The goal of a search engine is to rank the relative importance of every page it can find on the internet by modeling the probability that random web surfing will find that particular page. An SEO strategy is not effective unless it does something that measurably increases that probability. High numbers of website content updates is one of the many strategies touted to increase the traffic to your website through increasing the page rank rating. “Search engines love fresh content” is a phrase echoed often around the SEO community. There are even services that programatically modify tags, headers and keyword phrases randomly in attempt to boost ratings. The underlying assumption here is that purely “refreshing of the content” will help somehow. Frequent content updates may impact a site’s page ranking and visibility but sometimes not in the desired way. It isn’t as simple as re-arranging pages or re-phrasing and incrementally updating existing content. It is important to understand the difference between the crawl rate, normal traffic and topical traffic and how each of these relate to page rankings. An effective SEO strategy for updating content is based on understanding these differences.
Google’s goal is to always be aware of the current state of the internet. Google is even beginning to include Twitter traffic in search results in order to capture the “real-time web.” Commercial news sites, online financial sites and other high-traffic sites are constantly being updated and Google wants to index everything as soon it become available. It will sort out relative importance later. Later for Google means seconds to minutes, not hours or days. So, in the simplest case, changing content more frequently will cause a site to be crawled or indexed more frequently. But according the what is known about Google’s patented algorithm, increasing the crawl rate does not, by itself, increase the page ranking.
Normal traffic finds your site based on the existing content, keywords, and inbound links. Suppose a simple site for a small business contains five pages of content with the usual sections covering the products, services, management, and contact information. Making simple updates to these relatively static pages frequently without adding material value will not impact page rank or normal traffic. In fact, poorly constructed content changes may even decrease normal traffic if the changes reduce the existing inherent content optimization.
Keeping with the small business example, topical traffic is generated when some new aspect of an industry that people are talking about or some new product that will change the industry is getting a lot of buzz. This generates discussion and links as sites “vote” with their links on the most useful content. New, topical content in a given business domain receives maximum page rank as soon as it appears. In general, page rank degrades over time as content gets older. If content generates a lot of inbound links, it will retain it’s page rank longer.
An effective content update strategy is based on understanding traffic types and keeps two things in mind. First, do no harm. When changing content, do not decrease the current level of optimization of the content by reducing keywords, using links less effectively or re-structuring the page relationships in a way that decreases the importance of your most important content.
Adding new, topical content that adds material value without negatively impacting the current optimization scheme is the best overall content update strategy. Topicality is reflected around the web, so adding topical content adds to the existing discussion, generates interest and hopefully, inbound links. The better the quality of the content, the more likely it will get noticed and ranked higher in importance.