Two weeks ago I wrote a pretty popular blog post on whether or not bloggers should include dates on their posts. There was plenty of support both for having and removing dates from posts.
Now at that time, I did not include dates on my posts. But since one of my mantras is that bloggers should test things for themselves with their blogs, I decided to add back the dates to posts for the rest of the month, and then report back my results.
Today it’s been 2 weeks since I added back dates to my posts, and I just took them back off. I think this picture of my statistics over the last 30 days explains why (the blue X is the day that I added dates back to the posts):
Yep. As soon as I added dates back to the posts, the overall traffic here started falling. Quite sharply, as you can see.
Now as part of this, I said I’d look at how search traffic and referral traffic from Twitter was impacted. Let’s first look at search:
The blue X is on the 14th. The next day, the 15th, was actually the best day ever for search traffic. But as you can see, it starts falling pretty sharply after that. Overall, search traffic fell about 25% over the last 2 weeks. And given that search traffic drives about 57% of the traffic to this blog, that’s a big hit.
Traffic from Twitter was down a bit as well, but not quite as much:
Twitter traffic was down about 25% the first week after I added back dates, then another 15% the second week.
Does all this prove that your search and Twitter traffic will fall sharply if you put dates on your posts? Nope, it does suggest that you should test both with and without dates before you decide. That’s why I am always harping on testing this stuff, from now on if anyone asks me if it’s better to have dates on their posts or not, I can answer with ‘All I can tell you is that my search and Twitter traffic fell by about 25% when I added dates to my posts. But you should test it on your blog.’
So why don’t you test this on your blog? Pick the first two weeks of February, and take dates off your posts if you have them on now, and add them back if you have taken them off. Track the changes. I am going to keep doing that, if my search and Twitter traffic now returns to where it was before the 14th, I will be almost positive that adding dates was the culprit.
Never assume when you can test.
UPDATE: There’s been a few people here and elsewhere criticizing the methodology used here, whether or not the test period was long enough, etc. I don’t want y’all to get hung up on the validity (yay or nay) of the test itself, but instead focus on the fact that I did test. I don’t want your takeaway from reading this post to be that you should remove dates from your blog if you want to see traffic go up. The takeaway should be that you should test this on your blog, and not accept my advice or any other blogger’s. We learn by doing for ourselves, not by blindly following other bloggers. Either way, test it on your blog then you will know for sure.
SECOND UPDATE(2-5-2013): Here’s a screenshot I took of this blog’s traffic for the last 30 days, as of yesterday. The blue X was on the 14th, and that was the day I added dates back to the posts here. You can then see what happened to traffic levels for the next 2 weeks. The red X was on Jan 28th, and that was the day on which I took the dates back off. I think the immediate rise in traffic tells the tale. But again, don’t assume, test for yourself on your own blog.