Now as you can see, I do not include dates on my posts(although the date does show up in search results). I honestly cannot remember WHY I removed them, but I do know that I wouldn’t have done so unless there was some logic behind the move that made sense to me. My hunch is that a certain SEO-savvy friend explained that it would help my search results, but I really don’t remember.
The topic came up again last night, and again there wasn’t a consensus answer. Some people again said they hate when bloggers don’t include dates because they want to know how ‘old’ the content is. A few were like me that they believed there was an SEO benefit, but no one could explain what that benefit was.
So I decided enough was enough, and took to Google to see if I could find a definitive answer on whether or not bloggers should include dates on their posts.
Sadly, I could not. But I did find some interesting fodder both for and against having dates on posts.
The case for having dates on posts
First, I found several bloggers that lamented that they felt removing posts was akin to hiding something. Commenters routinely agreed, and ironically, I found a post from Shel Holtz that lamented the fact that he shared a link on Twitter only to later discover that the post he shared was actually 5 years old. I thought this was ironic because….
The case for removing dates from posts
…Shel’s post linked to a post that Jim Connolly did (which I found before reading Shel’s post) where Jim actually experimented with removing dates from his posts to see what, if anything, would happen.
Jim found that his comments and number of shares via social media sites significantly increased when he removed the dates from his posts. Further, Jim added what I think is a very salient thought concerning dates on posts:
It appears that the date then acts as a filter, with each person having a different threshold. So, some people may not bother reading a post that’s more than a week old, others may have a 6 month threshold, whilst others will be fine with posts that are years old. If the date is not there, it seems more people start reading the posts and then make their mind up, based on the value of the content rather than the date it was published.
This is what has always worried me because to many people reading and sharing blog posts, newer is better.
Here’s an example, which blog post would you rather read:
1 – Ten Steps to Launching a Social Media Strategy For a Global Brand, dated March 27th, 2010
2 – Ten Steps to Launching a Social Media Strategy For a Global Brand, dated January 14th, 2013
Easy choice, right? Newer is the clear winner.
Unless…what if that post from 2010 was written by Scott Monty, head of Social Media at Ford, and the post from today was written by an anonymous marketing intern at an anonymous marketing agency, that simply googled ‘launching a social media strategy for global brand’ and mish-mashed several older posts together (including Scott’s).
Two sides to the date/no date coin
On the one hand, many people want to know how old a post is when they read it, to find out if the information is dated. On the other hand, and this goes back to Jim’s findings, many people that see an older date on a post will automatically assume the information is dated, even if it isn’t.
At the end of the day, you as a blogger should ultimately do what you feel is best for your blog, and its readers, when it comes to adding or deleting the date from your blog post. What works for me may not work for you, and vice-versa.
But I will offer this piece of advice: If you are on the fence about either adding or deleting dates from your posts, then you should do exactly what Jim did, you should TEST to see what changes. If you are using dates, remove them for the next 2 weeks and see what, if anything, changes. If you aren’t using them, put them back and see what changes.
The problem that many bloggers have is that we don’t test things enough on our own. We want someone else to always tell us what does and does not work. Sometimes, we need to move the puzzle pieces for ourselves and see what happens.
What do you think? Do you prefer to read blog posts with dates, or without? Which would make you less likely to share a post, a post with no date, or a post with a date from 2009?
UPDATE: Based on the excellent comments from y’all as well as the desire to practice what I preach, I’ve decided to add dates back to the posts here for the rest of the month. At that point I will report any perceived changes up or down in both search traffic and referral traffic from social sites.