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I recently saw a comment from a reader on a post by Jeff Bullas who asked him which way to go with date stamping on posts.

Should posts have date stamps on them for relevancy or no dates for evergreen content?

Jeff Bullas doesn’t have dates on any of the posts on his website. Jeff’s view on the subject is that many believe that new is good on the internet, whereas he sees good content, as good content.

As chance would have it, this comment grabbed my attention as we were having the same debate while we were updating the look of our blog.

We all know that food as Best By or Use By dates. But what about content does this need a use by date?

So if you’re debating whether start date stamping your posts, you’re not the only one. Just look at the this conversation on Facebook triggered by Joe Pulizzi when he said posts without date stamps drive him crazy.

The comments are really polarised, so I did my own investigation and looked at a random sample of some of the websites that I subscribe to see if this revealed it in favour of publishing or not publishing dates on posts.

Guess what – out a random selection of 18 websites I subscribe to, 9 sites date stamped and 9 don’t. So just like Joe’s Facebook conversation, opinion seems split down the middle.

Sites that DO date stamp posts

  1. Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income, http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/
  2. Susan Jones, Ready Set Startup, http://www.readysetstartup.com/
  3.  Gail Gardner, Grow Map, http://growmap.com/
  4. Pamela Slim, Escape From Cubicle Nation, http://www.escapefromcubiclenation.com/pamela-slims-blog/
  5. Oli Gardner, Unbounce Blog, http://unbounce.com/blog/
  6. Kristi Hines, Kikolani, http://kikolani.com/
  7. Adam Connell, Blogging Wizard, http://www.bloggingwizard.com/blog/
  8. John Morrow, Boost Blog Traffic, http://boostblogtraffic.com/
  9. Kimberley Grabas, Your Writer Platform, http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/

Sites that DON’T date stamp posts

  1. Jeff Bullas, http://www.jeffbullas.com/
  2. Natalie from The Suitecase Entrepreneur, http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/
  3. Ramsey Taplin, Blog Tyrant, http://www.blogtyrant.com/
  4. Ian Cleary, Razor Social, http://www.razorsocial.com/
  5. Carol Tice, Make A Living Writing, http://www.makealivingwriting.com/
  6. Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging, http://www.successfulblogging.com/
  7. Brian Clark, CopyBlogger, http://www.copyblogger.com/
  8. Ryan Hanley, Content Warfare, http://www.ryanhanley.com/
  9. Mary Kaksch, Write To Done, http://writetodone.com/

So with no conclusive evidence from looking at a selection of the sites I subscribe to. I decided to list the pros and cons of publishing a date stamp on posts.

I hope this will help if you’re trying to make a decision on publishing dates on posts or not.

The pros and cons of publishing date stamps on posts

Pros for date stamping

  1. Some readers automatically look for dates especially if doing a Google search to see if the subject matter might be out of date. I know I do especially if looking for stats and content “how tos” about software, as old posts tend to be out of date.
  2. Some people restrict search engine results to within certain time frames like week, month, or year as they are looking for recent content. If you’ve no dates on your posts, you’ll be completely excluded from such searches.
  3. You can mark the post when you update it. One website where I have seen this done is SellwithWP who show the Last Updated Date.
  4. It can show that a blog or website if active when a person lands on it.
  5. Google loves to rank relevant and recent content. No one knows for sure, Google’s magic sauce for ranking, but a date stamp therefore could be an important factor in the ranking algorithm.

Cons of date stamping

  1. The biggest drawback if that some readers will disregard content if they perceive it as old. Even if the subject matter is just as relevant, compelling or insightful as the day it was written.
  2. Some argue that having a date stamp will reduce search engine traffic for two reasons. First, people are less likely to click on a search result that they perceive to be an old post, irrespective of the relevancy. The second reason is the opposite of the pro reason #5. That is, if search engines use date stamps in their algorithm as an important factor, and if you’re post has is not very recent, it could result in lower search engine ranking.
  3. Not having your content date stamped can cause frustration and hassle for some visitors who will then try to work it for themselves by reading the content or looking for date stamps on comments.

I’ve not seen any clear evidence of the impact on search engine rankings of date stamping, so if anyone has empirical evidence their willing to share that would be awesome.

If you’re using date stamps and haven’t published content regularly, visitors to your site might make the mistake that it’s inactive.

There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on date stamping posts

It’s clear that there isn’t a consensus on date stamping one way or the other based on looking at sites I subscribe to and the debates online. There is a case to be made either side. For the Selz blog we decided to date stamp our blog posts, but it comes down to personal opinion and which pros and cons are most important to you.

What’s your opinion on date stamping content?

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About the author

Geoff Austin

I talk and write a lot. Some of it about ecommerce, selling online, startups, SEO, digital marketing.

Currently, head of analytics for an automotive business in Sydney, facilitating a culture of data-driven decisions. Delivering data-based insights and intelligence.

Chauffeur to twin daughters and a pizza chef master.

8 comments

  1. Geoff

    Hi Susan, thanks for reading the post and letting us into the secret that you have date stamped post more by accident than design :) It’s interesting to hear that you would prefer to take the dates off for your evergreen content. Have you polled your readers to readysetstartup to see if they have any preferences? Would be interesting to hear how strongly other people feel about the issue.

  2. Susan Jones - Ready Set Startup

    Hi Geoff.
    Thanks for including me in your post.

    To be honest, the only reason my posts are date stamped is because that is how my WP template is set up and I haven’t bothered figuring out how to change that. (not the most business building job I could do. :-) )

    If it was an easy fix, I would probably take the date off because most of my content is evergreen and not time sensitive. I figure if people want to know when the post was written, they can always look at the comments.

  3. Gail Gardner

    Your readers deserve to know how long ago content was written. While some content really is “evergreen” and it doesn’t matter as much, when it does matter you should not force your readers to research off your site to find out when it was published.

    This is especially true when something major changes such as what Google considers white hat or the latest way Facebook works. Sometimes we can get an idea how old content is by looking at comment dates – unless the site removes those, too.

    One thing to remember is if we can not tell and we know that best practices have changed for that topic most of the time we will simply disregard your content as probably outdated rather than bother to try to figure out when you published it.

    While I agree that many see the Internet as though it were a newspaper and only today matters, not all people think so linearly. Some of us want the big picture and value content that is still relevant no matter when you published it. We need to know when that was – and it allows people to tell whether you were correct in what you wrote years ago so they know whether to believe you now.

  4. Geoff

    Hi Corrine thanks for letting us know your opinion

  5. Geoff

    Hi Blessing, yeah it would be good to get some input on how search engines treat datesamps. If there is anyone in the know out there, Matt Cutts, can you let us know?

  6. Geoff

    Hey Gail, thanks for reading my post and I appreciate your comment. I couldn’t agree more and can see the debate from both sides. Some topics and posts have longevity and continue to be relevant and useful to the reader for a long time after their written. Other posts can become out of date quickly if the facts or stats have changed.

    I can understand why publishers seem split on the subject. Which publisher wouldn’t want to avoid their ‘evergreen’ content being viewed as outdated by some just because it might be a few months old. Personally, as a reader I like to see dates and to judge for myself. Then again I don’t ignore posts just because they don’t have a date if I find the subject interesting.

    There’s been many times when I’m really excited and engrossed in reading a post. I go to leave a comment, only when I look at the comment dates do I realise how old it is, and it seems everyone in the universe read it months ago!

  7. Corrine

    I really don’t think that it should matter. Blogging is not about accuracy in keeping a timeline.

  8. Blessing Mpofu

    I’m also undecided. However, I do date stamp (by default). It can work for you, if you regularly update and or blog.

    I think it works against you of you don’t regularly update. It would be helpful if we knew how search engines treat the whole datestamp thing…

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