Everyone knows the common sense behind keeping a website up-to-date and pretty much everyone gets annoyed when after searching long and hard for something you visit a website thinking at you’ve found what you’re looking for only to find the site or article is obviously several years old – the company behind the website may actually offer a great service or product but do you still email or call them?
Known as the ‘Freshness Update’, Google now rewards and gives more weight to webpages that are new or contain updated or fresh content – but why would they do this. As with most things Google, it’s important to see the web from their perspective. Google is more than just a search engine – it’s one of the largest advertising platforms in the world and it has this position because of the massive audience it commands – most of us use it every day, every hour & every minute. So why do we keep coming back and using it, why do we all just ‘Google it’? Probably because it’s a very good search engine and it’s very good at returning web pages that are closely related to our search. If Google was to lose this search quality, users would stop searching it and advertising revenues would start to fall.
Therefore Google works extremely hard at figuring out ways of ensuring that its search results provide a great user experience and one measure that has become an important factor is freshness. In Google’s own words “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.”
Here’s 5 things Google loooks at:
- New Pages - Each webpage Google indexes is given a ‘freshness’ score based on its inception date, defined as the first time Google spots it. Over time this freshness score fades as the content becomes older.
- Page Changes - Google can also detect changes or edits to a web page and whilst changing a single sentence or price won’t make a significant difference, rewriting or adding paragraphs are scored more highly.
- Change Frequency - Content that changes more frequently is scored more highly than content that only changes every few years.
- Number of New Pages - Adding new web pages to a site not only bulks up your presence on the web but is now a signal to Google than your site is fresh, a commonly known rule of thumb is that adding around 25% of new pages every year is a good yardstick.
- Position of Changes - Google attempts to decide on what types of changes are more important, as a rule of thumb changes appearing near the top of the page are judged more important, changing banner adverts or navigation is not.
So what does this mean for websites, well we need to think about the types of content where with a bit of effort we can keep fresh, all BT website customers have full control over their website which are easily updateable pretty much point and click style, without needing any programming or software and anyone with an internet connection can do it (from anywhere). Features like Blogs, Image Galleries, Events Calendars, Prices & Offers, Forums, Testimonials etc are all offered by BT. Blogs particularly, have been mentioned as a great freshness tool as entries are easy to write, create new pages, are date stamped and can be commented on by users.
Everyone can argue that they are too busy to update the website, but this needs to be thought as a form of marketing, which aside from your own time, is free. Small businesses can struggle with when and what to write, so here are a few ideas:
- Create a couple of 45 minute slots in your diary every week. Without setting time aside it’s never going to happen is it?
- Start by finding (and bookmarking) some industry leading competitors or industry bodies, what are they talking about.
- Get regular news for your industry for ideas – Google will send you news alerts (sign-up here http://www.google.com/alerts ).
- Use your customers for feedback, testimonials, case studies, awards, certifications etc.
- Write some articles on how to use or maintain your products, add FAQs.
- Aside from adding just a new product or service, Blog about why it’s great, include some images etc.
So updating your site is important and if you are considering a new or enhanced website, maybe now is the time to consider adding that Blog module to the package.