Should You Remove the Dates From Your Blog Posts?

by Mack Collier

There are many common topics discussed during #blogchat, and one of the most popular is whether or not bloggers should include dates in their posts.

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.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly January 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hi Mack,

Last year I was noticing a very small amount of RT on posts older than 3 months. Our content on the Community Blog is fairly evergreen, in fact I would say up to 95%. So I was really confused as to why there was hesitation to sharing.

When I polled users I found interesting results:

Users new to Twitter or social networks only wanted to share new “news”. If it was older than 14 days they weren’t interested. They wanted only what was hot off the press, so to speak. Date mattered. They were establishing their reputation and they thought sharing older news wouldn’t help their cause.

Older, more established users of social networks however appreciated being directed towards content of interest; content that provided value, answered questions, addressed their needs. For them, the date didn’t matter. They were confident enough to share an older piece of content as long as the quality and information was top. Date didn’t really matter to them.

Based on this I decided to move the date to the bottom of the post. After all it is such a shame to disregard content just because of a date if it still provides value. So what happened? We had an increase in sharing and traffic on those posts, and still do.

When I went back to a couple of users who said originally that they would not share older content and pointed out that they shared, one came back to me and said “yeah, but the date is so far down it doesn’t turn people off from the onset, so I share it now”. I guess I would have preferred an answer of ” I realized the content is soo good, the date doesn’t matter. However they are still relatively new to sharing and social media, so that may still change.

For our audience it worked and since the change I’ve see a steady increase in RTs and that’s great for the authors contributing articles. Contributors love seeing their content continuously tweeted, RT’ed so it works to their advantage as well.

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Mack Collier January 14, 2013 at 9:34 am

Kelly thanks for sharing the experiences on Paper.li’s blog. What I thought was interesting about Shel’s post that I linked to was that he mentioned being upset that he has tweeted out a post that was 5 years old without realizing it was that old, but no mention was made to the quality of the post itself. His issue was with sharing old content.

Because I believe in many people’s eyes, old content is bad content when it comes to social media. I think that’s a dangerous blanket assumption to make.

However, I do like your alternative of moving the date to the bottom of the post. That would be a good option for someone that’s interested in seeing how no date would affect sharing, but who doesn’t want to hack off readers that might complain.

For the record, I’ve never had a single reader here mention there not being dates on posts. Maybe they don’t like it and aren’t saying anything, I don’t know.

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Kelly January 14, 2013 at 9:49 am

Mack, you do a great job of archiving. It’s really clear which posts are latest so perhaps that’s why no one has ever mentioned it. Perhaps frustration also sets in when it’s difficult to quickly assess when the article was written.

The type of content written may also play a role on if a date is necessary or not. I agree with Lisa’s comment. It’s not very helpful to be looking at java library posts from year’s past…

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Lisa Karl January 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

Mack, I’m in the camp of dates. If I search for the answer to a question, I want the latest information, not something written based on two years ago, even if it is written by Scott Monty. My frustration on clicking on an article when I’m looking for help on something technical or information about something in the social media realm and finding the article was written in 2009.
Lisa

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Mack Collier January 14, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thanks Lisa. And that’s my point, to many people, the latest information is the best information.

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Marko Saric January 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

It’s a good question. On my own blog I came to a conclusion that a lot of the content I publish is pretty much “timeless” (i.e. it can be read on the day I publish it or a year down the line without losing on the value you get from reading it), so having a date might make people think it is outdated advice and they might not read/share without giving it a chance it deserves.

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Greg Taylor January 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

When I brought this up at #blogchat (https://twitter.com/GRTaylor2/status/290647117532377088) I was referring to using this method if you don’t post frequently. It’s a bad look for a company to go heavy with content and then stop — it looks like they abandoned the blog. That’s the main reason I’d pull the dates, but if there are other SEO implications of removing the dates — that’s the most compelling reason to do so.

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Margaret Johnson January 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Mack;
There are two main reasons why I took dates out of my blog posts.
1. I use my blog content in a variety of ways, including email campaigns, and don’t want to give the impression that I am referencing dated content when in reality I am referencing quality content (as you and others have suggested).
2. I may have a push of content all at once, or likewise a gap in content. I prefer that neither be immediately obvious to the reader. I see Greg Taylor mentioned that above as well.

Great question, and I’m glad to see such great input flowing from the community. Thanks.

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Tracey w/Central Restaurant Products January 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Personally, I prefer dates. That way, I know if something is relevant. Of course, certain topics can stay relevant for years, but if you’re wanting the latest information, something from even two years ago may not cut it.

And it’s especially important if you’re looking up information. I remember putting a blog together a couple weeks ago and didn’t use a blog as a source because they didn’t date it. I didn’t know if it was relevant or not.

But I can see the other person’s argument that it doesn’t look too good if you post regularly and fall off the radar.

So maybe if content is “timeless” you remove the date. And if it’s time sensitive keep it?

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Wesley Picotte January 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Good debate. I fall in the ‘no dates’ camp, but most certainly there are subjects for which recency is important.

I will nonetheless confess to looking for dates when I hit a blog post. For those that don’t provide one, here’s a tip — look at the comments, which I have found invariably do include a datestamp.

This doesn’t guarantee perfect accuracy in terms of publish date, but if the content has comments, it’s usually a good indicator of when it was published.

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Patrick January 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning toward removing dates altogether from my blog. My latest blog design update changed the dates from a large, prominent graphic element to a small line just below the headline.

My concern has been having the date in the URL. I’d like to remove that, but I know ZERO about trying to edit an .htaccess file and don’t know that I’d want to try. Would anyone know of a RELIABLE WordPress plugin that would automatically route people coming from old, longer URLs to the new, shorter one?

As for the date issue for me as a reader, unless I’m looking for specifically tech-related “how to” info, the date isn’t that important to me.

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Justin Romack January 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I think your last point is sooooo incredibly important…

This requires testing – and the results reached won’t necessarily hold true on every site or blog that they are applied to. Great example: I tested removing dates on a blog of mine, and readers complained about it. I saw less activity because of this seemingly insignificant change. BUT – a client of mine had a previous designer who removed the dates before I came onboard, so I added them to content. Engagement went up because traffic to content increased.

I typically leave dates on content because I, personally, appreciate seeing a date. If it’s an industry leader or authority, I could not care any less about when it was published – it just helps to baseline when it was written.

Thanks for this post! Excellent insight.

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Matt McGee January 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Good post / good discussion. I’ve seen this debated in SEO circles in the past and there’s no consensus that I’m aware of. I do like the idea of testing what works for each blog — that’s always smart.

Google isn’t dumb. It knows and timestamps when it discovers new content. So anyone leaving dates off as a way to make Google think something isn’t old/new is wasting time. :-)

You might say there’s an indirect SEO benefit in that other bloggers might be more willing to link to content if they think it’s fresh.

But despite my SEO background, I tend to come down on the side of users and usability here. If we all agree that readers benefit from knowing when something was published, I’d say that should be the primary concern ahead of a potentially trivial SEO boost. Readers first, search engines second.

(Also, a

I have some evergreen content from 4-5 years ago (the SEO Success Pyramid, for one), and once in a while I’ve done a post referencing back to the old content and saying, “You know, this may be old but it’s just as relevant today as before.” You could also put a small note in italics at the top of the evergreen content with a similar message.

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Matt McGee January 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Ugh. Accidentally posted before adding in that next-to-last paragraph… anyway, was gonna say that, as someone who puts together a large daily recap of important articles from around the online marketing space, I get very frustrated when I find undated articles. I don’t want old stuff in the daily recap and if I can’t easily find a date, I tend to not include the article. So that’s one case where not having a date costs you a link.

(I’m referring to the Marketing Day newsletter from MarketingLand.com.)

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Mack Collier January 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Well guys I’ve decided to add dates back to posts for the rest of the month, then see if there are any significant changes up or down in search traffic volume as well as referral traffic from social sites. Or anything else that I’m not expecting. Thanks guys for the feedback!

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Linda Austin January 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I don’t usually even read posts I find without dates as I assume they must be old and obsolete. I do, however, share old dated posts that are still relevant. I read or at least skim the posts I share, which I’m not sure everyone does–I can tell some just read the title and make comments or share.

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Craig January 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Hi Mack,
Before reading your post I wasn’t sure if removing dates was something I wanted to do or not. I’m now learning towards displaying dates, so it’s clear to visitors if content is dated or not.
I often watch tutorial type videos and the published date is something I’ll always look for in the beginning.

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Robyn Wright of Robyn's Online World January 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I prefer dates. It may impact my decision for search results, but it really depends on what I am searching for.

This topic also makes a good point to revamping previous content. You can take an old post and update any needed info and change things around a bit for a new post or vlog, etc.

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Amy Vernon January 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Definitely keep the dates on. I liked the compromise of one of the commenters above, putting the dates at the bottom of the post. But I hate nothing more than reading something on a topic I’m not extremely familiar with, then trying to find the date to determine if it’s old information or up-to-date information.

Just because the information is new to me, doesn’t mean it’s new information. And I might still share it, but just note that it’s old, but still interesting. I always feel as if the blogger is trying to hide something if the date isn’t there.

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Praverb January 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I got a question. Mack, do you ever update older posts with new content?

I think that you could ultimately write a new post and link to older posts within the body.

Interesting study…

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Dave Delaney January 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

If any part of your blog post can expire (links, services, tools) then I believe you should include a date to better inform your readers.

I am excited to see your findings.

More here: http://www.davemadethat.com/2012/08/31/date-your-blog-posts/

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Janice January 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I took the dates out of the URL a long time ago but still have the date appear on the posts. Does that mean I want to have my cake and eat it too? LOL! Seriously, I just thought shorter URLs looked better. I occasionally update posts and simply note that at the top.

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Amber-Lee (@AlaskaChickBlog) January 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Mack!
I’ve read you a bunch over the last couple of years…and just never seemed to comment (maybe too afraid of sounding too ignorant!). Now? Now, I’m just used to being the dumb one on here!

So. I’m all in… this makes perfect sense to me, as 99% of what I post (2-4 times a week) is forever…for us, about us… and what isn’t, isn’t actually “dated.” My question is “How?”… I know the answer (s) may be too many and you may be rolling your eyes, but I had to ask.

I run a Word Press website with the Headway theme… Umm… how? (asked in a tiny voice with a hopeful smile)
:) ~ Amber-Lee, aka Alaska Chick

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Mack Collier January 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Amber that’s actually a great question! All I can tell you is I am running the Thesis theme here, and it was under Design Options for Thesis, something about including the date in the post’s byline’.

Headway may have a similar setup, or could be completely different. I would start by looking under any Design settings, then maybe posting, or writing, etc. If all that fails, it could be an option when you are drafting your post.

Or if anyone else here uses Headway and knows how to turn off dates with that theme, please tell Amber!

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Frithjof January 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I concede that different bloggers have good reasons not to display dates but in most cases I would consider it common courtesy to let me the user know when the post was written or updated

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Gail Gardner February 2, 2013 at 3:11 am

While I concede that not having dates is a way to hide failure to post recently or regularly, as a researcher I seriously dislike undated content. Some blogs even remove the dates from comments (which is how the age of undated posts can sometimes be determined).

I strongly believe in evergreen content that I keep regularly updated. I also know that there are times when we must know how old content – and that includes videos – are to have any idea whether they’re relevant or not.

For example, Facebook, StumbleUpon and Google + in particular are constantly changing so we need to know whether content is still accurate or contains advice that no longer applies and specifics that no longer even exist.

If you write how-to content or create videos PLEASE take the time to indicate in the descriptions whether changes on a social network affected that content or not. When someone is new and looking to you for advice they can’t determine that – but you know and if you make the time to update older videos and posts you can point them in another direction if need be.

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Saanvi May 18, 2013 at 5:02 am

I totally agree that you should NOT remove the dates from your blog. The first thing I look at when reading a blog post is the date. I want to know how recent it is. I’d never deprive my readers of that because I know how much it annoys me.

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Tehmina Zaman May 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

This is an excellent and balanced post Mack and it’s a topic I’ve wrestled with on my own blog. I can see the argument for ommitting dates, but like many commenters here, I also find it really annoying. Even if the content is old, I will still read it if it grabs my attention and is relevant. But when the date is absent, I kind of feel like I am being manipulated by the blogger. In the end, I decided to keep the dates on my posts and write more evergreen content that stands the test of time. Thanks

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Prachi Srivastva June 7, 2013 at 7:15 am

I am still confused… I don’t I should remove the dates from my site or not… :(

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iMade July 17, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hi, I have a question, How to remove yyyy/mm on url in our blog?

thanks for your post.

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Thom Westergren September 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I came to this post, because it was “newer” than others in the search.

I think it is totally dependent on the topic at hand. If I’m looking to fix a clogged sink, the date is not relevant. If I’ve researching a software issue (or social media and blogging) it is VERY relevant.

I haven’t set up a blog, yet, but my posts will be product related and, due to the nature of my product (hardware), one of the most date irrelevant things I can think of.

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Ryan December 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I think for timeless content that will consistently provide the same value no matter when it was published (something like finance) leaving the time stamp is fine, but for something that needs the context of a date, such as an article about a particular event or product review, should have the date stamp so it helps the reader better understand the context of the article. I prefer when a date is shown personally, but often don’t do it in my own blog because sometimes posts are used as pages and it looks a bit odd in a website structure.

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Bilal Ahmad March 3, 2014 at 12:54 am

Mack it seems you have again removed the dates from your posts. Can you share what caused you to remove it again.

I am just wondering whether it has any effect on search engine ranking.

Looking forward to your reply.

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Mack Collier March 3, 2014 at 6:52 am

Search traffic fell by approximately 25% when I added the dates back. I’ve done this twice now and saw the same results both times.

I would suggest that you try the same experiment on your blog and track your results.

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Bilal Ahmad March 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

Thanks Mack for sharing your result.

Have you tried adding “Last Updated Date”? I just read in a post that it can have a positive effect on blog ranking as well.

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