Should We Remove the Timestamp?

By Daniel Scocco

hourglass.jpgWe all know that focusing on timeless content is a good thing. This will ensure that your posts and articles will be useful tomorrow, next month and maybe even next year. Steve Pavlina’s success is undoubtedly related to his thoughtful, timeless content. In his own words:

In terms of traffic building, timeless content connects with people at a deeper level than time-bound content. The latter is meant to be forgotten, while the former is meant to be remembered. We forget yesterday’s news, but we remember those things that have meaning to us. So I strive to write about meanings instead of happenings.

While thinking about this issue, one question came to my mind: if timeless content is what most of us aim for, would it make sense to remove the timestamp from the posts? Throughout all my blogs I already position the dates below the posts, as opposed to leaving them right after the headline, which might discourage some readers from reading the older posts. But would it make sense to remove the timestamp altogether?

Some popular blogs around the Internet are starting to adopt this model. I talked to some of these bloggers and asked their opinion on the topic, check it out:

Darren Rowse

(removed dates completely on his Digital Photography School blog)

If the content is timeless and not ‘newsy’ in nature I think that
removing the timestamp from a blog is a very worthwhile thing to do. I’ve been doing it since the start of Digital Photography School (digital-photography-school.com/blog) a year ago and have noticed a few interesting things:

1. I get a lot more links on ‘old’ posts over time. On my blogs with dates on them I find that despite them getting traffic from Google that they are rarely linked to after a week or two. On DPS I’m constantly getting links from sites on posts even after a year.

2. I get more comments on old posts. Even though I leave the dates on comments (so people can really tell how old a post is from that) I find that not promoting the date gives a perception of ‘freshness’ in people’s minds and makes them more willing to interact with the post.

Maki

(removed dates on single post pages on DoshDosh)

I don’t really have a concrete reason why I removed the time stamp, except that it doesn’t make the blog posts look dated. However, depending on the overall site and its content structure, dates can be important and useful.

Going without dates also affects your marketing potential. For instance, it might make it easier to promote material on social voting/bookmarking websites. For example, I can send visitors to an article I wrote 2 months ago and it’ll still appear to be fresh and new, particularly so if the content isn’t about current events/news. I also think this affects your ability to receive citation links and comments.

Collis

(removed dates completely on FreelanceSwitch)

The reason we chose to not date posts on FreelanceSwitch was to produce content that didn’t feel dated. Because Freelancing is not a technology-oriented field, the advice we dispense on the site should be as good today as it is in three years time. In that sense the site is a growing body of articles rather than posts.

To be honest I’m not 100% certain it is a good idea to not date posts. We’ve had one complaint that I know of, but other than that no-one seems to care much one way or the other. I got the idea to do it after reading that you shouldn’t use dates in your permalinks as old content can look … well old. Taking it one step further and removing dates altogether seemed like a good idea.

In one way perhaps not dating the posts means that the reader has no point of reference as to when the post was written and where it falls into the sequence, but since posts are very much standalone pieces on the site, does that really matter? We do have categorization of content to make some sense in the users head so there’s no great danger of the user feeling lost on the site.

I think removing dates is OK for blogs where the content is ageless and its sequence unimportant. If you were writing a blog of events or technology or just one where it was a good idea to read earlier posts before later ones then I would say its a bad idea to remove them. In our case it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

What do you think?

Obviously there are both advantages and disadvantages involved. Increasing the amount of backlinks, comments and the exposure around social networks for your older posts is very valuable. On the other hand some visitors might want to know when the content was written.

Would you be more likely to link or comment on a post without the time reference? Would you be turned off by it?



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53 Responses to “Should We Remove the Timestamp?”

  • crisn

    Nice. This is an old article but I’m very glad to have read it now (2011). I was discussing with my Twitter friends about the environment and I suddenly remember that I have blogs about the topic but were posted a year ago. So I begin to wonder if I can actually remove the dates to make it appear still relevant. I have been using WordPress and haven’t explored if this is possible. I will also check if it can be done only on selected blogs. Anyway, thanks for this timely article (pun intended).

  • Bang Kritikus

    Use timestamp in news to know uptodate or not a news

  • Hamdani Amin

    If the content applicable for all time then there in no point to put the date stamp.

    Date however create a sense of freshness, for serious blogger, date also create a sense of urgency.

  • John W. Furst

    I have chosen to show year and month in the URI of my blog posts and the complete date in the posts. Mainly, because it helps to understand the writer’s point of view better. Even timeless topics will be written differently about in different ages.

    Publication date is an important criterion, whether a post or an article is useful for me or not. I strongly dislike info, that is not dated at all. Year of publication in the footer is the bare minimum, but still not good enough for fast moving topics.

    “Old” does not mean “bad”, but it seems like “aged (dated)” material has indeed less potential for getting links and traffic. Is this because of social factors or due to the inherent structure of blogs that tend to expose recent posts more?

    John

  • Milorad

    Internet readers tend to be pretty good at ignoring irrelevant information, so a timestamp is only useful to those who find it relevant.

    I think removing them denies information to those who would seek it. Those who don’t care don’t ever look at them. I think at some point you have to trust your readers to judge what is or isn’t relevant, and I don’t think a timestamp is the measure of that – as you say, its the marriage of content vs timestamp, not the timestamp alone.

  • Julie L Baumler

    I think that timestamps are useful because even if your content is ageless (which I think is arguable on far more subjects than we’d like to think), your writing style changes over time. There are a number of print authors whose later work I like, but I can’t get into their earlier work (or actually, vice versa.)

    That said, I don’t think that date is one of the first items that belongs on a blog post if the blog doesn’t deal with current events or fast changing business or social issues.

  • Ed

    The best answer, as so often is the case, is to allow the visitor to decide. A Web site could leave it up to the visitor whether to display the date, just as some sites allow visitors to change the current design.

    However, in the meantime, dates have their place as a point of reference, no matter how evergreen the subject.

  • Gary

    Totally depends on the subject matter. When looking for say, reviews of blog systems etc. I always look to see when the review was published because I want the latest review.

  • Daniel

    It looks like opinions are divided.

    If I counted it right there are 10 people saying they don’t care-need timestamps, while 13 people say a minimum time reference is needed.

    Interesting… :).

  • Maryam in Marrakesh

    Hmmmm….that is an interesting concept. I am sometimes sad that people don’t read my old posts. But at the same time, I have noticed that quite a few readers come and read my blog from start to finish – and it’s a story, so it makes me nervous to take out the date. Do you think it would be appropriate for me to remove the time stamp?

  • Torsten

    Even as it is nice to know the date being published, as you might see the post from another perspective, I don’t care about the timestamp as long as the content has some value to comment or to link to.
    The value is also what makes the so called “timeless” content, just its relevancy is decreasing slower and over a longer period of time.

  • Wallet Rehab – Ways to save money

    I think timestamps are unecessary, unless you are doing a very traditional news blog. Otherwise, chances are your content is timeless! Does Lifehacker really need timestamps?

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