Google Freshness Algorithm

Ain’t nobody dope as me, I’m dressed so fresh so clean.

Google recently announced ‘a significant improvement’ to its ranking algorithm that will affect about 35 percent of all searches. The goal is to make search results as fresh as possible. Now all we need is the ball, the net and the gameplan.

“We completed our Caffeine web indexing system last year, which allows us to crawl and index the web for fresh content quickly on an enormous scale. Building upon the momentum from Caffeine, today we’re making a significant improvement to our ranking algorithm that impacts roughly 35 percent of searches and better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness.”

Fresher results can make for more relevant results, which is why Google moved over to the caffeine infrastructure in June 2010. That was only an infrastructure change, to make sure Google can index, crawl and return results faster. Now Google changed their search algorithm to show fresher results, fresher than ever before.

So, like, think of Caffeine as infrastructure and Google’s Freshness as algorithmic.

35% Extra – Free!

Woohoo! That is larger than the Panda update, which impacted 12% of the searches conducted.

What type of searches does it impact?

  • Recent events or hot topics. For recent events or hot topics that begin trending on the web, you want to find the latest information immediately. Now when you search for current events, you’ll see more high-quality pages that might only be minutes old. One example is if you type ‘Olympics’ into Google right now, you are more likely to be satisfied if you get results about London 2012 than older results about the games. Although, I can’t help thinking that would have happened anyways…
  • Regularly recurring events. Some events take place on a regularly recurring basis, such as annual conferences or an event like the presidential election. Without specifying with your keywords, it’s implied that you expect to see the most recent event, and not one from 50 years ago. There are also things that recur more frequently, so now when you’re searching for the latest football scores, moronic, incessant and tedious ‘talent’ show results (please, somebody, lay me down gently on the tarpaulin of the Himalayas) or euro skids, you’ll see the latest information.
  • 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 product information, you probably want the most up to date information.

So Google Freshness also brings the latest posts from developing news stories and analyses web trends to bring you the results most prevalent to your search query. Sorted.

Rank – But, Like, Fresh

So, the Caffeine update of last year made it possible for Google to gather content even faster, which in turn could potentially be ranked better.

Google says the algorithmic update, served up on the caffeine architecture, is providing ‘fresh’ content for twice as many queries as before. In other words, the old ‘freshness’ algorithm had an impact on about 17.5% of queries. Now it impacts double that figure, 35%.

It’s important not to misinterpret the percentage Google gave out – a 35% change to its results – to mean they are 35% improved.

When the Panda update was said to create at 12% impact, some assumed that meant a 12% improvement. It didn’t.

We have no commonly accepted way of rating search engine result quality in a numeric fashion. No third party measures if Google or Bing’s results are ‘90%’ good, for example. This means there’s no way to say whether something has improved by a particular percentage.

Google is clear what it means when it puts these percentages out: the impact is on volume of searches – not the same things as some type of search engine improvement metric.

Fresh v. Stale

One of the freshness factors – the way that Google determines if content is fresh or not – is the time when they first crawled a page. So if you publish a page, and then change that page, it doesn’t suddenly become ‘fresh’.

Additionally, being fresh isn’t the only thing being rewarded: Google also looks at the content of the result, including topicality and quality.

Google’s going to use a combination of search ranking factors to help qualify when it wants to trust something is both fresh and good.

Bottom line? It’s still early to say how Google’s algorithm update might impact your SEO and social media efforts directly. But it’s pretty safe to say that being topical whenever possible – in your social media updates, blog posts, press releases, and other content – may help that content rank well in Google searches – so no change there then.

Some Google Algorithm LinkLuv
Google Caffeine
The Provenance of Panda
What is Google Panda?
What is Google’s Farmer Update?
What is Google PageRank?

John Hargaden is CEO of wevolution digital, your full-service digital marketing partner focussed on growing your business online. Case Studies.