You look at Google Analytics and realize one of your most trafficked pages to your site is an old blog. The publish date was from several years ago. You decide to change the publish date to make it look more recent. Is this the best practice and does this follow Google’s guidelines?
You shouldn’t change the publish date of an article if no changes were made to the article. Below are reasons why you would change the publish date of a blog post or article:
- Old articles need updated with more up-to-date information
- Corrections are made to old stories
- Content is thin and needs enhanced to abide by Google’s algorithm
- Content is no longer relevant and needs enhanced to improve the user experience
What’s confusing is what to do with the publish date of an article or blog post. If you simply change a statistic, should you change the publication date or keep the publication date as is and notate that an adjustment has been made? If you completely revamp an article, should you change the publish date? I’m going to do a deep dive into best practices on changing the dates within blog posts and news articles. This is an important topic yet it’s somewhat of a grey area.
How This Topic Came to the Forefront
I realized much of my blog content was thin, dated and irrelevant. The blogs needed to be enhanced, deleted or redirected. I spent over 100-hours of time correcting the thin content issue on my site. As I was going through past blog posts and making major modifications, I asked myself, “Should I change the publication date of the blog?” On one side of the spectrum, changing the publication date made sense. If I made significant changes to a past blog post, putting a more recent publication date would seem more relevant to the person reading the blog. Then I started to think of the manipulation that could take place. The more recent and relevant your content is, the higher its chances to rank in SERPs [source]. If someone were to see a more recent publication date, they are more likely to click on it as it conveys more relevance based on the timeliness. Because of the relevancy component, every site owner would start making slight changes to their blog just so they could put a more recent publication date. I was torn between what was the best option so I consulted with some of the best SEO experts on Twitter. Note: If you like SEO, you can follow me on Twitter, @Jason_Parks1
Asking the Experts
Glenn Gabe is an SEO expert I respect and trust. He understands Google’s algorithms unlike most. I asked him the following question below:
“If someone were making significant updates to a blog, what should be done about the date?
- Option 1: Update the main publish date (make sure real, significant changes have been made)
- Option 2: Show two dates; the original publication date and the date the post was updated.
- Option 3: Use the “datePublished” and “dateModified” schema to make it easier for algorithms to recognize.
- More on the schema for datePublished and dateModified below along with a solid plugin recommendation!
Glen’s Answer: “Don’t just update the original publish date. That’s deceptive. Go with option 2 and 3.”
If you are unfamiliar with Schema, it’s markup code that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users [source]. When it comes to the proper schema for publishing or updating a blog or article, there are two options:
WP Last Modified is a great plugin for WordPress to help you showcase the proper schema for date published and date modified. Many WordPress sites will already have this feature baked in with All in One SEO Pack or Yoast. Below is an example of what the published date and date modified look with WP Last Modified. Underlined in blue is the original publish date. Highlighted in yellow is the updated date. This is the proper way of going about changing the date of an article or blog post.
Quick Wins? Not so Fast
A lot of people update their publish date because they feel a fresh publication date helps “bump it” in Google’s search results. There is risk involved in doing this. I recommend you read THIS TWITTER THREAD where a respected eCommerce expert continued to update the publication date on one of his popular blog. It resulted in the date being reverted and rankings tanking. According to Google’s Webmaster Blog, Google’s system looks at several factors to come up with what they consider to be the best estimate of when a page was published or significantly updated. Based on all of the searches I’ve conducted on Google, the publish date is more likely to appear than the modified date in the search results. Google clearly states that they will determine whether to show the original publication date or the date the post was updated. It’s also important to note that for Google News, the date and publish or update time is required. More best practices can be found HERE.
Marie Haynes is another SEO expert I greatly trust. She’s always been at the forefront of EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) pertaining to Google’s algorithm. I utilized a blog post on her site so you can visually see how this looks in the search results and on her website. Below is an example of the search query “EAT and SEO.” Marie’s site was the second result to populate on Google. You can see the date that’s populating is November, 2018, which was her publication date. Once you click into Marie’s website (see below) you will see that the date updated/date modified was July, 22, 2020. While changes were made to the blog, the original publication date stayed the same in Google’s search results., Google didn’t think enough significant changes were made from the original article to put July 22nd, 2020 (dateModified) in the search results versus November 26, 2018 (datePublished). Marie followed Google’s best practices as to how she updated this blog post.
If it’s imperative to you that a new publication date is visible on a blog post about a certain topic, you may want to consider writing a new blog post and either deleting the old one or redirecting the old one into the newer one with more up to date and relevant information. Search Engine Journal goes into more detail in a similar blog post on this topic. The next time you ponder what to do with the publish date, think back to this article as a resource. It not only will provide the most relevant information to the user, it will abide by Google’s guidelines, which will be in the best interest of your site.