Freshness May Count More in Google These Days (Not Just Because of Caffeine)

    June 11, 2010
    Chris Crum

Google’s new SERP design (you know, with the left-hand panel), has created more areas for webmasters to focus their SEO efforts on. While most of the options available here have been available for quite some time, they are now in the user’s face and they will be used more.

Has the new user interface affected your traffic? For better or for worse? Tell us.


WebProNews spoke with Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, at Google I/O recently. He talked a bit about the new Google SERP redesign, and the opportunities it creates for businesses to reach users beyond that one "trophy phrase".

"The trick – the thing that’s really important – is that it’s different depending on what you’re searching for," he says. "So if you’re searching for Tom Cruise, you’re more likely to see images and options for the different types of image search – you can say, ‘show me the color images’ or ‘show me the large images’, whereas if you’re searching for Obama, you’re more likely to get real-time results, and updates, and stuff like that. So, what I like about it it is it surfaces more ways to slice and dice your data, and even if you’re not a power user, if you’ve got those options on the left-hand side, you’re more likely to kind of try to explore a little more. So that’s a good opportunity for webmasters and SEOs. You know, you don’t have to be number one. Maybe you can be number one in a slightly different area that people will find by exploring."

"Some people get really obsessed with their one trophy phrase, or their one number one ranking, for their number one web search, and they don’t think about things like image search or video search, blog search, or book search – you know, people, it’s not that hard to write a book," he continues. "It can be done. And people also tend to think about search engines, when they might want to think about social media – things like Twitter, things like Facebook…because you want to go where the people are. And people aren’t ONLY searching. They’re hanging out online. You know, they’re on forums. So I think a lot of the time, you can think about ‘where can I show up besides just number one? What are the phrases people are gonna type in that show buying intent’ – where they really would like to get your product? And if you’re paying attention to those sorts of areas, and not just the trophy phrases, then you can find a lot more opportunities."

Matt also talks a little more about the new UI and the speed of which Google indexes content here.

Which of the options available in the new user interface have you found most helpful? Share your thoughts.

Where Freshness Comes In

One of the most important elements of this new user interface is the time filter – you can filter results by anytime, latest, past 24 hours, past week, past month, past year, or by a custom range. This isn’t just about real-time search, it’s about having regularly updated content, and staying fresh (though real-time search has its place within that).

Brian Klais, General Manager and VP of Product Mangagement at Covario, has a really good post over at Search Engine Land, talking about the time dimension in Google and its effect on sites’ rank – in other words, how content appears when a user adjusts the time filter in the left-panel.

"Here’s the bottom line: By institutionalizing a search time dimension with their UI, Google has introduced a new opportunity for all brands to steal (or have stolen) search marketshare from (or by) the competition," says Klais. "Brands that focus on dynamic site content with fresh social media output stand to gain searchers, at the expense of those brands who stay stagnant, one query at a time. The speed at which the gains and losses occur will be magnified by the availability (or lack) of content within each time filter. Now the ‘recency’ of social media will begin to matter in search."

To illustrate what he’s talking about, he points to a query for "men’s jeans" and looks at the results (which are quite different) for each time constraint. Based on this example, the smaller brand sites have a better shot at showing up the more frequently they are updated. The bigger brands tend to rank higher, the wider the range of time selected.

"The issue is a classic chicken or egg problem: unless you are present in the ‘fresh’ results now (aka ‘recency’), you cannot accurately predict what percentage of searchers are shifting to time-filtered results in order to make the business case for action," Klais says.  "Most analytic systems will not yet parse out this traffic either; it is just lumped in with all Google organic results."

"Ask yourself this question," he adds. "Is there a way to estimate whether any of your current keyword markets are time-sensitive and if you are currently getting organic traffic from time-filtered results?"

Of course, you don’t want to obsess over the time filter either. It’s just one of many options to consider, but to me, a blog could be a good way to keep offering fresh and relevant content around the keywords you are targeting. Plus, it can help you in the blog search option, not to mention provide useful content and engage an audience.

Note: Interestingly enough, not long after I wrote this article, Google announced that Caffeine is now complete. This is the new version of Google’s indexing system. It does not affect how Google ranks content whatsoever. What it does is speed up how fast Google indexes content. You can learn more about it here, and in this other interview with Cutts from SMX this past week. Essentially, it’s all about providing users with the freshest content possible, which is why it is somewhat related to the topic discussed above.

Do you you have a strategy to provide fresh content? Tell us about it.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.