Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get Back In The Water, Google Releases The Freshness Update.

Never mind the width, feel the quality: that was the underlying message of Google’s panda update.

The search engine giant got tired of fighting the ‘spam’ fire and introduced changes to its algorithm to weed out poor quality and duplicated content. Not everyone was happy, but search engines marketers just had to accept the changes and re-jig their marketing strategies to tow the line. Yet Google now appears to have something of a change of heart. Last week it announced its latest algorithm change: the ‘freshness’ update. The new changes mean that those websites that release the freshest and latest news will rank higher on the search results. Obviously if your website is news- related or specialises in the latest celebrity tittle-tattle then you’re onto a winner. Similarly if you’re a major brand with limitless resources, then you’ll do very nicely out of this. But what about the start- up businesses, or the one-man-band businesses, with great ideas and content, but precious little money?

What will the ‘freshness’ update do for them?

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The rationale behind the latest algorithm change is that Google believes users prefer to see the newest and most up-to-date content when they search the internet. Old or dated content will no longer do. The cynics, of course, will see this change as more of an attempt to close the gap on Facebook. The social media giant prides itself on real-time news, so it was inevitable that Google would feel the need to compete. The newly-revamped search results will mean that businesses which publish a lot of news reports, or regularly update their sites with reviews and relevant blogs will find that they rank higher on the search engines.  The new algorithm tweak will prioritise these. The search giant believes this latest change will affect somewhere between 6 to 35 percent of web searches. But what will this really mean for businesses? Research by Searchmetrics would suggest that it’s the smaller businesses that look set to bear the brunt of the changes, though even some of the larger players will not escape unscathed. Groupon , for instance, potentially stands to lose almost 20 percent of its search engine visibility, whilst underperforming companies like Domino’s look set to see an increase in visibility of as much as a third.

It’s the small businesses you really have to feel for though.

Many start ups have embraced the panda changes and delivered highly original and informative content, yet there’s a distinct possibility they may become the real casualties of the latest update. If they’re confused by the situation, then it’s perfectly understandable. Quality is now set to play second fiddle to quantity. How that sits with panda’s rationale is anybody’s guess? There can be such a thing as mixed messages, but this just smacks of outright contradiction. Great content generates links and likes: mediocre content generates nothing in the main, except low ranking or panda penalties. Google claimed that the panda update would weed out the sites that generated irrelevant content just for the sake of generating content. However, with this latest change, it appears to be backtracking. It’s not the quality that matters any more, it’s the quantity. SEO exert Bruce Clay is surprised and bemused by the latest Google changes:

“In the freshness race this seems to be forgotten. The freshness race appears to give credibility to the site with the most writers. The one-person company generating perfect content will find it difficult to compete against the company with a team of writers generating good, but not as good of content… the freshness race seems biased by the quantity of fresh content instead of the quality of the content.”

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