Google are reporting today an update to their freshness algo – the part of the ranking algorithm that handles new content insertion into SERPs. This will affect a whopping 35% of search queries – Google’s Panda update only impacted 12%. This is big!
In some situations this isn’t a bad thing – searching for an event was always badly handled by Google who have historically favoured older content over new which means last year’s events would commonly turn up at the top of the results. So this change can be good in that respect, as with a number of other possible searches such as news results – searching for “cricketers fixing scam” results in a load of new pages – most of which were published in the past 24 hours (and not just embedded news results). Good times!
But the post from the Google blog always mentions product reviews as a potential target for this fresh tweak! This is a big one. News and events are easy – very time based pieces of content. But how does a search engine differentiate between different types of static content such as a product review? Importantly, how does it tell the difference between a product review and a bog standard static page? Rich snippet markup perhaps may be a good source here, but not every website has adopted this approach. This reeks of an update that is going to have a lot of causalities!
How would you react?
SEO has always been quite a mid to long term strategy (well, back in the day you could rank overnight for any term quite easily, but things have slowed down since then) – only small pockets of the industry can have fun with instant rankings – news optimisation, blogsearch, PPC, etc. But if Google is rolling out a new jazzy instant rank algorithm, how much of a red rag to a bull is that for the SEO community?
Seriously, how much of the industry will shift from creating good content to churning out low quality “fresh” content in whatever form that may entail – rubbish comments, reviews, slight editorial changes, republishing reviews, etc – all to maintain “temporary” rankings over a longer period of time? Strangely, I think this change will benefit the more technically minded “black hat” community (I used the term loosely, but you know who I mean) who can autogenerate “fresh” content in much larger scales, compared to the content generation community.
From the Google Blog:
Frequent updates. There are also searches for information that changes often, but isn’t really a hot topic or a recurring event. For example, if you’re researching the [best slr cameras], or you’re in the market for a new car and want [subaru impreza reviews], you probably want the most up to date information.
Well, yes and no. I want the best, most informative reviews and those aren’t necessarily the most recent ones. In cases they will be, but is Google good enough to work out which is which? Or am I going to get the most recent reviews regardless? This could really hurt review sites that have taken a lot of time to push users to write decent reviews.
The Panda update really riled a lot of SEOs – many of whom spent a lot of time following Google’s guidelines reasonably well (OK a lot pushed the boat out, but not all the way into spam territory). Are we looking at a scenario where those who are legitimately making an effort to produce a decent web business lose out and those who like to game the system have more tools in their arsenal to do so?
Perhaps not, although it’s fun to wear the conspiracy theory hat for a while!
Perhaps this is a logical progression from the Panda updates which, in one way or another, did force a purge of borderline low quality sites from the index? Maybe Panda was a prelude to a bigger quality / freshness push in which this is the next stage? Could Google have even attempted this a year ago pre-Panda or was there too much SEO-heavy content (and you know what I mean by that!) to drown out the reputable content sources? Caffeine implements the infrastructure, Panda flushes the system and (insert freshilicious name) brings us closer to pure real time search that is has the potential to be fairly spam free?
Maybe Google is certain that they have it right this time – or maybe it’s going to go tits up and really annoy a lot of SEOs (and frankly annoying the one group of people who have the skills and knowledge to poison your core product is kinda stupid)? What do you think? Should be interesting all the same – will be keeping an eye on analytics over the next few days!
- Google Panda Update Rolls Out Worldwide (fusednation.com)
- Google Rich Snippets Tool (fusednation.com)
- Announcing: The Complete Google Algo History (seomoz.org)
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