Should You Worry About Changing the Article Date While Updating Old Content?

Should You Worry About Changing the Article Date While Updating Old Content?

The world is changing at an incredible speed, and we can only join this race. Posting the latest news and trends is a win-win strategy for any site. However, with the growth of an online project, many materials that do not lose relevance over time accumulate in the archive. Quality posts continue to drive traffic even years later. Why not create a rebirth by adding fresh content? In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of republishing articles, how changing the date can improve rankings and increase CTR, when it’s best to abandon this strategy, and how you can edit a Google site after publishing.

How Publication Date Affects Rankings

More than 500,000 new sites appear on the Internet every day, millions of blog posts are published, and hundreds of thousands of commercial catalogs are updated. A lot of this information loses value over time. To make it easier for users to understand the abundance of content, Google tries to sort pages in the SERP by relevance, usefulness, and publishing dates. The Google Freshness algorithm was officially launched in June 2010 and has been updated several times. The turning point was 2017 when more content was created in one year than in the last 5,000 years of our civilization.

The Google Freshness algorithm affects time-sensitive niches in which it is important to convey information to users as soon as possible. News, events, political events, celebrity sensations, and trends are given priority for issuing just according to this principle. After updating the algorithm, the winners were news sites, broadcastings, video portals, and brand sites that regularly publish new content or competently update articles.

Google uses the Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) method to select the best content. When determining the degree of public interest, robots analyze reputable news sites, magazines, blogs, and direct searches. If their indicators coincide, publications on the topic undergo accelerated indexing by the Caffeine system and receive priority in the ranking.

The hype around certain topics is easy to predict in advance. Presidential elections, the Super Bowl, and Black Friday sales happen with certain patterns. Users are interested in recent information. Luckily, you can create a content plan that includes both new content and updated evergreen posts. It can be analytics, who is who analyzes, reviews, seasonal collections, or manuals.

The Google Freshness algorithm takes into account how well you managed to capture the current interests of users and how often you post on a relevant topic. If a site covers the election race daily, its pages are more likely to land in the SERP than the lone news story from a non-political site. The search engine tries to offer users the highest quality content from trusted sources.

The Google Freshness Algorithm separately evaluates the freshness of content on a specific page and overall on a site. Sites with time-sensitive content require everyday edit. If you post articles without reference to news feeds, try to do at least one publication per week. The more often you update your content, the more likely you are to stay in Google’s line of sight.

How to Keep Content Fresh to Please Google

The best way is to generate new content regularly. These can be informative blog articles, ratings, or guides. If your site periodically covers important market events, industry conferences, or fairs, it makes sense to place these publications in a separate heading. The more often you update the news, the more the site is visible. The schedule for uploading new content will help to understand the analysis of competitors. See how often leaders in your niche offer their readers fresh content. Keep the same pace, or get ahead of other sites in terms of the number of publications. Read the related article – SEO Competitive Analysis.

There are many examples of content with no expiration date. Articles such as a chocolate chip cookie recipe, garden care tips, or little-known details of the Lewis and Clark expedition on the site will not lose their relevance. However, even evergreen content needs to be updated periodically. There are a number of reasons for this:

1. Google prefers more recent content. Search engines should provide users with the most reliable and relevant information. If you published a super useful article on techniques to improve page speed on your SEO blog years ago, the topic remains just as popular. However, the algorithms and tools described in the post could be updated. When you republish an article, you can make the necessary adjustments and show Google that you have a finger on the pulse of events.

2. Similar logic works for users. If the search results have articles with nearly identical headlines dating between 2020 and 2016, readers are more likely to choose the most recent. Google users prefer up-to-date information.

3. The presentation style has changed over the years. The same goes for the tastes of the audience. If you look at any publication from early 2010, the principles of the presentation will seem outdated to you. These points should be taken into account when updating content. Stylish illustrations, videos, fresh facts, a few topical memes will make an old post modern. Do not forget to update your statistics, take into account the latest trends, and provide recent quotes.

4. Searches also change. Keywords that worked in 2017 are unlikely to bring the same traffic in 2020. To understand the search preferences of users for sure, you should analyze popular phrases using SEMrush, Moz, SimilarWeb, etc. before republishing an article. Read how to do this in the article – How to Do Keyword Research.

5. Bringing an old article to the top is easier than creating and promoting content from scratch. For several years, the post has accumulated solid baggage of clicks, backlinks, reposts, and comments. They increase authority and give bonuses for further ranking.

In one of the previous articles, we looked at Republishing Content. This focused on which posts should be updated first, how to submit old texts with a fresh view, and whether it is possible to draw attention to archived publications without updating the date. Like any other strategy, reusing the same posts has its pitfalls. Let’s figure out in which cases updating the date can harm the promotion, and how to protect the site from pessimization.

When Date Change Can Be Seo Hazardous

If the page remains in the top 3 after a few years, there is no point in making any changes. Better not to risk high rankings in the hopes of getting more traffic. Instead, focus on posts that are less favored by the main search.

If you’ve recently posted a piece but it doesn’t get the views you want, you might want to wait. Google may not immediately determine how best to rank a page. The page needs to be given time to build up authority with links, comments, and other interactions. A significant increase in traffic after republishing is possible only for posts older than a year.

If your post is old enough to be re-posted and has the potential to rank, could a date change have negative consequences? In most cases, Google is positive about updates, regardless of the scale of the work done. Changing dates on specific pages will not harm SEO.


Difficulties can arise when you change the date in the Sitemap. There are several nuances to consider here:

  • Google refers to sitemaps only in two cases: when robots first spot it on a website and when you inform the system about the changes made to the file. If updating the date affected the structure of the resource or the syntax of the URL of a particular article, these points should be added to the Sitemap and Google ping to this effect. This ensures that search engines don’t miss out on pages that need to be re-indexed.
  • Crawlers respect the <lastmod> parameter. It is important to register it correctly. If not, the robots simply will not be able to read the new data. Make sure the date is written according to the W3C Datetime standard:





The exact time can be skipped – this point is usually minor:





  • Robots read the URL exactly as you specified in the Sitemap. It is unacceptable to omit https, www, or other structural elements of the address. You don’t need to order URLs by modification date, alphabet, or any other principle. Updates are important for robots, not the sequence of data.

Standard Sitemaps should contain up to 50MB and 50,000 URLs. If you need to place more URLs, split them into several sitemaps. The exception to this rule is XML Maps for Google News. They involve the daily content generation and regular updates. These files can only contain up to 1000 URLs. The file should include only news posted in the last 2 days. Older links can be removed from the file. They will remain in the news index for another 30 days.

The sitemap syntax for Google News includes the required tags:

  • <news:publication> with the title of the publication in the <news: name> child tag and the language in ISO 639 format в <news:language>.
  • <publication_date> written in W3C format with precision to the second.
  • <news:title> — the title of the article, similar to the title on the site.

You can also use additional tags: <news:genres> with parameters PressRelease, Blog, Opinion, OpEd, Satire, UserGenerated, <keywords>, and <stock_tickers> for stock/financial symbols in business reviews.

How to Check Publish Date of Website

You can always figure out the publication dates on your site using time filters in CMS or Google Analytics. However, what if you need to know when a particular material appeared on someone else’s site? This can be useful when analyzing competitors’ strategies or understanding how relevant the information is in front of you.

1. The most obvious option is to look at the date on the SERP. This method has several drawbacks. Not all site owners want to include post times. Alternatively, you may see the date of the last update.

2. The answer may be hidden in the URL. This is not the most convenient way. Addresses with dates are usually quite long, and you will hardly be able to view them in full directly in the SERP. Additionally, the date of re-publication may also be noted here.


3. The best way to find the publish date of the website is to open the page code. Right-click on the page and select “View Page Info”. You can also use Ctrl+U for Windows or Cmd+U for Mac. Start a search on the page with the combination Ctrl+F (Cmd+ F) and enter the search “date”, “time”, “publish” or “modified”. Highlighted code snippets will help you trace the entire history of changes.

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How to Safely Change the Post Date

There are several scenarios for page refresh. If it is more important for you to focus on the relevance of the material, indicate only the date of the changes. If you want to emphasize that content remains valuable and authoritative in retrospect, you can specify two dates at once: the appearance of the article on the site and the last edits made. Either way, it’s important to make the updated date on the website visible to all users, not just robots.

3 Ways to Update the Post Date

  • Update the content under the old URL

From a technical point of view, updating content on a page is very easy. You need to go to the CMS, delete outdated data, add up-to-date information, and indicate the current date. It is important to keep the same URL. This way, you can use the page authority you have built up over the years to gain a ranking advantage.

  • Add Live Updates

Adding new timestamps as the content is added is a strategy used increasingly by news sites. You are streaming on a resonant topic. In addition to short notes, you can add images, videos, and links to posts on social networks to the page. This allows you to illuminate the topic from different angles in real-time. With each action on the page, a new update date will be generated.

  • Set up a redirect to a new page

Sometimes it is not possible to publish a new version of an article under the old URL. Problems can arise if the date of the first publication or binding were specified in the previous page address. It is important to keep working on all backlinks that make the post more authoritative in the eyes of Google. When the URL changes, the page promotion will have to start from scratch.

The way out is to create a new page with similar content and set up a 301 redirect to keep the link juice. You can also use this technique to combine several narrow-profile pages into a large thematic guide that continues to generate traffic but are not suitable for independent re-promotion. Read the related article – 301 vs 302 Redirects.

How to Update Timestamp in WordPress

It is enough to go to the ‘Quick Edit’ menu and mark the updated date in the second field under the post title. You can also use a special plugin for the custom display of edits. In WP Last Modified Info, you decide what information will be available to users such as the date of the last changes in several formats, the accompanying text (by default “Last updated on”), or the author’s name. You can apply settings both to all pages of the site and to selected posts. After selecting the necessary options, go to the Schema tab and enable the “Default Mode”. This way you can be sure that information about the update will be available to search engines Google, Bing, etc.


It’s all up to you. Restrict yourself to updating the post date or add new information to the content on the page. We recommend the second option. If you regularly refer to old posts and leave them unchanged, Google may interpret this as an attempt to outsmart the system. When republishing, increase the text volume by at least 10%. Throw up the material with new pictures or videos. The robots will take this as a useful change.

About author
Anna has been working in Digital Marketing for 9 years and has extensive experience in SEO, content marketing, customer-oriented product branding. Previously, a commissioning editor in Nighparty Project and a creative member of the Marketing Unilever team in Europe.