You will no doubt know about Google’s new QDF upgrade, an algorithm tweak designed to get you to ‘fresh’ content quicker, rather than bringing up old static results.
You can see an example of it here;
They’re not site links but links to fresh content on the BBC for the search term ‘football’.
Google has stated that this affects around 35% of search queries, don’t get that mixed up with searches. Now that is all well and good but from my point of view I want to know a few key points;
1) How does Google decide what is fresh?
2) Is the link graph involved when deciding ‘freshness’?
3) How do links from these ‘fresh’ pages influence rankings for the taget website?
I wrote a really short post a few months ago based on fresh links vs text links vs links placed in old content. The results clarified that links in fresh content had a more significant impact on rankings.
However, I feel the need to delve more into this, as I think this strategy is one of the most important link building tasks you can undertake and will help you cement long term core rankings.
How Does Google Determine Freshness?
Justin wrote a great post on this on his blog and if you really want to delve into this you should definitely go take a read, I just want to touch on some of his points and then try to understand how we can use it for link building purposes.
I think it is safe to assume that the discovery of a document through Googles crawl for the first time is enough to indicate freshness. There is a little bit of debate around this, but nothing that affects the take aways too much, does Google count it as fresh when it is first crawled, first linked to, first mentioned in a social capacity, first indexed…? No one really knows and the truth is it is probably a mixture of all those factors.
Proportion of Change
Is a document fresh if it hasn’t been discovered before, or is it if a document has significantly changed since the last crawl? Do Google give the content a score on a sliding scale?
This is important to know, if the freshness of a document determines the power of a link from that document then we need to know what this scale is, Google is never going to give anything away, I doubt a new FreshRank toolbar is going to emerge, however we can test this through our link building efforts.
This brings us nicely onto ‘fresh rank’ a term I am fully attributing to Justin. In the paper Systems and Methods for Determining Document Freshness, it describes a method of passing a freshness score between pages.
So just like PageRank is passed between pages so is FreshRank, so whether or not your landing page is ‘fresh’ will depend not only on the changing content on the page but also by the freshness of pages linking in, hence we have some kind of freshness score.
Is Freshness More Influential Than PageRank
I use the term PageRank very loosely and only to describe the authority of a domain or page based on the quality and quantity of links it has pointing to it.
We all know how PageRank travels around the web and through our sites, its long been the currency of the web, the more links a site or pages a site has pointing to it, the more value a link from it will pass.
Now before I go into this any further, let me first declare this has not been tested or researched in any way, my opinion is based on working with an SEO department that manually builds over 5,000 unique links every month.
The PageRank Model
Value is passed from page to page based on popularity.
I am a firm believer that the above model is already in place and has been for sometime and that Google use a combination of FreshRank and PageRank to determine the ranking of a given page.
No one knows the exact calculation but it could be that a link from a fresher PR1 page is worth as much as a static PR6, maybe that is overselling it a bit but certainly getting multiple fresh links every month can be just as effective as acquiring 1 high PR link a month. I guess the ideal is to combine the two.
I’ve worked with many sites over the years and the best way to impact rankings is by creating a fresh link profile. The ultimate combination would be creating a fresh link from a high PageRank (authority) domain, combining high PageRank with a FreshRank strategy, is a sure way of dominating your industry SERP.
The one problem with a ‘fresh’ link building strategy is that it is likely to diminish in value over time, therefore efforts have to be ongoing.
PageRank flowing through a link is going to be more consistent than Fresh Rank flow, a document rarely consistently acquires a large quantity of links naturally, however once a document has a certain amount of PageRank it generally keeps it, that is of course as long as the links remain live and and the PageRank isn’t pushed through multiple 301’s.
As you can see from the above model links are carrying PageRank and FreshRank, however what about 6 months later;
Overtime the freshness of the linking documents will diminish, no doubt everytime Google crawls them it will give them a new score. If only we could build lots of links that are from fresh, high domain authority pages that are going to be continually linked to for the rest of their existance 😉
I have seriously thought about researching this in more depth, but from the results we see on a daily basis it is pretty much a given. SEO strategies that involve the consistent development of links from fresh pages will almost always achieve higher rankings than those that don’t.
Only Google will know exactly how this works and one day they may be willing to shed a little more light on it but that won’t stop me and more SEO’s implementing it.
Would be great to hear some debate on this or examples of tests/research.