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Content Freshness Experiment

By NickFisher 26 October 2015 SEO
Content Freshness Experiment

The Idea

We came across a case study on Moz with an interesting experiment; finding a way to increase traffic and rankings of blog posts by just changing the publishing date. 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?

Original Case Study: https://moz.com/blog/case-study-can-you-fake-blog-post-freshness-

Our Experiment

We set up a test of our own to see if the experiment could produce similar results. The nature of our chosen site does not rely on traffic from blog posts, therefore we don't expect significant improvements but it is worth testing.

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, the posts however did not have consistent organic traffic with some receiving 0 views a full month before 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 the blogs was changed. On September 22nd the dates were changed to either September 21st or September 22nd so that the blogs looked like they were posted on the day or only one day old.
  • Posts were not shared on any social media.

The Plan

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

Organic before experiment

We wanted to include a mixture of blogs in this test and as you can see some blog posts weren’t receiving any organic traffic prior to the experiment. This was to see if the experiment could kick-start the blogs back up.


By comparing the data before (August 21st – September 21st) to after (September 22nd – October 22nd) you can see that on the majority of the posts total organic views were increased after the experiment was implemented. Blogs 1 & 4 however did not improve; Blog 1 was originally posted on 21st August 2015 and was intentionally put in the experiment to prove that traffic does not improve if the blog is no more than 1-2 months old.

Organic Traffic After Experiment

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

Overall general organic traffic was improved however looking at data from Google Webmaster Tools the blogs did not improve in clicks, impressions or keyword rankings. There was a slight improvement in avg. click-through rate from 0.57% the month before the experiment to 1.40% for the month after. The reason for this result is that the chosen site does not rely on traffic from blogs therefore did not have large amounts of traffic initially before the experiment. In the Moz blog the creator 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 Webmaster Tools showing that the experiment had a very little effect on impressions:

Content refresh example 1

To conclude our experiment, changing the publication dates on the site's blog posts did briefly increase organic traffic however results in SERPs were not improved. This could not be used as a long term strategy; instead the freshness of the content should be changed - updated to the latest news thus creating an in-depth and relevant blog post.

This experiment was carried out by:

Search Marketing Team

Jason | Craig | Michelle | Nick

Original experiment credit: Anthony D Nelson @ NorthsideSEO