Should I update old publish dates on popular blog posts?

At the end of each year, the HIPBlog team sits down and creates a list of the year’s most-read blog posts. This is a fun exercise, as it teaches us what is working and what isn’t. In years past, these lists were just of the posts with little to no external analysis of why they were successful.

For the 2020 wrap-up, I decided to treat it a little differently and share my thoughts about what each post needed as I reviewed it. If you want to read my analysis of those top 7 posts, check the post out here.

Some of the HIPBlog’s most popular posts are well over 2 years old. Some are closer to four years old. Here are some of those high-performing posts:

One of the primary sets of questions I ask repeatedly in the 2020 Year in Review post, is, should I be changing the dates of these posts? How do dates impact SEO? Will updating the date on a post that is more than 4 years old impact it’s ranking?

Let’s investigate together. I’ll show you what I’ve uncovered so far.

Freshness vs Evergreen

Back in 2011, Google revealed a “Freshness” update, which gave ranking priority to websites that were posting fresh, timely content.

Truly fresh content has the advantage here, giving news outlets and other live updating websites a leg up in search rankings.   The more relevant and recent content, the higher the chance it ranks in SERPs.

We also know that Google and other search engine providers rank posts by how long they’ve been established and how completely the post covers a particular topic.  That means evergreen posts are often top ranking.

Google gives preference to pages that are updated over new pages that cover similar topics.  So updating these evergreen pages is critical.

5 Tactics for Changing Dates on Blog Posts 

What happens when you want to freshen up an evergreen post or a post that is performing well?

To focus on the date, in particular, understand that there are two different ways to change dates on a page:

  • Remove the ability for SERPs to crawl your page dates
  • Change the dates on the page itself
  • Change dates in the sitemap
  • Create a page that reflects live updates
  • Redirect several related pages to a new page

Let’s dig into three of these a bit more.

Remove Dates from SERPs Crawlers

If you let search engines crawl the publishing dates on your websites it can be detrimental to your search rankings overall. How do you keep search engines from seeing dates?

One case study saw a 40% drop in traffic within days of re-adding dates to a successful blog.

That same individual recommends using this WordPress plug-in to remove dates from your posts. I’m not allowed to make changes to our WordPress, but I’ll try to come back to this post when we implement the plugin on the HIPBlog.

Change the Page Date   

That being said, you want users to be able to see the dates on your posts. Isn’t that counterintuitive? It turns out that while it hurts your rankings to have dates visible to search engines, humans want the full story about the piece of content they’re reading.

It’s recommended to display both the original publish date and the most recent updates. The post mentioned above said to use JavaScript.

Change the Sitemap Date

If you are going to change the date in the sitemap, make sure that you make enough significant changes to the webpage to justify it.

Otherwise, Google’s sitemap guide states that a page’s <lastmod> value needs to be accurately represented or Google will stop crawling the page.

Those are the options currently available for brands that are working to keep content fresh and ranking as good as possible. But date on-page isn’t the only factor that Google looks for in refreshed content. Some arguably more important factors include:

  • Frequency of your updates
  • The amount of content changed
  • Rate of new link growth

The only way to learn what really works is to experiment. Take a successful post and update or remove the date. See what happens. Try it with a post that wasn’t successful too. The only way to figure out the tactics that work is to try them on your brand and audience. Good luck and let us know how it goes.


 

Let us know what you think:

  • How do you manage updates and dates on blog posts? 
  • Have you ever tried hiding the date on a post? 
  • How old is your top-ranking post?

 

 


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