OSEO Boot Camp, pt. 4: Freshness

This week, I’ll be doing a six part series on Organic SEO, and how to apply best practices to your web content. Read part 1part 2part 3,  part 4part 5 and part 6.

Now that we’re beginning the second half of our boot camp, let’s review what we’ve learned so far:

  • Organic SEO means achieving your search engine placement by providing relevant content instead of paying for sponsored links or third party SEO services.
  • Keywords are not as important as search contexts, and you should incorporate as many of those contexts as possible in your site.
  • Greater relevance is achieved by having a growth plan for your site based on dynamic content, and slowly building your site to include thousands of possible search contexts.

See that “slowly” in the third point up there? There’s a reason for that. Today we talk about the importance of Freshness in your site, and how it can literally mean the difference between life or death for your online presence.

Bakery bread. See, cuz it's "fresh" baked, get it? "Fresh". OK, sorry, you got it, right.The single greatest appeal of online content is not the vast collections of cataloged data, although many appreciate those resources.  It’s one word: “New“. New email, new tweets, new Facebook posts, new blog posts, new NEWS! The more the medium matures, the more it is organizing into a system by which new data is created, filtered and delivered based on the user interest, as opposed to simply a library of virtual books. Web users don’t open a browser everyday and begin re-reading your clever marketing copy; they open social networking and social news sites, and peruse aggregated lists of linked information sorted by either friend network (Facebook), or topic and popularity (Reddit, StumbleUpon).

Given how people actually use the internet, it’s difficult at BEST to achieve online relevance with a static catalog or reference book gathering dust in that virtual library. Your content is not going to be continually linked and spread if it’s already been seen, which leads to a peak of traffic, and then stagnation. Except for compulsive hoarders, not many people are going to keep flipping through that 1952 Sears and Roebuck catalog.

So, we understand now that Freshness is key when building a robust online presence. How, then do we come up with “fresh” content all the time, to  keep our relevance high? Fortunately for you, you built a Comprehensiveness plan in the last section.

Pictured: Fresh dance moves. Also pictured: NOT fresh clothing.Remember when I said having that plan would help you maintain Freshness? Now is when that comes into play. You should have a large list of search contexts that you need to incorporate in your site. Your freshness goal is to update a minimum of 2-3 times per week, so pace yourself as you work through your list. That update doesn’t have to be anything more than a new photo, a new product, a blog post, a new topic in your forum, or the addition of any kind of informational page.  Each time you do, recompile your XML sitemap, and notify Google.

What? You don’t have an XML sitemap, and don’t know how to notify Google? Read this immediately. All of your efforts to create fresh content are for naught if the search engines aren’t getting notified every time you update.

Divide your context list into items which are date sensitive (promotional events, scheduled product releases or revisions, company announcements) with items that are not (general informational content, how to guides, history, etc.). At any point in time, you can create large chunks of the non-date sensitive content, and break it up into reasonable pieces to be published over time. Remember: Division is NOT Addition. Don’t turn what should be a single post on a topic into ten pages of one paragraph each. No one likes excessive pagination. (No one likes excessive perspiration either, which coincidentally, is not fresh).

Now you have filler content, which can be disseminated over time (according to your freshness goals) on the days or weeks you don’t have date sensitive content. You consistently have fresh fodder for the social media platforms, and your sitemap freshness rating (“changefreq“) is legitimately high (e.g. “hourly”, “daily”, or “weekly”). All of these factors will contribute to an overall Freshness which will be reflected in your search engine positioning.

In summary:

  • Use your Comprehensiveness plan to figure out content that can be created in bulk, and disseminated over time.
  • Aim for 2-3 site updates per week, minimum.
  • Use Google’s Webmaster Tools and an XML sitemap to report those updates every time you publish.

Remember, Google places a lot of weight in measuring relevance on third parties linking to your site content. By making site freshness a priority, you create frequent opportunities for that to happen in a consistent way over time, resulting in a naturally stronger PageRank. You also feed your users’ insatiable hunger for “New”.