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.

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.

The Effect of Showing Last Updated Date Stamps on Blog Traffic [Case Study]
  • A DIY guide to increasing Google search CTR

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:

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

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:

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

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:

  • How to index a website in 24 hours (case-study)

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.

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