January 13, 2013 by Brian Rock
There are a lot of accepted maxims within the SEO, blogging, and publishing industries. Let’s take a moment to think about two of them:
- Google loves good content.
- Google loves fresh content.
So the thinking goes, if you provide these two things, you’ll be golden. But, umm, is this really true?
What Do Good and Fresh Mean?
Let’s start by defining what these terms mean. Or at least, what any reasonable person would assume they mean.
Good content is helpful. It answers a question or provides the user with information. It is accurate; it doesn’t lead people astray. It’s interesting and engaging.
Fresh content is, supposedly, part of what it means to be good content. Things go stale, and articles are no different. An article about the best in digital cameras written in 2008 is going to be outdated by 2009.
If your content is going to continue to be good, then you need to update it to reflect new trends and new information. Basically, you need to make sure that it continues to be good.
Enter the Counter Examples
Take a look at the screenshot below, from my Yahoo! Voices Contributor Dashboard. This shows the stats for my top five performing articles of all time.
For the moment, let’s just consider the #1 article. Nope, it’s no longer doing anything in terms of volume… maybe 1 or 2 visits on a lucky day.
It was written in 2007. At the time, it was a great guide to Paladin tanking in WoW. That was back when I was playing WoW pretty regularly, and I was a pretty good Paladin tank. It was also the time when gems were first introduced, so I figured I’d write up a guide to help other tanks choose the right gems.
For about a year, that guide was good, useful content. It had a clear, discoverable title. Readers that clicked on it in search results probably found exactly what they were looking for – accurate advice for choosing gems. And a lot of people found that information, because it probably got a thousand or so views a month.
But then, in 2008, the game mechanics of WoW changed. Gems were still there; but there were new gems. The stats required for tanking had also changed. In other words, my content used to be good. It was no longer fresh at all. It was stale, and it was getting worse by the day.
According to SEO common sense, you’d assume that it would drop out of the search results, right? Well, nope. It continued to go strong for years. It continued to get a thousand or so views each month. I’m assuming it was ranking high on the first page for some keywords.
That single article continued to pull in ~1,000 views a month for four years… during three of which, it was completely outdated and useless. Someone commented on it in 2009, and I explained that I would update it if I could – but I can’t edit Yahoo! Voices articles I’ve published and I didn’t even play WoW any longer.
Today, if you search for “Best Gems Paladin Tanks” that article is still on the first page, and “Gems Paladin Tanks” puts it on the second page. The search traffic of these terms seems to have fallen dramatically, else this article might still be pulling in traffic.
The other two WoW articles (#4 and #5 on the list) followed similar trajectories. They were only bring in a few hundred views a month, but they picked up steam and continued to garner readers at least a year or two after they were completely outdated and useless.
Oh, and why don’t you tell me how “good” and “fresh” you think that HTML/CSS Tooltips article is. It was written over five years ago. It’s on pace to pull in about 500 views this month.
Good, Fresh Content Is Important
But not to Google. Google doesn’t know, and Google doesn’t care.
Google can use algorithms to guess what your content is about. It can run grammar checks to make sure it’s fairly well written. It can compare it against the rest of the Internet to see if it’s copied or spun.
But it doesn’t have a damn clue whether or not your content is “good” in any objective sense. And the “goodness” and “freshness” of your content is not going to impact your SERPs in any direct way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should write crap. But the reason you want your content to be good and fresh is because it will then engage readers when they actually land on your site and your article. This will lead to conversions (comments, affiliate links, subscriptions, whatever your goal is) and make you successful.
But when people tell you that Google is looking for “good” content and “fresh” content, you can tell them they have no idea what they’re talking about.