Google’s Freshness Update – Caffeine Update Extension

Google Freshness Update – What is Happening and Why

Google’s new freshness update has promised to give more fresh results and affect about 35% of results and builds upon in the Caffeine Update which increased the rate at which Google crawls the web and now they have released the Freshness Update which identifies QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) search results and puts in recent articles into the search results about the topic. Google has been experimenting to this effect for quite awhile, but this is a full implementation of the idea.

In the article about the update Google gives the example of searching the keyword “Olympics” but I saw more interesting results when I searched for “Occupy Wall St.” or “NFL” – look at the specialized result at the top and the ESPN links

Google Search for "NFL" after Google Freshness update Mint
Google Search for “NFL”

I’ve expanded the ESPN box for you, to show all the real estate it can possibly take up. It’s a huge win for ESPN, all those links on the right side take you to the game review and preview pages which is really useful for the searcher. It didn’t look as if ESPN was applying any type of micro-formatting which Google needed to do this, I think it is also a semantic update in a way as well. Justin Briggs wrote a great article called “Methods for Evaluating Freshness” – Google has definitely identified some patterns among certain fresh search terms – new terms that get a lot of mentions using a combination of web/blog results with the micro-blog type sites such as Twitter to identify QDF terms and apply this special result set for them.

Semantic Analysis, Machine Learning, and Your Search Results

Google said this will apply to 35% of search results, but it won’t seem to affect a lot of sites because a lot of these searches will probably be searches never preformed before (until this year) like this one:

Packers Chargers 2011 Google Search
Google Search for “Packers Chargers 2011”

So completely new searches like these are prime targets for QDF results. It’s almost like the hash tag concept on Twitter, and in theory you could make an event serve up results like this if enough people search this term exactly, and around the same time. The search result becomes “trending” using Twitter speak, and Google decides it deserves different results than “Packers Chargers”. But only for a limited amount of time, once the search volume dies down, they change the results back to the non-trending results. After the game, Google will see the search volume die down for this keyword and start to display historical results – the game highlights and reviews.

Google Freshness update result example
Google search for “ICALP”


ICALP is a conference that happens in June, but it is over with this year, so the results are more historical rather than the freshest results. So there is opportunities around the time of the event to publish a bunch of articles related to the event and grab some traffic by being in the top results (even if for just a little while). Maybe for the normal, “historical” results a certain website is not getting on to the first page, but with this update maybe they have a better chance of getting on the first page if they make a great article about the event. Timeliness is going to become even more effective due to this Freshness update.

Search results are getting even more specialized in this way, changing as the trends change. Before this Freshness update, Google made a big decision to filter out logged-in keyword searches from Google Analytics which left a lot of SEOs and Marketing Managers quite upset but it was in the name of privacy. I’d suspect that Google has more changes like this planned to make search results very personalized and as this trend continues they will want to protect the privacy of those results. I can understand why they made one change before the other now.

It will be interesting to see how this progresses, and as Google incorporates many of these features into the search results. Increasingly, Google news results, local/map results, videos, and pictures are mixed in with the normal search engine results. This is an improvement on that, and as Rand from SEOmoz and Mike King of iPullRank mentioned, it looks like Google is pulling straight from the RSS feed of these sites to get their newest posts which is probably an extension of Google’s Feedburner into their normal search algorithm. Its quite a powerful combination, and even without the Twitter firehose going Google can find and identify the best new stuff out there when you need it (probably using Google+ data).

So this Google Freshness update is an opportunity for some sites to have their 15 minutes of fame or to take up more real estate on a SERP they own already. But I’d encourage all my clients to have some keyword research done again to look at any potential changes in strategy and to create a strategy to take advantage of QDF results to get some extra traffic to create brand awareness or potential customers/clients. If there is a topic that gets QDF results that you don’t rank for you could make a content strategy based around it to get into the most difficult place to find a foothold, on the first page.

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