8-step formula to leverage QDF for content SEO


There are multiple factors which impact page ranking, and one of them is QDF – short for Query Deserves Freshness.  

If you are working in a fast-paced industry where there are regular updates and developments, chances are you will be able to leverage your content SEO to consistently appear highly in the SERPs thanks to QDF. 

If you want to use QDF to your advantage and jump on trending topics whenever possible to improve your brand visibility, there are a number of ways you may be able to do that.  

There are also other ways to build on your QDF that don’t rely on creating trending content, as we will discover. 

Before we discuss ways to leverage QDF for content SEO, it’s important to understand the basics. 

What is QDF? 

In a nutshell, QDF is a measure of how frequently the SERPs should be updated for a given query.  

For example, breaking news around a terrorist attack will result in that search query gaining rapidly increasing volumes as people look up information on the topic. 

This means that news sites providing regular updates on the topic will be given a high visibility, especially if they can provide developments rapidly and either update content regularly or build out topic clusters to demonstrate authority. 

In other words, a search query will trigger QDF if it is clear that users are searching for current and up-to-date information on a topic. 

On many occasions, queries will not necessitate current information and the onus will instead be on delivering the most authoritative result. That is why for certain queries, you may see pages which haven’t been updated in years appearing at the top of the SERPs. 

To analyse whether a query will trigger – or is likely to trigger – QDF, you can use tools such as Google Trends or monitor news reports to see if interest in the topic is rapidly rising.  

If your brand would benefit from a strategy to leverage QDF for content SEO, here is our 8-step formula for success. 

1. Perform a competitor analysis 

The first step you should take is to look at what your competitors are doing. For example, if you operate an ecommerce site for packaging supplies, you may wonder how you could create content for queries which would likely be subject to faster re-indexing.  

Upon looking at a competitors’ site, you may notice that they have a content hub where they are writing content about a tangential topic such as moving house. However, queries relating to moving house will not typically trigger QDF SERPs, so it would be smarter to build out an authoritative hub of evergreen content and disregard leveraging QDF in this way. 

In some situations, though, you may realise that your competitor has a thriving news hub that is capitalising on QDF queries. For example, you may run an affiliate site promoting streaming services and have worked at building out evergreen guide content for specific platforms, hardware and shows.  

However, now there is an opportunity for you to write about news in the streaming industry so you can begin to get certain content pages indexed more quickly and improve your brand visibility as a result. 

2. Consider average age of top-ranking pages per given query 

Another way you can check whether certain queries you want to rank for will be triggering QDF SERPs is to search your queries and look at the average age of the URLs which are ranking top. If you notice that the query has triggered a rich result such as a carousel then you will be able to focus on getting your content appearing in these SERPs relatively quickly thanks to QDF. 

However, if you search for queries you want to target and find that the top results are months or even years old, then the focus should be on creating authoritative content. You can read our guide to EEAT for advice on how to build out pages which will be seen positively by Google, and our post on creating topic clusters for help with developing authoritative site architecture. 

Skip to step 5 if your focus will be on creating authoritative content. You can pick up tips on ensuring your overall body of content is still seen as fresh and accurate enough to rank consistently well in search results. 

3. Keep abreast of industry developments

If you have completed the first two steps and established that your industry can create content for queries that will regularly trigger QDF SERPs, then it’s time to put in some preparatory work and create systems that mean you are staying on top of industry developments. For example, you may wish to set up Google Alerts, or make a habit of checking Google Trends and industry sites every morning.  

The key to ensuring you remain aware of what to write to improve your chances of appearing in QDF SERPs is to keep informed and stay in the news loop.

4. Consider different content types  

Not every QDF SERP will necessarily value text-heavy content. You may find that mixing it up and using various multimedia will improve your rankings. For example, if you work in the automotive industry and a new model of your car comes out that everyone is interested in, you could create a behind-the-scenes video, or an infographic highlighting the top features of the vehicle. 

Bear in mind that SERPs will also update according to the results which are being clicked on the most, so if you are knocked out of a top slot because a different kind of content is doing better, consider investing resource into this type of content – especially if there will be high levels of interest in the topic for weeks or months to come.

5. Check for content decay and update for relevancy 

Regardless of whether the queries you are targeting are likely to trigger QDF results, you want to ensure your overall body of content is still relevant enough that it will rank. If you have left your content for a while then it might be subject to content decay – in other words, it has become out of date or irrelevant, which can hurt your overall SEO performance.   

Ensure you are keeping an eye on your content performance using an analytics tool such as Google Analytics. It can be useful to look at performance over set periods or years (Period over Period or Year Over Year) to establish whether your content pages are steadily dropping down in the SERPs.  

If you do find this is the case, then set up regular time to complete a content audit and ensure all of your pages are updated so that they can return to good placements in the SERPs.

6. Make a bigger change for better impact 

Generally speaking, the bigger the change you make to your content then the better the impact it will have when it comes to freshness. If you are simply changing the timestamp and republishing the content then this is not likely to be recognised as a significant update, so don’t be surprised if you aren’t rewarded with the uplift in visibility that you may be expecting. 

If you are going in to update content – particularly if it is evergreen content being updated as part of a content audit – then ensure you are making a tangible change to the main content. This could be adding sections to reflect updates or changes, such as a new product being released or a development in a news story.   

It could also be going in and updating statistics where they are out of date. As part of your link audit, you may go in and fix broken links, or include updated links to fresher content which will be of more relevance to readers.

7. Add new content regularly to indicate corpus freshness 

While individual news-focused pieces may be made immediately visible due to the QDF algorithm, rapid URL re-indexing isn’t the only way you can leverage QDF. A general rule of thumb in the world of content SEO is to ensure your entire corpus of content is updated regularly. This doesn’t just mean going into existing pieces and ensuring they are still accurate and relevant – it also means publishing new content according to a consistent schedule. 

Having new content appear on your site regularly will encourage crawlers to index your site more frequently, and in doing so you will benefit from having your updates being assessed more regularly.  

If you have put in the work to ensure your content aligns with EEAT principles, then you will be giving yourself more chances to move up the rankings in SERPs for your targeted keywords.

8. Work on your backlink profile 

Link building is a key ranking factor, and it also sends freshness signals to search engines. The best way to ensure you are consistently indicating your site produces fresh, relevant content is to work on your backlink profile. However, it’s important that you do this in the right way. Toxic links can count against you, and the best method for link building is via Digital PR – obtaining earned coverage on high authority websites. 

You may run one or two campaigns, get some good dofollow backlinks and think your job is done, but the reality is that steady link growth is better. Ongoing link building efforts will send those ‘votes of confidence’ to search engines, informing them that your site is relevant and fresh enough that it keeps being talked about by authoritative sites which are endorsing it with links. 

Need help with your QDF strategy?

If you’re not sure how to get started with your QDF strategy, then we can help you to work out what the best plan of action is for your site and create a bespoke roadmap to get you on the path towards success. 

Book a Free Acquisitions Workshop to find out how you are doing in relation to others in the organic search landscape for your industry. We will give you actionable, bespoke insights that you will be able to work on right away – so get in touch today to discover how we can give your brand the boost it deserves.


Imogen Groome

Content Lead

Imogen is the SEO Content Lead at Skittle Digital. Imogen has worked in SEO since 2016. She helped to define SEO strategy at Metro.co.uk before guiding the newsroom at The Sun Online as SEO Editor. She has more than 5 years’ experience in scaling content strategies that drive revenue for brands through organic search channels. In her spare time, Imogen writes books, watches poor-quality reality TV and hangs out with her cats.

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