Publish Date, Last Updated, Query Deserves Freshness, & Google Fresh Rank

Discussion in 'Search' started by Ryuzaki, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. Ryuzaki

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    Ryuzaki 女性以上のお金 Staff Member

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    For my next trick, I'll be getting obsessed about Freshness!

    I'm seeing this thread already as the cousin to my 301 Redirect in the Present Day thread, where I posed some questions and then eventually ran the experiment myself for all to see.

    The Problem
    If you read the forum and my case study regularly, you'll have seen me saying that in the past 3 months Google has been pushing more than several significant updates. I kept commenting that I was slipping in commercial rankings while gaining more long tails.

    The Blame
    I was attributing that to them giving more weight to age, which is what I originally saw, but I was only looking at the top 10. But as I kept looking further into the top 20 I realized that a huge part of it could have been a recalculation of Fresh Rank. Newer posts from last year and this year are beating me from two years ago with nearly no links and poor sitewide metrics.

    For some odd reason, I simply never realized commercial intent queries like "Best Blank" and "Blank Reviews" where Queries That Deserve Freshness. I'm traditionally an information site guy so I never paid that much attention.

    The Question
    So last night I went on a several hour long journey to read everything I could about this topic to make sure I'm missing nothing, all the way down to patent snippets and all the way up to forums and bloggers.

    I learned nothing new, so I narrowed my search to specifically what I'm thinking about doing for my site. This is when I found about 4 case studies, all with various problems that rendered them completely (retarded) useless.

    All of these case studies were simply about "What happens if I do something to my publish date?"

    Published Date to Updated Date
    So there was one by a Moz contributor who changed his publish dates to "Last Updated" dates. Let me state here that nobody used Schema markup or anything else. He saw positive results but he only did it to I think 16 posts that weren't getting much traffic. Some of them got up to 200% boosts in traffic. Yaaay, expect when you read the comments he reveals that he also bumped all the posts back onto the homepage, and it was the remaining 5 or 8 or whatever that got the biggest boost. Worthless.

    Published Date to Current Date
    Then there was a guy who accidentally left the "current date" as a placeholder when uploading a site redesign and saw a huge boost. This is already muddy since the site was redesigned too. But he changed it back and nearly immediately saw a dip right back to normal levels. So he changed the date back to the current date and got a boost again, then back to normal. The problem here was we're talking about the difference between 100 visits a day sitewide to 200 and back. I think it the results were legit, but there's not much statistical confidence.

    No Date to Published Date
    Another guy never had dates on his articles, and he added them and tanked his traffic by 40%. That's all the data we got out of it. But it's an important point that dates can hurt you where freshness is demanded.

    Other Random Reports
    AirBNB changes their listing dates to the current date every time Google crawls them, so Google thinks it's fresh each time. Google claims that they'll take the date snippets away from sites abusing it, and that you can't "trick" Google, but I'd say that's a crock of shite at this point. I think they're capable of doing it and will do it, but I don't think they've done it yet. But I've also not tested or searched for examples of people getting this penalty.

    The Proposal
    My proposed questions to you guys are:

    Should I change my published date to an updated date site wide except on the archive pages? I'm thinking of only having the updated date (and marked as such), but I toyed with the idea of having published and updated on there. But I want Google to recognize my freshness.

    Part of the problem is that all of my commercial pages were just HEAVILY updated a month or two ago, as well as a majority of my blog posts. Google didn't recognize it and they still list my publish date in the snippets in the SERPs. I'm thinking of switching to Updated and possibly even adding the Schema for it on there.

    I do have meta properties for Published Time, Modified Time, and Updated Time in there, but I read John Mueller saying that Google ignores and has never used those. This makes it sound like they only base it on their own comparisons in their index on whether or not substantial changes have been made.

    I think the examples above illustrate a few points that need to be stated.
    • Google prefers aged content for some terms. Will changing to an updated date hurt these rankings even if the publish date is old?
    • Google prefers fresh content for some terms. Will changing the date along with having updated them in the past couple of months help with these rankings?
    I'm not going to open the can of worms of trying to show different dates depending on the queries I want to rank for. I'm going to be making this change sitewide. I also do not want to get into having the dates in the title tags either.

    Is this a good idea? What have you to say about this in general? Have any of you toyed with this?
     
  2. DarkRed

    DarkRed

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    I think that is a good idea and it's something that I been thinking lately.

    I think that the best way to do it is to display it like this:

    <time datetime="2018-03-27T00:00:00+00:00">Updated on: March 27, 2018</time>

    Or something like that.

    But keeping the published date (and updated date too) on the schema markup.
     
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  3. Ryuzaki

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    Ryuzaki 女性以上のお金 Staff Member

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    Thanks, @DarkRed. I'm currently considering removing all instances of any dates from the meta data, which Google ignores anyways. I didn't realize I had that in there. I read that Google still gets confused here, and then any instance of extra dates can cause them to latch on to the wrong one. You'd think with actual meta tags they'd have that sorted out. I don't know though, they're not perfect.

    I'm thinking I'll remove all instances from the meta data and then change the Publish date to an Update date and add some schema or micro-markup to it. I'm tempted to not even use any schema.

    Everything I'm seeing indicates that Google cheaped out on the resources needed to really to drive "freshness" based on content changes and are entirely relying on the date's on the page. That may be inaccurate, but it's what I'm seeing reported everywhere, even in the non-SEO realm of people talking about Schema itself.

    I definitely am not interested in tricking Google so much as not giving them places to get confused.

    Let me support why I'm talking about stripping everything but the Last Published (and I may or may not use Scheme markup there). I read several instances, but here's one in specific that shows exactly why I want only the actual updated date and nothing else:

    This SEO by the Sea post shows how they copy and pasted the date of a patent they were discussing into a post, and Google used it instead of their actual listed publish date in the SERPs. I'm assuming they base their freshness off of this date too, even though they have cache dates, but I can't prove it.

    And here's one of several places where John Mueller said that Google doesn't use the meta tags for dates. There's also the page where they list exactly which ones they do use, which do not list anything related to dates.

    Edit: For future reference, I just made all the changes in the evening of April 5th. I changed it sitewide, even on archive pages, and used the exact markup DarkRed recommended, which was what Schema's documentation suggests too. We'll see what happens.
     
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  4. Ryuzaki

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    Ryuzaki 女性以上のお金 Staff Member

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    It's been 3 full days since I made the change. Of course, Google hasn't yet encountered or calculated all of the posts yet, but I'm seeing indications that some are starting to process the change.

    For instance, here's the SERPWoo graph for a post that used to sit in the top 3 that made me a ton of money. You can see that this ranking boost is 100% correlated to changes I made on Thursday night, with today being Monday afternoon.

    [​IMG]

    That's a jump from low 2nd page to low first page. If I search manually I see it a little bit higher now.

    All of this pages terms are doing the same thing, so I should definitely see a boost in organic traffic site-wide, or at least for the commercial category where it matters.

    My hopes is that all of these see this kind of boost and also continue to slowly climb back to their absolute peak over the next month. It would make a huge revenue difference. As these posts got eroded, I kept my earnings stable by adding more and more. With all of them activated and performing well... I need that!
     
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  5. DarkRed

    DarkRed

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    That's great @Ryuzaki !!

    So, you removed all the dates except the last updated date like you said right? Or you kept the published date?

    Thanks
     
  6. Ryuzaki

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    Ryuzaki 女性以上のお金 Staff Member

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    @DarkRed, I should have specified, my bad. In the end, I:
    • Removed meta tags showing Publish date, Modified date, and Updated date
    • Replaced every instance of Publish date site-wide with...
    • On taxonomy pages and the posts, I added an Updated date
    • I wrapped the Updated date in Schema itemProp markup, though I'm not convinced it was needed or will be parsed correctly without creating the entire object. Someone correct me here if I'm wrong.
    Seems like they're picking it up on the very next crawl.
     
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  7. Darth

    Darth

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    @Ryuzaki so you deleted all meta tags, then on the actual page, if the text said "Published on XXXX" or similar, you changed the text to say "Updated On XXXX"?. So there is no reference to any published date any where on the page.

    What you describe in your first post might be happening to me...

    So the only code you have on the page is something like:
    Code:
    <time class="entry-date updated" itemprop="dateModified" datetime="2018-03-18T13:28:33+00:00">4 weeks ago</time>
    I've just done this, let's see what happens
     
  8. Ryuzaki

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    Ryuzaki 女性以上のお金 Staff Member

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    @Darth, yes, but I didn't do "4 weeks ago" or any kind of relative dating. On the datetime I'm doing 'Y-m-d' with PHP, which renders like '2018-04-10' but without the time of day, and on the actual displayed time I prefer 'M j, Y' for something like 'Apr 10th, 2018'.

    But the main point is that I don't want relative dates. I want very explicit dates with no possible confusion. I'm sure Google might be able to pull the datetime value and still sort it out, but it looks like to me they're placing all the emphasis on whatever actually renders. I'm trying to give them the least hurdles to jump to get the data they're looking for in a format they can read without doing much calculations (while still serving the visitors).
     
  9. Darth

    Darth

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    @Ryuzaki cool have done identical to you now.
     
  10. jäger

    jäger

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    FWIW, I also just list the last modified date WITHOUT Schema and WITH relative time as the text for humans, and Google -- without fail -- picks this up. Even if the only "edit" I'm doing on a 10 year old post, is removing an image. I'm not opposed to using proper Schema for this, it has just never been needed.

    From my experience, Google doesn't care about the text you serve users. I've had them pick up the correct "modified" date whether I have "4 weeks ago", or some custom date format like "4th of march, a couple of years ago"
     
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  11. MrMedia

    MrMedia

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    @jäger - how do you write it on a post? Just manually at the start?
     
  12. jäger

    jäger

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    Well, it's not something I write -- it's a function on the template itself. Pretty standard in themes, so just edit the HTML it outputs
     
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  13. Samwise89

    Samwise89

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    @Darth, how did it go? Seeing anything positive?
     
  14. Darth

    Darth

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    TOtally rekt TBH, but don't think related to this. The site in question has some serious issues I am grappling with.