According to Google, over a billion searches take place using their search engine every single day.  In fact, search engines have become such a big part of people’s daily lives that in 2006 “google” was officially added to the dictionary as a verb that represents the act of searching the internet.  Anyone can easily google a word or phrase and be served up millions of results that are relevant to the search query.  To understand the process of how these relevant results are displayed, you must first have basic knowledge of how a search engine functions.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines send out programs known as “spiders” or “crawlers” to constantly traverse the web, from site to site.  Every new site that these programs encounter is added to the search engine’s index.  As Google engineer Matt Cutts says, “When you do a Google search, you aren’t actually searching the web, you’re searching Google’s index of the web.”  Search engines take the user’s search query and use algorithms to compare the words of the query with the content of web pages in their index.  Web pages that meet the algorithms’ conditions are returned as search results.

The Importance of Optimized Content

When writing content for your website, there are two factors that you should take into account:
1. The content is easily understood by the people who read it.  Just like your radio audience, picture your listener as the reader.
2. The content is optimized for search engines to determine it to be relevant to its topic.  For the most part, this is taken care of for you with the content management system.

Optimizing content for search engines involves including keywords and phrases in the content that are most likely to be searched by people who want to find what you offer. It is important for content to have a clear and concise structure with titles, image descriptions, and meta descriptions containing keywords relevant to the topic, because these are all factors that search engines look at when comparing search queries with web pages.

Keeping Fresh Content on Your Site

Search engines love new content. That’s usually what we mean when we say ‘fresh’.  So you can’t update your pages (or the publish date) every day thinking that will make them ‘fresh’ and more likely to rank.  Nor can you just add new pages constantly, just for the sake of having new pages, and think that gives you a freshness boost.

However, Google has something it calls “Query Deserved Freshness (QDF)”. If there’s a search that is suddenly very popular versus its normal activity, Google will apply QDF to that term and look to see if there’s any fresh content on that topic.  If there is, that new or fresh content is given a boost in search results.

The best way to think about this is a term like ‘hurricane’.  If there’s no active hurricane, then the search results will likely contain listings to government and reference sites. But if there’s an active hurricane, results will change and may reflect stories, news and information about the active hurricane.

If you’ve got the right content, on the right topic when QDF hits, you may enjoy being in the top results for days or weeks. Just be aware that after that, your page might be shuffled back in search results. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just that the freshness boost has worn off.

You can ultimately take advantage of search engine freshness by adding new articles to your site each day about relevant national content as well as local content.  This boost in freshness can ultimately boost your ranking and make your site accessible to a wider audience than you ever imagined.