The Google Patent talks explicitly about the freshness factor and it’s importance. More importantly it talks about staleness being a factor in the rankings. This concept is understood to be true for not only Google but Yahoo and MSN as well. It mentions that not all sites in a niche need to be updated consistantly. Some niches require more freshness while others require less. This naturally raises the question; how often should my site be updated for my niche? Too much and you could potentially hurt your rankings, too little and you will slowly loose the rank you worked so hard for.One particular site of mine raised this question for me. It’s a site that is 100% static and virtually never gets updated. It would exibit some strange qualities in the organics that none of my other sites would. It would rank in the top 10 for all of it’s terms then slowly as weeks would roll by it would eventually drop into the bottom 30. I naturally considered the freshness factor. So I made a slight change to the title and added one page of content, linked to on the main page. Within 48 hours the site dropped out of site in the rankings(100+ in Google, 70+ in Yahoo, and out of the top 300 in MSN). This fustrated me but instead of changing it back I stuck with it. A week later it rose back up to the top 10. I was like COOl. So I let it be and about 4 months down the road it started slowly dropping again. so I once again made a slight change to the title and added one page of content. Same exact thing happened. This forced me to further examine the pattern being displayed in an attempt to mimic it.
Obviously the search engines must get their data from somewhere to determine how fresh your site should be so I took a close look at the competition in the niche. For a few weeks I studied their cached dates in the organics to see how often they were updated in the engines. There was a slight pattern between the frequency of the cached pages and the frequency of their updates. Which spurred me to investigate that in a whole new light which I documented in my #10 Blue Hat Technique-Teaching the Crawlers To Run. However over all I couldn’t tell how often exactly the sites would update. So I turned to Archive.org’s loveable Way Back Machine. Alexa has a wonderful feature that puts a star next to each Archive’s update vs. Archive’s update+a site update. This comes in very useful to determine how often sites of your niche should be updated. For instance certain news sites require much more freshness (take a look at CNN) than a local government site like Oregon.gov. So if you got a site that holds high rankings for a term you don’t want to loose, but you see it slowly start to trickle down the serps, you may want to take a closer look at the freshness factor. Determine which of your competitors are holding the steadiest rankings. Add them all to a list. Take a look at the sites themselves. Many of them may date their newly added content. See if you can determine how often they update. Make up an average of the sites in the top 5 and an average of the sites in the bottom 10. Then look at the sites in the consistant bottom 30’s. More often than not these rankings are usually held for the sites that are of quality SEO, but are determined too stale to rank in the top 10. Attempt to make a prediction on how often your site should be updated. Then make a prediction on how large your update should be. If you’re unsure on how large it should be play it safe and make it very small. Remember any title change forces the SE’s to reevaluate your site’s topic. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Typically the engines will drop you down on the rankings while they make the new evaluations, but you are sure to come back up if they determine it’s of the same topic. This will cause your staleness factor to drop to 0 and your freshness to be high again. Make sure to note your rank at this point. This will be your target on every update.
I know this behavior in the SERPS causes many webmasters to bang their head furiously, but if you just sit back and watch carefully what is happening with your site you are much more able to make an intelligent decision. Most newbie webmasters, when they see this effect happening on their site, they panic and redo the entire site. This is definitely the WRONG MOVE. Even if you think you’ve been sandboxed remember: You deserved top 10 rankings at one point, there is no reason why it shouldn’t deserve it again. Be patient, be smart, and use your knowledge of the freshness factors to maintain your rank.