Published on March 8th, 2016
When you go to the grocery store to buy produce, how do you select it? Do you look for the produce that is old, dry and withered up? Do you grab the greenest banana you can find? Or do you look for avocado that has just that right amount of soft smooshiness to taste perfect?
For your business, it's just like Goldilocks and the three bears: You want to find just the right mix of website freshness and ripeness. Your website should be no different than your produce selection - you need to keep it fresh, but it's a balancing act - and it's time to start treating it that way.
Why Should You Care About Site Freshness?
Because Google Cares
Google’s algorithms take a ton of different freshness metrics into account when determining how your website should rank. Google looks at all of the following on a per page basis:
- Initial creation date: This factor works in two ways. Your overall “SEO Cred” is improved by having content that has been around longer, but Google also maintains a “Freshness Score” that degrades over time.
- Size of the change: Google tracks how much of the content on the page is changed when the page is updated (is it a little change or a big change?) and calculates that into the freshness score.
- Type of change: Changes to page content are more heavily weighted in your freshness score than changes to scripts, comments, advertisements or global page items like headers and footers.
- Rate of change: How often the page is updated influences the freshness score.
- New page creation: A website’s overall freshness rating is influenced by the rate at which new pages are added. For instance, if you increase your website’s footprint by 20 percent each year vs. only 5 percent, Google will see you as “fresher."
- Rate of link growth: The rate of new backlinks to a page are also a signal of freshness of content to Google. And the fresher the rating of the linking site, the better the indicator of freshness for the target page - meaning the sites linking to yours should be fresh, too.
So, basically the takeaway is you want to have content and pages that have been around for a long time, but you want to strive to keep those pages regularly updated and “refreshed” while regularly adding new pages to your site. The key here is that slow and steady wins the race.
Google wants to see regular, quality updates as a signal of freshness.
Also, Your Users Care
The majority of users come to a website multiple times before the buy. In fact, as many as 96 percent of visitors on your website at a given time are not ready to buy yet. You want to give them reasons to come back regularly until they are ready to buy.
Regularly producing and updating quality content gives them that reason. It is also a signal to buyers of both the knowledge and thought leadership possessed by a company which, in turn, drives brand trust. Your visitors are selecting a product or service provider just like they are selecting the produce. Making your website the perfect combination of fresh and ripe will help them select you!
How to Achieve Freshness (Beginner)
Do you have a blog? If not, start now.
Are you blogging regularly? If not, start now.
Got it? Good.
Are you regularly creating content targeted at different stages of the buyer’s journey? If not, start now.
Got it? Good.
Are you regularly checking your site for broken links and signals of bad SEO? If not, get Google Search Console set up and check it regularly.
Got it? Good.
Have you got all the basics covered? Then let’s move on to the more intermediate items.
How to Achieve Freshness (Intermediate)
Conduct Regular Site Reviews
We recommend doing site reviews at least quarterly. There are three steps to follow when you do this:
- Identify your top 20 percent of trafficked pages.
- Select an appropriate number of pages to tackle each month (this will depend upon your resources).
- Review the content on these pages for freshness and update pages that require changes.
Use RSS Feeds When Possible
I’m a big fan of allowing automation to keep my website fresh whenever possible. Here at Quintain, we use blogs and RSS feeds to help us do this. Allow me to explain through an example: resource centers.
If you are already doing the regular content creation mentioned in the basics, you probably have a library of content offers that users of your website might find interesting. Since we use HubSpot, we like to create a separate blog just to manage the resources. Each time a new resource is created, it is added to the resource blog.
Now you have an RSS feed of all of your resources to use as you see fit. This feed can be used on your Resource Center page and will always have your newest content included. You can use the feed narrowed down by topic to advertise resources on specific pages on your website.
For example, if you run an animal training company and you have a specific page about bear training, you can include a filtered feed of resources that are just tagged with the topic “bear training” (and it will always be updated with your newest bear training resources).
Update and Republish Blogs or Content
Did you know that updating old blog posts with new content can increase organic traffic by up to 111 percent? That’s insane! If you aren’t already doing this, start now.
Here’s the “Cliff's Notes” version of how you can approach this to get the most bang for your buck:
- Identify blogs that are at least six months or older and already perform very well in organic search.
- Update those posts with new information, images or simply add to them to make them more well-rounded.
- Republish them, but do not change the blog post URL. Doing so will cancel out any SEO credit the post has already built.
How to Achieve Freshness (Expert)
Take Advantage of CTAs (HubSpot Users)
This recommendation is specifically for HubSpot users. As I mentioned before, I’m a big fan of automating as much of my work as possible. The way HubSpot structures "smart" calls-to-action (CTAs) makes it really easy to keep your CTAs fresh wherever they appear on your website.
I like to maintain what I call “general purpose CTAs” to make life easier. For example, I like to maintain specific topic CTAs that always direct users to the most up-to-date content on that specific topic. Let’s go back to the animal training example to demonstrate.
Let's say I’m writing a blog post about bear training that is pretty general, meaning I don’t have a very specific content offer that would map perfectly to that post as the next step offer. I just want to make sure that no matter when someone comes to view that blog post, they are seeing a CTA for the latest and greatest content offer I have about bear training.
In this case, I would create a smart CTA in Hubspot called “Bear Training General Purpose CTA” and every time I release new content about bear training, I go into HubSpot and update that CTA (don’t delete it and create a new CTA) with a new image or text and link it to my newest offer. This way, every place I have that CTA on my website updates automatically for me! And I didn’t have to lift a finger.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a massive topic all to itself and is something that is incredibly important for any website. But, it also helps improve that freshness factor in the process.
Instead of diving super deep into a practice that is complicated and involved, I’ll give you some initial pointers on how you can start doing CRO-lite. There are tons of tools we've talked about before which can help you do this.
- Optimize high-trafficked pages for conversion. Essentially, the goal here is to find the pages that bringing in the most people and find ways to improve conversion rates on those pages. It could mean changing the text on a form, changing a CTA to point to a different offer or simply adjusting the language on the page. There are a ton of different options for changes, the key is regular testing. A good starting point for beginners is to identify your top-trafficked blog posts and take a look at the offers they are promoting.
- Optimize high-converting pages for traffic. The goal here is to take your pages that are already really good at converting visitors into leads and drive more people to the page. This usually means running on-page SEO activities like updating content with appropriate keywords, improving the page title seen by search engines and meta description changes. A good starting point here is to identify your top converting blog posts and try to optimize them for specific keywords that fit the content.
Websites Aren't Billboards Anymore
If you've gotten to the bottom of this, and you're thinking, "Man, Stacy. This is a lot of work," you would be right.
However, it is very necessary work, because the role of a website has changed. No longer are they the static digital billboards you "need to have" to establish your brand's credibility. Whether you're in the B2C or B2B space, your prospects now have a built-in expectation that your website should evolve over time and provide value.
That's why keeping an eye on how fresh your website is matters. Otherwise, you run the risk of both Google and your consumers writing you off in favor of a better virtual banana.