On November 3, Google launched a “Freshness Update” that was focused on providing more current information in their search results.
According the announcement on Google’s blog, the change aims to deliver fresher, more recent search results. Google did not specifically state which types of web sites the update affects, but they did indicate that they are focused on time sensitive information. The assumption would therefore be that news and sports sites are a primary target.
According to Google, Up to 35% of web sites are affected by the update. The algorithm attempts to determine which types of searches are focused on time-sensitive results. Given the wide range of word combination used in searches, determining the intent of the search is a daunting task that will likely be prone to errors. That raises the strong possibility of the type of “collateral damage” that some sites have suffered in past when they were mistakenly targeted by ranking algorithm changes.
At this point, we do not yet know which sites were affected most, but the timing raises concerns related to the negative effect that two previous Google updates had on e-commerce sites just as the Christmas buying season was getting underway. Google’s Florida Update in mid-November of 2003 was the first update focused on indexing sites based upon content found on inner pages. E-commerce site were hit hard because at the time many product pages in e-commerce sites contained very little content. Google’s Jagger Update in October of 2005 was one of the first focused on penalizing sites using duplicate content. Unfortunately, a large number of e-commerce site were snagged again in that update because they were sharing content provided by manufacturers and they once again lost their rankings at the worst possible time. Both updates drove e-commerce site owners to AdWords advertising, which made the timing of the changes suspicious. Google reps have promised that they would never again release a major update just prior to Christmas.
So what does this mean? If your site’s rankings were negatively impacted by the November 3rd ranking update, it probably means that Google’s algorithm has identified your site as one that requires fresh content. That means that articles should contain dates, ideally placed just below the article title, and content will need to be added regularly. While this should not be an issue for larger sites with lots of editors and writers, it puts smaller sites with limited resources at a disadvantage.
Keep in mind that a site could have also been affected by the series of 2011 algorithm changes that Google has code-named the Panda Updates. There have been a series of these updates occurring since February of 2011, which have been focused on identifying and demoting the rank positions for sites using duplicate content or poor quality content.