I’m afraid for most websites (non-news) it’s not a simple case of update old content = automatic SERPs boost due to the fresh content, Google isn’t that dumb.
Poorly informed webmasters come to conclusions like this in the following way.
Had this webpage for ages and not updated for years, doing OK in Google, but not great. Revamped the webpage/website and Google gave it better SERPs almost over night and sends it more traffic, Eureka Google prefers recently updated content (fresh content) over old static/stale content. Everybody should update their old webpages for better SERPs.
Reality check: this doesn’t occur every time a webpage is updated (if it did, it would be easy to get to number 1 in Google for any SERP), sometimes a change will result in SERPs drops (less traffic).
Most likely real reason for the SERPs improvement is either coincidence: maybe new backlinks finally kicked in, Google changed it’s ranking algorithm or the new content is simply better search engine optimized and so does better in Google due to being better optimized content.
Think about it, a webmaster who frequents and posts on SEO forums etc… wouldn’t deliberately update a webpage with poorly search engine optimized content, when a webmaster like this changes an old webpage there’s a good chance it’s going to be better SEO optimized afterwards.
Even if it did result in worse rankings, they might not associate the SERPs drop with the update, people tend to look for positives in SEO, they want to find the next Google SEO trick to gain better Google rankings.
This also explains why changes don’t always result in SEO improvements, some changes aren’t always an SEO improvement: there’s a lot of bad SEO information out there, easy to make a webpage less optimized following bad SEO advice!
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