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If you’re building a blog, you might be wondering whether you should timestamp your posts. From Moz and HubSpot to Engadget and Deadspin, some of the internet’s most popular blogs have timestamped posts that show a relevant date.
When visitors encounter a post, they can check the date or dates to determine whether the content is still relevant. Timestamping your blog posts, however, can offer both advantages and disadvantages.
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What Is Timestamping?
The term “timestamping,” when used in the context of blogs, refers to an electronic record-keeping process that shows the date on which a post was published or last updated.
If timestamping is enabled on your blog, any posts you publish will be automatically affixed with a timestamp featuring a relevant date.
Timestamps typically consist of the month, day and year when a post was published or last updated. Depending on how a blog is designed, visitors can see the timestamp above or below the post’s title.
If Google or Bing encounters a timestamp when crawling a post, they may include it in the post’s organic listings.
Advantages of Timestamping Blog Posts
Timestamping can help you win the trust and confidence of your blog’s visitors. It a post isn’t timestamped, visitors may be reluctant to trust it, fearing it contains outdated information.
Timestamping makes your blog more transparent by showing visitors exactly when you published or last updated your posts. In turn, visitors will trust your blog posts knowing that they contain relevant and timely content.
Search engines may reward your blog posts with higher search rankings if you timestamp them. Google and Bing look at the frequency at which web pages, as well as blog posts, are updated to help determine their search rankings.
Timestamping, of course, allows you to show the date on which you last updated your blog posts. Google and Bing will see the timestamps when crawling your blog posts. And assuming you regularly update your blog posts, Google and Bing may respond by ranking them higher.
Timestamping doesn’t just encourage higher search rankings for your blog posts; it increases the number of keywords for which your posts rank. With timestamping enabled, your blog posts may rank for long-tail keywords containing a relevant date. If a post has a Nov. 10, 2019 timestamp, for example, it may rank for relevant keywords containing date modifiers like “November,” “2019” and variations thereof.
Disadvantages of Timestamping Blog Posts
Some bloggers perceive timestamps as an expiration date for blog posts. If a blog post shows the date on which it was published, it will gradually lose relevance among visitors. During the first few months, it will be highly relevant to visitors.
After several years, on the other hand, visitors may assume it’s outdated and, therefore, no longer relevant.
An argument can be made that timestamping isn’t beneficial for evergreen content. A post on the history of the Roman Empire, for instance, probably doesn’t need a timestamp.
The Roman Empire has been well-documented and analyzed over the years, so a 10-year-old post on its history is probably just as relevant if not more relevant than a one-year-old post on the same topic.
For time-sensitive content, including news stories, timestamping is almost certainly beneficial. Internet users pay attention to timestamps when scouring the search results for time-sensitive content.
Listings with new timestamps tend to attract more traffic than those with old timestamps. For purely evergreen content, however, the jury is still out regarding the benefits of timestamping.
Choose the Right Timestamp Format
If you’re going to timestamp to your blog posts, you should choose the right format. Don’t use publish dates as the format for your timestamps. Instead, set your blog to show the date on which you last updated your blog posts.
The longer a blog goes without being updated, the less relevant it becomes to visitors. Unfortunately, visitors won’t know when a post was last updated if the timestamp shows its publish date. If you published a post in 2015 and last updated it in 2018, the timestamp will show 2015, which may lead to visitors to assume it’s outdated.
By showing the date when you last updated your blog posts, they’ll be more relevant to visitors. Timestamps are displayed close to post titles, so they naturally attract visitors’ attention. When a visitor accesses a blog post, he or she can see the date when you last updated it.
How to Timestamp Your Blog Posts
There are several ways to timestamp your blog posts, the easiest of which is to use a theme that supports it. Thousands of themes either timestamp posts by default or offer the option to enable timestamping from the admin dashboard. If your theme doesn’t support timestamping, an alternative method is to use a plugin. Available at wordpress.org/plugins/wp-last-modified-info, WP Last Modified Info is a timestamping plugin that creates and displays a last updated timestamp for your blog posts.
If you’re comfortable modifying your blog’s code, you can add a timestamping feature manually. Timestamping can be achieved using either PHP or CSS. Just remember to back up your blog’s files, including its database, before modifying its code. Otherwise, you run the risk of breaking your blog’s functionality. With a backup copy available, you can rest your blog to its original condition if the timestamping feature breaks some or all of its functionality.
Timestamping your blog posts will help you win visitors’ trust while increasing your blog’s rankings and exposure in the search results. Rather than displaying original publish dates, though, you should display the date on whey your blog posts were last updated. Visitors will view your blog posts as being more relevant if you use this format for the timestamps.