Google’s early November algorithm update, commonly called Google Fresh, is another step towards Google’s goal of providing the most helpful, relevant search results to users. By focusing on the timeliness of search items, Google is hoping to clear its search results pages of the cobwebs and dust bunnies of years-old content that constantly plagues searchers and frustrates their attempts to find up-to-date information.
Searches for annual events are prime candidates for reform through Google Fresh. Searching for the names of a specific event, such as the annual Mobile Marketing Association Forum, can yield results from years ago, but it’s more likely that a user is attempting to find information on events happening this year or next week. With the initial Fresh rollout, many of these problems began disappearing, but it will take many tweaks and updates before it reaches a level that will satisfy users and the mammoth of Mountain View. Though Fresh should provide a marked improvement in user experience, it will likely have a negative impact on many websites, at least in the short term. If newer, timelier web pages are rising to the top, it means other pages are being pushed to the bottom.
How can businesses, webmasters and blog owners avoid being penalized by Fresh? Well, the best way to avoid being penalized is to stay fresh. This doesn’t necessarily apply equally to all websites or industries, though. The professional pressure washing industry doesn’t see many revolutionary products or ideas, so their message isn’t as time sensitive as others. Things tend to stay the same from one year to the next. In the end it’s all about providing the best value for the customers. Users who are trying to figure out what to do in Chicago don’t want to read about venues that have closed or events long passed. New restaurants and venues crop up all the time, so having current information on the Windy City’s attractions would benefit a travel site dedicated to events in Chi-town. By keeping content up to date, businesses will ensure that their customers get the best data and have enough information to make informed choices.
Time stamping content accurately will let Google know what content is new and what’s old, keeping irrelevant items out of time sensitive search results. The time stamp will likely become increasingly important in search rankings from here on out, making it imperative that every piece of content is tagged accurately. Google likely has dozens of different metrics at its disposal for aiding in determining when a piece was published, but it’s unlikely that any have as prominent a position as the timestamp. Have a clearly displayed date for content not only helps Google but it also aids users in determining the relevance of content. In this way, building for a friendly, helpful user experience will also provide a benefit in search rankings by giving Google more knowledge about a page so it can rank it properly. For websites that wish to be included in Google News, providing a valid date is actually required. If the crawlers can’t find a clear publication date, the search engine will skip the page and provide the webmaster with an error explaining the problem and how to fix it.
Though Fresh will have a profound impact on end users, it doesn’t have to mean huge changes in site traffic for businesses and individuals committed to providing relevant, current information. Constantly updating the content of a site and including the original publication date of every article or post will help both users and Google evaluate the page and will result in a more profitable location in Google’s rankings.