My daughter occasionally drags me into Hollister for a nose around. Once we have tunnelled our way into the shop, she flits about ooh-ing and aahing, and I walk after her grumpily. I notice things: the music, the unfeasibly good-looking assistants, and the near-darkness that means you have to squint very hard in order to see the prices.
It is obvious to me (but not to her) that we are in a Marketing Zone.
That amount of bad lighting does not happen by accident.
So, what does this have to do with websites? Well, lately, I’ve been noticing a trend for Big Name Blogs (and some small ones) to have no dates on their blog content. Their content is still organised by date (it’s obviously a blog and you can go back through previous posts one by one), but there’s no actual date placed on the individual posts.
Since most blogging software adds dates automatically, you have to make a pretty deliberate decision to remove dates.
I’ve seen it around a lot lately and can only surmise that this is part of some Big Blogger advice that’s being handed out in a deep cavern somewhere. Evergreen content, perhaps.
Let’s get some data, shall we?
- Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich (I cannot convey how much I love Ramit’s site)
- Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
- Seth Godin, Himself
There is also a third category, the Dateless But (Often) Dated. I tend to see this approach on small business blogs which recycle older posts. The articles themselves aren’t dated, but comments to the articles are. This can produce some odd disconnects: I came across a site yesterday where the comments showed that a series of recently-published posts were originally published two years ago. That’s just odd.
To date or not to date?
There’s a fair amount of discussion on the pros and cons of dates on your content.
The date-removal folk argue that readers neglect old (but great) stuff in favour of the newest and shiniest. Your content is like a fast-flowing river: if people miss it first time round they may not see it again. So not-dating gives you more chances to show off your terrific content. Some of your site visitors will come from Google search, and they might be less likely to stick around if they realise that the content they are reading is 18 months old. Also (warming to the theme), people don’t usually put individual dates on web pages and that doesn’t matter, so why should dates matter?
The date-inclusion folk point out that the whole point of the blog format is to produce content with dates. New is preferred to old for good reasons. At the very least, your visitor might feel a bit stupid commenting on a post that’s 2 years old. (Dateless tends to go with commentless, though, which might remove that objection).
Do people notice, and does it matter?
I don’t know if people notice. I always notice, but then I notice things like this for a living. I am not necessarily the core customer for those sites. The really key question is whether the core customer for those sites notices or cares.
Does it matter? Hmmm. My own reaction to dateless sites is a little bit like my reaction to Hollister’s dark, dark shops: my senses tingle a little. It makes me aware that I’m in a marketing zone; there’s a bigger game going on and I’m being spun. I certainly read and love a number of websites which are dateless, but you know? I also take everything they do with a pinch of salt.
Speaking personally, I’m wary: the lights are a little low for my liking.
Should you take off the date?
I don’t know. You really need to find out from your own audience.
Still, my hunch would be, if your brand has honesty and transparency at its core, you should keep your dates. If you have great content that’s older, update it or find a way to showcase it more prominently on your site.
If it embarrasses you that you are irregular in your posting habits, either write more regularly or let it go. It is what it is.
That’s my take on dates.
In the comments, I would love your thoughts on this. Do you notice this, and does it have a particular meaning for you?