Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pros & Cons Of Date Stamping Your Content by Arnie Kuenn

As content marketing continually increases in popularity, more and more content is being published each and every day. In fact, more than two million blog posts are written daily. With all that content being published, date stamping is an easy way for users to gauge the newness and relevancy of a blog post or article.
But lately, I’ve noticed that many blog posts and articles lack a date stamp. In fact, Joe Pulizzi recently posted about this very topic on Facebook, which prompted a conversation among marketers and consumers about date stamping content.

The opinions were divided, with some people stating they won’t even bother with non-dated content, while others mentioned date stamping can result in disregard of otherwise compelling content.
Which way is the right way? Let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Pros
Pros Of Date Stamping Content
There are many reasons why you would want to use date stamping. Here are just a few.

Better For The Audience
Though the comments on Pulizzi’s Facebook post were split, many people noted that as a consumer, dated content is preferred. Why is that? Since much content is designed to be useful and helpful to your audience, not including the date can be quite the opposite of what’s intended.

Many times people search for content in order to solve a problem or to research a product, service, event, etc., and in those cases, a date would be beneficial. Without a date stamp, how will people know how recent (or old) your content is? They won’t (at least not right off the bat), which could result in the following:
  • Higher Bounce Rate: Some people will leave as soon as they realize the content is missing the date or will quickly recognize it as being outdated information, which could lead to a higher bounce rate.
  • Make Your Visitor Work For It: Others will wind up searching for clues elsewhere, either by reading through the content presented or by searching for date stamp of comments — both of which could result in an angry visitor, if the content is indeed outdated.
And though some won’t mind that your content lacks a date, without it, you risk alienating the people
who do.

Link Opportunities
I already mentioned that two million blog posts are written daily… And what do people usually do when writing a new post? They research supporting material and link to it in their piece.

Many writers will only want to source the most up-to-date content, making a date stamp essential. No one wants to reference outdated information, statistics or data if they can help it. Because of this, content lacking a date stamp could be overlooked for link opportunities.

Ensures Fresh Content
By including a date stamp, you are ensuring visitors that the content is fresh, which can also be achieved with an “updated” date stamp. News sites often do this so people know they are receiving the latest information.
If a story has changed, an error has been corrected, or there is just more information, an updated date stamp is present. The date stamp, updated or not, allows people to feel good about sharing breaking news, as everyone wants to be first to share new information.

Date Parameters
Additionally, search engines enable users to restrict search results to content published within a certain time frame, like the past hour, day, week, month, year, etc.

If you date your content, it will most definitely be included in the SERPs if it is within the chosen parameters, while undated content most likely won’t.

Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Cons

Cons Of Date Stamping Content
There are also a few reasons for not date stamping content, which are as follows:

It “Dates” Content
Of course, date stamping does just that – it “dates” your content. This runs you the risk of your content being perceived as outdated even when it isn’t.

Many businesses create and publish evergreen content that is meant to be relevant and useful no matter when a visitor stumbles upon it. However, with a date stamp, some evergreen content may be overlooked, despite the content still being relevant.

Even if the content is compelling and insightful, some may pass it up for similar content with a fresh date stamp.

Potential Loss Of SEO Value 
When producing online content, though it should be created with your audience in mind, many cater to search engines in hopes of higher rankings in the SERPs.

In the case of date stamping content, without a date you may trick the search engines into thinking your content is fresh, even after it has been published for a long period of time. Search engines generally place a preference on new content, so your old content may rank higher without a date.

Date Parameters
Unfortunately, though date parameters can be a date stamping “pro,” they can also be a con. If you date stamp your evergreen content, it will only show up in the SERPs when it fits the date parameters, even if it is still relevant years later.

However, without a date, your content may not be included in date-restricted search engine results at all, which is something you have to seriously contemplate.

Other Things To Consider
There are a number of other things to consider when examining the pros and cons of dated vs. non-dated content. Here are a few:

“Updated” Date Stamps
Though not many publishers do this, adding an “updated” date on your content is a reasonable way to attract visitors to once old content. If you’ve published content about something that has since evolved or is just plain outdated, you can update the original content to reflect new findings and information.

Including the new date may attract some visitors who would have otherwise skipped over it due to the old date. One thing to note is the inclusion of the date in a URL. You might want to consider not including the URL, as the URL won’t change if you update the piece of content later.

Updating Without Date Stamps
Updating content can be as easy as adding a picture or extra text. These simple improvements allow you to increase the thickness, diversity and freshness of content, and as the page is repeatedly cached, small changes will be reflected in a search engine’s index.

Though you can update the date stamp of a piece of content when you make changes or insert new information, it isn’t completely necessary, and you can still reap the benefits of adding fresh material.
Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Repurposing
Like updating posts, old, date-stamped content can be repurposed into new content with a new date stamp, which is beneficial in a number of ways. As creating content takes resources, repurposing content is an excellent way to provide new content without having to start from scratch.

You save yourself resources by utilizing the legwork and research done for the original piece, and you also provide a new piece of content for your audience. This is a particularly great tactic for outdated content that was very popular.

In Summary
It is clear that date stamping content has its pros and cons. Date stamping may be better for your audience in cases where the date is important, could lead to more link opportunities and will ensure your content is included in date-restricted searches.

However, it also poses problems for publishers creating evergreen content, as many people use the date stamp as a guide to whether content is applicable or not. Similarly, search engines also use date stamps when analyzing content relevance, so date stamping could result in lower search engine rankings.

The case could be made for either side, though updating content (with or without a date stamp) and repurposing content are two alternatives to consider.

What are your thoughts on date stamping content? 

Courtesy of Third Door Media, Inc.

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