Should We Remove the Timestamp?

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 yesterdayโ€™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?”

  • Angela

    Regardless of the type of content I’ve found myself searching for timestamps on some blogs.

    It helps me to frame the content in my own mind and gives me a better understanding of WHY somebody has written whatever.

    It does make sense to me to put the timestamp at the end of the posts just in case someone would prejudge the content due to the date being visible at the beginning.

  • Mike

    I love WordPress and am now using it pretty much exclusively as a CMS for all of my sites. Some of them are relatively static and the content is not time specific so I’ve removed a number of the built in WP features including timestamp. However I think that in most cases it makes sense to keep it in.

  • George

    Daniel,

    I just wrote about this post on my blog.

    Basically, I don’t like the time stamp removal thing. It makes it less like a blog and more like a stand alone site. You might as well remove the comments! Oh, that’s right, some people do that as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rohit Malik

    I have also removed the timestamp but my reason is different …i’m using dates in the title itself as it can be different than the date of actual publishing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nirmal

    I feel displaying timestamp is a good way. First thing I do when I read a blog is to check when it was posted. I have had experience searching for the date in the post to find out how old is the information.

  • Dave

    It’s arguable that time can be an irrelevant factor in some blogs, such as this one. But many have entries that are interdependent. It is often necessary to know which of a series of posts came first, in order to make sense of them.

  • Chris Baskind

    Depends.

    Do you have a news site? Not many of us do, but the timestamp *belongs* on something like CNN or USAToday. It’s a clue the readers use to evaluate if they’re getting the latest on a breaking story.

    There might be a few site operators reading this who really bust their butts to break stories — particularly in the tech world. But, for most of us, the timestamp is bloggy cruft.

    I dumped mine on Lighter Footstep some time ago. It’s just not necessary, and may work against us on long tail traffic.

    Now if everyone would just trash the chronological archives and sidebar calendars … ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Steven Smethurst

    It matters on the content, if your content could possible become invalid with time, it NEEDS a time stamp.

    Dailyblogtips.com needs a time stamp as the blogging world changes frequently.

    A site about the history of a product, person, place, or thing doesn’t need a time stamp since the information will never be invalid with time. (almost never)

  • Guilherme Zรƒยผhlke O’Connor

    I fully agree with “LearningNerd” above.

    Nothing is really timeless, just the time resolution can vary.

    I am currently reading a book that contains all the short stories by Truman Capote. Each one is dated with the year.

    It is interesting to know that a particular story was written in 1945, for instance, and not ten years later.

    Tutorials may seem timeless at a first glance, but of course in a tutorial about, say, blogging, it is useful to know if was written in the early 2000ths or within the last year.

    In a blog about tech news, the day and month may be useful and, in a journalistic blog (BBC, CNN, Reuters, etc) the time of the post may be crucial.

    So, I guess time is always important, you just have to choose the resolution you will present yours in.

    Thanks for the discussion, I’ve been thinking about this in the last weeks and now I see I have to change the time resolution of my own blog.

  • Sam Jackson

    Dates tend to help orient me, but I can see the merit in it, subconsciously, I suppose.

  • Mike Panic

    I’ve removed time from the posts themselves but left it on for the comments, as it shows a nice timeline, and if someone is replying to an older blog post.

  • Daniel

    Dale, you are right. The discussion, in fact, is not regarding if removing the timestamp would make a blog’s content timeless or not.

    The discussion is, provided the content already is timeless (like the stuff you find on stevepavlina.com) would the removal of the timestamp be beneficial?

  • Andrea Micheloni

    I prefer to show up every article’s datetime because I do think any reader should know it: the world is growing and changing faster and faster, the IT even more.

    I want every visitor to know whether it’s better to blindly trust what I say or to check for updates: a famous Italian blogger has changed his blog theme just to show up in older posts the message “Warning, this post is 6-month old, it may contain outdated information!”, and that’s what I will do in my new blog.

  • Dale

    hmmmmmm…. might be a good idea if we all look up the word “timeless” in a dictionary and start this discussion over again. “A Tale of Two Cities” is not timeless because it doesn’t have a timestamp!

  • Joey

    I prefer to have the date on posts that I am reading. I could care less about the time. It is aggrivating to me to read a post and then try to figure out when it was written. Having the date on a post helps me to understand the content better.

    I understand the whys of removing the date. But for me, I’ll have two blogposts all the way with date please.

  • LearningNerd

    Nothing is truly “timeless”. You can always see what date a book was published, even if the book has been relevant for 200 years. Blog posts should be no different; a reader should always be able to find out when something was written, no matter what it is.

    I like to keep my dates at the bottom, because my blog is full of tutorials — “timeless” content. When reading other blogs, I don’t care where they have the date, but I expect to find it somewhere.

  • Sara

    On my blog, I have a mix of timeless posts and those that are time-sensitive. I like seeing a date on a post just to give me a frame of reference. I don’t necessarily think of a post as not “fresh” if it’s older. I think, as readers, we’re used to seeing dates at the top of posts just as we would for a newspaper article.

    Honestly, though, I think this has more to do with expectations. I started reading blogs when they were personal diaries. Because of that, I expect a date. Since the blog format is being used in different ways now, I think it’s appropriate for the overall presentation to change as well.

    Sara

  • Daniel

    Andrew, sure if we consider news-related ot tech & gadget blogs the time reference is useful. That is beyond discussion.

    The question becomes polemic when we consider blogs that pump almost exclusively how-to articles like DBT or the other blogs mentioned on the post.

  • Dan and Jennfer

    Hey Daniel,

    Hmmm…. Definitely – the timestamp goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, in instances where you discuss current events, it’s valuable.

    But for a how-to site like yours and ours – whether is our AskDanAndJennifer.com Dating & Relationship advice column – or our BlogSuccessJournal.com Power Blogging site, the content is evergreen by it’s very nature.

    We went back and forth on this for a while last year and decided the timestamp has little to no value.

    It’s largely a holdover from the past, which is why all themes incorporate it still. In the beginning, blogs (web logs) were little more than online diaries, and timestamps were significant. Today, they’re just holdovers from that time, since nobody removed them.

    Visitors perceive your content to be fresh when they find it in a search engine. I don’t see the value of pointing out that you wrote it 2 years ago. That could well just discourage them from reading on.

    Then again that implies a tight blog niche (as you and we do have).

    And all that having been said, it is of course a personal preference. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have an awesome day!
    Dan

  • Donncha O Caoimh

    I use both, on different blogs. On my photoblog, http://inphotos.org/ I don’t use a timestamp in the url but on “Holy Shmoly!”

    Unfortunately I changed the timestamp some months after launching In Photos so I had to add a mod_rewrite rule[1] to redirect old style URLs to the new style. I wouldn’t do it on a well established blog though, especially if there were lots of incoming links. It just gets too messy.

    [1]

  • GoddessCarlie

    I write both (what I hope to be) ageless material and also this-minute news type posts, so I’ll probably keep the time stamp in. As for when I’m browsing other’s sites, I don’t even notice the time stamp. The only time I do is with the comments. So I don’t think it has much of a problem with me. I would link to something no matter the age if I thought it was relevant. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Andrew Flusche

    I think timestamps are a valuable tool when reading blogs, especially when researching a topic. If your blog deals with technology, most stuff probably isn’t “timeless.” The timestamp helps to identify whether or not the post is current enough to be informative on the topic.

  • Jake

    I like the idea of having the date. Most types of print media give some sort of idea of when it was published. For example magazines may have many articles that can last for quite a while, but it is still good to see when they were published because anything has the possibility of going out of date. Maybe it is better to have it small and at the end of the post, but I think there should be some way of finding out.

  • Daniel

    I agree with you guys that at a “conscious” level a good post is worth to me the same thing, regardless of when it was written.

    Unconsciously, though, I am not sure whether the timestamp conditions the most of us or not.

    It is a fact that the vast majority of links are pointed to current stuff.

  • Deb

    The age of a well-written post makes no difference to me. If it’s good advice, it’ll stand the test of time.

    I do like to know when things are written however, and I always check the date.

  • Dana Mark

    If a post is worth a link, I would link to it whether or not it has a timestamp. Most of the time it seems people will be linking to more current posts anyway.

  • Daniel

    Paolo, I think if we talk about a “fresh” post I would be equally prone to link to it. Regardless of having a timestamp or not.

    Rarely I link to very old stuff though, regardless of the quality of the content. In those cases I think removing the timestamp would help.

  • Ryan

    I will remove timestamp from my blog, maybe author too…

  • Paolo Amoroso

    I am as likely to read and link to posts with and without dates. But I consider time references a valuable navigational tool.

  • John Wesley

    This is something I’ve been thinking about. I aim to write timeless content but currently do show the timestamp. If removing it encourages more links it’s probably worth a try.

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