Fresh but not TOO fresh

Content sites are a great way to soft sell your way to high conversion. I keep producing content for my own sites and client sites and watching the traffice increase slowly but steadily.

Something I have been noticing recently is sites jump in and out of the rankings for no apparent reason. Reading one of my favorities blogs recently BlueHatSEO, I found an article which goes into all the gory details of how Google handles fresh content.

Similar to BlueHatSEO, my sites would disappear completely from the Search Results, then appear a week or so later. I watched this several times, and the disappear/re-appear schedule was exactly in sync with the Google’s Cache date.

So what is going on here in plain language?

Google loves fresh content, but not too fresh it seems. And it gets more complicated. To understand that we have to look at some of the factors Google uses in ranking sites. Google uses the history of your site as one component in the ranking algorithm. Things like how long your site has been online, and how often it has been updated, and how big the updates have been, on average since the first day. As well, the history of other sites in your sector are analyzed and their update history and frequency are compared to your history.

All of this goes into the mix of several hundred factors that are used to assign rank. So, for example, if your site is never updated, and suddently you start updating every week, and the other sites in your sector are only updated every 3 months, then Google of course notices and your site is penalized. Once the next index cycle comes around, all of the averages have normalized to some extent and your site goes right back to where it was.

OK, so what to do? Here are some tips and guidelines to staying just fresh enough:

1) Look at your competition and see if you can find out how often they update. I just realized I was updating every week, after few updates over the last year, and my competition are all old sites that almost never update. Generally I am #3 for my target keywords, but I kept getting penalized for a week or so then back to #3 — all because my update schedule is out of sync with my competitors.

2) Work to a schedule of updates and stick to it. First, as in #1, figure out how often your competitors are updating and use that as your starting point. Next, work out a plan to gradually move toward more frequent updates, keeping the averages in mind. If everyone else is updating every 3 months, say, then start off with every 3 months, then every 2 then every month.

If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. You don’t have to do it yourself though, and can easily hire a freelance writer or hire a blog writer.

4) Consider other ways of using content besides updates. If everyone else in the top 10 is updating every 3 months, why work harder? Content can be used in dozens of ways. Use your content for syndication, or for email followup. Set up an auto responder that sends out 10 tips about _____, or a series of articles followed by a special promotional offer.

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