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Effect of Showing Date Stamps On Blog Traffic [Case Study]

Effect of Showing Date Stamps On Blog Traffic [Case Study]

Last month I wrote an article on how to remove dates from search engine, and I explained how it decreases CTR. In that article, I focused more on CTR than search engine ranking. Also, in my earlier article on how to recover from Google Panda, I mentioned that removing date’s will have positive impact on your ranking, and your ranking will definitely improve. This created lots of buzz in blogosphere, and I thought of doing a test with this on ShoutMeLoud. So last week, I put the dates back on my blog posts to see if it have any negative impact on my blog traffic. In this case study, I will show how my blog traffic got impacted with little change, and what could be the possible solutions.

How adding dates on blog posts affected my Keyword ranking:

Last week, I added the dates back on ShoutMeLoud blog posts, as obviously it gives a good user-experience. If you know, ShoutMeLoud is 5-year-old blog, and I have posts dated from 2008. From a searcher point of view, I would definitely prefer to read a post which is published recently, and when searching I will click links which are either dated recently or have no dates at all (Benefit of doubt).

When I added the dates back on my blog posts, my blog traffic dropped by almost 40%. On an average, I get 10000 PV every day, but after adding dates, it went to all time low as 5,757.  Right now, I’m using SEMRUSH to track my keyword ranking, and I could see a drop of almost 101 keywords, and highly any improvement on any keyword. I continued this test for 4 days, and my traffic keep sulking down. Here is a screenshot of the blog stats :

Date stamp effect on SEO

My keyword tracking tool, showed me what went wrong after adding date stamps to blog posts. So, after running this test, I again removed the dates, and if you would notice in above graph, my traffic is coming back, and here you could see improvement in keyword ranking after removing the date stamp:

Keyword ranking drop

Orange bracket shows drop in keyword ranking after adding dates back, and last column shows current ranking. Right now, all keyword ranking is improving, and I’m seeing increment in traffic with each passing day.

Conclusion of this case study:

I’m not going to debate on user -experience effect on adding/removing dates, as I already mentioned:  Dates give a good user-experience, but at the same time, if you show dates in Google SERP’s, it negatively impact your keyword ranking and your blog traffic.

A good idea is to show dates to your user, but don’t show it to search engines.

  • Use Javascript to show dates, and ensure that it’s not picked by search engine bots. You can use search snippet testing tool after adding dates via Javascript.
  • Use image based dates.

For now, I’m waiting to make changes in my theme to add dates via Javascript, and that’s why not showing dates. For you, it’s your choice to show date or not, as hiding date will have bad user-experience, but helps in getting higher ranking in search engine. Here are few more case studies, that you might not like to miss:

Do let me know if you are showing dates or not? What method you are using to show dates to user and hide it from search engines? If you find this case-study interesting, do consider sharing it on Facebook and Google plus.

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Article by Harsh Agrawal

Harsh has written 1064 articles.

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{ 19 comments… add one }

  • David Reimherr

    I have a question that I would like to see if anyone knows the answer to. But I have a high ranking blog page/article that is still current, but the date is from 2011. I was thinking about simply wanting to change the date on the blog to make it appear fresh. If we do this, will it affect the traffic and search engine ranking? I look forward to everyone’s feedback and thanks in advance.

    Reply
  • Aamir

    Hi Harsh, I want to confirm this method actually works. I removed the date and my site traffic about 50%. But there is a question. You are still showing date on homepage and archive pages. Couldn’t google get this date to rank the individual post? Or the removal of date is important on single posts only?? Please clarify this situation. I am not showing date on archive pages right now but I doubt if I enable the date on archive Google drops my ranking again.

    I think you experimented this way too and I’d love to know your valuable suggestion on this point.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Vinay Singh

    Hiding the date by modufying the CSS (display:none; property) would not hide the date from the search engines crawler.

    Reply
  • Reginald

    Hi mate,

    Interesting case study. I personally add dates to my blogs. Self preference maybe? Haven’t seen much effect but I am tempted to try out.

    Keep you informed once I test out ‘without’ dates and let’s see :D

    Have a great day mate.

    Reply
  • Vin DiCarlo

    Hi Harsh, Today I just checking one of my blog post structure data on Google Webmaster Tool. But The fact is Google Structure Data testing tool showing me (Error: Missing required field “updated”.) can you explain me how to solve this issue?

    Reply
  • Pramod

    It has been almost 4 days since I have installed the above mentioned plugin on my domain also on google snipet it is not showing date but today when I searched my site on google, the date was still there.I have followed the tutorial very carefully and implemented it as you said and but it seems to be not working.
    Please Harsh what may be the problem

    Reply
    • Harsh Agrawal

      @Pramod
      Use Rich snippet testing tool to check how Google sees your content “http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets”
      If it’s not showing any date, that means this plugin is working fine. You need to wait for a while before Google will re-crawl your old content and remove date’s from SERP’s.

      Reply
  • Abhay

    What my opinion is that

    – Date are not important for PILLAR posts, which are facts regardless of time.
    – Dates are very important for NEWS/EVENTS post, which are focused on current affair.

    Now it depends on which side your blog is inclined (PILLAR posts or NEWS/EVENTS post), and make your decision based on that.

    Reply
  • Aditya Nath Jha

    Thank you very much Harsh, on your suggestion I had installed the Date exclusion plugin and it helped. Even my previous posts started showing for SERPS.
    An avid shouter.
    – A.N.J

    Reply
    • Stephen Malan

      I went to download the Date Exclusion Plugin that you mentioned, and it said that the plugin had not been updated in two years. Did you have any problems with it in the current version of WordPress? Does it work with the current version?

      Thank you,

      Reply
      • Harsh Agrawal

        @Stephen
        I used it with current version of WordPress (3.5+) and I faced no issues. You could use it without any issue..

        Reply
        • Stephen Malan

          Thanks Harsh, will give it a try then.

          Best,

          Reply
  • Jarret

    Harsh, that’s really interesting data. I wonder how much of the drop was due to the weekend effect. My traffic is always low from Friday to Sunday. It makes sense though since I won’t click a post dated 2008 etc.

    Reply
  • stargaterich

    My preference is to keep the date of the post being published.. Reason being that sometimes it is inevitable for some discussion to be time context sensitive and thus the date of the post would help the reader to digest the information in the better perspective.
    Take for instance, a topic discussion on the benefit of autoblogging. As most bloggers recalled, autoblogging was a hot trend and tactic that works four years ago and beyond but it is no longer encouraged nor is it effective in todays SEO arena. The user who read the post without date would assume the information is grossly misleading and false but with the date he or she understand that the content published at that point of time were relevant.

    Reply
  • Raman

    Thanks Harsh Agrawal for this highly important Case Study ! It is really very helpful for all bloggers.I’ll definitely apply it on my blog.

    Reply
  • Ahmsta

    I followed your previous article on reasons not to allow search engines show dates to a blog post, and i must tell you, that really have a positive impact in rankings which also equals high CTR, i have benefited from this since i removed those dates so i think i will use the JavaScript option to show dates for user because i am not willing to let my rankings drop because of those dates. :)

    Reply
  • Stephen Malan

    Harsh,

    Great Post, and thanks for showing us your results on this. Will have to look into this more to see if we should be doing this.

    How do you add the dates via javascript?

    Thank you again!

    Reply
  • Tahir Siddiqui

    Hey,
    I have also implemented dates on my blog and fortunately my posts are going up in SERP! :D

    Reply

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