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Everything You Need To Know

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Everything You Need To Know

Google’s Freshness Update was a significant ranking algorithm change that introduced the trend of making the search results more precise and responsive to user intent.

The result of the update was the ability to add time as a relevance measure for search queries. This enabled Google to surface content that is trending, regularly occurring (like a yearly event), or subject to frequent updating (like new product models).

The Freshness Update was made possible by the infrastructure changes introduced by the Caffeine Update, which enabled Google to scale up web indexing at an unprecedented scale, enabling Google to surface the most up-to-date content that is literally up-to-the-minute relevant.

The algorithm update was announced on November 3, 2011.

Google’s official blog post announcement stated that the change impacted about 35% of search queries and noticeably affected approximately six to 10% of search queries.

That is a significant change in how webpages are ranked.

Why Is It Called Freshness Algorithm?

The “freshness” name for this update is directly taken from the official Google announcement:

“Google Search uses a freshness algorithm, designed to give you the most up-to-date results.”

What Made This Algorithm Update Possible

A reason why Google released the Freshness Update was that the new Caffeine indexing system provided Google the ability to process more webpages faster.

The Caffeine infrastructure made it possible for Google to provide fresh results with a higher degree of relevance by using a more granular definition of what freshness means.

Specifically, Google determined that some queries have three different kinds of time-related relevance factors.

The three kinds of time-related queries are:

  1. Recent events: These are search queries that relate to trending or current events, generally news related.
  2. Regularly recurring events: Google’s announcement gave the example of annual events, elections, sports scores, TV shows, and corporate earnings reports.
  3. Frequent updates: These are time-related queries for topics that frequently update but aren’t events or trending topics. Examples are search queries for products that are frequently updated.

Freshness For Trending Topics And Recent Events

Trending Topics

Google shows fresh results for certain queries, particularly if they are trending.

Here’s an example with the keyword LIMoE, which is the name of a Google algorithm:

Screenshot from search for [limoe], Google, June 2022

LIMoE is a keyword phrase that didn’t exist until recently. In the above example, Google is showing the freshest search result.

Recent Events

When the algorithm was released there was no such thing as the Top Stories news section for current events.

Google simply showed news results related to recent events at the top of the search results.

Today, Google will show a Top Stories section when a search query has a recent event type of relevance component.

For example, a search query for Ukraine surfaces the following search result:

recent events search resultScreenshot from search for [ukraine], Google, June 2022

The Top Stories feature is shown for recent events that are trending. This is an example of the Recent Events type of fresh result.

Freshness For Regularly Recurring Events

This kind of freshness relates to events that happen on a regular basis but aren’t necessarily trending.

Google used the example of a search query that is related to sports as a recurring event type of search query.

A search for NBA surfaces recent sports scores:

Sports Search ResultsScreenshot from search for [nba], Google, June 2022

The recurring events freshness type will have to be updated regularly. A sports event will have to be updated on a daily or weekly basis when the sport is in season.

A presidential election recurring event will have to be updated every four years.

Frequent Update Freshness

The third type of freshness is related to search queries about topics that are always updated, like queries related to product reviews.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy phone has been around for many years and has cycled through multiple models.

Ideally, when searching for Samsung Galaxy Review, the best result will be reviews about the latest models.

This is a search result for that search query:

Product Review Search ResultScreenshot from search for [samsung galaxy review], Google, June 2022

Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)

Google’s Freshness Algorithm update was not the first time Google used time-related relevancy ranking factors.

In 2007, Amit Singhal (then a Google engineer and a senior vice president), introduced the Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) algorithm in an interview with the New York Times.

In a New York Times interview he explained what QDF was:

“Mr. Singhal introduced the freshness problem, explaining that simply changing formulas to display more new pages results in lower-quality searches much of the time.

He then unveiled his team’s solution: a mathematical model that tries to determine when users want new information and when they don’t.

(And yes, like all Google initiatives, it had a name: QDF, for ‘query deserves freshness.’)

…THE QDF solution revolves around determining whether a topic is ‘hot.’

If news sites or blog posts are actively writing about a topic, the model figures that it is one for which users are more likely to want current information. “

The difference between QDF and the Freshness Algorithm Update is that the QDF algorithm appears to have been more limited in scope and less nuanced than the Freshness Algorithm.

In a Nutshell: The Difference Between QDF And Freshness Algorithm

  • QDF was examining if a topic was trending among news sites and blogs.
  • The Freshness Algorithm examined search queries to determine if they belonged to one of three categories of queries that required fresh results.

As mentioned earlier, the Caffeine web indexing system, introduced five months before the Freshness Algorithm, provided Google the ability to provide search results that were relevant to the minute.

The fact to remember about QDF is that the 2007 Query Deserves Freshness algorithm preceded the 2010 Freshness Algorithm.

What can cause confusion is that Googlers continued to make references to the concept that a Query Deserves Freshness well past 2010. So even in 2012, Matt Cutts was referencing the concept in a Google Webmaster Video that certain queries deserve freshness.

Nevertheless, they are two different algorithms that were introduced three years apart and apparently did different things, since the technology that made the Freshness Algorithm possible in 2010 (the Caffeine web indexing system) didn’t exist in 2007.

Is Fresh Content Necessary To Rank?

Not all search queries require fresh results. Many search queries are evergreen.

Evergreen, in relation to the information needs of search queries, means that the answer to some queries doesn’t change much, if at all.

An example of evergreen content is a recipe. The method for how to make chocolate cookies stays relatively the same for many years.

Sometimes, there are cultural changes that affect evergreen content, such as a trend to low fat or low sugar cookies, which might change how cookies are made.

But the cookie recipe is still evergreen.

The Freshness Algorithm only kicks in when the search query fits into one of the following three categories:

  1. Recent events.
  2. Regularly recurring events.
  3. Frequent updates.

Myth Surrounding Fresh Content

There is an SEO strategy that recommends changing the date of publication or the modification date every week, month, or year because, according to the strategy, “Google loves fresh content.”

There are even WordPress plugins that will bulk update the post-update dates.

But the truth has always been that the “Google loves fresh content” idea is a myth.

Even three years after the launch of the Freshness Algorithm, Matt Cutts, a Google engineer, was still explaining that freshness is not always a ranking signal.

Matt explains this in a 2013 video where he answers how important freshness is for ranking.

“How important is freshness?

So there’s a little bit of an interesting twist in this question where it’s not just the case that something is frequently updated …in terms of the pages on your blog or on your site, that you automatically should be ranking higher.

So I wouldn’t have that interpretation of freshness. …not every query deserves freshness.

So if it’s a navigational thing, if it’s evergreen content, sometimes people are looking for long-form content or doing more research, then freshness wouldn’t be counting as that much.

…we have over 200 signals that we use and the thing that I would not do, the pitfall, the trap that I would not fall into is saying, okay, I have to have fresh content, therefore I’m going to randomly change a few words on my pages every day and I’ll change the byline date so that it look like I have fresh content.

That’s not the sort of thing that’s more likely to actually lead to higher rankings.

And if you’re not in an area about news, if you’re not in a sort of niche or topic area that really deserves a lot of fresh stuff, then that’s probably not something that you need to worry about at all.

…there’s some content that’s evergreen that lasts and stands the test of time. It might be better to work on those sort of articles…

…if you write about video games, there’s a lot of like topical breaking news, then it is good to try to be fresh and make sure that you have, you know, content that’s especially relevant.”

Who Needs To Rank For Freshness Algorithm

Publishing new content regularly is generally a good strategy for many kinds of websites.

However, publishing up-to-date content for websites on certain topics is especially important.

Websites on topics related to rapidly changing consumer trends, topics surrounding regularly occurring events, and sites about products that are frequently updated require a steady stream of fresh content.

The upside of publishing news and trending content is that it can result in high levels of traffic, sometimes immense amounts of traffic.

The downside is that after a couple of weeks it may no longer be fresh or relevant to the same search queries that triggered the massive traffic when the topic was trending.

The best thing to do is to understand if your content topics fit into one of the three freshness categories and if so, get writing.

If the content topic doesn’t fit into those categories, then the topic is evergreen.

And it’s not a bad idea to have a mix of both fresh and evergreen topics so that visitors arriving for the freshness have the opportunity to stay for the evergreen.

Knowing what the Freshness Update was about is still useful for developing a content strategy because Google today is better able to understand which queries deserve freshness, which creates opportunities for publishers to gain more traffic.

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Featured Image: A.Azarnikova/Shutterstock



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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

Content marketing has become one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to get traffic to a website. When done right, the traffic keeps coming long after you stop actively promoting it.

If you own an e-commerce website and want to learn how to utilize blogging to grow your brand and increase your sales, this is the guide for you.

I’ve personally grown blogs to over 250,000 monthly visitors, and I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the e-commerce space to help them do the same. Here’s an overview of my seven-step process to starting and growing an e-commerce blog. 

But first…

Why start a blog on your e-commerce site?

Creating a blog has a whole host of benefits for e-commerce websites:

  • It can help you move visitors along your marketing funnel so they eventually buy.
  • You’re able to rank highly for keywords on Google that your product pages could never rank for but that are still important for building brand awareness and finding customers.
  • It can help you grow your email list.
  • You’re able to continue to get traffic without constantly spending money on ads.
  • It provides many opportunities to link to your product and category pages to help them rank better on the SERPs.

If you don’t know what some of these things mean, don’t worry—I’ll explain them along the way. But for now, let’s take a look at some e-commerce blogs that are working well right now so you can see the end goal.

Examples of successful e-commerce blogs

Three of my favorite examples of e-commerce websites using blogging are:

  1. Solo Stove
  2. Flatspot
  3. v-dog

Solo Stove comes in at the top of my list due to its excellent use of videos, photos, and helpful information on the blog. It also does search engine optimization (SEO) really well, bringing in an estimated 329,000 monthly visits from Google (data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer).

Overview of Solo Stove, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

In fact, it’s grown its brand to such a level of popularity that it even created search demand for keywords that include its brand name in them, then created blog posts to rank for those keywords:

Ahrefs' keyword report for Solo Stove

But that’s not all it did. Its blog posts also rank for other keywords in its marketing funnel, such as how to have a mosquito-free backyard or how to change your fire pit’s colors.

E-commerce blogging keyword examples

Then on its blog posts, it uses pictures of its fire pit:

Solo Stove blog post example

Ranking for these keywords does two things:

  1. It introduces Solo Stove’s brand to people who may eventually purchase a fire pit from it.
  2. It gives the brand the opportunity to promote its products to an audience who may not have even known it existed, such as the “mosquito free backyard” keyword.

Moving on, skater brand Flatspot also does blogging well, with a cool ~80,000 monthly visitors to its blog just from search engines.

Overview of Flatspot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

One of its tactics is to piggie-back on the popularity of new shoe releases from major brands like Nike, then use that traffic to get readers to buy the shoes directly from it:

Flatspot promoting Nike SB shoes in blog post

Finally, let’s look at v-dog—a plant-powered kibble manufacturer that gets ~8,000 visits per month.

Overview of v-dog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

My favorite post it’s done is its guide to making wet dog food at home, which ranks for the featured snippet for “how to make wet dog food”:

Google search results for "how to make wet dog food"

This guide directly promotes v-dog’s product to make wet dog food. So people who search the query will be introduced to its brand and potentially buy its product to make their own wet dog food at home.

And there you have it—three examples of blogging for e-commerce that’s working right now. With that, let’s talk about how you can start your own blog.

Seven steps to start and grow an e-commerce blog

In my 10+ years as a professional SEO and freelance writer, I’ve worked with over a dozen e-commerce stores to help them grow their website traffic. I’ve also run several of my own e-commerce websites.

In that time, I’ve distilled what works into an easy-to-follow seven-step process:

1. Do some keyword research

I never start a blog without first doing keyword research. Not only does this make coming up with blog topic ideas much easier, but it also ensures that every blog post you write has a chance to show up in Google search results and bring you free, recurring traffic.

While we wrote a complete guide to keyword research, here’s a quick and dirty strategy for finding keywords fast:

First, find a competitor who has a blog. Let’s say you’re selling dog food just like v-dog—if I search for “dog food” on Google, I can see some of my competition:

Google search results for "dog food"

At this point, I look for relevant competitors. For example, Chewy and American Kennel Club are good competitors for research. But I’ll skip sites like Amazon and Walmart, as they are just too broad to get relevant data from.

Next, plug the competitor’s URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and click on the Organic keywords report to see the keywords its website ranks for on Google:

Organic keywords report for chewy.com

In this example, it has over 700,000 keywords. That’s way too many to sort through. Let’s add some filters to make things easier:

  • First, set the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score to a maximum of 30 to find easier-to-rank-for keywords.
  • Then we can exclude brand name keywords using the “Keywords” dropdown, set it to “Doesn’t contain,” and type in the brand name.
  • If the website has /blog/ in its blog post URLs, you can also set a filter in the “URL” dropdown to “Contains” and type “blog” in the text field. In Chewy’s case, it doesn’t do that, but it does use a subdomain for its blog, which we can search specifically.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Ahrefs keyword filters

In the case of chewy.com, this only shaved it down to 619,000 keywords. That’s still a lot—let’s filter it down further. We can apply the following:

  • Minimum monthly search volume of 100
  • Only keywords in positions #1–10
  • Only show keywords containing “dog,” since my example website only sells dog food, not all animal food

Here’s what it looks like with these new filters applied:

Filtering down Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Now I can find some more related keywords like “what to feed a dog with diarrhea” or “can dogs eat cheese.”

Data for keyword "what to feed a dog with diarrhea"

In addition to picking interesting keywords, you can also get an idea of how to become a topical authority on the topic of dog food by searching “dog food” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Overview for "dog food," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This keyword is extremely difficult to rank on page #1 for. However, if we go to the Related terms report and set the KD to a max of 30, we can see keyword ideas that are still relevant but may be easier to rank high in the search results.

List of keywords related to dog food

Go through and click the gray + sign next to any keywords you may want to target to add them to your list of potential article ideas. 

2. Create templates for future blog posts

One of the first things I do when I create a new blog is to establish a repeatable template that I use for every post. Typically, it looks something like this:

Blog post template example

It has breadcrumb navigation to help with SEO and navigation, the article title and the date it was last updated, then a short intro with an image on the right to make the lines shorter (and easier to skim). Finally, I include a clickable table of contents to help with navigation, then get into the article.

Within the article itself, I will use headers (H2s) and subheaders (H3s) to make my content easier to skim and to help Google understand what each section is about.

You can make templates for every kind of post you plan on creating—such as list posts, ultimate guides, tutorials, etc.—and reuse them for every post you ever create. It’s a huge time-saver.

While you’re at it, you should also create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that you go through for every article. This could include writing guidelines, what to do with images, formatting, tone, etc.

3. Outline your article

I never dive into writing an article without outlining it first. An outline ensures the article is well structured and planned before you start writing, and it bakes SEO right into your writing process. It’s another big time-saver.

Typically, you want this outline to include:

  • Potential title or titles of the article
  • Target keyword
  • Brief description of the article angle
  • Links to competing articles on Google for research
  • Headers and subheaders, with brief descriptions of the section as needed

Here’s a look at part of an example outline I’ll either send to my writers or write myself:

Content outline example

I wrote a guide to outlining content, which you can follow here for the full step-by-step process.

4. Write, optimize, and publish your post

Next up, it’s time to write your article. As you write more articles, you’ll find what works for you—but you may find it easier to fill in the sections then go back and write the intro once the article is finished.

Here are a few writing tips to help you become a better writer:

  • Ditch the fluff – If a word isn’t needed to bring a point across, cut it.
  • Keep your paragraphs short – Two to three lines per paragraph is plenty, especially for mobile readers where the screen width is shorter.
  • Use active voice over passive voiceHere is a guide for that.
  • Make your content easy to skim – Include photos and videos and make use of headers and bulleted lists to share key points.

Once you’ve written your article, do some basic on-page SEO to help it rank higher in search results:

  • Ensure your article has one H1 tag – The title of the article.
  • Have an SEO-friendly URL – Include the keyword you’re targeting, but keep it short and easy to read.
  • Link to other pages on your site using proper anchor textHere’s a guide for that.
  • Ensure your images have alt text – This is the text Google uses to read what the image is about, as well as what is shown to readers if the image can’t render.

Finally, publish your post and give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Add product promotions, email opt-ins, and internal links

Before you promote your content, there are a few things you can do to squeeze more ROI from it—namely, you should add a way for people to either push them through the funnel toward purchasing a product or subscribe to your email list. I’ll give an example of each.

First, Solo Stove wrote an article titled “Ambiance Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” where it promotes its tiny Solo Stove Mesa as a way of improving a space’s ambiance: 

How to promote your products in a blog post

Beyond directly promoting your products in the articles, you can also add email opt-ins that give people a percentage off their orders. You may lose a little money on the initial order. But once you get someone’s email address, you can promote to them again and get multiple orders from them.

For example, Primary sells kids’ clothing and uses this email pop-up to promote money off its products after you spend a certain amount of time on its website:

Email opt-in pop-up offering a discount on first order

Just make sure your discount code only works once per unique IP address. You can learn more about how to do that here if you use Shopify.

Finally, when you publish an article, you should make it a point to add internal links to your new article from older articles. 

This won’t be as important for your first few because you won’t have a ton of articles. But as your blog grows, it’s an important part of the process to ensure your readers (and Google) can still find your articles and that they aren’t buried deep on your site.

Refer to our guide to internal linking to learn more about this step.

6. Promote your content

At this point, your content is live and optimized for both conversions and search engines. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on it.

We have an entire guide to content promotion you should read, but here are some highlights:

  • Share the article on all of your social media channels
  • Send the article to your email list if you have one
  • Share your content in relevant communities (such as relevant Reddit forums)
  • Consider running paid ads to your article

There’s a lot more you can do to promote a piece, including reaching out to other blog owners. But I won’t cover all of that here.

The other important piece of promoting your content is getting other website owners to link to your new articles. This is called link building, and it’s a crucial part of SEO.

There are many ways to build links. Some of the most popular include:

Link building is an entire subject on its own. If you’re serious about blogging and getting search traffic, it’s a crucial skill to learn.

7. Scale your efforts

The final step in blogging for e-commerce is scaling up your efforts by creating repeatable processes for each step and hiring people to do the tasks you yourself don’t need to be doing.

You can hire freelance writers, outreach specialists, editors, and more. You can put together a full SEO team for your business.

If you’re not in a place to start hiring, there are still things you can do to squeeze more output from your time, such as creating the SOPs I mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

Blogging is one of the best ways to increase your e-commerce store’s traffic and sales. It costs less than traditional paid advertising and can continue to provide a return long after a post has been published.

This guide will hopefully help you start your e-commerce blog and publish your first post. But remember that success with blogging doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes three to six months on average to see any results from your SEO efforts. Keep learning and be patient.

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

Looking to launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your business?

How do you select the best SEO keywords to expand your brand’s reach?

What can you do to determine the most effective ways to allocate your marketing budget?

Facing these tough decisions can put you on your heels if you’re not equipped with the right information.

Luckily, there’s a new way to leverage your company’s data to estimate your ROI and take the guesswork out of your next campaign.

With a simple mathematical formula, you can predict the amount of traffic and revenue you’ll generate before even setting your strategy in motion – and you can do it all in just five steps.

Want to learn how?

Join our next webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress, to find out how to analyze specific keywords and forecast your SEO results.

Not too fond of math? Don’t worry – we’ll provide access to free tools and a downloadable calculator to help automate this process and save you time.

Key Takeaways From This Webinar: 

  • Learn how forecasting your SEO can help you build better campaigns and choose the right keywords.
  • Get step-by-step instructions to predict revenue and website traffic for your next SEO campaign.
  • Access a free handout, resources, and online tools that will save you time and supercharge your content strategy.

In this session, we’ll share real-life examples and provide guidance for the decision-makers within your organization to start getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

By better understanding the market potential of your product or service, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and effectively maximize your ROI.

Sign up for this webinar and discover how you can secure a sufficient marketing budget and use SEO keywords to forecast the results of your future content campaigns.



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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes share SEO tips for news publishers during a recent office-hours Q&A recording.

Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.

When To Use The Lastmod Tag?

In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about the last time a webpage was modified.

Its intended use is to help search engines track and index significant changes to webpages.

Google provides guidelines for using the lastmod tag, which could be used to alter search snippets.

The presence of the lastmod tag may prompt Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.

As a result, there may be an inclination to use the lastmod tag even for minor changes to an article so that it appears as if it was recently published.

A news publisher asks whether they should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date of the latest article update or the date of the most recent comment.

Mueller says the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date when the page’s content has changed significantly enough to require re-crawling.

However, using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are a critical part of the page.

He also reminds the publisher to use structured data and ensure the page date is consistent with the lastmod tag.

“Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled.

If comments are a critical part of your page, then using that date is fine. Ultimately, this is a decision that you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend looking at our guidelines on using dates on a page.

In particular, make sure that you use the dates on a page consistently and that you structured data, including the time zone, within the markup.”

Separate Sitemap For News?

A publisher inquires about Google’s stance on having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website.

They also ask if it’s acceptable for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.

Illyes explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs that need it, but it’s simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.

Regarding sitemaps sharing the duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.

Illyes states:

“You can have just one site map, a traditional web sitemap as defined by sitemaps.org, and then add the news extension to the URLs that need it. Just keep in mind that, you’ll need to remove the news extension from URLs that are older than 30 days. For this reason it’s usually simpler to have separate site map for news and for web.

Just remove the URLs altogether from the news site map when they become too old for news. Including the URLs in both site maps, while not very nice, but it will not cause any issues for you.”

These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.


Source: Google Search Central

Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock



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