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

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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.

August 2022 update:

As per latest test results, it is 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
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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
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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 Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

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

  1. Ramandeep Singh

    But date is showing for this post on Google serp. What’s wrong ?

  2. Bernard Moye

    Thanks for sharing your results, Harsh Agrawal. This is something that I’ve wondered about with my blog. While the content is pretty much evergreen, I think people ignore it when the post dates start getting in the year+ range. I’ve been considering finding a plugin to handle the removal. Do you have a recommendation?
    Have a great day!

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @Bernard
      If you are using Genesis plugin, I have a premium plugin for it!

  3. SFE

    I removed the dates from my posts and saw some ranking improvements for keywords I track. This is indeed a good and simple trick to implement for sites powered by WordPress. Thanks Harsh!

  4. John Crenshaw

    This is interesting in that I found the opposite. But I ran an experiment recently that would explain the differences.

    I found that posts showing older publish dates lost traffic when I included post dates, whereas newer posts gained a significant bit of traffic. I’ve had a few people duplicate my results.

    You can read the full experiment here: http://www.rlmseo.com/blog/seo-impact-blog-post-dates/

    1. Paul Steinbrueck

      John, thanks for sharing this. I was curious if removing the date would impact older posts differently from newer post.

  5. Arsie Organo Jr

    Hi Harsh, I have implemented this on my other blog and it works like a charm. It does work!

  6. Vinay Goud

    What an awesome article, thanks for sharing and please tell me removing dates is good or not in 2015 I mean to say. Please respond on my this query soon.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. Vinay Singh

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

  10. 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 😀

    Have a great day mate.

  11. 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?

  12. 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

    1. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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

    1. 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,

      1. 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..

        1. Stephen Malan

          Thanks Harsh, will give it a try then.

          Best,

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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. 🙂

  19. 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!

    1. Ozzie

      Use the schema.org/BlogPosting and add the dateModified type.

  20. Tahir Siddiqui

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

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