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Should You Remove Post Dates from Your WordPress Blog?

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August 27th, 2010
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You may be wondering why anyone would want to do this. Think about it, you probably have hundreds of articles that you wrote years ago and when those same articles appear on Google search engine results, the dates appear next to the description.  You might think that this is great, users searching the web should be able to see when an article originally published, but research shows that users discriminate against older content just because it is old. An article that may be valuable despite its age would be subject to a user completely ignoring it and would click on the newer article, just because it was newer.

As you can see in the image above, the search results page lists the post date for the article followed by the description.

Do not confuse the intent here, if you are running a news site or writing about topics whose value is short lived then the adequate thing to do is to continue using dates. However if your traffic from search engines is suffering from users who refuse to visit an old article (and your topics are timeless) then you might want to consider removing the post date from your articles.

So how would you go about removing dates in WordPress?

Google is smart about locating dates on posts so you have to be aware of all the dates present on your WordPress site. Based on discussions on the web it appears that Google uses the post date when listed on a page and when the post date is missing, Google uses dates in comments and even within the post itself. So removing dates will take some cunning.

In order to remove the post date from the posts on your WordPress site you will have to remove the post date from your theme’s template file. In terms of indexing the post date, it appears that Google uses the post date from the single post and not the archive, so for the sake of users and simplicity we are only going to remove the post date from the “single.php” template file.

WARNING! Before proceeding with the modification of any template files, please make sure that you back up your files.

Remove date from single posts

1. Open the single.php file located in the theme directory in WordPress (usually server//wordpress/wp-content/themes/your theme name).

2. Locate the following line of code and remove it (or comment it out) from the template;

<?php the_time(); ?>

Note: The code used by the theme developer may vary from theme to theme and location so make sure you look for the <?php the_time within the single.php template to be sure.

3. Save the changes and refresh your website to see the modification. If the changes don’t appear right away make sure to clear the cache if you are using a plugin like WP-Supercache.

Remove date from comments

In order to make sure that Google cannot find a date on your blog post we will also need to remove the dates associated with comments. This can be a bit frustrating for users who want to follow a comment thread so it is entirely up to you.

1. Open the comments.php file located in the theme directory in WordPress (usually server//wordpress/wp-content/themes/your theme name).

2. Locate the following line of code and remove it (or comment it out) from the template;

<?php comment_date() ?>

Note: The code used by the theme developer may vary from theme to theme and location so make sure you look for the <?php the_time within the comments.php template to be sure.

3. Save the changes and refresh your website to see the modification. If the changes don’t appear right away make sure to clear the cache if you are using a plugin like WP-Supercache.

When removing these PHP functions make sure that you take into account the formatting of your posts and comments to ensure that the removal of this element doesn’t interfere with your theme’s design or break the code.

After these changes are made you will need to wait a couple of hours or days in order for Google’s index to reflect those changes. The variance in time is due to your site’s crawl rate so if your site is very popular and is crawled frequently you may see the update in hours. If your site still appears in the search results with the date, make sure you visit the page and search for the date, remember even dates within the content (originally published on [date]) will be used by Google to stamp a date on the site.

Other solutions for the removal of comments and post dates

If you use a commenting system like Disqus or IntenseDebate that is based on JavaScript then there is no concern for the removal of the date from the comments template. If you are using an older version of WordPress or you feel a bit adventurous you could download the Date Exclusion SEO Plugin from the WordPress plugin directory, just keep in mind that the plugin hasn’t been updated in over 500 days and it’s officially compatible up to 2.71.

Will You Remove Dates from Your Posts?

I’ve mentioned some of the Pro’s related to removal of post and comment dates on your blog:

  • Users searching for content on search engines are more likely to click on your link compared to others with older dates.
  • Visitors arriving from search engines will not discriminate the age of the content and will instead focus on the content itself, which should increase readership, time on site, etc.

Of course, as with anything as radical as this there can be some repercussions:

  • If you employ this “hack” and you run a news site, visitors will arrive, but will quickly realize that the content is dated and leave the site.
  • Some users like to know when an article was published and may get frustrated if there is no publish date.
  • If you decide to stay away from Disqus or IntenseDebate to manange your comments and remove the dates from the comments, users may be confused and frustrated because they can’t follow a comment thread or identify when it a particular comment was posted. In which case they respond by leaving the site or by leaving a nice comment.

If the content on your blog is timeless and you could increase the amount of traffic coming to your blog from search engines, would you remove the post and comment dates?

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42
Responses

 

Comments

  1. Zota says:

    This is terrible advice.

    The “timeless” post has become rampant, and I find myself – increasingly annoyed – having to scroll down to the comments just to see what year the thing I’m reading was published. This does NOT make me want to read the article in question. It makes me think the publisher has something to hide. And now you’re suggesting removing dates from comments too?

    If I see an article based website or blog with no dates at all, I’m going to consider it a spam blog and move on. For people who are considering adopting this fad, I suggest you also remove your author name, since google users may associate it with someone who’s trying to hide relevant publication info.

    • Peter says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with Zota. Sites should not be designed for the people who don’t visit your website; sites should be designed for the people who do visit your website, and value your content for what it is, not what it may not be (e.g. new).

    • Lincoln Adams (6 comments.) says:

      +1

      Especially when I’m looking for info on troubleshooting scripts, I might read a fix for it, only to realize the fix was published 4 years ago. And of course there’s no way to tell because the author removed the date on his posts. Give me a break.

      Unless you’re writing timeless content, most blogs are news oriented and should be dated so as not to confuse the reader with information that appears to be current but is now no longer relevant for today.

  2. Ed Nailor (2 comments.) says:

    You could also use a php date script that will broadcast the date in terms of how long ago… example: written 1yr 4mos ago. Not sure if Google would pick up on that one.

    • Dennis (2 comments.) says:

      I don’t like the idea of removing dates from the posts, but if someone cares too much about the SE traffic, this seems to be a reasonable trade-off.

  3. Dave (15 comments.) says:

    I’m with Zota. It’s not right to maximize traffic at the cost of doing some readers a disservice. I’ve been seriously annoyed by undated blogposts about WordPress-related stuff: with the software changing so often, a two- or three-year-old post can proffer quite misleading advice.

  4. Steven Bradley (3 comments.) says:

    The most visited post on my blog is one I wrote over 4 years ago. About 90% of the traffic to that post is from search engines. The post is clearly dated.

    Dates can be very important on old posts. A lot of times the reader needs to know if the information still applies. Take WordPress for example. Pposts you read about WordPress may not mention a version number. A post offering advice about coding WordPress navigation from 3 years ago probably no longer offers usable advice. Should you remove the date to get people to read what would now be bad advice?

    Some content is timeless and doesn’t need a date. Some content isn’t and the date offers valuable information to the reader.

    • Yuri says:

      Yes, dates should be kept on all blog posts. If a reader or student is doing research and needs to find information relevant to a specific date, a post timestamp can be very handy. All blog posts will become part of history and part of the internet library anyway.

  5. Marko says:

    Should a newspaper hide the publish date, just so it will be read more often? I’m sure it will be, but it would be a huge waste of people’s time!

    I hate it when a blog goes out of its way to hide what date a post was published. It’s relevant information! I don’t need to waste my time reading an article from the times of WP2.5 or before.

    I agree with Steven, some content is timeless, and other isn’t. And your readers are intelligent enough to make the distinction!

    So, like all media, you have to let your audience know what date it was published.

  6. eL Abee (1 comments.) says:

    then permalink structure should not include any post dates…

  7. Dale says:

    On a non-WordPress website, adding a page to it, are you required to date stamp it? Also on a non-WordPress website, am I suppose to make sure all my comments are date stamped? I think not, so why are you telling me I have to do it with a WordPress website. If the information is timely, then I might agree with you all, maybe…

  8. Steve Taylor (8 comments.) says:

    This is, for all practical purposes, just a new spamming technique.

    Let’s be honest, what percentage of blog posts on the web are “timeless”? Yes, we can stop laughing now…

    OK, let’s be charitable and say there’s a few at least. Now let’s imagine the people Googling for this kind of “timeless” content. If that’s what you’re searching for, are you going to bother to take the date next to the search result into consideration when clicking on a result? Would the person searching for poetry about crows care that it was published in 2006 instead of 2009? No. Absolutely not. They may even trust a site more that has be posting stuff for a long time.

    I imagine that research shows that users discriminate against older content for good reason: most people know they’re searching for something that is to some extent time-dependent, and don’t want older stuff.

    Skipping through the presentation video that’s linked to here regarding this “research”, I couldn’t find the bit talking specifically about this (maybe a good idea to include a time when referencing a specific part of video or audio?). But there was a bit I caught about putting the date at the bottom instead of the top of a single post view, which “significantly” improved the amount of time on the page. Sure – it increased the time it took for the user to find out they’re reading years-old content and click back to Google. Groan…

    Maybe I’m being a bit stringent, but really, shouldn’t “timeless” content be a page instead of a post? If we have to err on one side or the other, shouldn’t we err on the side of transparency, letting users know when a post was published, and avoiding techniques like this that will generally be the province of the scummier end of web publishing?

  9. Michael K Pate says:

    I found a great post documenting a Date Since technique right here on the site:

    More WordPress hacks

    Not knowing that it is from 7 years ago would not make the broken links contained therein more useful, though.

  10. Kirk M (67 comments.) says:

    I have to agree with Zota and the rest. removing the date on your posts serves no real purpose other than to annoy most of your (regular and potential) readers. I tend to be rather objective where the Internet is concerned as I’ve been using it even before the WWW existed (which basically means I’m old?) and not properly dating your material has been one of my professional pet peeves for a long time now.

    Within my online experience I’ve personally found that older material (posts and articles) are not as automatically disregarded as some people believe or studies show. And most users who find such material via a search for instance can pretty much judge for themselves as to whether this dated material fits the bill or not.

    It basically depends on the inquiry as to whether the result is valid to the person inquiring? ;)

  11. Matt (6 comments.) says:

    Removing the dates is pointless for the site op, deceiving for the readers.

  12. TheCuriosity (1 comments.) says:

    I’m with Zota et al. I absolutely despise it when I find undated posts and waste so much time searching for any indication of when it was posted.

    To me, that is a sign of a scam/malicious site.

    Sometimes I want older information as a comparison to more recent information, other times I just like to know when something was posted so I can decide for myself if it is “timeless” or relevant to what I am looking for.

    As it is, when I go to sites that aren’t blogs/news articles and don’t show any indication on how current the information is I usually run a script to determine the last time the site was updated.

  13. SenseiMattKlein (14 comments.) says:

    I actually see some wisdom in this approach. I would like to go toward a more “category” based organization of my blog rather than “archival”. As I am maintaining a very consistent blogging schedule now, the archival method is fine. But as my credibility is increased and page rank hopefully as well, I intend to slow down. At that time I would like to switch it over to the category based method, especially since 90% of my content is timeless. I do not look at this as spamming; the post author is correct in saying that older content is discriminated against.

  14. Trace Cohen (1 comments.) says:

    I’ve been posting articles for years now and this SEO method has never crossed my mind – very interesting. I do agree with everyone else though that it is deceiving to the readers, who need to know how current the news is.

    Besides the picture above, can anyone confirm that it actually help with organic search?

  15. JenJen says:

    I read this a few hours ago and have been struggling to come up with categories of content that *I* regularly go hunting for that I would consider timeless. I came up with two. Reviews of books/movies and recipes. I’m sure there are other categories, but overall I would guess that “timeless” articles are by far the exception. One of the blogs I do regularly read has a very annoying habit of tweeting links to old posts. Things I read when they came out but don’t remember the titles for, so I get tricked to going there again, only to find (from the comments) that it’s a two year old post. Now that you’ve told how to get comments undated too I presume I will be tricked even more. My response is like Zota’s: annoyance. Not how you want to treat your regular readers, unless really you only care about raw numbers.

  16. Rich Hinchcliffe (2 comments.) says:

    A lot of it comes down to the reader and the type of content in the post. A lot of the time, the first thing I look for on a post is the date to see how relevant the information I’m looking for may be. If it’s a post from 2008 and I’ve googled for something like ‘wordpress comment hacks’ for example, I’ll immediate leave that post alone and try find a newer one with more up-to-date examples. Or if it’s a post with information that references other sites or events it’s good to know the timeframe you’re looking at. I often google specifically for up-to-date info by actually typing say ‘wordpress comment hacks 2010′ etc. For me, it’s a no brainer – leave the date’s on your posts :)

  17. finid (2 comments.) says:

    On my blog, I never show the author’s name. It does not matter, especially on a single author blog.

    The date of publication, on the other hand, is very important.

  18. Ray (6 comments.) says:

    I personally find the advice being given in this blog at best just irresponsible and at worse, approaching being evil. As much as I do like Google and some of the other major search engines, there is a reason dates are included on the search results. Exactly so we can make an informed choice. If it is truly something that is timely I will be happy to browse on, but your method of sneaking and back door removal of dates has more then left a bad taste in my mouth about the concept. If you are so greedy for SEO exposure then perhaps you should use a different format – a blog after all is short for web log – merged from the concept of journaled entries to the web.

  19. Jhay (4 comments.) says:

    Strange thing is, the dates on my posts that appear on Google’s search results page do not appear. And I keep the post dates on my blog because it helps to keep track of how often I write posts.

    Besides, is it not the purpose of post dates to convey the message to the reader that it is a blog which is defined as a website that displays content on a reverse chronological order.

    And I also agree that undated posts are annoying.

  20. Devin (2 comments.) says:

    Instead of removing the date entirely, you could display the time it was “last updated”. This would actually require you to go through your site every couple months and make sure that your posts are still relevant- and if so, click the button to update.

  21. Dave says:

    “Google is smart about locating dates on posts so you have to be aware of all the dates present on your WordPress site. Based on discussions on the web it appears that Google uses the post date when listed on a page and when the post date is missing, Google uses dates in comments and even within the post itself. So removing dates will take some cunning.”
    – Wow is this stupefying! – Do you REALLY think Google needs to read printed dates to know when your post was published? … If that were truly the case you could just tell the silly sheep that pay attention to this claptrap to just change the dates on their old posts. Please, pull your head out of the sand! Don’t rely “on discussions on the web” and continue to be blind leading blind. Use your own noggin. And you’ll realize that Google certainly is aware of when you published EVERY post. Do you really think Google ‘forgets’???

  22. Alex (2 comments.) says:

    In my opinion, a blog with no post dates is not a blog. I can accept the idea of removing post dates or the calendar icon from some “pages”, but NOT from the blog posts/articles.

    Same as with comments. I mean, the web 2.0 is directly linked with these features. Otherwise it would just be a 1999 static HTML site with no action and no interaction.

  23. Irene (2 comments.) says:

    It really does depend on the type of site you’re working on. My personal WP sites have all dates, times, categories, etc. However, because of the static nature of the content, the WP site for work is better presented without the dates/times of posting. So for my needs, this article couldn’t have come at a better time.

    • Irene (2 comments.) says:

      PS – One more thing. Because of the limited nature of the work site, we really don’t want Google to find it. No dates suits our limited audience much better.

  24. Alison Kerr (2 comments.) says:

    I have to agree that when it comes to technical issues then the publication date is a very relevant piece of information. Please keep this on blog posts!

    Since I don’t write about technical stuff (I write about the benefits of gardening, which is more or less timeless) I could go ahead and remove date information from my posts. However, I’d want to see a clear benefit before going to the work (and the risk of messing something up). Are there any statistics available to support a benefit from removing dates?

  25. AJ (9 comments.) says:

    I think the best solution is to write new posts – you could even write an updated version of an old post. Keep your blog fresh!

  26. David says:

    You wrote : “If you use a commenting system like Disqus or IntenseDebate that is based on JavaScript then there is no concern for the removal of the date”

    Well, I Beg to differ ! : I AM concerned ! Using disqus and NEED to remove dates…anyone in the know how to ?

  27. David Vangoes (1 comments.) says:

    Today I was reading a blog on SEO, when about half way through I begun to notice that the information I was reading was out of date.

    I scrolled to the top of the article and saw by the date that the article had been published a few years ago.

    My point is this. An experienced person would recognise that the information was out of date. But what about someone trying to SEO their site for the first time. They would take what was written as gospel and possible do completely the wrong things.

    Dates are vital in my opinion when the information or content is technical or instructive. Without the date you may be relying on information that is now out of date.

  28. Udegbunam Chukwudi (3 comments.) says:

    I tried it 2ce in the past but saw no positive or negative results so I decided to put the dates back. Besides advertisers tend to prefer frequently updated blogs and not showing dates could chase them away. Even Google didn’t take note of it as it kept showing the dates in the SERPS months after they’d been removed.

  29. t31os says:

    Agree with the above commenters, please try not to encourage users to start removing post dates, it’s one of the few things that really annoys me when reading an article.

    Second to not displaying one, is when the post date is below the post and in some tiny little font that i have to scan over 4+ times before spotting.

    Timeless content – Use a page

  30. Michael A. Robson (1 comments.) says:

    What’s with the strawman argument? If someone is running a personal blog they don’t need dates, if they’re running a news blog (like Engadget) they won’t try to remove the dates. Thanks for the walkthrough.

  31. Bill Houle (1 comments.) says:

    A blog by nature is a chronological document, and thus dates should be mandatory.

    However, WP is increasingly used for more than just blogging. As a CMS, there are perfectly valid reasons why a post – or a set of posts – might need to appear date-free.

    Arrived here looking for a plugin that would automate the visibility rather than having to customize. I thought I would contribute my $0.02 to justify my blaspheme…

  32. ij30 (2 comments.) says:

    If you make a blog about cars from 1900 to present is not mandatory to show the post dates, but if your blog is about the new cars, the post dates are required.

    P.S. Great work with weblog tools collection. I think i have already spent 1h since yesterday on your pages (no matter what the post date is).

  33. Rachel Ramey (2 comments.) says:

    Are you kidding me? Searchers will skip over search results because they’re old? The only time this makes a difference to me is if I’m pulling up posts that are for contests or something that obviously “expire.” (And then it’s *helpful* to have the dates in the search results!)

    Some of my most-read posts are very old. It seems to me that if your potential readers are skipping over your posts because they’re old, you’re probably writing content that readily becomes dated. If that’s the case, it’s doing them a great disservice to “trick” them into coming to your site by removing the date from search results – and will only frustrate them once they’re there, thus defeating the real purpose of gaining new readers.

  34. Scott M. Stolz (1 comments.) says:

    Google does not need to see the date in the html to know when the page was created. Google, Alexa, The Internet Archive, etc. all keep track of when they first discovered the page. It also takes note of when it is last changed/updated. Printing the date on your post have no effect, as far as that goes.

  35. Robin (3 comments.) says:

    This was really a great post.
    I’ve been wondering how to remove the stupid dates for years now :)
    Thank you
    Robin



Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Navjot Singh on August 30, 2010 TweetRecently WeblogToolsCollection came out with a  post asking whether you should hide dates on your blog posts or not. Not only a poll but it also had a complete guide on how to remove post dates from your blog […]

  2. […] Dann habe ich eben mal bei den einzelnen Seiten im Template die Datumsangaben entfernt. Warum? Nun ich musste in letzter Zeit immer häufiger feststellen und lesen, dass bei Google die Ergebnisse chronologisch sortiert werden. Mir war das ja schon lange bekannt, aber wenn ich ehrlich bin, habe ich dem nie eine Bedeutung geschenkt. Wenn ich also heute einen tollen Beitrag hier schreibe, eine Anleitung für etwas, dann wird die wegen dem Datum ratz fatz verschwinden, wenn ein neueres Dokument von irgendjemand im Web auftaucht. Nun ist ja aber eine Anleitung oder ein Bericht eher etwas zeitloses, was man ruhig immer auf Seite 1 finden darf.  Auf der Startseite bleibt allerdings alles wie gehabt. Zu dem Thema gibts auch einen Artikel zum nachlesen. […]

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