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How Do Publishing Dates Affect Blog Post Rankings?

Everyone loves fresh content, and so do the search engines. But publishing new content on your site can be a hassle, especially if you don’t have a team of content writers in-house.

That’s why many marketers choose to change their publishing dates even though they haven’t updated their old articles. In this post, we’re looking at whether this practice can, in any way, affect your rankings and what you can do about it. 

Why would you want to change your publishing dates?

Date manipulation can be used to improve your click-through rates. In general, people are more interested in reading an article that was published this year, or even several months ago, rather than back in 2015. 

Updating your article dates can improve the CTR of some pages by as much as 55%. Even though this practice isn’t penalized by the search engines at this time, it could be in the future, which is why you should only use it judiciously. 

Can this practice affect your rankings?

While using dates to improve your CTR can be done effectively by some, others might not be necessarily interested in clicking on your articles simply because they’re more recent than other posts. 

Harsh Agarwal, from Shout Me Loud, has conducted a study on his site, and according to his findings, adding dates to his blog posts negatively impacted his traffic. In fact, it dropped by approximately 40%. 

The point of this particular experiment was to find out how dates affect both user intent and the way the search engines see your site. Naturally, older content is going to be considered dated, which is why you might not show up in the top 10 results if you don’t make any updates whatsoever. This means that your CTR will drop naturally, too. 

Keeping your content relevant and fresh

The only correct way of making sure that your rankings aren’t affected at all would be to go through most of your posts, especially the money-making ones, on a regular basis. Needless to say, an article that you might have written at the beginning of the decade isn’t going to be as relevant now that we’re stepping into a completely different decade.

There are some simple factors that affect how search engines can tell whether your content is fresh or not. One of them is the rate at which you get new backlinks for that specific piece of content, so doing link building almost continuously would be one solution. 

The frequency of the updates also matters, and so is the amount of new content you add to the old one. The search engines are pretty good at telling when you’ve made a modification, and in some cases, you can see significant changes in your rankings in less than a week. 

URLs and publishing dates

If you want to make sure that you stick on the safe side of things, you should never use dates (years) in your URLs. Keep them as simple and sweet as possible, without, of course, avoiding to use the keyword you’re looking to rank for. 

You can simply add a ‘last updated’ date stamp at the beginning or end of the article to tell both your readers that your content is still relevant but also the search engines. 

Another way would be for you to create new pages or posts with different URLs and specify to the search engines that the new page’s URL is canonical. Using this method, you aren’t going to be penalized for any duplicate content, either. 

Conclusion

In the end, it’s better to focus on creating quality content on a regular basis and based on a publishing schedule. This way, Google is going to be able to properly crawl your site, especially if you have a sound internal linking structure and a solid sitemap. 

Changing your dates doesn’t necessarily fool anyone, and even if your readers end up on your site and come across data that is obviously too old for them to be interested in it, you’re going to have a high bounce rate, so that’s not going to do anything for you, either. 

Try to post in-depth content in a consistent manner rather than publishing a short article now and then just to have something new on your site. 

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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