Experts Blog

What Google’s New “Freshness Update” Means to You!

By Casey Markee on Nov 11, 2011 - 02:01 PM

On November 3 Google announced the introduction of a new update to their Caffeine web indexing system that was originally pushed out in June 2010. This most recent update, affecting roughly 35% of searches, has become known as the Freshness Update due to its stated goal of delivering fresher, more recent search results.

In short, the goal of the update was to rank NEWER content HIGHER in the search results for most queries. To see this in action, just visit these sample results in Google for the queries NBA lock-out, Wall Street, Penn State scandal, football, and Black Friday 2011.

What you'll notice is how the top-served content results are time stamped and annotated more visually than previously. Some results show these annotations in days, while others are in hours and even minutes (8 minutes ago). The takeaway here is that more date-specific content is being served now than ever before.


Currently, a vast majority of this real-time "fresh" content is tied to the following content areas: breaking news, hot topics (tech, gadgets, etc.), current events, celebrity gossip, video media, sports updates, and customer/product reviews. To see a nice breakdown of winner and losers of the recent update check out this great article from TechCrunch.

We plan to cover the Freshness Update in more detail in our upcoming December issue. However, for those of you who are gearing up for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season we thought it best to give you some actionable advice NOW to best optimize for the new changes.

To that end, here are several strategies we recommend you implement to evergreen your content and increase your chances of a freshness boost both for your own sites and those of your clients:

  • 1. Get a Blog: Google has made it clear that the more timely your content is the better. Publishing regular content on a variety of topics, daily, is the best way to accomplish this "timely" requirement. There is no better mechanism available to do this then through a blog. If you don't have a blog, get one, now! Make sure to review the following Search Engine News (SEN) blogging resources here and here.
  • 2. Use Link Bait: Link bait pieces are something we have covered repeatedly in SEN here, here and here. Well researched, informative, and entertaining pieces of content can and do bring in thousands of visitors, hundreds of social media signals, and dozens of links, everyday. These types of content pieces when published on a blog result in higher rankings and the type of viral impact that Google's new freshness update will eat up!
  • 3. Understand & Leverage Time-Stamps: Go back-up and review the examples of real-time "fresh" results. You will notice that ALL of them have time stamps. Meaning that each "freshness" result shows a clear publication date that is pulled by Google directly from the article's content. Time stamping content is a no-brainer and is relatively easy to do in most blogging software suites. Google recommends you use the following dating format: YYYY-MM-DD, or 2011-11-08.
  • 4. Embrace Social Media: There is nothing more "fresh" then a Tweet, Stumble, Facebook status update, or a Google +1. Make sure you are using social media both to "push out" your own blog content and to "pull-in" traffic and social signals to that same content. Remember as well that a community of social users can generate MORE content for you. Meaning there is more (fresh) content on your site for Google to serve algorithmically. Tap your social audience to write up content, promote your current content, or just leave comments. All of these will result in increased Google crawls which up your freshness quotient.
  • 5. Dynamically Update XML Sitemaps: XML sitemaps by default contain time stamps for each crawled URL within the sitemap. Making sure XML timestamps are UPDATED regularly, even hourly, if the content on a page has changed, is now a pretty big deal. If you have a Wordpress blog, this is done automatically for you via the Google XML Sitemaps plug-in (again, get a blog!). But for regular sites, we recommend you install a standalone XML sitemap generator on your server that will update your pages when you do, automatically. We recommend the standalone Unlimited XML Sitemap Generator from
  • 6. Publish more Press Releases: Nothing says "fresh" and "time-stamped" like a press release. We've covered the importance of using press releases previously in our detailed report titled A Pro's Guide to Optimizing Press Releases for Today's Online Markets. But now, in a post-Google "freshness" world, press releases just may be the BEST and FASTEST way to feed the engine a steady stream of the type of frequent content they now appear to be rewarding. A press release however is probably only going to be "fresh" for a couple of days, a week at tops. So consider publishing NEW releases as updates of previous ones that provide more detailed information where possible. This will continually push forward your goal to generate "fresh" content that Google can serve on your behalf.
  • 7. Get into Google News: This is our last suggestion because it's usually extremely difficult for single author/blogger operations to get into Google News. Nevertheless, getting into Google News greatly influences how/if your content will find its way to the top of these new "freshness" results. Make sure to consult our recent article titled How to Leverage Google News to Get Tons of Free Traffic to your Site which provides you all the info you need to increase your odds of getting included.

Google has stated that one of the more important "freshness factors" that affect which content they serve is WHEN they first crawled the page. Meaning, you can't just publish a piece of content, then make changes to that content later, in the hopes you get a freshness boost. In other words, get your content right the first time.

It's worth noting that freshness doesn't necessary equate to most relevant in terms of returned search results. This is a distinction that we absolutely believe is going to cause problems in the immediate future for Google (and users). Stay tuned!Planet Ocean article end