The Effect of Showing Last Updated Date Stamps on Blog Traffic [Case Study]

Last month I wrote an article on how to remove dates from search engine results, and this one month has given me enough data to share this case-study with you.

January 2020 update:

As per latest test results, its more important that you show both modified date and published date. Also, if you often update old posts without making any changes to the content, and just to show the recent date, it would have adverse effect. You can use Limit modified date plugin to update posts without modifying dates.

In my earlier article on how to recover from Google Panda, I mentioned that removing dates had a positive impact on the overall search engine ranking. This created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere & many bloggers reached out to ask for more data on this. Before you remove the date from your blog post ( Do read the hat tip at the bottom), go through every word written in this article.

It was a risky thing to do a case-study on ShoutMeLoud, as it’s my main source of income. Anyhow, I thought of having a little fun & decided to do a SEO case study by removing & re-adding the dates. I put the dates back on my blog posts to see the effect in search engine ranking.

This case study will allow me to illustrate for you how my blog traffic was impacted, and to explore some possible solutions to the issues at hand.

How adding dates to blog posts impacted my keyword ranking:

Last week I added the dates back onto ShoutMeLoud blog posts, as obviously it gives a good user-experience. As you may know, ShoutMeLoud is a 6-year-old WordPress blog, and I have posts dated from 2008. From the perspective of someone conducting a search, I would definitely prefer to read a post which has been published recently.  In fact, when searching I often click on links which are either dated recently or have no dates at all.

When I added the dates back onto my blog posts, my blog traffic dropped by almost 40%.

On average, I get 10,000 page views every day (25K daily in June 2015), but after adding the dates, my page views dropped to an all-time low of 5,757.  I am currently using SEMRUSH to track my keyword ranking, and I saw a drop of almost 101 keywords, and hardly any improvement on any keyword.

I continued this test for four days, and my traffic continued to decline. Here is a screenshot of the blog’s stats:

Date stamp effect on SEO

My keyword tracking tool showed me what went wrong after adding the date stamps to my blog posts.  So, after running this test I removed the dates, and doing so caused my traffic to climb right back up.  You can also see improvement in keyword ranking after removing the date stamp:

Keyword ranking drop

The orange rectangle shows the decline in keyword ranking after adding the dates back, and the last column shows current ranking. Currently I’m seeing all keyword ranking improving, and I’m also seeing continued growth in traffic with each passing day.

Conclusion of this case study:

We’ve already established that dates on a blog post enhances user experience.  At the same time, however, this case study has clearly shown that if dates are displayed in Google SERP’s, keyword ranking and blog traffic are negatively impacted. The best practice would be  to show dates to your user, but not to search engines or you can show last updated time instead of published time. I suggest to got for later one, as it would be more meaningful for your readers.

  • Use this free plugin to remove date function from your WordPress theme.
  • Use Javascript to show dates, ensuring that they’re not detected by search engine bots. You can use the search snippet testing tool after adding dates via Javascript.

You  have the choice of whether or not to show post dates.  In making that choice, however, you must all decide whether to hide the date knowing that user-experience is affected, or whether to show the date and watch our search engine rankings decline.

In case you need more food for thought to make your decision, here are few more case studies for your consideration:

Let us know whether you show your post dates or not, and what method you use if you display dates to the user but hide them from search engines.

If you find the information in this post useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Authored By
A blog scientist by the mind and a passionate blogger by heart ❤️. Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and Cryptocurrency space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud and CoinSutra, and a Speaker at Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. He has won numerous awards for his work at ShoutMeLoud. Life motto: Live while you can! Teach & inspire while you could & Smile while you have the teeth.

51 thoughts on “The Effect of Showing Last Updated Date Stamps on Blog Traffic [Case Study]”

  1. Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers

    I don’t show dates but I post mostly evergreen content and regularly update it to make sure it stays current where needed. However I do have a question on whether it is a good or bad thing (for SEO) to update the published date in WordPress when you do an update. It doesn’t seem to make sense as comments etc will exist before that date which might appear to be cheating the system but does Google see the date even if my readers don’t?

    1. I also publish evergreen posts on my blog so I recently decided to remove dates from the blog. About the comments reflecting a older date, am sure there’s a way of getting rid of dates on the comments like Harsh does here in shoutmeloud so for all those who want to show update date and not publish date, do well to remove the date on the user comment section.

  2. Great post! I have one question ..related to this but not directly.
    I notice you use the “last updated” date on your posts.
    I use the same, but my issues is that whenever I add a new article, I like to go back through existing posts and find opportunities to link them to the new article. Each time I do this of course, it shows the existing post ad updated again on current day.
    By doing this ongoing, it will always seem as though most articles are always last modified just a little while ago. Is there any way around this? To show the last updated date, not have it affected by adding links regularly?
    Thanks in advance!

    Jay

    1. I don’t think there is any as such. Maybe a custom code is what you need to get over this. A checkbox in post edit section which overrides showing last update time and shows only published time. You need to hire a WordPress developer for the same.

  3. Dibyajyoti kabi

    I am sharing my personal experience regarding this
    I have a tech blog where I installed the plugin and it was working fine
    But few days back I removed the plugin and believe me what Harsh said is 100% correct.
    My traffic went down to 15k from 20k perday.
    I can see some of my posts’ rank changed so the traffic decreased
    Now I have installed the plugin again
    Thanks Harsh for sharing all useful information with bloggers like us.

    1. @Hitesh
      Coz hiding dates doesn’t give a great user experience. Since we guys keep updating our old blog posts to add new information. So, instead of showing publish date now I show updated date.That is also working out great for us.

  4. Nice article harsh. I am using Yoast SEO plugin on my WP blog. It has option to select whether to show date in snippet preview or not. However it seems it is not working. I will try using the plugin you suggested in the article.

  5. Thanks for sharing the outcome of the test Harsh. I actually did a similar test a long time ago with an A/B test. My goal was not so much to find out if it affected SEO (and therefore traffic), but if the date stamp had any influence in bounce rate of that particular page. What I found out was that hiding the date stamp did in fact have a positive impact on the page’s bounce rate.

    I do agree that showing the date stamp is the best UX there is, but for some evergreen posts, it doesn’t really matter when it was published. Think about a post where I collected some free ebooks for example.

    Would it be an idea to only show the date stamp on posts that get regularly updated, but hide it for other posts? It’s not really consistent, but it could be the best of both worlds.

    Anyway, the results of my A/B test can be found at https://www.paulolyslager.com/how-to-improve-bounce-rate-simple-ab-test/

  6. Thanks for this post, but I’m still not understanding how to show the last updated time stamp like you are showing on your blog.

    And are you saying that the last updated time doesn’t show up in the search engines? And if that’s true, this is how you would prefer and recommend it?

  7. I was more than happy to uncover this great site. I need to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.

  8. Nice information about date stamp. Sir, I found many bloggers are editing their post and making it’s up to date, and it’s really helpful too.

  9. Nitya sundar Jana

    In my case my blog page view dropped after removed date 😛 i have 3 years old blog should i remove date from posts ?

  10. I have a tech blog after installed date plugin my traffic went up 3k to 4k per day
    thank you (y) for useful information #Harsh 🙂

  11. Thank you for sharing this case study. Actually, I heard about the idea of changing the publish date to last update date more than a year ago but I never took it seriously.
    After reading your post, I did a quick research and changed it on my blog right away 🙂

  12. Hi Harsh,

    This is very useful case study. I think this is great idea to hide dates from SERP. My pages are showing dates in search. After a year I found a drop in traffic due to this because old posts are ignored by visitors.

    Thanks for such helping post as case study.

    Raj from Webanimax.com

  13. Thank you for the article. It answered a query I had, as I had only just removed dates from my blog posts and was told it was a bad idea. The reason I removed dates was because I try to create timeless content that will remain relevant. Create once, use many times. In fact, I found the same as you, within days my traffic began to climb.

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