Google’s John Mueller suggested that changing publishing dates on web pages without making any significant changes to the content, will not help enhance search rankings in Google search results. Mueller was asked a question during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on April 1 about updating the dates on their site’s photo gallery every time they make small changes. If updating publishing dates will have any impact on ranking in Google search results.
Mueller begins by talking about the user experience considerations of updating the published date on a webpage when making small changes. Mueller states that it may be misleading in some cases to update the time and date on web pages.
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.
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.
John Mueller suggests against updating dates on a web page after making minor changes. He advises changing the date only when there are significant changes. However, if you are on CMS that updates dates on its own, then it’s okay as it will not 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.
Watch the full session in the video below:
Mueller’s advice comes in line with a blog post he wrote back in 2019 stating that he recommends 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.
Mueller says that Google does not always display dates in the search results even if the page has the date. Google will choose not to display a date when it is not relevant 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.