Google Gets Minty Fresh

A new patent application (a rare short one) from Monika Henzinger, of Google, adds a way to consider the freshness of a web page, based upon both the “last-modified-since” message received by a search spider about the page, and a review of the “last-modified-since” messages received from pages that link to that page.

See: Systems and methods for determining document freshness

There are other examples of how this works, but here’s one from the patent application:

As another example, if the number of “fresh” documents of the set of documents containing links to document p is greater than the number of “not fresh” documents of the set of documents containing links to documents (i.e., as determined by freshness attribute(s) associated with each document of the set of documents), then documents can be considered “fresh,” and a corresponding “high” freshness score F.sub.r may be assigned to documents. To illustrate, if each document of set of 100 documents containing a link to document p has a freshness attribute, such as, for example, a HTTP “last-modified-since” attribute, that indicates that 70 of the documents have been recently modified or updated and, thus, are fresh, then a “high” freshness score F.sub.r can be assigned to document p.

Needless to say, fresh documents may move up higher in rankings than documents that aren’t fresh.

This patent application is a continuation of Google’s patent application Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data


6 thoughts on “Google Gets Minty Fresh”

  1. Would having a blog section in you design satisfy this “freshness” criteria? Blogs are updated reqularly, and links to other blogs would insure this trend continues.

  2. Hi Greg,

    A blog can be a great way to keep fresh material on your pages, and to attract links from other site, and to use to link to other sites.

    Google does show a little bit of a bias towards fresher material, especially when the subject of that material is something that is discussed frequently, or may change over time.

    It’s not a bad thing for them to assume in a lot of cases, either. For instance, if the search is for the world series champions, people might prefer to see stuff about the latest champions instead of the team that won in 1997. A freshness score like this may help Google show the page people are more likely search for.

    Since a blog gets updated frequently, a recent story about the world series champions on that blog may stand a better chance of showing up in Google’s results than a page that is four years old, that no one has linked to in three years.

    Other things may factor into which of those pages will show up first. But the freshess factors that Google looks at may make a stronger case for the fresher page ranking higher.

  3. Bill,

    I just read this 2005 post of yours.

    It is interesting that this post was written almost 3 years ago, because it is so current and , yes, “fresh”.

    Not only do your website’s inbound links and content need to be fresh as well as your last-modified dates, your content management system or blog platform had better be fresh too.

    See my comments on your latest Google post “Google Omits Needless Words (On Your Pages?)” for my experience using an old version of WordPress as well as Google’s blogsearch seemingly dumping indexed blog posts on major and minor blog sites that are much older than January 2008.

    Thanks again.

  4. Hi People Finder,

    It is interesting to see how the search engines treat content differently based upon a number of factors.

    I do manage to see a number of older blog posts continue to appear in Google’s main index rather than the blog search index.

    Appreciate your observations.

  5. This certainly turned out to be true. It can be frustrating because the bonus you receive from new content often skews your search results positively before drastically dropping for a few months. Often 3 months later you bounce back into position and it seems the interim period is a reflection of your site becoming “not fresh” before it becomes “antique” in Googles eyes.

  6. Hi Judah,

    Thanks. Google seems to keep on returning to the well with this particular patent. It and some other patents that could be said to be related have been refiled a few times with some changes to their claims to focus upon different aspects of the patent. Freshness seems to be a signal that Google is experimenting with a lot, and while they often treat it as important, the way that they treat it changes over time.

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