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 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?



Share

53 Responses to “Should We Remove the Timestamp?”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ryan

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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™‚

  • 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] http://inphotos.org/motivation-from-the-past/

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Sam Jackson

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

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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˜‰

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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™‚

  • 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™‚

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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… :).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Bang Kritikus

    Use timestamp in news to know uptodate or not a news

  • 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).

Comments are closed.