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The race to be the most updated, most relevant content is a competitive one. And many SEOs know that you need to keep your content fresh, but I’m not sure they go quite far enough about thinking about that.

In today’s video, I introduce a new concept I call “Freshness Distance” that takes the idea to a new level that will allow you to better time your updates and be the most relevant page on the search results.

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media. Today I want to talk to you about how you can use freshness distance to improve your SEO rankings and overall search traffic.

First, I should define what freshness distance is. This is a new phrase that I made up, because I haven’t heard it being talked about before.

Freshness distance is the idea of when you look at the first page of a search result, what is the distance between the most recently updated post and the oldest post?

I think this distance can tell us a lot about what that search result requires in terms of frequency of update in order to be competitive on that result.

For example, if you look at a search like “best headphones,” you’ll see that timestamps, not just 2018 in the title tags, but literally the timestamps on the left are very recent.

Today is August 9th, and you’ll see that the results show July 10th, July 14th, July 20th, July 24th. The oldest result at the very end of the post is June 20th. You can see that actual distance between those two frameworks is under a month, if not barely over a month old.

If you have a post that you have not updated for more than a month, you’re likely not going to get clicked, and Google, for whatever reason, whatever combination of those two factors will realistically push you down, and you won’t be able to compete on a frequent basis on that search result.

Therefore, if you are trying to rank for that term, you actually have to set up a cadence to update that over and over again to stay competitive.

I like the framework of the distance to define how frequent that should be. I think if you just looked at the most fresh, most recent date, it could be correlation that they just haven’t updated at that moment, but I think the overall scope of the entire search result can inform how often you need to update something.

So in this example, if it’s a month in total, I think your general goal should be in the upper 75th percentile of date freshness. I don’t think you have to be the newest post on the result, but if it is a month framework, I think it’s probably good to update that every two weeks or so.

If that’s not possible and obviously, this is a very extreme example, at least every month is required to stay competitive.

If I’m a user and I’m searching for “best headphones,” and I really want the tech turnover, I’ll be aware of that and it won’t bother me necessarily on that result.

But on other results, being near the top upper echelon of the most fresh is generally a good SEO best practice to set.

The opposite side of this would be a search like “What is good running form?” If you look at this search result, you’ll see the top result is actually from 2013.

If you scroll down, you actually don’t see timestamps on some other results, you see a May 14th, 2018, again, as well as a result from 2013 and 2014.

There’s even an article from 2000 on that search result… I probably have not seen an article from 2000 in literally 10 years.

It is pretty amazing that that result is that old; you can see the freshness distance is actually 18 years in this case. So, in this instance, I don’t think the frequency of update is as important.

It doesn’t hurt to be more fresh. If you’re a runner, you might want to see that information. But obviously, running form on average is not going to change that much, or at least as of late, as there has not that been much in terms of research that might suggest that.

Therefore, if you’re trying to stay competitive there, it’s not really about the freshness of the update that will make you competitive, but on best headphones, it is very, very important and the distance and being competitive within that distance is important.

To sum this up into a process, how I would think about this for your business is to identify the freshness distance of the main search results or topics that you’re trying to compete for.

If you have a range of topics, you go to those results, you see what the distance is, and then you define an update schedule that you should then go to those articles and give them an update.

Some might be one month, some might be six months, or one year. Some may not matter at all, it varies. It depends on the topic and the search results. Sometimes it’s 24 hours, which obviously would be more more news-focused, if it’s Donald Trump news, or something like that.

But if you build a spreadsheet like that, you can then assign that to someone and build a process of updating those posts. Of course, you may not always be able to do a full refresh. So what I would suggest is you could put a date that says “Last Major Refresh” and then “Last QA Sweep” or “Quality Assurance Sweep,” as I call it, date that you would apply.

So maybe you do a post sweep every quarter and you see that one thing is out of date, and you update that. Or maybe there’s long-term notes that you can write about your running form and then how that happened, after how your form or your fitness increased after six months of using that. Maybe it’s addressing comments or questions you got about that article.

Those are all reasons to update these posts and make them more fresh, which will give you a reason to not just update the post date, which I do believe that will actually long-term hurt your rankings if you just straight update a date simply because of that freshness distance required.

I hope this concept is useful for you. You can put this into practice and become more competitive in the markets you compete in.

If you enjoyed this, please give us a thumbs up, subscribe, and let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments. Thanks for watching!

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Comments

  • Lisa LaMagna

    Very helpful and innovative, much appreciated.

  • Brandon T

    How does google choose the date for your site? I noticed I can’t see my dates because it replaces it with “you last visited this page…”. Does it automatically recognize if you update a page, or, say in wordpress, do you have to update the published date?

    • You need to update the published date in WordPress. I do think its possible Google picks up on updates without a post date change, but for users this timestamp is important as a trust+CTR signal that can compound. I think that plus ACTUALLY being the most relevant/recent post result does make a notable difference over time.

      • Brandon T

        Appreciate it the response. I’ve read a lot of SEO blogs and always find yours the most actionable (relevant tips, non-fluff, and clear instructions). Thanks for all the help

        • Thank you Brandon! That’s quite the compliment and I’m really glad you found it valuable.

  • Maximilian Phebey

    Hey Ross, thanks for your contribution.

    The post_published and last_modified tag does only exist on Post, not on Pages in WordPress.

    Many sites though use pages instead…. do you have any experience on how to deal with that? Is there maybe even a plugin which automatically inserts the meta tags into your pages?

    Cheers

    • Hey Maximillian! I talked to our devs, and one suggested checking out this plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/last-modified-timestamp/ We haven’t used it but seems to have good reviews.

      Another said this: “As far as WordPress is concerned Pages are just another Post Type, so any functions that work with Posts will work with Pages — last_modified, etc. However, themes often create different templates for Pages vs Posts and the theme may not display dates on Pages. In that case, it would be necessary to edit the Page Template to display the dates.”

      Hope that helps!