3 Reasons Why It Is a Good Idea to Have Date Stamps on Blog Posts

I am noticing more and more blogs lately that do not have dates on their posts. It strikes me as a terrible idea to forego date stamps every time I encounter this choice, because it negatively affects my user experience. After a conversation with Liz Henry on Facebook yesterday, I sorted out my thoughts about why that is.

by Reinhard Kirchner (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

by Reinhard Kirchner (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3 reasons why blog posts WITH date stamps are a good idea:

  1. Content looks static without date stamps to inform the reader that the content actually changes over time. A lack of date stamps can be confusing for a reader if it makes your blog look like static content that is not updated as a blog would be. I have visited sites that, on the surface, looked like a series of writer's clips rather than blog posts I could engage with. I dug deeper, because I am interested in website design, but more casual readers are likely to click away from a site like this.
  2. All of a site's content tends to look stale without date stamps to inform the reader how recent front page content is. Without chronological context, there can be no assumption that your content is either current or valid according to other current information. I generally assume that content without date stamps may have been written some time ago and look elsewhere for other content with proof of currency.
  3. There is no proof of ongoing investment and engagement without date stamps on posts. New readers won't have obvious clues to show that you are present to keep the site active and engage with your readers. If I can't tell fairly quickly if you've even been there in the last two years, I'm probably not going to stick around, either.

3 reasons why blog posts WITHOUT date stamps are a bad idea:

  1. There is a likelihood of less social sharing and use in research when a reader can't establish the currency of content. If a reader can't tell if your blog post was written yesterday or two years ago, they will be less likely to see its relevancy and value when it comes to sharing it across their social networks. For instance, a heart-wrenching post about infertility might be affecting, but a reader's style of engagement with it relies on whether the family in question is dealing with it now or is actually three years past those events; a reader needs to know whether the information is timely in a technical post about how to embed videos from a particular app, because it might no longer be relevant as technology changes. Most readers will look for a source they can validate for currency before bothering with your content.
  2. A reader will be less inspired to add you to their feedreader and/or sign up for newsletter updates if they can't tell how frequently you update your blog. No dates on posts often means there is no signal to a reader that you have been on the site recently or even updated it in years. A reader's interest in investing in you and your content will not be piqued by what often translates as a lack of investment and engagement on your part.
  3. A lack of date stamps on blog posts reads like a lack of transparency. As a reader who might want to invest in ongoing engagement with you and/or your content, I want to know what that might entail on my part. Will I be inundated with posts several times a day, only once a month, or am I actually looking at a now-defunct blog that will no longer offer new content? Are you someone I can get to know, or are you online only once every three months when your artisanal milking goat herd wanders near civilization? A lack of date stamps can translate as a lack of willingness to engage. Even as a mere silent subscriber, my relationship with your blog is a two-way street, and I want to know what I'm up for.

I did a bit of extra digging to see why people would choose to go the no-blog-date-stamps route, because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't missing anything. I did find some arguments for why date stamps may not be essential, but I was not impressed. The main arguments against date stamps I found, compiled, and boiled down are in bold below, followed by my responses to them:

3 arguments against date stamps on blog posts that don't hold up:

  1. People will judge your site harshly if your blog post date stamps show that you don't update very often. Don't hide what you're really selling by not giving readers the information. Be up front. People want to know what they can expect. If someone is going to judge you harshly for sparse updates, they are likely not someone who will be coming back as a regular reader anyway. I subscribe to several sites that update only once or twice a month, because, although their date stamps showed me that they weren't updated often, I could see that there would be future updates of content I liked over time.
  2. Dates on evergreen posts can make them look artificially out of date. So-called "evergreen" posts are not necessarily so long-lasting. Lives change, what are considered acceptable business practices change, science and technology change. People who use the internet for research require dates on even your evergreen content, so your posts won't make the cut without dates to validate them. Also, if I am looking for content to share socially, I might see your post, but I will look for another site's post with a date stamp on it so that the people who click on my link know they can trust the information. The value of your evergreen content still rests partially on when it was created, and it is largely devalued without that date stamp.
  3. Removing blog post dates removes the pressure on you to update more often. Penalizing a reader's experience in order to artificially make yourself feel better behind the scenes is just plain not very bright. Buck up, buttercup. Accept your site for what it is or get to work. Dates lend engagement, social sharing, and research legitimacy. You might feel better without those pesky date stamps staring you down, but the visibility of your content will suffer.

In short, date stamps on blog posts are a good idea, because they provide context, legitimacy, and increase the likelihood of social sharing. And when those buggers are missing? People get annoyed.

Also, wow. I guess I had some date stamp steam to blow off. Thoughts, anyone?