We know a vital element in content marketing is time. Whether you are blogging, writing e-books, creating infographics, etc, one of the things you strive to do is produce the most up-to-date material.
Human readers as well as search engines are out for what’s new and consumable. Now, if you create a new blog content on “what’s new in WordPress 2.0“, chances are that no one will pay attention to your article because WordPress 2.0 is almost not found on any blog today (except maybe on your local offline server).
So when it comes to dates and content freshness, I’m thinking of two characteristics;
- Completely new content.
- Updated content.
When content is completely new, it means it’s touching on something that’s news. Something you’ll probably be reading for the first time and something that’s still applicable.
Now, old contents can be updated. A typical example is a blog post you wrote 3 years ago on how to use WordPress. That content should be quite old and outdated but you can give some freshness to it by removing screenshots of former WordPress versions and adding skins of the newest version.
But if you wrote on a specific version of WordPress, the truth is that piece of content will become completely of no use to those users who have grown pass the version in your content.
So should dates be removed from contents?
From the SEO stand point, I don’t need Matt to tell me what they think about this. If Google has a way of finding blog posts that have kicked out dates, the monster will certainly find a way to strike.
If search engines care about content freshness, then it will be difficult for you to convince me that they won’t do anything about you taking down dates. Harsh Agrawal in this post on his blog shared his experience clearly proving that seach engine strive to answer queries with fresh materials.
From the readers’ stand point, it becomes deceitful to let me click a headline that leads to an outdated content.
Most often, when I get to a blog post and find out that dates have been removed from both content and comment, it feels like I’ll be wasting my time on some obsolete material. The author is like trying to trick me to reading his/her post.
If in 2013 you wrote about the latest stuffs in that year without dating your content, what do you think will become of that piece of work now in 2015? A reader who finds that material through search engine will become so disappointed and may not signup to your list or come back again.
The question is why should dates (such a crucial component of content) be removed ?
According to Harsh, removing dates from search results on SERP is to trick both search engines and human readers. Yes. I said trick them. Read his blog post again.
His experience clearly proves that dates is a ranking factor but I think Google has to relook its algorithm at this level. Why does it get confused and rank undated content?
If something is not done, you’ll soon start finding outdated undated content on position #1 for hot keyword (because the search giant is confused and ranking undated materials).
In Harsh’s words, dates give a good user-experience… A good idea is to show dates to your user, but don’t show it to search engines”
In other words, remove dates to fool or trick Search Engines and searchers.
But here is the point …
We need search engines to send us readers right?
So what happens if those readers come to find out that the content they found on Google page #1 is obsolete?
- First, they will click the back button and never return to your blog again (which is bad for your business)
- Clicking back will affect your bounce rate, an element is search ranking
- They may never trust Google again (which is bad news and why Google will soon strike)
Yes I know some undated materials are said to be evergreen. But does that justify why you should take down dates?
Will Google strike?
Yes I think the search monster is not stupid. The effect of removing dates is negative on user experience so I foresee Google coming out against this in the upcoming updates.
If your blog posts and comments are not dated, think about it.
In this post, Shamsudeen Adeshokan says removing dates from posts deserves a penalty from Google
I know this topic may be debatable so I’m using an argument tool in this post. While I highly appreciate your comments, please use this argument box and let’s know which side are you.