How to Schedule an Automatic Content Update in WordPress

WordPress has the ability to schedule new posts to be published on specific dates. Instead of publishing content immediately, you can set it to be published on a future date at a specific time. But what if you want to schedule an automatic content update for an existing article or page? Or a series of updates, each of which will happen automatically on the date and at the time you choose?

Rather than setting a reminder to publish updates, wouldn’t it be nice if WordPress automatically did it for you? In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to schedule automatic content updates. It isn’t an ability built-in to WordPress, so we’ll use the Content Update Scheduler plugin to get the job done.

The plugin has a lot of useful features, and once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. It updates the page or post-publication date when it updates the content. It gives you the ability to schedule multiple updates for the same page or post.

This plugin does everything you could ask an automatic content updater to do.

How to Set WordPress to Schedule a Page Update

To schedule an update for WordPress posts or pages:

  1. Install the Content Update Scheduler plugin.
  2. Adjust the settings for the plugin and save.
  3. Click the “Scheduled Content Update” Link in the Posts or Pages area of WordPress.
  4. Set the scheduled update day and time located on the right side of the post or page.
  5. Click the save button under Publish.

Step 1: Install Content Update Scheduler

Log in to your WordPress admin panel.

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Plugins” link and click the “Add New” link.

mouse over the "Plugins" link and click the "Add New" link

In the “Search plugins…” box, enter, “Content Update Scheduler.”

search for the WordPress Content Update Scheduler plugin

When you find the plugin, click the “Install Now” button.

click to install the WordPress Content Update Scheduler plugin

Now the plugin is installed, but it has to be activated before you can use it.

Click the “Activate” button.

click to activate the WordPress Content Update Scheduler plugin

That’s all there is to it. Now let’s put the plugin to work.

Step 2: Configure the Page Update Scheduler

There isn’t much in the way of configuration. Most of the action takes place on your page and post lists. But if you want to make changes to the defaults, here’s how to do it.

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Settings” link and click the “Scheduled Content Update” link.

click the "Scheduled Content Update" link

The Scheduled Content Update page has a few configurable options.

Scheduled Content Update page options

  • No Date Set
    If a post is saved with no date set, what should the plugin do? Options are “Publish right away,” and “Don’t publish.”
  • Posts Visible
    If you check this box, your scheduled posts are visible to visitors on your site. I’m not sure how that option is useful, but it’s there if you need it.
  • Recursive scheduling
    This is the ability to schedule multiple updates for the same page or post that I mentioned earlier.

Make sure to click the “Save Changes” button if you change any of the defaults.

Step 3: Open Scheduled Content Update Link

Open your page or post list.

When you hover over an entry, you’ll see a new “Scheduled Content Update” link.

"Scheduled Content Update" link

When you click the link, it looks like you’ve just opened the post in the editor. But it’s actually a copy of the existing post.

But if you look at the “Publish” section, you’ll see the usual options aren’t there. They’ve been replaced by a single “Save” button.

"Save" button in Scheduled Content Update

Step 4: Enter Your Scheduled Content Update Day and Time

Make the updates to the article, then over on the right, you’ll see a “Scheduled Content Update” section. That’s where you set the future publication date and time.

"Scheduled Content Update" settings

Step 5: Click the Save Button

Set the date and time, then go back up and click the “Save” button.

click the "Save" button

Now, if you check the page or post list, you’ll see the scheduled, updated version, along with the original version.

two versions of the page or post pre-update

After the update is published, you’re back to one version of the page or post. The update has replaced the original version.

single version of the page or post post-update

One thing to be aware of is the post or page author. When you use Update Scheduler, the author of the update replaces the author of the original post.

If you’re the sole author on your site, it isn’t an issue. But it’s something to keep in mind if authorship is important on your site. You’ll have to edit the post or page after the update to revert to the original author.

Alternatively, you could make a policy that the original author has to be the user scheduling updates.

Scheduling Multiple Updates

If one automatic content update is good, several automatic updates of the same article must be better, right? 😉

Here’s how to do it.

Schedule the first update as we did above.

Then, for subsequent updates, click the “Scheduled Content Update” link for the most recent Scheduled Content Update version.

For example, in the list here, you can see the original post and the scheduled update. We want to click the “Scheduled Content Update” link on the scheduled version of the article. The one that isn’t live yet.

click the "Scheduled Content Update" link for the scheduled update

Make your update and set a publication date and time. Click the “Save” button.

Now, if you check the page or post list, you’ll see a new scheduled, updated version, the one you just created, along with the other scheduled, updated version and the original, live, version.

original article plus two updates

You can always add another scheduled content update by clicking the “Scheduled Content Update” link on the latest scheduled version. That way, you’re always updating the updated article.

Why Would You Schedule an Automatic Content Update?

That’s a reasonable question. We don’t often think about how we would use automatic updating because it isn’t part of the WordPress core. There’s little point in pondering the uses of a feature that doesn’t exist.

But now it does.

And once you start using the plugin, you’ll see the wide range of potential applications.

Which include:

  • Reflecting an Upcoming Holiday
    Perhaps you want to let others know of upcoming holiday sales or simply want to change the design of a page to reflect the season. A good example of this is planning out a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale.
  • Updating a Landing Page for Time-Specific Sales or Discounts
    Many will create a landing page to promote products and services. What if you have a new addition planned for a specific release date? Automatic content updates can manage the page for you.
  • SEO “Freshness”
    Google likes updated content. It shows that you’re making sure your articles are up to date and relevant. When you update existing content, Google will crawl it again and update their index. That’s a positive factor in your search engine rankings.
  • Updating a Contact Page
    Perhaps you have a plan to move the business to a new location or changing a phone number. If you know of these events, you can automatically update the page to coincide with these changes.
  • Adding Trending Information to Content
    If you constantly monitor your industry, you can follow specific trends and plan content when interest is at its peak. Updating the content will ensure your pages reflect those moments.

Those are just a handful of reasons anyone would want to publish a future content update automatically. Instead of trying to remember or setting alarms to publish updated material, the plugin will do it for you.

A caveat: in my testing, the plugin didn’t work with the WordPress Gutenberg editor. I experienced an error whenever WordPress would autosave the post. At the time of this writing, you’ll have to switch back to the classic editor to take advantage of update scheduling.

Keep the Content Fresh and Fluid

Your visitors are not the only ones who appreciate updated and relevant content. In fact, as I mentioned, keeping posts current is part of how Google ranks material in search. By keeping the site fresh and the content fluid, you engage everyone. Bots and humans alike.

What tools do you use to keep the site relevant to your target audience? How often do you use scheduling as part of your content marketing strategy?

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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