SEO professionals and content creators are ready to capitalise on ‘Fresh content’ every new year. But they should not do this by only updating the date of the article. Only when significant changes are made to the article should the date be changed.
Google started rewarding fresh content and the algorithms started considering the searcher’s need for the latest information. The QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) model measures, assesses and ranks content depending on its relevance for a search query.
This means that newer but less authoritative content can outrank older and highly authoritative content because searchers may need current results.
For example, in a Google search query for elections in 2023, searchers would want to know about the latest elections. When people search for the results of elections they would want results of the current elections and not the past elections (though it would have earned more links).
Previously, article date was used to tell Google which content was newer. But some SEOs started erring at this ranking signal by updating the article’s date automatically. Google decided to find a solution to this by looking into the actual content.
Google decided to use the QDF system which can show fresher content for search queries when required.
What is the meaning of ‘significant changes to content’?
Google uses the ‘Helpful Content’ system and AI-based algorithms for ranking. To answer a query, these look beyond the article’s date. You should update your content significantly before calling it updated content.
Just changing the article’s date to a new one is not sufficient to call the content updated. Rewriting 50% of the article by using synonyms or using content that is AI-generated will not add any value. You should check the following:
- Do the changes made signify anything new or mean anything new?
- What information suggests the changes?
- Are the changes within the content or is it just the date?
If you want to capitalise on fresh content then you can try writing for different search engines each year.
How can the article dates be modified?
You can add the article’s date in the page’s headline, title and URLs. You should add dates if you are sure you will update them next year too otherwise your article will get labelled as outdated. The article’s date displayed can be modified in several ways:
One of the safest ways is to add the ‘Last updated’ date when you update your article. If you have made significant changes you can add the date at the top or the bottom if the changes are less significant.
Another riskier option is to modify the publish date displayed. If you have made significant changes to your article and it is new then you can change the publish date, you need not republish the article. To decide if the content is new you can approach an editor.
First published last updated
If your article is new and old because the layout and the foundation are old but it contains new insights or examples. In such cases, you can use the ‘First published’ date and the ‘Last updated’ date.
Date in headline
If your article is different from last year and contains new insights or data or studies or scientific discoveries then you add the date in the headline. Even a change of opinion is enough for some articles.
Date in title
This one is most easy for SEOs as it helps to boost the ranking without losing out on the user experience. You should verify if the content in your article is valid or outdated.
Date in URLs
You should use the date in the URL only if you are not going to change it in the future.
You should change the article date responsibly and not get tempted to get Google traffic when you are interested in capitalising on fresh content rankings. Never change your article’s date without making significant changes otherwise you may lose your visitor's trust. You can hire SEO services to manage your content.