On November 3, 2011 Google implemented its latest update to the Caffeine algorithm appropriately named The Google Freshness Update.
This update to the search algorithm focuses on rewarding websites that offer fresh content. Not surprisingly news websites did very well, some better than others but we will get to that later.
News sites generally update their content by the day, hour and some by the minute. Celebrity news and gossip sites have also done well by the same reasoning.
There is more to the Update than just freshness, based on results of a SearchMetrics analysis. Brand names like Coke, Hotels.com and Dominos.com also gained in visibility or ranking after the update even though they don’t update their content any more than the average website.
It is possible that recent information on product releases or product reviews may have had something to do with it.
This could also be a form of SEO content strategy going forward (product reviews).
The SearchMetrics analysis is based on keywords and not traffic gain or loss.
The Freshness Update is Google’s first step in developing an algorithm that can differentiate between specific search terms, that require up to date information (or a specific date) and general search terms.
For some webmasters who have relied on link popularity in the past the update could pose a serious problem. They would obviously have to consider changing their SEO strategy to include higher quality, fresh content.
That being said, take advantage of some of the web analytics software on the market to help you find which pages your users like and dislike. The software can keep track of things like number of page views, bounce rate and exit rate.
Another safeguard against deranking is to make sure you have enough content on the page to satisfy your user. Thin content of 200 to 300 words that does not adequately cover a subject is a major no-no in Google’s eyes.
Look at the webpage from the user’s point of view. The Caffeine algorithm is also getting better at picking up duplicate and spun content and nothing will get you barred from Google quicker than plagiarism.
Earlier I mentioned that some news organizations profited from the Freshness Update while others did not.
It seems there is a certain amount of bias in the algorithm that favors membership in Google news. So if you are a news provider joining the network may be prudent. The most unfortunate loser affected by the Google Freshness Update are small businesses. These businesses set up their website for the benefit of their customers but do not update it on a regular basis or have the branding of a large corporation.
However, there are a few things a small business can do in the near term to take advantage of the change. Basically what it boils down to is providing new content and when you upload that content ensure that it is properly dated, preferably beneath the title of the article.
A small business can also create a blog on their website that will be continually updated each time a blog or comment is posted. A forum could also be useful for some small businesses; as well as a question and answer page and setting up a social network. Adding your own social news section is also a viable option for most small businesses and you will receive updated content each time a story is posted.