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Google’s Panda update caused havoc earlier this year, affecting 12 percent of all web searches. Now the search giant has updated its ranking algorithm with a change that's even more important for small businesses.

The new Freshness Update, introduced last week, hasn’t caused nearly as much of a stir as Panda. Yet it affects nearly three times as many searches – 35 percent, according to Google. It also offers even small websites the chance to outrank larger sites by favoring the freshest content on any topic.


While the Panda update represented a threat to some websites' rankings, the Freshness update presents an opportunity. Whereas Panda demoted sites with duplicate or minimally useful content, the Freshness update offers the potential for short-term ranking gains to sites posting new information. It can benefit even sites that haven't acquired lots of robust inbound links.

Because most SEO action is reactive rather than proactive, most webmasters will miss out on this new opportunity. There’s nothing like a ranking drop to make your SEO team spring into action - but sadly, the potential for temporary rankings improvement and spiking traffic doesn't seem to motivate people as much as it should.

What the Freshness Update Means for SEO

The Freshness update rewards:

  • Websites containing the latest information about events that recur regularly (annually, monthly, etc.)
  • Sites with up-to-date info about the latest news stories
  • Pages offering new information about product launches or other popular topics

The Freshness update should signal the end of high rankings for:

  • Pages about last year’s event - for example, the Wimbledon Championships
  • Four-day-old reports about current news events, despite newer reports being available
  • Product reviews from the day of release, when more recent reviews of the same product have been published

As an SEO agency, Custard Media can release a press release or publish a blog post the minute we hear about something related to a client’s product or service, and expect to see big spikes in traffic to our client's site.

For smaller sites, the Freshness update offers a fantastic opportunity to compete with the big boys by offering great content on popular topics. No longer will small organisations with lower profiles have to wait weeks - or even months - to see the fruits of their link building labours before their well-made content starts bringing in traffic.

What’s more, even if a spike in rankings doesn't last, the increase in traffic means that more people are now aware of your brand, as SEOptimise pointed out last week, provides great brand awareness. Once you've seen how well it can work to create good, relevant content, you'll be motivated to do it again - and again, and again. And that's how you build a bigger audience over time.

The Freshness Update is a major opportunity – don’t let it pass you by.

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