Posted by karl62

We came across a case study on YouMoz with an interesting experiment to find out if traffic and rankings of blog posts could be increased by just changing their publishing dates. Specifically, the author tested to see…

  1. If you update a blog post’s date, will it receive a boost in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?
  2. Can you fake freshness?
  3. Do you have to make changes to the content?
  4. If there is a boost present, how long does it last?

Our experiment: overview

We set up a test of our own test to see if the experiment could produce similar results. The site used in our experiment did not rely on traffic from blog posts; therefore, we didn’t expect to see significant improvements, but still thought testing was worthwhile.

The details of our experiment

  • The test was performed on a total of 13 blog posts.
  • All the posts were originally posted between mid-2014 to mid-2015, but did not have consistent organic traffic. Some posts received zero views a full month prior to the experiment.
  • The content was not edited.
  • URLs for the posts did not change.
  • The content topics were relevant to current search queries.
  • Only the publishing date of each blog post was changed. On September 22, the dates were changed to either September 21 or September 22, so that the blog posts looked like they were no more than one day old.
  • Posts were not shared on social media.

The plan

Before going ahead with the test, we took a look at the test posts to see how they were performing a full calendar month prior to the test.

We wanted to include a mixture of blog posts in this test. As you can see, some blog posts weren’t receiving any organic traffic prior to the experiment.

The results

By comparing the data before (August 21 – September 21) to after (September 22 – October 22), you can see that on the majority of the posts, total organic views increased after the experiment was implemented. Blogs 1 and 4, however, did not improve. Blog 1 was originally posted on August 21, 2015, and was intentionally put in the experiment to prove that traffic does not improve if the blog is no more than one to two months old.

The experiment yielded an increase of 167.27% in organic traffic to the blogs, and increased unique page views by 226.92%.

Overall, general organic traffic improved. However, looking at data from Google Search Console, the blog posts did not improve in terms of clicks, impressions, nor keyword rankings. There was a slight improvement in average click-through rate, from 0.57% the month before the experiment to 1.40% for the month after. The reason for this result is likely that the chosen site did not rely on traffic from blog posts, which means they did not have large amounts of traffic before the experiment.

In the YouMoz post, the author states that their blog posts were already receiving consistent organic traffic and “If your post never ranked to begin with, changing the date isn’t going to do much, if anything.”

Here is an example from Google Search Conole showing that the experiment had minimal influence on impressions:

Conclusion

For our experiment, changing the publication dates on the site’s blog posts did briefly increase organic traffic. However, results in the SERPs did not improve.

This test was meant primarily as a means to corroborate the study previously shared on YouMoz. Instead of seeing the improvements as having the makings of a long-term strategy, our team believes in the potential of using freshness to our advantage by updating the content with relevant information and images, then changing the publishing date to reflect the update.

In this way, you’re not trying the game Google or see artificial results; you’re making changes that could benefit your brand, the audience and, in some cases, your rankings in the SERPs.

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