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Alphabet Soup: QDF

In last weeks' episode of Alphabet Soup we looked at QDD ( Query Deserves Diversity ) and today we look at its cousin QDF which means Query Deserves Freshness.

QDF was first introduced by Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, back in 2007. It is essentially an algorithm that helps Google determine when a query should have results that are new. 

You can think of most searches as falling under one of three categories:

  1. Navigational searches
  2. Informational searches
  3. Transactional searches

Navigational searches are often brand-driven and provide fairly clear user intent. If a seach is done for "Tesla" it's fairly clear that the user is looking for the Tesla website and the search results will most likley offer the Tesla homepage as the #1 result. Most of these kinds of searches will yield evergreen content rather than blog post content, for example.

Informational searches tend to be those which convey a desire for understanding or knowledge of a particular thing. A search for "comapre Tesla to Ford Mustang Mach-E" will most likely land the user on a page within a website dedicated to comparing the two vehicles. As time marches on this query may yield different results in 2023, 2022 and 2021 because the content that will be most relevant will of course be the most current model year of the vehicles in question. Informational searches may also yield rich snippet results such as how-to content.

Transactional searches are often related to online shopping, but may also include other types of results. The intent in a transactional search is to accomplish a specific task online as opposed to learning about completing a task offline.

Where QDF comes into play is when Google notices a sudden uptick in the volume of queries around a particular keyword. For example, normally a query for "earthquake" could be considered an informational search and the pages that Google might serve in the results would largely be about what earthquakes are, how the happen, etc. If, however, there is a sudden increase in the volume of queries for "earthquake", Google might also look to see if there are geographic identifiers alongside the word and if there is a bulge in those. So if a user searches "earthquake" and Google notices a bunch of other people are also asking about "San Francisco earthquake", then QDF might come into play.

When QDF is employed, it is likely that Google will answer queries with the most recently updated content related to your query from reputable sources. Normally you might get a Wikipedia article, but with QDF you might instead be offered the latest news from sources closest to San Francisco in our example.

You may have heard from some folks over the years that you have to keep updating your web pages. It is likely that advice was coming from an incorrect understanding of how QDF works. Your evergreen content does not need to be getting constantly updated. QDF will not help you suddenly rank just because you edited your homepage. QDF can only be helpful to you when you are already an authority on the subject being queried, and only when your content is in fact new and fresh and relevant to the users' search.

While this video is a bit dated, the core of the response from Matt Cutts is still true today.