If there are no significant changes made to the page's content, then changing the publishing dates on web pages will not improve search rankings, and here's why.
(Source: Search Engine Journal)
During a Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on April 1st, John Mueller provided insight into the topic of SEO rankings and page publishing dates.
If you're only rearranging your website’s photos or updating a portion of the text, changing the publishing date really won’t do anything to help improve your SEO. Many site owners thought that maybe Google would reward a page for looking like it made some fresh content improvements. In reality, Google’s algorithm doesn’t work like that.
“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” - Mueller states.
If you’re making small changes, then there’s no need to update the publishing date. It’s only when making significant changes that it can be a viable option.
(Source: SEOquake via Twitter)
On the other hand, if you’re stuck with a Content Management System (CMS) that automatically updates the dates, then you can rest easy knowing that it won’t hurt your site.
Date manipulation is viewed as an effective way to attract attention on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Users often seek the most up-to-date website to click on and read, but simply changing the publishing date isn’t all that effective.
Mueller even says that page date updates, meaning the actual page date, won’t negatively affect SEO rankings, but they won’t necessarily improve them either.
If you do make small changes and want to change your page’s publishing date, then the best practice is to show both the “originally published” and “last updated” dates.
Your content’s freshness isn’t reliant on the date of your article, in Google’s eyes at least. Factors include:
Frequency of page updates.
Amount of content changes.
New link growth rate.
What really matters is the quality of the additions you make to the content on your existing page.
If you’ve got three different pages that are outdated but could be combined to cover one topic, then do precisely that. Especially if those pages are performing well, you don’t want to lose out on the benefits of them.
You could create one page that uses the information from the three pages to form the ultimate page. Covering the topic from all angles brings the content to your viewers in the most user-friendly way possible.
Once you’ve created your page, don’t forget to include do-follow links back to the other relevant pages. You can provide social media support to the new pages and include it in your link building campaigns.
While changing your web pages’ publishing date won’t improve your SEO rankings, it may not negatively impact it either. If you use a CMS that automatically updates the date, then there’s no need to stress.