Google’s John Mueller advises that changing publishing dates on web pages will not improve search rankings if no significant changes were made to the content.
Mueller offers this advice during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on April 1.
A site owner submits a question to Mueller regarding updating the dates on their website’s photo galleries every time they make minor changes.
They ask Mueller if updating publishing dates will have any ranking benefit in Google search results.
While the question relates to photo galleries, Mueller’s advice applies to changing publishing dates on any type of web page.
Site owners commonly ask some variation of this question, thinking Google may reward a page for looking like it has freshly published content. But Google’s algorithm doesn’t work that way.
Read Mueller’s answer to the question below.
No Ranking Benefit For Updating Publishing Dates
Mueller first speaks to the user experience considerations of updating the publishing date on a page when making minor changes.
Site owners can update the date and time on web pages any time they want, but Mueller suggests it might be misleading in some cases.
“You can definitely update the date and time on a page whenever you make changes on a web page. If you’re just shuffling pictures around in a gallery that feels kind of misleading, with regards to updating the date just because you’re shuffling pictures around. So from a user point of view I would find that a little bit awkward.”
Mueller goes on to say, while he doesn’t recommend updating the date and time on web pages too frequently, it won’t have any impact on search results.
“I don’t think it would change anything with regards to search, and we definitely wouldn’t rank those pages differently in search just because you’re changing the date and time on a page.”
Again, Mueller advises against updating dates on a page after making small changes. He recommends updating dates only when making significant changes to the content.
However, if you’re stuck with a CMS that updates dates automatically, then that’s fine. It won’t hurt your site.
“So my recommendation there would be, if your CMS does this by default, and you can’t control it, then like fine. If you’re doing this manually, kind of like tweaking the date every time you make a small change like shuffling images, then I would recommend just skipping that and only update the date when you actually make significant changes on a page.”
Hear his full response in the video below:
Mueller’s recent advice matches a blog post he wrote in 2019 where he tells site owners not to “artificially” freshen articles with a new date.
“If an article has been substantially changed, it can make sense to give it a fresh date and time. However, don’t artificially freshen a story without adding significant information or some other compelling reason for the freshening.”
In that blog post Mueller says Google doesn’t always show dates in search results even when the page contains a date. Google will opt to not show a date when it has no relevance to the content.
“Google shows the date of a page when its automated systems determine that it would be relevant to do so, such as for pages that can be time-sensitive, including news content.”
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.