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How Freshness Works And How To Get It To Work For You

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Will publishing new articles regularly or updating old blog posts help you rank better?

Maybe, but not just by changing the date or frequency.

Google accounts for “hacks” like this.

In this article, we will discuss how the factors behind freshness affect your rank.

What Is Freshness?

When marketers talk about content freshness, they are referencing an algorithm update from 2017.

Google’s Freshness Update was a significant algorithm update that introduced time as a relevance indicator, making the search results more responsive to user intent.

The update allowed Google to surface trending, regular, or frequently updated content.

People often misunderstand the Freshness update, believing it prioritizes recent publication dates in raking results.

Unfortunately, this is an oversimplification and has fueled multiple viral “hacks” like mass creating content or updating publication dates as good SEO strategies.

So, I’m going to explain why freshness doesn’t mean what you think it means and then explain how to get freshness to work for you.

Freshness Vs. Frequency

Frequency is often confused with freshness.

Frequency is the rate at which you publish content, whereas freshness is the date a page was originally published.

Posting content frequently will help your site get crawled more often out of necessity – hat tip to the 2017 Google Caffeine update, which made this (freshness) all possible.

But, indexing is not ranking.

While the frequency may increase how often Google checks your website, it is not the same as freshness and is not a ranking factor.

John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google, confirmed this in a tweet.

When asked whether Google’s algorithms take posting frequency into account, he responded that they do not.

Take, for example, the Backlinko website.

Brian Dean posts sporadically – about six times in 2021 – and has only published one article (so far) in 2022.

Yet, the website still ranks in the top three for 3,850 non-branded keywords.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, June 2022

How Does Google Determine Publication Date?

Google looks at many things when determining a publication date of a webpage – including, but not limited to, the dates you provide or dates provided through structured markup.

But, Google does not rely on just one thing because all factors have the potential to go wrong.

What if a publisher doesn’t provide a clear date?

Or, what if the structured data on the page is missing or incorrect?

Google looks at several factors, not just dates provided, to determine when a page was published or significantly updated.

Significantly updated is an important distinction.

Below are Google’s webmaster guidelines for news (as it’s the most affected).

Google Guidelines for publication dateScreenshot from Google Guidelines, June 2022

This image shows that Google clearly states not to artificially freshen a story without adding significant information or compelling reason to give it a fresh date and time.

Does The Publication Date Matter?

Look at SEO, for example. It is a fairly volatile industry with many moving parts, algorithm updates, and experts publishing their findings to the interwebs en masse.

You may think that SEO-related queries would certainly demand freshness.

Let’s search [SEO audit].

Screenshot of SEO Audit SERPScreenshot from search for [SEO audit], Google, June 2022

Nothing too surprising.

You’ll see articles from 2020, 2021, and 2022.

And then a Wordstream article with a 2018 date in the SERP (search engine results page).

Screenshot showing Wordstream 2018 publication dateScreenshot from search for [SEO audit], Google, June 2022

You can see that Google is using other factors to determine the publication date of a page.

You see, Wordstream tried to freshen this page by publishing an artificially updated publication date.

Artificially updated publication date exampleScreenshot from source code, June 2022

Regardless, it still ranks on the first page. Maybe Google doesn’t consider the query [SEO audit] to deserve freshness.

Let’s search [SEO trends].

SEO trends SERP resultsScreenshot from search for [SEO trends], Google, June 2022

See a difference?

There are no articles up to late 2021 and 2022.

An article on the first page doesn’t even list the date. It’s just how many days ago the article was published.

SEO trends SERP resultsScreenshot from search for [SEO trends], Google, June 2022

Why is this happening?

An article from 2018 would be a horrible search result for the search query [SEO trends].

Google understands people want to know the latest trends, not outdated ones, and tries to match the results to fit the user’s intent.

What Types Of Queries Does Freshness Apply To?

In its official post about the update, Google specifies three types of queries that freshness algorithms apply to: recent events (e.g., natural disasters), regularly recurring events (e.g., sports scores), and frequently updated topics (e.g., product reviews).

For example, let’s look at the query [how to build a standing desk].

How to SERP exampleScreenshot from search for [how to build a standing desk], Google, June 2022

Google understands this as an informational (how-to) query and returns video search results from 2018 and site links from as far back as 2012.

But, if I search for [best standing desk].

Best product review serp exampleScreenshot from search for [best standing desk], Google, June 2022

Google understands this as a transactional query; the user is looking to buy a standing desk.

The SERP displays ads to purchase the product and reviews on standing desks as recent as “9 hours ago.”

Not a single site link on page 1 is more than two months old. Someone searching for [best standing desk] likely wants to read a product review, so freshness becomes important to the user experience.

Final Thoughts

Google doesn’t care how frequently you post or if you keep changing the date.

Does that mean you should stop updating old articles?

No!

Keeping your articles up-to-date means updating the content, quality, and relevancy to align with user intent and industry advances.

Has something changed since you first wrote the article?

Update it and make the edits visible so that readers can see the historical view of events.

If you notice that Google begins displaying images, videos, or rich results in the SERP for your target keyword – update how you’re presenting the content.

More resources:


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TikTok Staff Can Decide What Goes Viral

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TikTok Staff Can Decide What Goes Viral

TikTok has confirmed employees can manually promote certain videos across the platform to ensure a specific number of video views. 

First reported by Forbes, TikTok has since confirmed some of its employees can boost videos to “introduce celebrities and emerging creators of the TikTok community.”

This is achieved via a so-called “heating” button, which bypasses the algorithm intended to drive the TikTok experience.

Back-end Manipulation Can Encourage Virality

According to the Forbes investigation, six current and former employees of TikTok and its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, employees within the United States, can artificially expand the reach of specific videos.

In a “MINT Heating Playbook, “ an internal document acquired by Forbes, ByteDance stated, “The heating feature refers to boosting videos into the For You feed through operation intervention to achieve a certain number of video views.”

This contradicts how TikTok has previously claimed its recommendation feed works by using an algorithm to curate a personalized feed for each user’s interests. 

Heating Allegedly Used To Encourage Partnerships

According to Forbes’ sources, this process builds business relationships and attracts influencers and brands.

“We promote some videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community,” TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza told Forbes. “Only a few people, based in the U.S., have the ability to approve content for promotion in the U.S., and that content makes up approximately .002% of videos in For You feeds.”

However, according to the MINT document, heated videos make up around 1-2% of daily video views. 

View Manipulation Is A Fairly Common Practice 

According to Brent Csutoras, digital marketing expert and co-founder and managing partner at Alpha Brand Media, Search Engine Journal’s parent corporation, this type of behind-the-scenes manipulation is more common than platforms let on – and it has often resulted in misuse.

“Although it is not uncommon for social media platforms to utilize staff actions, give certain ‘power users’ the ability to have more influence, or even force content integration into your feeds (whether by ads, forced follows, or algorithmic factors), TikTok has long been a company who seems to ignore the impact these decisions have on their users trust, especially when conducted behind closed doors and without explanation,” Csutoras said.

“In each scenario where an individual or group of individuals can take action that impacts the visibility of content on a platform, whether it be social media or search engines, we have seen strong user pushback and abuse.”


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Microsoft & OpenAI Extend Deal To Make AI Accessible To Everyone

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Microsoft & OpenAI Extend Deal To Make AI Accessible To Everyone

Microsoft is continuing its partnership with OpenAI, creators of ChatGPT, through a new multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment to speed up the development of AI technology.

This move builds on previous investments made by Microsoft in 2019 and 2021 and allows both companies to use the advanced AI technology they develop together independently.

One of the main goals of this partnership is to democratize AI and make it accessible to everyone. Microsoft intends to accomplish this goal in three ways:

  • Supercomputing at scale: Microsoft will put more resources into creating and using specialized supercomputers to speed up OpenAI’s research.
  • New AI experiences: Microsoft will use OpenAI’s models in its consumer and enterprise products and create new digital experiences using OpenAI’s technology.
  • Exclusivity: Microsoft Azure will power all OpenAI workloads as the company’s only cloud provider.

Independently, Microsoft has been working to make Azure an AI supercomputer for everyone since its introduction in 2016. Together, Microsoft and OpenAI are a step closer to realizing that vision.

The partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI has already yielded impressive results, including the development of GPT-3, one of the most advanced natural language processing models to date.

This new investment ensures that the companies can continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with AI.

In a tweet, Microsoft CEO Satay Nadella says the company will continue its mission “safely and responsibly”:

Interestingly, there was no mention of Microsoft’s Bing search engine in the announcement, despite rumors that it’s set to be enhanced with chatbot functionality shortly, possibly as soon as March.

The Information, the source that initially reported the rumor, had previously stated that Microsoft was planning to integrate OpenAI’s technology into its current software. Today’s official statement from Microsoft confirms that this is indeed the case.

This supports the notion that Bing may soon use ChatGPT to provide search results.

With the recent news that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have given the go-ahead to integrate chatbot technology into Google, competition is brewing to see which company will be the first to release this feature to the market.


Source: Microsoft

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Google Ads Down For Advertisers, Google Confirms

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Google Ads Down For Advertisers, Google Confirms

Advertisers around the world this morning started their weekly routine with a big issue accessing Google Ads.

Word quickly spread across Twitter and LinkedIn, with confirmation from others that this isn’t an intermittent issue.

Google Status Dashboard Confirms Outage

From the Google status dashboard, the outage was confirmed this morning, January 23rd, at 8 am CST. You can follow the incident in real-time here.

Image credit: Google Ads, January 2023

As of noon CST, the issue has still not been resolved.

Google Ads Liason Ginny Marvin also took to Twitter to confirm the issue:

Marketers took to LinkedIn and Twitter to voice their concerns.

Advertisers react to Google Ads being down.

 

Advertisers take to Twitter to react to Google Ads outage.

Why This Matters

Advertisers cannot manage or optimize their accounts without proper access to Google Ads.

Even more, Google Ads are still serving to users, but marketers can’t see or react to real-time performance. When marketing dollars are at stake, this is a big issue for companies of any size.

If you’re used to weekly reporting, that’s another task you won’t be able to do until the Google Ads issue is resolved.

This outage is inconvenient for Google after their layoff announcement of 12,000 employees on Friday.

Advertisers react to Google Ads outage on LinkedIn.

While this outage is more likely an untimely coincidence to Google Ads, advertisers were quick to put it together.

Summary

Google Ads is still down for many users as of Monday afternoon. After the Friday announcement of 12,000 Googlers, questions have arisen if these layoffs have impacted the technology and staffing that manages these platforms.

This is a developing story and will update as Google provides more information.


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