Content Freshness: Is Stale Content Hurting Your Website's Search Rankings?

Content Freshness: Is Stale Content Hurting Your Website's Search Rankings?
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March 24, 2021

In the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), content and search rankings are closely connected. Your website's content will directly influence where it ranks in the search results. However, high-quality content alone isn't always enough to secure first-page rankings. You'll need to keep it fresh. Neglecting to consider content freshness in your SEO strategy will result in stale content that drags down your website's search rankings.

What Is a Content Freshness?

Content freshness refers to the age of a page of content. It's a measurement of how long a page has been online and unchanged. The longer a page has been online and unchanged, the less fresh it will be.

Content can be classified as either fresh or stale. Fresh content includes pages that were recently published as well as pages that were recently updated. Stale content, on the other hand, includes pages that are old and haven't been updated in a while.

How Content Freshness Affects Search Rankings

You can't ignore content freshness when performing your website's SEO. Search engines won't just look at the quality of your website's content; they'll look at its freshness. If your website mostly of stale content, they may not rank it high. Rather, search engines prioritize websites with fresh content over those with stale content.

Google even released an algorithm update in 2011 to reward websites for having fresh content. Known as the freshness update, it was one of the most prominent updates in the history of Google. Following its rollout, Google's Amit Singhal revealed that the freshness update affected over one-third of all searches. The freshness update is now baked into Google's primary ranking algorithm.

While Bing uses its own ranking algorithm, it also rewards websites for having fresh content. Bing's Webmaster Guidelines feature a list of the main ranking signals used in Bing's algorithm. On this list is content freshness. According to its Webmaster Guidelines, Bing prefers fresh content that provides visitors with up-to-date information.

Whether you're trying to rank in Google's search results or Bing's search results, you'll need to create fresh content. Fresh content is typically more relevant than stale content. Over time, content can lose its relevancy. When a page of content is no longer relevant, search engines will bury it. Instead, they'll award pages featuring newer, more relevant content with first-page rankings.

Fresh content can help your website rank for more keywords. Fresh content, by definition, is either an entirely new page of content or an existing page of content that was recently updated. Regardless, it gives search engines new stuff to crawl. They'll crawl the new or recently updated page, after which search engines may rank it for new keywords.

Visitor engagement will increase on your website if it has fresh content. Visitors will notice that your website's pages are new and regularly updated. Therefore, they'll often return after leaving. And when these visitors come back, they'll spend more time viewing and interacting with your website's content.

Fresh content boosts visitor engagement, which search engines use as part of their ranking systems. A high level of visitor engagement shows search engines that visitors enjoy browsing and using your website.

Content Freshness Tips: How to Prevent Stale Content

You can prevent stale content by regularly updating your website. Go through some of your website's existing pages while searching for content that's outdated or otherwise no longer relevant. You can then update these pages by deleting the irrelevant content and replacing it with new and relevant content.

While scouring your website for irrelevant content, check the citations. Updating citations is an easy way to create fresh content. If you cite an external article that no longer exists, for instance, you should change the citation to a different source. You can also update citations for studies so that they are newer and more relevant. If a page currently cites a study from 2011, updating the citation to a newer study will make it fresher.

Enabling visitor comments can prevent your website's content from going stale. Each visitor comment that you approve and publish on a page will update the respective page with new content. Even if a comment is only one or two sentences long, it will create the impression of fresh content. Search engines will encounter the comment the next time they crawl the page, so they'll recognize the page as being fresh.

A list of frequently asked questions can turn stale content into fresh content. When updating an existing page, create a list of common questions, as well as answers, related to the page's topic. You can append this list to the bottom of the page where it serves as a resource for visitors.

Repurposing content will allow you to create fresh content. You can repurpose articles and blog posts to create infographics, for example. Just take some of the key points from the article or blog post and include them in an infographic. Alternatively, you can repurpose videos to create text content, including articles and blog posts.

Another way to promote fresh website content is to publish new pages. New pages are considered fresh. When you publish a page, you'll create fresh content that brings visitors and search engines to your website. You should still update your website's existing pages, but publishing new pages is essential for content freshness.

If your website uses WordPress or a similar content management system (CMS), you should be able to schedule new pages in advance. Scheduling is a useful CMS feature for streamlining content creation. You can create multiple pages at once while scheduling them to publish on different dates in the future.

Stale content won't stop your website from ranking, but it can certainly impede your SEO strategy. Google and Bing use content freshness in their algorithms. They reward websites that feature new pages and recently updated pages by improving their rankings. A few pages of stale content isn't a concern, but focusing on fresh content will lead to higher rankings in the search results.

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