Digital Publishing Top Stories
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Google updates algorithm to reward freshness, with 20 questions for publishers to “self-assess” quality

holding fresh bear garlic

Google has launched an update to their search algorithms, focused on surfacing “fresh, helpful information through featured snippets.” This new update helps the company show search results that are not just useful but also timely, for cases when “timeliness matters, even if your query doesn’t spell that out.”

“As part of our ongoing efforts to make Search work better for you, a new algorithm update improves our systems’ understanding of what information remains useful over time and what becomes out-of-date more quickly,” said Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President, Search.

At the core of Search is language understanding, and our systems don’t understand language the same way humans do. This is why we’re constantly developing new ways to better understand your searches and provide relevant results, especially in cases where there is useful context that is implied, like whether freshness matters.

Pandu Nayak, Google’s VP of Search

This is good news for content producers, as Google will showcase more links that are new and relevant. While the update was released earlier, the company has recently confirmed the rollout, with details about what the changes will entail. 

Google also published a post at the same time, with information that publishers should know about Google’s core updates, especially those who are negatively affected. 

“We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix,” wrote Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Search at Google, “and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.”

No improvement we make to Search is perfect. This is why we keep updating. We take in more feedback, do more testing and keep working to improve our ranking systems. This work on our end can mean that content might recover in the future, even if a content owner makes no changes. In such situations, our continued improvements might assess such content more favorably.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search

The company has also released a set of 20 questions for content producers “to self-assess if you believe you’re offering quality content,” and understand how to make improvements.

These focus on four broad areas: Content and quality, Expertise, Presentation and production, and Comparative questions. Here are some examples:

  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Finally, the company shared that a common question after a core update is “how long does it take for a site to recover, if it improves content?”

“Broad core updates tend to happen every few months. Content that was impacted by one might not recover – assuming improvements have been made – until the next broad core update is released,” said Danny, with the caveat that, “improvements made by site owners aren’t a guarantee of recovery, nor do pages have any static or guaranteed position in our search results. If there’s more deserving content, that will continue to rank well.”

We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.