Timestamps: Should You Remove Them From Your Blog?

Steven22 responsesBlogging
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There’s always been some debate over whether or not you should remove timestamps from your blog posts. Rather than go into some long-winded debate, I’m going to give you both sides of the story, and then I’m going to tell you what I do. Ready? Here we go….


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Why you should remove timestamps from your blog

Removing the time and date from your blog posts gives it a timeless quality. If your readers look to see when a post was written and they don’t see a date then they don’t feel like they’re reading old content. They think it’s fresh and shiny and new.

Some readers won’t comment on a post or share it on the social sites if they think it’s old. They want to be the first to share something and nobody likes to leave comments on a post that’s been dead for a couple of years. Half the fun of commenting is seeing what kind of a response you get.

Your best chocolate cake recipe might have a December date on it and there are some readers out there who won’t look at it when they’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe for Easter. I know. It’s weird. But it’s true.

Why you should not remove timestamps from your blog

If your blog is technology-related or you’re blogging about time sensitive things like rock concert schedules or sporting events, then you’ll want to have the dates on your blog so readers know how fresh the information is. In any technological field there are advancements being made all the time. Your readers want to know they’re getting the latest updates. And sporting events and rock concert schedules? Well, it just makes good marketing sense to date your content.

Now, what would I do? I think bloggers who remove the timestamps are missing a tremendous promotional opportunity.

If those older posts are still relevant, you can write fresh posts and link back to them, turning them into strong pillar posts for your blog. If they’re not still relevant you can still link back to them as a comparison of the way things were, the changes that have taken place, and the effects and benefits of those changes.

Imagine the impact of your new blog post if you can say, “Just 10 months ago I recommended XYZ product and you guys all loved it (Link back to that old post to remind them that they loved it. ) Well, now it’s been upgraded and it’s even better! Take a look at what it does now!

The idea that by removing the timestamps you can somehow trick your reader into believing he’s reading something fresh and really rubs me the wrong way. And that’s exactly what I think when I see a blog with no dates on the posts – they’re trying to trick me. And then when I do find a date somewhere on the blog and confirm that they’re trying to trick me, it just turns me off to that blog, no matter how good the information is.

It’s never a good idea to base your marketing tactics on trickery just so you can avoid a little extra work. In the end, you’ll always get caught and your readers will always assume the worst.

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  1. I think I might turn them off because (most) of the content I write consist of thoughts and opinions. Perhaps in time-sensitive posts it would be a good idea to put in the date.

    1. When the content is timeless, you can probably remove them. Be careful with what your readers might think.

  2. Nancy Myrland

    Thanks for writing this, Steven. I have been thinking about this, and weighing the merits of removing them. Your reasoning behind not removing them makes a great deal of sense. The last thing I ever want to do is send the message I am trying to trick anyone. Again, thanks!

    1. Nancy, it really depends on your audience. What you can do is try to remove them for a while and see how people react… If you get some negative feedback, add them again. Something I learned while blogging is that people forgive your mistakes as long as you are honest with them.

  3. Ray Colon

    Hi Steven,

    I’m a linear thinking kind of guy, so I look for a date at the top of the post, so that I can store in my mental timeline. Like you, if I don’t see a date, I feel as if I’m being tricked. I click away.

    I have no problem sharing content that isn’t freshly posted. In fact, I often do. If the content is new to me, it may also be new to my Twitter followers or my Facebook friends.

    What I look for in a post is good writing. When I find it, I share it, because there’s no expiration date on that.

    1. Hey Ray, “your mental timeline”… I like this image. From my observations, most people are not like that and they won’t share old content as easily as fresh one.

  4. Great content is always timeless.

    If people choose not to read your content simply because of a date or lack of a date, then your headline and initial hook in the post weren’t good enough to begin with. If they choose not to share it, it’s because it wasn’t good enough to share.

    1. You’re wrong Jonathan… Let’s say I have a blog about Football and I post articles about the most recent games. Maybe I write great content, but it’s not necessary timeless. If people bump into an article about last season, they will probably not share it on social media, simply because it’s outdated!

    2. Well, I don’t think either of us can say the other is objectively wrong, unless we’re pointing to something besides our anecdotal experiences.

      Perhaps “great content is always timeless” was a premature statement. I don’t wish to derail the conversation onto another topic though.

      Regardless, in your scenario, the content isn’t going to be shared whether there’s a time stamp or not. I don’t think time stamps carry nearly the level of importance most people place on them.

    3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Joehage | #meddevice (@medicalmarcom)

    Major supporter of no dates.

    You can still go back and say, “Look what I wrote 10 months ago” (your example) when it makes sense to do so.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion JoeHage

  6. Kay Ross

    When I read a blog post, I want to know when it was published, i.e., how up-to-date it is.

    1. It’s interesting to see that there is no consensus as to what is the best solution :)

  7. I agree with those who want to see the dates. As a reader I am suspicious of blog posts that have no date. As a writer, I cover tech so dates are essential.

    1. Carolyn, are you suspicious about my content then? ;)

    2. Not any more. I look to several factors to determine whether a site is trust-worthy. First, your Alexa rank is quite respectable. Second, your content is available through Zite. Third, you reply to comments. Fourth, you are in one of my Tribes. Fifth, and most importantly, your content rocks.

      So you passed my tests with flying colors. But initially I was a wee bit skeptical.

    3. Thanks Carolyn :) I’m trying my best to earn people respect and trust! I’d be interested to know why your were skeptical at first… Maybe I can improve on some aspects.

    4. Steven, My hesitation arose from lack of a time stamp and lack of a commenting system. Most, not all, advanced blogs have CommentLuv (my favorite), Disqus or LiveFyre. Those were the only two factors that caused me a moment’s hesitation.

      Clearly I got over it quickly. ;-)

    5. Not using CommentLuv is an ideological choice. On the other hand, not using Disqus or Livefyre is a technical choice: I prefer keeping control “in-house” of everything that happens on the blog (this is also the reason why every comment goes through moderation, even if I already know you and trust you).

  8. We as a society are in love with news/variety as well as certainty.

    I like what Brian Clark and Sonia Simone over at Copyblogger have done to address this.

    These guys post fresh content everyday Monday through Friday.

    On the right side of their blog they have a section titled, “Tutorials”. There are tabs for Copywriting, SEO Copywriting, Email Marketing, Content Marketing, etc.

    None of their posts, even the new ones have time stamps on them but the date in which people have commented is not hidden. If you look at the first post in the copywriting section you see that it’s been up since 2006.

    I think this helps people feel that these guys aren’t trying to pull the wool over their eyes with anything tricky.

    And in the same light by labeling their classic, evergreen content as a “Tutorial” they imply that it is valuable in a way that a “Categories” section cannot.

    The truth is, copywriting is copywriting. Most of the principles for making if effective are the same now as when they were back when the printing press was invented and salesmanship in print was popularized.

    So if you have evergreen content, this seems to be one solution to fulfill people’s needs for both variety and certainty and have them love you for it.

    1. Lewis, thanks a lot for presenting the way Copyblogger is addressing this subject. This is very interesting.

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