Blog: SEO

Should You Change the Publish Date of a Post for SEO?

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John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

Today’s question is, “What criteria does Google look at when they are trying to figure out the last time a blog post or article was updated?”

“I have some blog posts that need updating. Some need a few tweaks. Others need major overhauls.”

“But I need to know what they are looking for when reconsidering the content of the page. Right now, we’re submitting them manually. We’ve heard that newer content gets a SEO boost.

So is that true? If you change the publish date of a blog post, does Google look at it differently? Does it get a SEO boost?

How Does Google Crawl Previously Indexed Content?

Google checks your pages against the last version it crawled and indexed. If the page changed, that new version of the page will be indexed.

How often does Google crawl your website?

It depends on how often you publish new pages. Most websites are crawled by Googlebot at least once a month. If you publish material on a consistent basis, that usually tells Googlebot to crawl your website more often.

Major media or new sites that publish several times per day will be visited by Googlebot every day.

A lot depends on the crawl budget for your website as well.

What Is the Crawl Budget?

The more important or popular your website is, the longer Googlebot will spend crawling the site when it visits. This is why page speed is important, besides making the site more user-friendly. The faster Googlebot can crawl and index pages on a large site, the more often the content will be updated in the Google index.

If you’ve ever seen old versions of your pages in Google search results, this is one reason. Every time you make a change to a page, Googlebot still has to come to your website, and crawl the new version of the page. It doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Googlebot has so much time allocated for each website on it’s regular itinerary. The more you publish, the more popular the site, the faster the pages render, the more often changed pages will be updated in the Google index — which is the pool of web pages that the search results are drawn from.

The Modified Date and Published Date

One of the things that your website may or may not output in Structured Data are the published and the modified dates. You can test pages on your own website by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Below is a screenshot of a recent article published on this website.

Structured Data from a web page

Every website, Content Management System (CMS), or WordPress theme will be slightly different, but what Google looks for are the original date the page was published, and the date it was last modified.

Sometimes, in search results, you may see either the original publish date, or the date the article was last modified, if the page outputs Structured Data.

If there is no Structured Data to go by, Google will compare the page to the last version it encountered.

Content “Freshness” and SEO

Content freshness was something many people said affected the SEO of a website in years past. So, sometimes people will change the publish date of an article in order to make Google think the article is newer, even if no changes have been made to the page.

Google will compare the last version of the page to the version it recently crawled. So changing the date without changing the content of the page is not going to “boost” your SEO.

You would have to make significant changes to the page in order to improve it, to make it rank higher.

Best Practices for Publishing Content

To make Google see your site as authoritative, it is better to publish in-depth content on a consistent basis, rather than short articles on a daily basis.

Creating articles or resource pages that answer questions in depth usually rank better than short articles published “just to publish something”.

If you publish one a month or once a week, keep a consistent schedule, and focus on quality.

Changing the dates on your articles doesn’t fool Google.

Remember that websites that commit to building up a library of good content usually do better in SEO, because they have more opportunities to rank.

Every page of content you create is another page that has a chance to rank.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

20 comments on “Should You Change the Publish Date of a Post for SEO?

  1. Thanks a lot for this. I have learnt that I should publish long articles once a month or even once a week, rather than posting short articles everyday. Once again, thank you!

  2. So in this article, I notice that at the top of the post, it says “Updated June 1, 2019.” So how was that achieved exactly? Was June 1 the last modified date in the admin? And you manually added the “Updated” word or does your theme have some conditional logic to add that automatically if there is a modified date different from the original publish date?

  3. HI,

    How to Update your Content Every week without changing the dates. I have seen some sites like that. Ex- gethuman com. This site updating his full site every week without changing anything. Not getting any change date penalty.

    Can you tell me how they can do it ?

    1. Hi Catys:

      Any site can change the publish date on their articles. There is no “penalty” for doing so. However, there is no benefit from changing the date either. Any signal that can be easily manipulated (changing a publish date) is not a good signal for what should rank highest.

      Many people still say changing the date can improve SEO, though I’ve never seen a study that proves this. “Content Freshness” was an idea that used to be floated in SEO circles about six or seven years ago, so that may be where it originated.

      What you are talking about is changing the content itself. There is no “penalty” for that either. In fact, I would say there is only upside in improving your content on a regular basis.

      Google only looks at the state of the page the past time it encountered the page (the last time Googlebot crawled the page). The page is assessed on that most recent state.

      Let me know if that makes sense.

      – John

  4. Hi John

    Really useful article – thank you very much!

    I have a dilemma. I want to publish some content to Medium as part of the Medium Partner Program. Some of my material is a few months old and Medium prefers new content. Would Medium recognize an ‘update’ or am I better off changing the date of the ‘published date’ of my post? It’s worth saying that I will be improving and updating the posts before I import them and add the canonical link.

    I figure I won’t be posting all my content on Medium, just a few select pieces so even if I need to change the published date it would only be on a small number of posts on my site.

    Your opinion would be much appreciated!



    1. Hi HH:

      As far as I understand it (and I’m not an expert on publishing on Medium), but they want new material on their platform.

      If you publish articles on your own website, then republish on Medium with a canonical to the original article on your website, that shouldn’t be a problem.

      If the goal is to maximize views on Medium, and views on your own website aren’t as important, than do whatever Medium says as far a publish date. But as far as I know, you shouldn’t need to change the publish date on your own website articles.


  5. Hi. I agree we should not change the date for Google. But here my point is, can we do it for the readers? Many readers’ mindset is that they see the ‘date published’ and decide whether to consider the article or leave. So keeping this point in mind can we change the date published (of course by updating it with fresh information). Please share your views.

    1. Hi Anchal:

      What I like to do is put both the published date, and the date the article was last updated. This way, the readers can see the information is not out of date, but current with new and fresh info.

      – John

      1. Thank you John for your guidance. I checked in WordPress, there is no option to show the ‘last updated’ date that I can show. It only has a ‘Date published’ option. Any suggestions for its solution? Sorry to bother you.

  6. Hi John,

    Many thanks for your great article.
    Personally, I don’t prefer changing the publication date, as I think it’s some kind of misleading.
    In addition, I am sure that Google could tell the difference between an article with just a new date update and an article that has been thoroughly updated.

    However, I have never seen Google shows the modification date with the search results. It shows only the publication date, and this is the only downside for it.

    1. Yes indeed. Changing the publish date seems misleading, and Googlebot has a record of when it first encountered that page, its content, and the URL. Many people used to preach this as a means of improving your SEO, though I don’t see this advice much anymore.

      I’ve seen both the publish date and modified date in SERPs, I am not sure what triggers which one to display.

  7. Hi there. So my blogs autopublish a date right at the top when I publish one. The date field is not something I can edit with text, like ‘updated’. In this case, would you recommend leaving the date at the top as the original one, and then adding an editors note somewhere? I’m just conscious that if I do that, the first date people see is the older one. Or, I also have the option of changing the date at the top completely. Would really appreciate your opinion. !

    1. Hi Rebecca:

      It looks like changing the original publish date (at the top) may change the order of posts as they appear on your blog. It may be best to add a note near the top that indicates if you made major changes and on what date. Everything else won’t affect the ranking in Google, but it may be good for your readers to know if the information is current if something major changed.

      – John

  8. Hi Mr John Locke, i intend using “Republish Old Posts” WordPress plugin for my website as all my content are timeless. My purpose of using is to bring my old posts in front of my visitors so the site looks always fresh with something new to use.

    My questions please is, will i get a penalty from google for using this plugin? as i am basically not making any changes to the content of those pages.

    Here is the plugin page

  9. Sir,
    I posted a article today, and after that someone copied my article heading and all other main content. He changed the publish date to be before my publish date. Now Google shows his content, while my content is invisible in search results. How it possible? Why is Google not identifying it?

    1. Hi Rokey:

      To display the publish date, you should have structured data in the code base that shows the publish date and modified date. Use either Schema or Microformats to display the date in the code, as well as on the front facing web page.

      The second half of your problem is, “why is Google not showing your article in search?”

      The first thing I would do is use Google Search Console to inspect the page, and make sure it has been crawled and indexed. You can request Googlebot to crawl and index the page if it is not currently indexed.

      If Google has already discovered your page, but it has chosen not to index the page, it may be due to a quality issue. I would make sure the page is free from grammatical errors, and makes sense to readers in the target language.

      It also may be possible that your competitors site has more authority, via other sites liking to their website. Google does not always rank the first version of content the highest. If they “trust” the other website more than yours, that can also be part of the issue.

      I wish you good luck in getting your content back in the search results. Hopefully, these tips will help you identify the problem, and solve the issue.

      – John

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