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Updating content 3 (or 4, or 10) times more frequently

Using scripting to generate alternative content

1:23 pm on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've been pondering this for a little while now, so I thought I'd share it with you good folks and see what you think.

The general consensus seems to be that search engines like lots of content. They also like this content to be updated (i.e. changed) on a regular basis (i.e. every time the spider visits). To feed this appetite, would it be possible to store an article in a database and then use a scripting language (eg PHP, ASP) to randomly choose a 'version' of the article every time it is accessed?

This sounds like a lot of work (writing every article 3 times), but one could simply change a couple of key words/phrases and then use a script to 'swap' these words. Thus, the article content is still much the same to the user, but there are subtle enough differences to look different to the SE spiders. I don't want to get bogged down in the actual feasibility of the code, I'm more wanting to get opinions on the actual concept.

I suppose that this function is similar to some article writing software out there, except that this would make the content appear to be updated more often, rather than just create exactly the same content (with a few changes) in several locations. i.e. This is not creating junk, just modifying good content.

A few holes in my own theory:

1. This whole idea depends on how long the search engines keep old cached pages. If they can see that a page is swapping between 3 different versions, they'll wise up to this pretty quickly.

2. It also depends on how much a page has to change for the search engines to count it as updated. i.e. Some pages dynamically display the date. I seriously doubt any SE will count the page as being updated every second, just because a few characters change.

Any thoughts?

8:03 pm on Aug 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm, so you'd like your content to appear updated without actually updating it.

Sounds a little spammy to me, not a million miles away from the hundred thousand page auto-generated, built for adsense sites that seem to be proliferating at the moment.

Why not spend the time that it would take you to write this script and use it doing something else. Perhaps creating original new content?

8:43 pm on Aug 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'd be more inclined to publish the basic article and add more content to it as time went by. Just add info, say a paragraph or so, that expands on one aspect of the basic article. Then later do the same for another aspect of the basic article.

Not all content might work well doing that, but if yours does, it might be an option.

Depending on if it fits on your site, I'd also consider putting a "updated pages" link on your home page or some other frequently spidered page.

9:02 pm on Aug 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What you are doing is latching on to one little factor in the hopes that it alone will propel you to the top.

What will happen is that your page will become categorized as a news type page. This is a good thing if what you are serving up is actual news, or if you have another reason to have high crawling frequency.

Search engines also look for pages that remain unchanged, but steadily gain links over their life. That sort of timeless data has a different sort of value, and it is a lot easier to support in the long run.

12:25 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the responses... BigDave, that is the answer I was looking for. I thought that there must be some way that the SE's latch on to frequently updated pages and assess them slightly differently.

Just to clarify, I don't think this would be counted as spam. It would still be good content, not autogenerated rubbish. It would just change slightly every time it was viewed. Although having thought about it some more, you're all quite right; it would probably entail so much extra work to input all the synonyms in a way that still reads well, I could probably write another two totally original articles in the same timespan!

1:39 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hi Zulu. It's not what you think is spam that is spam, it's what most users, Webmasters and search engines qualify as spam that is spam.

A page that changes frequently thanks to a script, doesn't add anything new to the user's experience, and is created solely to fool a search engine qualifies as spammy.

When you create for people, you don't spam. When you create for search engines, you spam.