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Does Content Freshness Really Matter? See Our Results

Many SEOs ignore content freshness, which is a big mistake. We ran our own experiments to prove whether or not content freshness matters.

Gene Schleeter January 13, 2023
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Keeping your blog content updated shows your audience you care about providing accurate information. But does Google care about content freshness?

We decided to run our own experiments to find out.

In this blog post, I’ll show you exactly what we tested, so you can try these strategies on your own sites.

If you’re ready to use content freshness to improve your Google rankings, then keep reading.

What Is Content Freshness?

Content freshness is simply how long it’s been since your blog post was last updated or published.

Years ago, Google released algorithm updates related to content freshness, but they weren’t related to what we’re talking about. Those updates were related to how quickly Google indexes new pages.

Google has said that content freshness doesn’t affect rankings, except for new sites. But our experiment will put that claim to the test. 

Content Freshness Experiments

Experiment #1: The Zombie Hack

Our site, Listen Money Matters, has been dormant for over two years while we focus our time and energy on growing Lasso. 

That made it the perfect candidate for a test. 

First, we found an article still ranking on the first page of the Google results for the target keyword.    Old content still ranking on the bottom of the first page

Next, we made a couple a couple of small changes. We adjusted the title language and a small part of the intro.

By the next day, our article jumped four spots in the SERPs (search engine results pages). 

That article tripled its organic traffic from ten minutes of work. That’s clearly a positive result.

Improving Google rankings using content freshness and the zombie hack

Experiment #2: Lasso Customers

The next experiment was purely observational. 

We looked at a few top pages from a couple of Lasso’s customers. We specifically looked for pages that are ranking for highly competitive keywords.

TIP: You can run these tests for yourself using Ahrefs.

We found this one where a DR 31 and a DR 55 sites are outranking sites in the 80s and 90s. (We hid the domains to protect the site’s anonymity).

Lasso customers overperforming in the SERP with fresher content

Then, we simply visited each site and looked at how long it’s been since the post was last updated. The results supported our hypothesis.

The top two results had updated their posts within the last three weeks, while it had been months for the rest of the results.

Proof of content freshness affecting search results in Google

Every time we ran this test, the results were the same. 

It appears that content freshness and niche relevance matter more than domain authority.

Experiment #3: Adding Images To Blog Posts

For the last experiment, Emil Shour wanted to add images to blog posts on one of his sites. He did this to five posts and added an internal link to a couple. 

Spreadsheet showing improved rankings from adding images and internal links to blog posts

Again, every piece of updated content saw higher rankings with no external link building. Within three weeks, posts that weren’t ranking at all were now on the first page. 

Content Freshness FAQs

Does Content Freshness Matter?

According to Google, content freshness only matters in certain situations. If the search query is designated as QDF (query deserves freshness). Evergreen content shouldn’t be affected, according to Google’s algorithm.

However, according to our tests and metrics, QDF applies to many more web pages than Google has alluded to. We believe content freshness definitely matters to SEO (search engine optimization).

How Do You Measure Content Freshness?

The easiest way to measure content freshness is to visit the SERP and look at the top five search results. Look at the last updated dates on these pages, and see if there appears to be a correlation with their positions. If there is, then check the next five results to confirm.

If it’s apparent that content freshness has a significant effect on that keyword, then all you need to do to secure a higher CTR (click-through rate) is make sure your content is updated more often than your competitors.

Do Backlinks Matter For Content Freshness?

As far as we know, external backlinks don’t affect the freshness of your content. Once you build links, they’re just there.

What matters a lot more for content freshness and digital marketing, in general, is if the query is still trending and if the new content you post still matches the search intent.

How Do You Make Fresh Content?

As with most content marketing, the “how” is more difficult than the “why.”

The easiest way to freshen up your existing content is to tweak the title, tag, and intro and see how Google responds. Change small things and measure your results in Google Search Console.

Our Conclusion: Content Freshness Definitely Matters

Every test we ran confirmed what we’d already believed; fresh content is a Google ranking factor.

This conflicts directly with everything Google has said on the matter, but it still makes sense. If Google’s ultimate goal is to provide searchers with the best possible internet experience, then promoting current content helps achieve that goal.

A crucial thing to keep in mind is that all the sites in our tests were already established. You can’t post frequent updates to a week-old blog and expect to see the same results. High-quality content and some degree of trust are essential.

However, if you’ve noticed your old content sliding down the SERPs, try a couple of these strategies. If it works out, come back and let us know. Good luck!