This post is based on episode 58 of the ProBlogger podcast.
As you know, I have two blogs – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. But that’s about all they have in common. They cover different topics, and cater for different audiences.
But there’s another way they differ from each other. ProBlogger posts include the date they were published, whereas Digital Photography School posts don’t.
Which begs the question: Should you timestamp your blog posts?
And like so many questions about blogging, the best answer I can give you is “It depends”.
The pros and cons of dating
Timestamping your blog posts (even with just the date) lets your readers know when it was written. It helps them decide how relevant the information is when they come across it. To them, a current or recent post may seem more attractive than one written years ago.
In most cases, including the publish date on your posts is a good thing, especially if you’re regularly creating new content. Bu what about evergreen content? By definition it’s always current, whether because the topic itself is timeless or it’s kept up to date. But your readers may be distracted if they see the date it was originally published.
Many of the evergreen posts on Digital Photography School were written back in 2007. And a number of people have complained about how old those posts are, even though the content is still completely relevant. (They can see when they were first published by looking at the comments.)
Unfortunately, some readers will take one look at that publish date and automatically assume the content it out of date – no matter how relevant and useful it may be.
Of course, timestamping your evergreen content can be a benefit if the date is quite recent. When we see a post written in the past month, we’re psychologically more open to the content because it’s fresh – even if it’s the same idea they wrote about in 2006.
As you can see, there are definitely pros and cons to timestamping your blog posts. Depending on the date they were published, it can make them seem cutting edge or rather dated.
So should you timestamp your blog posts or not? Before you decide, I suggest you ask yourself one question: “Will the date be relevant to the post in some way?”
Answering that question myself took me in different directions with my two blogs.
As I said earlier, on ProBlogger we have dates on all our blog posts. One reason for doing this is because the blogging landscape is always changing. The tools, social media networks and search engine optimization principles we use now are a lot different to what they were back in 2006. And I think it’s important to timestamp these posts let our readers know whether the information will still be relevant.
The other reason ProBlogger posts are timestamped is to help tell the story of my journey. When I first started the blog, I was on a really steep learning curve (and still am). And I wrote a lot of those early posts without much experience to back them up. So I wanted to show how much my knowledge has grown over the years, and to show the journey of my own development on this particular topic.
But none of the blog posts at Digital Photography School are timestamped because in nearly all cases the date isn’t relevant to the post. The only time we post anything remotely news-related is when we review a new camera. And for those we’ll include the date it was released in the actual content.
The main focus of the site is to teach people how to take better photos and get their cameras out of automatic mode. And while cameras always seem to be coming out with new features, the principles of photography haven’t changed much (if at all).
Many of the posts I wrote in 2007 were about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and how to hold the camera. And that information is still just as relevant today as it was back then. Having fates on those posts would just distract the reader.
Occasionally someone will ask when a particular post was written, in which case I’m more than happy to tell them. But generally I don’t get many complaints about not having dates on our site.
Striking a compromise
Still not sure whether or not you should timestamp your blog posts? Here are some options you could try as a compromise.
You could display the date your post is published at the end of your blog post rather than the beginning. That way your reader won’t know how old your content is until after they’ve read it, which will you a greater chance of helping them.
Another option is to display the date in smaller text or a lighter color so it doesn’t stand out as much. It’s still there, but your readers may not notice it.
I’ve also seen some blogs where the dates are automatically removed from posts that are more than a few months old. I’m not sure if they’re using a plugin of have modified the WordPress code on their site, but it’s a nice way to do it. Your recent posts will seem more ‘cutting edge’ because their publish date is relatively recent. And your older posts won’t seem old because there’s no date to ‘age’ them.
You could also display the dates for each post on your front page and/or your archive categories, but not on the posts themselves. People will still be able to scan through your categories to see what’s recent and what’s not. But they won’t see the publish date if they land on your post via a Google search.
What’s your answer?
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to answer I raised at the start of this post. I think they can be beneficial in some situations, and detrimental in others. My advice is to think about whether they will be relevant to your posts, and go from there.
Do you timestamp your blog posts at the moment? Are you going to make a change after reading what I’ve said? Let us know what you’re doing in the comments.
Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash