Google's Freshness Update: New SEO Opportunities

If one thing can be said about Google it is that it doesn't take itself for granted. The search engine giant regularly pushes out new updates to its algorithm, which usually go unnoticed by the average user but generate a great deal of buzz and discussion across digital and SEO agencies in the online marketing sphere. Google's latest algorithm update is all about "freshness."

Google's plan is to create the most effective Internet search engine in the world. The latest algorithm update takes Google another step closer to this target by adding freshness criteria to search engine results, meaning the content that appears in search engine results is always as fresh as Google can make it. This isn't to say that the content in the results is going to be in chronological order, only that the results you find will be checked for their age as part of Google's process for determining relevance.

What constitutes relevance? In Google's eyes, hundreds of factors, with freshness being a recent development. What constitutes freshness? Real-time social networks such as Twitter and to some extent Facebook and Google+ have added additional tools to Google's armory, since it can now crawl the content from these networks and deduce which content people are interested in, what it is and if it is relevant for its search results. A similar tool for this is the RSS feed -- long thought to be on its way out -- which Google uses to deduce which content from a website is the freshest. This is, on occasion, replicated in its results. A great example of this is that of the BBC website when a user searches for "BBC news."

This presents a number of opportunities to marketers, regardless of their size and ammunition. By creating unique, fresh content, brands and businesses can now have a bigger chance of appearing in search engines for relevant terms. With a social media campaign, brand awareness and in some cases direct commercial benefits are usually the main objectives, but social media has long been an influencer of search engine results and now the fresh content from social networks can be leveraged to have a direct benefit in search engines. Essentially, by creating a digital social object, whether that is in the form of an application on Facebook, a microsite or even a blog post, the buzz around that content will have a far greater benefit in search.

The freshness update has also added much more to the value of blogs and RSS feeds -- they can now be a core source of fresh content for Google to take into account. We've always known that having a blog provides significant benefits from a marketing and communications perspective -- it is an owned environment which can be used to host content and stimulate conversation, with a bi-product of that being that the website in question is crawled much more frequently, as are the links within blog posts. However, the freshness update now means that blogs and RSS feeds can be more of a driving force when it comes to SEO, since they now have a bit more influence over what appears within a website's search result. There has never been a bigger opportunity for a business blog to have an impact on SEO.

Whilst none of the above represents a titanic shift in the strategy or habits of brands and businesses using blogs or social media, links from both certainly have more potential to add value to social media campaigns through search benefits and vice versa. From the perspective of an integrated PR, search and social media agency, these are huge benefits that should not be missed.