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How do search engines treat constantly rotating content?
For example forum news content that loops.

 5:55 am on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Some forums and content management systems have 'newsflash' type content. For example one tool I use has the option to paste in three or four (unlimited in theory) short items of news that rotate each time the page is reloaded. A bit like the banners that change in the top right corner of WW, I suppose, but generally with a lot more text.

If, for example, there are 4x rotating news items with 250 words per piece, what would be the effect on the indexing process? Any postives/negatives? Should this be avoided?



 9:24 am on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

More negative than positive, though I guess it might depend on how you arranged the rotation, and how often your site is spidered.

In general, though, I'd work on the basis that the 'rotating text' was not helping at all; the rest of the page is doing the work.

I don't think it will actually harm your ranking; just not help. At all.

Probably better to place the content on pages of its own, with links form the front page; changing the 'headlines' on the FP is a much smaller proportion of your page, leaving you with stable content around it to 'do the biz'.

Gimmicks rarely help with SEO, and actually don't help the visitor much either. What makes you think this is a Good Idea?


 10:13 am on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't neccesarilly think this is a good idea for every web site.

But it can be a useful tool for informing users of new features, upcoming events and so on. It doesn't intrude in the forums as it would if all 4-5 news items were displayed at once and it grabs attention. Obviously it has to be designed carefully so as not to be too in-your-face.

I'm not sure I'm going to implement it yet, but I'm interested in the options.


 11:57 am on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)


If it's the same options rotating, then it isn't news, is it?

If you think there's some value to your readers, go for it. But remember that you risk confusing the spiders every time they come.

Plus if you are using JS or frames, it will not be 'counted' anyway.

SEs like stability, and give credit for stable content. They cannot give credit for content that is not always there, or content they cannot see.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it - but may affect its value. It may also be useful to check your visitor logs; if you do not have a significant proportion of return visitors, it's a pretty pointless move, anyway. And if you have a very high proportion of return visitors, they'll soon know that your 'news' isn't :)

[edited by: Quadrille at 12:00 pm (utc) on May 4, 2007]


 1:13 pm on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well, if it's new informative content about various diverse subjects, updated on a daily or weekly basis, why would that not be called news? It is for my returning visitors that this feature would specifically be added. But, let's leave that aside for the moment.

The tests I've run show that the content would be spidered. I appreciate the comments about SEs liking 'stable content'. That is one of my main concerns. Would SE spiders 'understand' that there is dynamic content being generated, or would it just confuse them? Or worse?


 1:56 pm on May 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

It would confuse them.

They compare the page in front of them with the one they've cached. If there's a significant change in what they find, they might well treat the page as a new one.

Even if they took your word for it, their index would only hold one version (the 'latest' one spidered) - so most of your searches risk being wasted, as the spider won't see most of your content when they visit.

Say you have five 'revolving messages' - at least four will not be indexed. Maybe all five. Weird to hide content from visitors; suicideal to hide it from SEs.

Place each item on its own, linked page, and it will be spidered. And seen by visitors.


 12:32 am on May 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

That's a shame.

I'm not sure why you think I'm trying to hide content though. This would be some text that would run prominently alongside the regular forum. The news snippets rotate upon page load to draw users attention to various news items and forum features. Rather than hide content, this would have the effect of drawing attention to the content. At least for human visitors.

If this was all crammed on the page it would look messy and putting it on separate pages would, ironically, make the content less visible to users, even if the SEs liked it better. I kind of resent making pages purely for search engines, at the expense of my human users.

This would be a feature useful to forum members (some have even asked for it), but if you say it may have a negative effect in SEs then I need to review it.

You would have thought that intelligent spiders would be a lenient/smart enough to realise that the web holds more than simple static text.

Thanks again for your comments.


 1:27 am on May 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have been running two blocks of randomly rotating content on the home page of a site for at least 2 years. In each case the text is about 160-180 characters long, and there are between 70 and 100 random snippets in each - a number which itself changes regularly. In both cases they are essentially teasers with a small image, linking to longer articles.

In addition the home page has linked titles of the four most recent forum posts, a teaser for the latest blog item and other headline sections some of which change weekly and more monthly. Only about 20% of the page is constantly the same.

I doubt if Google, or any spider, ever sees exactly the same page twice, but it is all on topic content. It has had no negative effects at all that I can discern and the both site and the home page rank very well in Google.

Stability and a rarely changing home page may suit some sites, but freshness suits others.


 8:31 am on May 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks abbeyvet

That's useful. It's good to know that having a dynamic approach to content delivery is not necessarily a negative with the SEs.


 10:21 am on May 5, 2007 (gmt 0)


I have a rotating sample of 'new' and 'best' and 'popular' multimedia items shown on my front page, and additionally I regularly rotate the ad layout on the page for constant 'A/B'-style testing and to help combat ad blindness.

My home page is PR6 and gets lots of traffic.

Maybe I'd do better without these 'sampling'/'rotation' techniques, but I actually do it for the benefit of both humans and SEs neither of which might otherwise get to see the breadth of stuff carried on the site.




 8:29 pm on May 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure why you think I'm trying to hide content though.

Because you said so.

It's one thing to have rotating links or headlines, quite another to 'rotate' large chunks of content.

Think about it; if you have five chunks of content rotating, then one is seen (by users and SEs), while four are hidden (from users and SEs).

Not rocket science, and a disservice to BOTH visitors and SEs.

I did not, BTW, and would not, ever, suggest doing something for SEs rather than visitors; I merely pointed out that what you were proposing would harm your standing in SEs, - as they would not see four fifths of your content - I took it as obvious that neither would your human visitors.


 1:28 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks again for the comments. However, I still can't see how I would be hiding any content from viewers. I certainly didn't say that was what I was going to do, nor do I see how the unintended effect would result in this. On the contrary, the content would be more visible than if it was on separate pages.

As I said, it's a forum. Visitors to the forum generally have dozens of page views (according to my stats). The visitors hang around on the forums and appear to enjoy the service that the forum provides. They do not want to click links that take them to static pages with a few paragraphs of text, each time a new piece of news is posted. Why would they, when that same news jumps out at them on the same forum pages that they are viewing anyway?

Yes, it's possible that brief one-off visitors might miss one or two of the items. But then they are unliikely to have found what they wanted from this web site. Regular visitors might see each news item *several times* as they go through the forum (unless they choose to disable the news in their control panel).

Now obviously spiders might be counted as brief visitors and this is where the issues could arise.


 3:38 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Note: my experience with rotating content is on content/information sites.

Long ago (Before Google :)) I started rotating in both 'new' and 'popular' title-description-link snippets on home pages (in those days home pages were major entry points) and found that traffic volume to those 'snippet linked' pages had a direct correlation to exposure rate.

I then began rotating the content on category (directory index) pages (not hiding anything, simply changing the order on the page) and found that (much like SE query results) the higher category descriptions siphoned off the bulk of the traffic. It allowed me to even out traffic flow somewhat and raised the popularity of less popular content (sort of like B&M stores forcing you to walk by all the other stuff to get to why you went in the first place generating impulse sales).

My home page new/popular insets change daily. My category pages change order weekly (each at different day/time). As said most of this grew up before and with Google. Never had a problem (knocking my head on wall).

I have no idea whether the change in display order without change in content is 'good' for ranking in and of itself. I do believe that it acts to spread out traffic levels somewhat which may have a 'good' effect on the ranking of what would otherwise be poorly trafficked pages.


 3:52 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I dont know your exact situation , but i have been doing it since long and am pretty happy with it

i am using drupal , and showing teasers for various diff contents on index page and SE is enjoying it so are my visitors

Just make sure you give actual link to content original location , make some changes if you feel you are getting into trouble for duplication


 6:05 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are certain situations when rotating lots of content on the homepage has been the cause of pain to the site owner. That is especially true when a large percentage of the page content is constantly rotating.

However, for the most part, rotating content through the homepage is a great way to achieve all sorts of objectives. Just one obvious example is portal homepages. Another is news sites.

Most of my sites don't do it because of the nature of the sites. Some do. No issues either way. OTOH, I bailed one client out of serious hot water because too much of his overall content, homepage and otherwise, rotated.

Time and place for everything. ;-)


 8:40 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

However, I still can't see how I would be hiding any content from viewers. I certainly didn't say that was what I was going to do, nor do I see how the unintended effect would result in this. On the contrary, the content would be more visible than if it was on separate pages.

I'm really not sure how I can make this any clearer.

Take an example.

Let's say your rotation involves five different blocks of content.

When a visitor (or SE) loads the page, ONE block will be displayed. And ONLY one.

That means that visitor (or SE) will ONLY SEE that ONE block - they will NOT see the other FOUR.

So the EFFECT of your selective display is actually to HIDE four fiths of your content.

Several people have mentioned headlines, teasers, links, news items - all fine. YOU talked about revolving the actual page content.

You lose 80% of the time (assuming you display one in four ... what is your display ratio?).


 10:32 am on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

To be clear, the stuff I rotate into my homepage is stuff that exists elsewhere on site all the time. I'm using the rotation as a 'teaser' to get eyeballs across as much of the site as possible.

If you are not showing that content OTHER than when it is in your homepage/rotation then you may end up frustrating visitors who can't find what they came to find 80% (or whatever) of the time, and you might even trip 'cloaking' filters as SEs.

However, as long as you make sure that all the content is available *somewhere* on the site all of the time, eg via a '...more' link from the homepage snippet, then if someone arrives via an SE looking for that one particular item, then they can find it even if it's not it your current rotation.

So, yes, have that rotated content available statically somewhere on the site at all times, IMHO: Q is right. You're doing this for the humans as well as the SEs.




 7:26 pm on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the comments. Much appreciated

Just to clarify, the approach on this particular site would actually be to increase the number of times that each human visitor would be exposed to each of these items of content. When they view the home page they will see the forum topics and one news snippet on the sidebar. When they click through to a board they will see another article, when they view a topic, they will see another...

As the stats show that each visitor views about a dozen pages (with a new snippet being rotated each time), it means that each article will be viewed a number of times. I think I also mentioned that this was a feature that some members had actually asked for. With every page of this forum constantly changing, as topics are added and ammended, quite frankly the regular rotation of three or four sidebars would almost be one of the more stable aspects.

So, my dilema is less to do with the usefulness to my visitors, but is concerned more with the perception that the SEs would take.


 10:17 pm on May 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are lots of factors here that we don't have precise information on, but that's OK, because there is also a fair amount of existing knowledge out there about sites that constantly change content on the homepage, and for the most part, it just isn't a problem.

IMO, Quadrille's point that this won't help in terms of strict SEO, is a legitimate one, but I never look at SEO anymore in that tight a context.

The reality is the the dominant search engine uses a very links based algo (they all do, really), so while I am a big believer in on-page optimization still mattering, let's get this in perspective...

The title of the page (most important onpage element) is presumably not changing, nor are important subheads, high level page text, and important site nav elements. If those things are not present, they probably should be (especially in this case). If those constant elements are present, and considering the importance of backlinks, the SE's have more than enough info to effectively rank the page.

The age and authority of the site matter too, which I'm not sure has even been mentioned. The older and more authoritative the site, and the more good backlinks the site enjoys, the less any of this matters.

Then there is the point that this is -- in the site owner's mind -- better for users. If so, that probably implies more average time on site as a result of doing this (a good thing from an SEO perspective) and more citations from around the Web, provided by appreciative visitors who link back to the site.

It probably is wise to ensure an unchanging set of key info on the page as noted. And it's also probably good to limit the total amount of changing text as a percent of total page contents as several of us have implied or suggested.

If you're worried, you might also consider testing this on a high ranking subpage and watching the result. That's what I'd do if I had any significant doubt at all.

My 2 cents anyway.

[edited by: caveman at 4:32 am (utc) on May 10, 2007]


 3:02 am on May 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks Caveman

Yes indeed, the general makeup and context of the site is not changing - titles, sub heads, theme and content. It is as if WW added a thin column on the right with a couple of hundred words. Whilst viewing this thread, you would also see Story #1. When you clicked on 'Home', you would see the usual content, but Story #2 would be displayed on the right (or wherever)...

Then there is the point that this is -- in the site owner's mind -- better for users.

I know when I am being humoured. ;)

But, as I say, I am still evaluating the project. The site is about 5 years old and this rotating content would probably replace some static boilerplate text that has been there for far too long (and can't be helping from an SEO point of view anyway).


 3:47 am on May 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Then there is the point that this is -- in the site owner's mind -- better for users.

It most certainly can be and sometimes is better for users. Maybe it's all in my mind that it's better for users, but I'm one user who for the very reason of fresh, changing content uses a portal site [Yahoo.com] as my browser homepage. Then there's yet another site that has changing content [webmasterworld.com] that I like that seems to be doing OK.

Static updating aside, rotating can be a benefit to users, dependiing on how simple the site navigation is. I've wanted to revisit an article or story or film clip at Yahoo, for example, and when I went back it was gone, replaced by something else, and I couldn't find it again. But that's an issue with that site in particular, so there's been no choice but to set up a temporary bookmark folder for what I might want to revisit.

The site is about 5 years old and this rotating content would probably replace some static boilerplate text that has been there for far too long

That's sounds like it's probably about as tasty, stale and crusty as week-old rye bread. And there is a good possibility that there are SEO rewards for freshness in some cases.

Isn't it possible to add fresh stuff regularly, instead of rotating? I personally don't think the intention is to spam, and I'm not being obsequious; but I think that encouraging return visits should be the prime consideration and I have no reason to think that that isn't the case. I think adding rather than rotating is a far better idea, for SEO (freshness being a possibility) and otherwise, as long as your navigation is good enough so people can find the topic again.


Whoops, memory got jogged!

I seem to remember something, from not too long ago, about rotating text links that didn't exactly leave Google too thrilled and excited. And I've seen a couple of sites that were slammed hard by Yahoo that had footer links that appeared to be sitewide and/or rotating.

[edited by: Marcia at 4:22 am (utc) on May 7, 2007]


 4:37 am on May 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

> humoured

Ah c'mom bouncybunny, I'm taking you at your word here. Promise. :p


 5:09 am on May 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Marcia, yeah, there was some crazy thing related to dup content and only the date changing or something like that (I think) but that seemed to be very termporary. That what you mean?

Also, a more common issue related to this thread is when there was no static content on the page, only constantly rotating links to other pages. Rotating content is then perceived as ads, and there's nothing left but the page template, so the site gets toasted.

But that doesn't fit the profile of bouncybunny's site as I understand it.


 8:51 am on May 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>That what you mean?

No caveman, I'm referring to that link exchange program that was popular for a while that used rotating links among the sites. They kept changing.

This wouldn't be the same thing at all, but it still has a feel that static updates would be a better choice unless they're Javascript or in Flash.


 3:18 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have two types of rotating texts on different websites.

On one group of sites, I rotate small phrases from Einstein, philosophers etc. These texts are totally off-topic. The number of unique snippets is about 450 so the chance that a spider sees one page exactly the same in two spider rounds is very low. I have had good results with this in Google, as I suspect Google's algorithm assumes the pages is updated every time Googlebot finds it. Crawlrate for these sites is therefore very high (often the same pages are grabbed three times a day, eventhough the main text is static and only changes a few times a year)

On another site I rotate "Did you know..." type of snippets about the site subject. The number of unique snippets is about 15, and Googlebot decided that these snippets are the main content of the site instead of the real content. It pushed almost all pages from this site in the supplemental index because Googlebot treated them as equal. The number of 15 different snippets causes Googlebot to find many times the same text on other pages.

This site flies however in Live.Search and is crawled by the Live.Search bot daily. That bot seems capable to distinguish the rotating text from the real content.


 3:42 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I thought this was common practice? I surely don't see anything inherently wrong with rotating content, I've been doing it for years with no ill side effects. In fact, there have been positive outcomes because of that.

For example, on one site we have a What's New column. That column is dynamic and could change at anytime during the day based on the activity from the admins with new products.

Another example would be Featured Products. Nothing wrong with rotating blocks of featured products as they can take up a lot of vertical space.

The positive side effect of this is that those links are getting indexed as they appear. In the case of What's New and/or Featured Products, you've just provided a "one click path" to the content. ;)

And, since the page is changing constantly, it is always "Fresh" for the visitors. Oh, and of course the bots which assign "Fresh" cache dates, etc.


 6:59 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm interested in this topic, because I use php based, keyword targeted news feeds on static pages. While they don't rotate, they do, of course, change a number of times over the course of a day.

I did a good bit of research before implementing these feeds, and found that the only consistent opinion was that the dominent reason for doing so was to enhance the visitor experience. Whether there are any collateral SEO benefits sometimes is hotly debated. I decided, first, that there is an advantage in providing fresh content to pages that otherwise would not receive updates for extended periods. Secondly, I sometimes use articles from other sources, and I feel that the news feeds on the page help in reducing duplicate content and, perhaps, going supplemental. This is aside from good internal linking, external links and other considerations in staying free of the supplemental index.

There are other, minor, benefits. Really, the main objection I came accross was that news feeds will not help your site SEO-wise, and could have indeterminate negative effects, so why do it?

[edited by: Go60Guy at 7:00 pm (utc) on May 10, 2007]


 10:10 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have a site with several sections constantly rotating on the home page.

One section shows 6 of about 100 images, linked to the appropriate content, and changing with every pageview.

One section shows "pick of the day" which is pre-programmed to change every night at midnight.

Three sections are Today's Most Popular, Month's Most Popular, and All-Time Most Popular. They don't change as frequently, but they do change.

Then there's a special topical section which shows a teaser and links to the full article. It changes after every 1,000 pageviews.

My users love it. It keeps them coming back to see what's new. Some come back daily, some come back hourly. You would certainly never confuse this site with one which is not regularly updated.

It currently employs 6 people from the AdSense revenue alone, so it is not doing too bad in the SERP's. Of course it might do better in the SERP's with static content, but I have no reason to try it.


 6:27 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Don't the snippets basically give certain pages further down the clicking order a boost? E.g., if it normally takes 2 clicks to get to a particular page but snippets occaisionally make it one click from the home page, doesn't that help the target pages without detriment to the home page? I thought dynamic changing content was good according to Google freshbot rules, but maybe I have missed something?


 1:29 pm on May 16, 2007 (gmt 0)


If it's the same options rotating, then it isn't news, is it?

If you think there's some value to your readers, go for it.
But remember that you risk confusing the spiders every time they come.

Plus if you are using JS or frames, it will not be 'counted' anyway.

SEs like stability, and give credit for stable content. They cannot give credit for content that is not always there, or content they cannot see.

Stability is the key in SEO. Therefore, if you maintain some rotating content on your website that can only harm and not work for your optimization anyway.

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