fresh unique contents till your head comes off but it won’t help your blog much …

    you need to do more promotion (sincere of course) of your blogs by socializing and spend more time socializing to get back-links … if your traffic majority comes from google, you have to satisfy google’s terms and conditions – that is to be mr perfect or ms universe … such is the fact of seo … well i might be wrong …

  24. I think it’s hard to nudge out the oldies who have high page ranks and still get lots inbound links. Fresh content matters, it’s just an uphill battle.

  25. John Bokma says:

    Just read fast through several comments. Some people mentioned that their old site from the last century still does well despite it not having any fresh content.

    There are two things: first the frequency Googlebot visits. My personal experience is that there is some relation between this frequency and the update frequency. Which does sound logical. A page that stays the same for 10 months doesn’t need a daily visit of Googlebot. My experience is that if a page is updated often Googlebot comes more often. This is not the only variable that’s used in the frequency calculation as far as I know, but, again as far as I know, it plays a role.

    Second: ranking. The ranking algorithm is not something with just a few variables. I once read at Google’s site that they use about 100 variables. This means that it’s simply impossible to see in the ranking on SERPs the effect of update frequency because it’s impossible to discover all the other ingredients of other sites that play an important role. You just can’t fix all the variables of all the other players but one and compare. That’s also the reason why someone with just PR3 can show up above someone with PR7. Not because PageRank doesn’t work anymore, or is broke. But because people forget about the rest or guess the rest wrong at best. Of course this is hard by design.

    The old site plays well because its domain is old, it has inbound links that have been there for quite some time etc. It has a reputation that has been stable for quite some time.

    To answer the question raised in this article by Darren, based on my observations I say yes. Getting new content / new pages into search engines fast is important. If a page that’s updated frequently is visited more often by Googlebot links on this page are followed sooner. And to me that’s part of SEO: getting new pages in Google soon.

  26. It seems like fresh content is important for SEO only in the first months of blogging. After you create a well volumed archive of posts, you will certainly get some amount of visitors from SEs (it all depends on SEO of posts, of course).

    I love watching the changes in SE ranking of some of my sites, after I tweak a subtitle or some keywords in the text. Of course that is not something that can be done in blog posts (please, correct me if I am wrong).

  27. Candida says:

    I find many sites at the top of the first page that no longer exist. You only get to see the page if you click on the “cache” link.

    It’s usually a web hosting advert saying the domain is up for sale, or just a page of links.

    Sometimes I think it’s just luck if your page is listed on the first page.

    Some people will say you need lots of good content on a page, and then you’ll find a page with about 4 lines of text at the number 1 spot. And it will have the keyword it’s listed for on the page only once.

    Older pages probably get listed higher in the rankings, because the people that are updating their web sites/blogs more often are making too many mistakes in the eyes of the search engines.

  28. Assuming fresh content is important (and it seems this is up for debate) what do you think is more important:
    a. Adding new web pages? or
    b. Updating existing web pages?

  29. reog says:

    Fresh or original content does not means always fresh, isn’t it? There are to many modified articles in internet, so does the modified article can call fresh content?

  30. web designer says:

    As I observed and notices, whenever I place any word or sentence on my site to attract customer and provide information, what services I m offering. Search engine crawls fast my website and when I cache on the search it was like last 2 days before my site caches. And if I stops adding or removing content or even changing the titles for the site. It won’t crawls and the position goes down.

  31. I think there is a lot of theory regarding the topic but there’s also a fair amount of luck involved. It’s like the stock market, pretty much everyone speculates and has ‘theories’ as to how it works, but at the end it is not much more than a gamble after you’ve done ‘the basics’.

    My last site (which launched only months ago) indexed very quickly but my newer site (www.APigeonCalledFrank.com) is having some difficulty, despite them both having the same kind of articles.

    Anyway, what do i know, I’m just a pigeon…

  32. Mathieu says:

    Francois du Toit – to answer your question. Id say that you’ll be better of adding new pages and to link them using the url. If what most people said is true, doing so will create valid links to all of your pages and will make googlebot think that a lot of site is linked to yours. Unless they check it somehow.

    I don’t think that when you do a search on google and you click on a site that it will change anything on it’s ranking in google. If it does, would it change the ranking on other search engines as well?

    If clicking does change something, we could make a “clicker program” that would click our site over and over again until it reach number 1. Unless google only counts click from different computers (…)

    How does google knows when our site as been modified?Does he send a little bot on the server to check the modified date of every document before sending the “real thing”?
    Or does the “real thing” check the modified date by itself ?

    It doesn’t take much to change the modified date of a file … I figure that google as someway to verify if the modification is worth mentioning. Maybe that if it’s not worth mentioning that it will lower your ranking instead of raising it.

    I don’t know much about SEO, I’m just trying to find logical explications to what I read :)

  33. Mathieu says:

    “I have one website that I haven’t update since late 2004. I make more in Google AdSense now than I ever have before. ” – Chaz

    AdSense does change the content of your site for you (check the source file). Now I wonder, does that change your modified date as well?

    I did a small program in php that was inserting rss on my site. But that never changed the modified date of my html document … the modification was only made on the client side.

    If AdSense only change the content of your source file, on the client side, and that google still see it as fresh content maybe googlebot doesn’t relly on the Modified Date after all.

  34. Iman says:

    Fresh content is important for SEO. Google and major search engines love fresh content.

  35. Mathieu says:

    Yes I agree.
    I made a new site just to test out how long it would take for google to index it. My site is a blogger, (it’s on the same server than google homepage) and I used the addurl feature to let know googlebot where my site is. It’s been 6 days and still no site in index.

    I was told that google as something called “sandbox” which is a delay from which a site is added to google index. I was told that the delay was 2 to 4 months. One of the reason why I wanted to check this out for myself.

  36. Pam McCall says:

    I am new to this but am wondering since content is so important
    does it need to be original or can it be someone elses. How much weight does each hold?

  37. Awesome. I was just thinking about this. Do i need to add content that auto refreshes to keep the content fresh, or do I just need to use content, while adding more content to other pages. This is very good Information, and useful information.

    Thank-You

  38. Pam McCall says:

    I just got done taking an SEO class and the instructor said i definately needed some more content on both my sites. So I am diving into that this week.

    I am wondering now about in bound links. Do an inbound link from within the site, from one page to another, count as much as from an outside source or not.

  39. I have some old pages that rate in Google just because of their age also. I have gone back and updated the content and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. At least he content is correct now.
    Rick

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