Google’s recent algorithm change that favors the most recent content for certain types of queries offers good opportunities for news and content sites. But for individuals and organizations, does the Freshness Update make online reputation management more difficult?
If you cover breaking news, hot topics or regularly occurring events the Freshness Update will create more chances for your latest content to surface highly for general search queries (like the name of a celebrity, sports team or TV show). Essentially Google has turned up the dial on its “query deserves freshness” algorithm.
But let’s say you are an individual or company that is trying to combat negative listings that rank highly for your name.
A fundamental part of online reputation management (ORM) involves pushing down those negative listings and getting more positive or neutral results better entrenched on page one. This is typically done through things like subdomains, social profiles and more favorable media coverage.
At times when your name is in the news (for reasons you’d prefer it wasn’t) an increase in the number of “fresh” listings on page one means it will be more difficult to keep negative coverage off of page one.
How It Works
Unfortunately a recent example that illustrates this concept in action is Joe Paterno and the terrible events that allegedly took place at Penn State.
Last week a search on “joe paterno” brought up these results on page one in Google:
[Click to enlarge the image]
While the #1 and #2 organic listings are still a general bio and a Wikipedia page, the news onebox at the top and all eight listings under the embedded image results are related to the scandal.
Prior to the freshness change the news onebox would have still been prominent but only 2-3 of the natural listings would likely have been brand new content.
From a user perspective it makes sense to favor fresh content for this query, since it is likely that the majority of people searching for “joe paterno” or “penn state” last week were looking for information on the recent news.
But for the individual or organization in question, the resulting shake-up in the SERPs can be troubling.
To be clear, Joe Paterno is very serious example and I am not implying that he should have an ORM team helping to clean up his search results. It is simply a recent event that illustrates the Google freshness update in action.
What You Can Do
There are instances in which a company or individual is hit by a wave of negative coverage, whether fairly or not. At such times an increase in fresh results means it will be more challenging to keep unfavorable coverage out of the page one results.
So in that sense the Google Freshness Update does make online reputation management more challenging for PR and SEO professionals.
However, an important takeaway is the fact that the Freshness Update works both ways. It may bring more unfavorable content to the forefront, but it can just as easily give a boost to positive content.
At times when negative coverage is increasing, your ability to respond quickly with new content that conveys your side the story (through both owned media and earned media) will increase the likelihood that not all of the fresh listings will be negative.
It will also be important to continue to produce and generate additional favorable content for as long as the freshness algorithm continues to be triggered for your name.
You won’t be able to keep out all of the negative listings, but you can at least create a better balance in what users encounter in the fresh results.
Interested in learning more about Google’s Freshness Update? Check out:
- Giving You Fresher, More Recent Search Results – Official Google Blog
- Google Search Algorithm Change for Freshness to Impact 35% of Searches – Search Engine Land
- Google’s “Freshness” Update – Whiteboard Friday – SEOmoz