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Removing dates from your articles, bad idea!

Everyone talks about “timeless” content. Some people call it “pillar posts”, the content that anchors your blog and cements your authority. I say, hogwash. There is no such thing as timeless content. If I stumble onto your blog post while looking for PHP code or WordPress optimization tips, and neither your article nor your URL has any indication whatsoever of when the article was written, I am going to assume the following about you:

1) You are trying to hide the fact that your best work is behind you.
2) You are cashing in on hits at the expense of the most updated advice.

Both of these I believe are short term strategies. Sooner or later people figure out that your article hasn’t been updated, and your authority suffers. Trust me, if you leave dates off your posts, this is happening to you and you probably don’t even realize it.

The fact is, advice and code changes over time. For example, over the years WordPress has introduced and deprecated dozens of functions. Google’s advice for webmasters has changed over time. If you found a website with some code you needed, or advice on how to optimize your site and the post had no date, how could you judge the code quality? You might be following old advice without realizing it and doing some damage to your search engine position or site loading speed. At the very least, copying and pasting old code into your site would be a time-wasting nuisance. I can’t even count how many articles I’ve found with no post date which contain broken links or outdated references to old WordPress plugins. I think that is more embarrassing than having the post date on the article and possibly having someone think your article is (gasp!) old.

Now I know some of you are howling: “I don’t run a news site, so the date of the post is irrelevant!” Or, “it’s a fact that people avoid content they think is old!”

I disagree. To the first point, I say that you are doing your visitors a favor by including the article date. It lets them immediately judge the relevancy of an article. As a web surfer, I appreciate that you respect my judgment enough to let me decide for myself if you are the best resource for a particular issue. It actually enhances your authority.

To the second point, only chickens who are afraid of losing visitors — or lazy bloggers who can’t be bothered to keep an article up to date — say things like that. It’s like the defense on a football team complaining about the other team’s offense. If you don’t like someone else scoring on you, do something about it!

Here’s one possible explanation:

One of the main problems with displaying dates on posts is that search engines and readers may associate the information on your older posts to be out of date. Readers may end up assuming it has lost its relevance.

So the solution is to completely mislead them by removing the date altogether, not write updated content?

Conclusion

What should you do?

  • Keep dates on your articles. Keep the time as well if you posted more than one article that day.
  • Update your “timeless” content regularly and use code to show the last modified time of either the article or the whole site. (Hint: I use a plugin for this.)
  • If you write an article that updates content on a previous article, link to that article from the original.
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