This article co-written by Robert Mohns and Shawna O’Neal.

You already know that SEO benefits from frequent content updates. We discovered the hard way the inverse is true, too. Inconsistent updates can be a major contributor to losing rank.

We had been working with a client to improve their ranking on a very specific search term. With steady technical and content work over a period of months last summer and fall, we helped our client get from page 3 to page 1 of Google, achieving position #5 for organic ranking of that keyword.

They maintained that position for several weeks. And then, in a matter of days, they fell from #5 to #10. From there, they spent the next couple of months wavering between ranks #10–12, meaning they were on and off the first page of Google results. Not good!

Ever intrepid, Shawna dug in and uncovered an almost direct relationship between periods of not publishing content updates followed by immediate Google rank drops:

Graph of content rank vs publication dates

Every time the content publication rate falls off, Google rank falls off not very many days later. Publishing new updates restores some rank, but not always enough to recover to the same gains as before.

Worse, the effect appears to be cumulative. Here’s what we see when we throw a polynomial regression (aka curve fitting) onto the data:

Chart with polynomial regression curve

This client has a newly established domain, so there isn’t a lot of backlinking to confer authority yet. In situations like this, where regular traffic and strong links haven’t been established, publishing high quality content on a steady schedule is even more important. The same effort it took to achieve position #5 must be consistently applied to maintain it.

We’ll be working with our client to regain lost ground. The good news is that it’s very possible to achieve their former rank. The bad news is it’s going to require maintaining a very steady publication cadence. Possibly a slower one; from looking at the patterns among our other clients’ SEO activity, it appears that consistency is more important than sheer volume of posts. It’s okay to publish one item a week, so long as you don’t miss two or three weeks in between.

Rules to SEO by

  1. Write early, write often. Have content “in the can”, ready to go.
  2. Use your CMS to set publication dates - Google doesn’t take holidays off, so neither should your content.
  3. Don’t skip leg day.

Never skips leg day

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