Let’s tread lightly, now, because we’re entering the realm of religion.
The issue is such a simple one: do you include a date on your posts or not? And yet, lengthy arguments result from trying to answer that one, simple, question.
Regardless of which approach you choose – and I’ll get to that in a moment – the religious arguments approach “single or double space after a period” in their fervor.1
My answer? My favorite answer, of course: it depends.
Arguments for dating your posts
There’s nothing worse than researching a topic and finding a promising article from a respected source, only to find that it’s ten years old and the content is seriously out of date.
A simple publication date at the top of a post can save a lot of time. Not having it wastes time and ultimately creates a bad experience, particularly after you determine just how old the article is.
Adding a date can serve your reader by providing them additional context to help judge the timeliness and relevance of your content.
Arguments for not dating posts
Dates can mislead. Dates can lie. Dates can seriously mislead the visitor into thinking that an article is not relevant when it actually is, or vice versa.
Consider a truly “evergreen” article, meaning that its information is truly timeless. It doesn’t matter if it was written last week, last year, or last century; its value remains solid.
Posting a date – particularly when it’s more than a couple of years out – will cause some to completely dismiss the content without even giving it a chance. Truly valuable information gets abandoned simply because the potential reader had a preconception about the meaningfulness of the date included.
Omitting the date can serve your reader by preventing erroneous out-of-hand assumptions about the timeliness and relevance of your content.
The dark side of dated and undated posts
Wait, dates can lie?
Absolutely. There is nothing that says the date on a post has to be accurate. Nothing at all.
Unscrupulous website owners can proactively (and perhaps even automatically) change the dates on posts to give the illusion that they are more current – and perhaps more valuable – than they really are.
Similarly, removing the dates from truly time-sensitive posts can also mislead, by hiding data that could legitimately be used to gauge the timeliness of the content.
You have the power to play with your dates. And with that power, comes … well, you know.2
My approach to dating your posts
I date all Ask Leo! posts. You’ll find it near the bottom of every post, along with an additional date if the post has been updated since its original publication.
My posts are a mixture of articles that are (hopefully) timeless, and others that are quite time sensitive. I trust my readers to use the information to make an appropriate decision for their needs. I don’t highlight the date by putting at the top, but provide it as an additional reference point at the bottom.
Here on Ask Leo! On Business, all posts are dated up at the top, mostly because I never got around to moving or removing the date. The information presented here shouldn’t generally be date sensitive, and I’d hate for someone to make a negative judgment based on the date alone, but I have to trust my audience to do the right thing.
Which brings us to the bottom line.
What it all really boils down to
I explicitly used a phrase a couple of times above: “serve your reader”.
That’s what it’s all about: what best serves your reader? Not you – your reader.
Don’t play games to mislead them into reading something that doesn’t apply. Give them data that is useful.
If the date of a post is relevant, make sure it’s there somewhere. If it’s not relevant, then don’t.
Serve your reader.
1: Seriously … comments related to that issue will be deleted. I’m not kidding. Restrain yourself. 🙂
2: Just in case, the quote is: “With great power comes great responsibility.”