Imagine this: You’re scouring the Internet for the latest thinking and current trends on a given topic. You find a great blog post on a company’s website—it offers insight, examples and statistics, and even a link to one of their case studies. You start taking down some notes when you realize that, alas, there’s no date on the post or on the case study. They could have been published a week ago or seven years ago.
Even if they’re old pieces, that doesn’t necessarily mean the takeaways aren’t useful or relevant. But without knowing the context in which the pieces were written, you don’t know what other tools or information were (or weren’t) available when they were written or how old the data are. It’s therefore difficult to discern the value they add to what you’re doing right now.
Now you’re back to the Google search results page, and you probably won’t rely on that company’s blog as a source of usable information on your next Internet research adventure.
From the reader’s perspective, the case for dating blog content, noted above, is a strong one. The company publishing the blog, though, may have some other concerns.
Doesn’t dating a post make it seem like our thoughts and expertise aren’t evergreen?
If you had fantastic insight a handful of years ago into a given topic that is not outdated (because of technological advances, etc.), those ideas still matter. Thinking deeply on a topic your company excels in is a truly evergreen trait. And knowing when a post was created doesn’t automatically scream “This is too old to take seriously in 2017!” Rather, it provides necessary context for the reader. If supporting data or information is still accurate and you’ve provided solid content that shares your perspective on a still-relevant topic, you’ve done your job and given the reader what they need. And if they’re reading your blog post a handful of years after it was written, the topic is clearly still relevant. So you might consider revisiting that topic, eh?
When my older content shows up in organic search results, won’t the date deter people from clicking on it?
Let’s not forget that a blog’s digital platform provides a lot of flexibility. You can revive a perennially relevant post by adding a “last updated” line. Start by adding current data or supplementing the material with a few trends that have arisen in the past couple of years. Then be sure to note the date it was originally published and when it was last updated and ta-da! You’ve reestablished your expertise on that topic, given that blog post another boost, and addressed the search results issue—if there’s a more recent date that indicates current information, you avoid missing out on clicks due to an older date-stamp. You’re also optimizing your search results by regularly publishing fresh, authoritative content that’s useful to the reader, and the “last updated” tactic requires less effort than writing a post from scratch. It’s a quick way to get results.
What if I can’t keep up with my blog? Won’t dating the posts send the message that we haven’t thought about anything new or blog-worthy in recent years? We’re just too busy to write about it.
It can be tempting to remove dates from your posts out of fear that you won’t be able to keep up with your blog—but, as we’ve already established, doing so is a disservice to the reader. So the focus should be on sustainable ways to keep your blog fresh.
Again, breathing new life into older content is one of them. If the messages are evergreen, there’s no reason to let the date keep you from distributing previously published work. You can recirculate previously published blog posts on social media, through an e-blast, or by including links to them in new posts that touch on related topics. I do just that at the end of this post to give some more well-deserved airtime to my colleagues’ ideas from years ago. You might also write a blog roundup post, which we did at the end of 2016—check out that fresh date in the search results page, giving rise to posts that were published months earlier.
Of course, if the content is truly dated, optimizing older work is a wasted effort. Your post on CD-ROMs has gone to the grave and isn’t coming back. But when the ideas still provide value to the reader, an older piece can yield positive results on a long-term basis.
You can consider guest posts and expert Q&As, which keep you up-to-date without having to constantly think of new topic ideas. You can also explore different formats—not all blog posts have to look like this one. Post a podcast or video or a roundup of your favorite content around the web. In short: think outside the box. It’s possible to keep up your blog without taking too much time away from other tasks.
So, date your blog posts. Your readers will appreciate it, and, ultimately, you’ll get more credibility and clicks.
For more on blog best practices, check out the posts below. They are a few years old, but the takeaways are timeless.