More and more bloggers are removing the dates from their blog posts.? This post explains some of the reasons why they are doing it and whether or not you should do the same, based on my own experiments.
I have just spent 30 days testing and measuring what happened, when I removed the dates from my posts. I can confirm the results have been very interesting and potentially extremely valuable too. So, let’s get started.
Removing dates from your blog posts: Why bother?
It started with me asking Brian Clark and Sonia Simone from copyblogger, if they would add dates to their posts. Posts on copyblogger have no date; either in the post itself or in the URL. So, if you land on a page on copyblogger via a search engine or a social media link / bookmark, you have no idea if the information you are reading is 5 minutes old or 5 years old. To get an idea of the date, you need to scroll down to the comments section and see when the first comment was left.
A number of people agreed with me, that dates were useful. However, Brian and Sonia don’t just play around with copyblogger. I knew there was a slight SEO benefit to removing post dates, but not much. There had to be a far better reason why they were leaving the dates out, so I decided to remove the dates from the posts on this blog for a month, and measure the results.
I quickly received some amazing feedback!
More shares and more comments
I quickly noticed posts getting shared more often on social networks. It seems people look at the date of a blog post before determining if it’s recent enough to read, share or comment on.
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.
In short, well written, older posts started getting shared, “liked” and retweeted a lot more often.
With Google and Bing both using signals from social networks as part of their algorithm, any extra shares, likes and social bookmarks are of real value.
Lower bounce rates
Immediately, people started reading more posts on each visit to the site. The bounce rate dropped from 74% to 59% over that 4 week period; starting on day one! Although 4 weeks is a smaller dataset than I would use when working with a client, a consistent drop, day on day for 30 days, is relevant.
In addition, as the bounce rate dropped the same day the date was removed, and stayed down every day thereafter; I believe there’s a real link between the number of posts a person reads as they navigate through this site, and those posts having a date on them.
I will keep you updated with my results over the coming months, as 30 days is still a relatively short test period.
Dates in blog posts: No one rule applies
If you are considering doing something similar with your blog, this is not a universally good idea. Those date filters I mentioned earlier are there for a good reason; they stop people reading out of date information and believing it’s current. The dates really matter, if your blog is in a time sensitive niche, such as; news, politics, technology, automotive, fashion, music, sport, gadgets, ect.
But for blogs that provide evergreen content on less time specific topics, such as; marketing, personal development, cookery, copywriting, body language, yoga, crafting, martial arts etc, the post dates are far less important. A 5 year old post can be just as relevant and valuable, as a 5 minute old post. For example, many of Seth Godin’s oldest posts are also his best, most relevant insights; even though he wrote them 6 or more years ago.
Date free with a caveat
I have decided to carry on without dates on posts here for now, but with an important caveat.
Any posts that reference time sensitive data, will have the date included in the actual post copy. For example, at the time of writing this, Facebook has 750million users. That number will increase, or maybe even decrease, over the coming weeks and months. So, if I were to mention it, I would say that as of June 2011, Facebook has 750million users: Rather than just quote the number. I will also be leaving dates visible in the comments section, so anyone can scroll down and see when the posts were published.
This blog is still fairly new, so it’s easy to adopt the date free approach from here on. It’s a harder job on more established blogs. For example, I will not be removing the dates from Jim’s Marketing Blog, as much of the content there would need rewriting, re editing and there are close on a thousand posts there.
Dates on blog posts: Your thoughts
I’d like to know what you think about dates in posts. If you read my original post about removing dates from blog posts, you will see very clearly that I was initially against it. Now, I see definite benefits for bloggers in certain niches.
What are your thoughts?
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