Query deserves freshness (QDF) is a term used by Amit Singhal in a New York Times article back in 2007. It describes an algorithm which ranks content which is likely to be current, relevant or of temporal importance and artificially inflates the ranking of a page – before that page has gained any links. In essence it allows breaking news to make it into the number 1 slot for a new search term quickly. After the furore dies down, natural ranking resumes and the article with the most backlinks gained ranks for the term. There’s a great post over on SEOMoz on how it functions in real life.
Why is it important?
I learned the importance of this pretty quickly. If you can get your content out there faster than anyone else – chances are you’ll win traffic. It’s the reason I got my April Fool’s day post out quickly – and it sat alongside Techcrunch’s post in the SERP’s. Likewise my post on Yahoo’s Twitter Tool – Sideline – was a “see it – read it – blog it” scenario which was likely to gain traffic.
I first uncovered this story via a tweet on Twitter, and knowing it’s relative importance, jumped straight to WordPress. Regardless of what the product is, if Microsoft, Yahoo or Apple launch something – it’s going to be hot property online, and it’s going to acquire links. To keep an eye on this sort of thing, it’s also worth checking the press release section via RSS for the major brands out there. If you move in the PR space, this will probably get emailed to you on the day of release anyway, and there are a variety of services out there to keep you up to date on this. Don’t worry – I’ve earmarked a future blog post on the subject.
Once the post was created, I sat back and watched whilst my post got indexed by Google’s crawler, and promoted to first place in the SERP’s for a variety of keywords. Having had a bit of banter with Justin over Twitter, he decided to post on the same subject, and we had a bit of a traffic face-off. Who can grab the most traffic for a fast moving term?
I was ranking for terms such as “Yahoo sideline”, and “twitter sideline” – all of which brought a relatively small amount of traffic. Bear in mind that the story as yet, hadn’t went hot on the various social networks.
Major blogs such as Mashable hadn’t yet picked up on the story. I decided (foolishly) – to see if I could get a Tweet from Mashable to link to me. It was plain and simple self promotional. After all – this is the twitter account that is notorious for crashing sites and passing some credit around.. I had my site cached, and with my host coming to Jason Roe’s aid when a flurry of traffic errupted – I reckoned I was in safe enough hands.
Anyway, to cut a long story short – they decided to write a story on that article instead – which is fair enough, I kinda expected that..You don’t get to make the top 100 blogs in the world for nothing.
But what followed was really interesting. Considering that Query deserves freshness was moving the Search engine results pages all the time, although I posted my stuff a good hour previously they still managed to outrank above me extremely quickly. How? By posting links to large Social media outlets like Digg, Delicious, Twitter, Yahoo Buzz, Favorite etc.
This is their Tweet a while later.
What was happening, was that although I was one of the first people with an article out. (Notice the times of posting between Mashable and myself) – the social sites with the highest pagerank were starting to dominate the SERP’s for the hot topic. I guess this shows that even within the query deserves freshness algorithm – perhaps not surprisingly pagerank (or trustrank?) does have a significant impact. Sure enough, bit by bit I started to slip off the number one slot, being driven down the results as a result of social aggregation sites that were sending pagerank – to Mashable’s article. That in combination with their existing Trust, was enough to push me out of the top ten, slowly but surely.
I may not have gained my link, or significant traffic. However, watching the search engine results on Google change over such a short period of time was fascinating – and taught me a valuable lesson. If you’ve stumbled across a good thing or a scoop, bolster your position in the search engines quickly with low hanging fruit such as Digg, Delicious and the various social bookmarking sites. Even if you aren’t managing to get votes, you are ensuring your link competition is less likely to knock you off your temporary slot.
Do all this before you let a large blogger know about it. This way you’ll already have a firm footing in the SERP’s before other high pagerank sites get blogging.