Agile SEO using Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)

Ian Lurie

QDF stands for Quality Deserves Freshness. If you’re serious about SEO, you need to learn it. Otherwise, well, you kinda suck.

That’s a little harsh. You don’t suck. You’re a nice person, I’ll bet. But you aren’t a professional SEO. Is that better?

Just FYI: This is a rewrite of my presentation at Pubcon Dallas 2010.

Here’s a quick case study – bear with me, it makes the explanation make a lot more sense:

The Tiger Woods Traffic Fiesta

April of 2010, I threw an article up on one of our blogs – – about Tiger Woods’ return to golf. It was a little, er, sarcastic (hard to believe, I know) and strictly for fun. I had zero expectation of traffic.

But a few days after it launched, it shot into the top 10 for “Tiger Woods Masters” and “Tiger Woods Celebration”. Not huge terms, but we started seeing real traffic:

QDF Tiger Woods Ranking

The post beat out sites like The Golf Channel, which has hundreds of times more links, and far more authority.

That’s the QDF algorithm in action.

QDF, defined

The Quality Deserves Freshness algorithm favors fresh content over old content, but only for search phrases that are seeing rapid growth in query volume.

So Google, Yahoo! and Bing (I think) saw that search volumes for “Tiger Woods Masters” and “Tiger Woods Masters Celebration” were trending up. They were trending up because Tiger was returning to golf after his short absence.

Then the search engines saw that The Written Word had fresh content on the subject. Bam. Instant top 10 ranking.

How QDF works

This is a bit of repetition from the previous section. If you think you understand it, skip to the next, or you may think I’m suffering from short-term memory loss. But there’s more detail here, so gimme a chance, OK?

QDF works like this:
Search engines want to provide super-relevant content. But traditional search algorithms favor older, more established content and sites, so the newest, most current stuff often ended up buried.

QDF adjusts for this by examining query volumes:

  1. Tiger Woods returns to golf after fixing the rear windshield of his SUV, and buying a new putter.
  2. Millions of people start searching for his name plus other phrases, creating a huge surge in search volumes on those phrases.
  3. The search engines see that.
  4. They kick QDF into gear.
  5. They start inserting the newest relevant, quality content they can find into the rankings, even if those pages lack authority.

Another case study: Appolicious

Appolicious has an iPhone App Reviews web site. With the FIFA World Cup (that’s soccer, for all you Americans out there) coming up, they wanted to rank for things like “World Cup iPhone Apps”. It’s an excellent demographic for them, and there are some fantastic World Cup apps on their site.
One problem: The iTunes store. Those buggers have thousands of links and a chokehold on the entire semantic space around iPhone apps. They dominate for every long and short phrase around iPhone apps. Ugh.


But QDF rode to the rescue. Appolicious wrote an article about relevant apps and published it just when the World Cup seeding was being set. That meant millions of extra searches around ‘World Cup’, and hundreds of thousands of iPhone users searching for apps they could use to track the tournament.

Within 72 hours, Appolicious had their top ranking:

qdf app ranking

Using QDF

To use QDF effectively, you need to:

  1. Monitor trends. Don’t just monitor trending terms using Google Trends. It’s not enough. Watch Twitter using tools like Twitscoop or (shameless plug) my Hightweets tool. Get off the web, too: Read a newspaper, for God’s sake.
  2. Be agile. Appolicious has a huge advantage, with a great writer and the ability to turn out and publish a new article within hours. If it takes you a week to add a page to your site, forget it. QDF isn’t for you. To take advantage of QDF, you need to be able to publish content within hours of seeing the trend.
  3. Write using the target keywords. Please, use the target words and phrases, exactly, in the title, the body copy, etc.. If you don’t know what I mean, may I recommend my SEO copywriting e-book?
  4. Build hubs. Don’t just write one article. Write one article and then link to it from existing, related pages on your site. Appolicious did this by linking all of the relevant app pages to the World Cup article.
  5. Promote your new article. Tweet it. Get some links to it. Tell friends about it. Whatever it takes to get it the kind of attention that can make for fast indexing by the search engines.
  6. Don’t quit. Once you get the ranking, keep adding new stuff and linking it to and from the original page. That keeps the page fresh, and grows your authority so that you can compete with established sites. Otherwise, your new ranking could be temporary.
  7. Aim for the long tail. QDF is great for short, really competitive ‘head’ terms. But where it really excels is longer, lower-volume ‘long tail’ terms. These terms may not get much traffic, but you can get fast rankings and ultra-interested visitors for a few hours’ work.
  8. Optimize ahead of time. If your whole site is invisible to search engines, forget it. Your new article won’t get any notice, because no one can find it.

QDF: Use it. Love it. Learn it.

There you go. QDF in 900 words or less. Got questions? Post ’em below.

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. Interchangeable usage of “Quality” and “Query” intentional? 😛 ‘Coz I’ve seen a lot of decidedly LOW quality articles ranking thanks to QDF 😉

  2. @Miguel Yup that’s a great article. Although I have to wonder: Surely Google has other ways to determine page freshness?

  3. So, what about after the trend for a particular topic has slowed down?
    I suppose that backlinks generated from the one or two week stint at the top of the rankings for that term will help build the pages authority, thus keeping it high in the rankings?

  4. @Dan The initial backlinks help but you have to keep things going. That’s why I like to see site owners keep building out hub content, at a minimum, and doing a link campaign at the same time at best.

  5. hi Ian,
    Interesting take on the “freshness” factor. I’ve often wondered just how much weight it is given (hope that doesn’t make me kinda suck 🙂 ). Seriously though, as a searcher, sometimes I want the “freshest” info out there, and other times I want the most authoritative that has stood the test of time. I like your theory that when there is a spike in interest (i.e. searches) that freshness is given more weight, as your Tiger Woods post would bear out. Very interesting and well-thought-out post. Here’s to QDF! Charles

  6. I just learned something today, thank you Ian. I have never seen this phrase before now, but it does seem to make a lot of sense since the search engines are becoming more advanced and preemptively adjust SERP based on trending events. It’s an interesting concept that I’ll be sure to keep in mind from now on…

  7. QDF, ay? I’ve known about it before, but I honestly had no idea it had such an impact on specific queries.
    Would such thing only work on phrases that are getting tons of searches over time, or on phrases that according to Google will become searched for a lot (like the only related to Tiger Woods)?
    You’ll have to excuse my English… I’m from Sweden.

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