To date or not to date evergreen content?
For a long while, I have been convinced by the argument that for evergreen content and articles to remain evergreen, they should not be dated.
It was a logical assumption for me that if I wrote an article to inform about a subject or topic that was not time-sensitive, such as is the case with advice and how-to articles, there was no need to add a publishing date.
Some time ago, I wrote an article about how and why bloggers should be publishing evergreen content.
It is not difficult, as all it takes to publish evergreen content is to write timeless content and hide the publishing date with a little CSS code. The date is still visible to search engines, however, as the publishing date is still present in the page’s source code.
With a little coding knowledge it is even possible to hide the publishing date from search engines, but this is taking things to the extreme.
Many professional bloggers believe in this approach of hiding article dates because it makes a lot of sense. Timeless, evergreen or everlasting content is all about timelessness, so why bother with having dates to confuse the issue?
Sound logic, but how much sense does it make for readers of blog articles?
Then the penny dropped …
Sometimes, all it takes to change one’s fixed ideas is one small chance moment of clarity. The moment arrived for me a couple of months ago.
I was doing a Google search for a little WordPress issue I wanted to solve, and by habit, I changed the search setting to, The Past Year, as I don’t like having search results showing hundreds of very old listings, as they are sure to be out of date.
I’m sure a lot of people do this when using search engines. When you have a small problem or are looking for information, what use is content from 2006?
Anyway, back to my Google search and my chance moment of clarity.
An old adage came to my mind. “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”
Or in other words, how can I be so hypocritical about this content date issue, when I’m hiding this information from my site’s readers? I want it, but they can’t have it? Clarity complete.
Undoing the doing
After a week of thinking about it, from both the technical and philosophical angles, I decided to change what had been one of the basic pillars of my blog.
Just Publishing Advice has been from its inception an evergreen site, so logically, it had no dates showing.
But, I like to know the date of information I read, so, therefore, my blog’s readers must be entitled to the same information.
With that decision made, I went about doing a full audit of over 400 articles to ensure that the site’s content was categorised and labelled correctly, refreshed a lot of images to give uniformity and added, edited or changed a lot of content.
I also spent a week working on site speed to improve the overall performance of the site.
Then when it came time to unhide all the publishing dates, I had another moment of clarity. What about all the updates I had done over the period of weeks I spent refreshing my blog?
So I went back to another Google search to see if I could discover how to show not only the original publishing date but also how to show a date for any content that had been updated. But, only if it had been updated. This last option took some time to get right.
It took a bit of trial and error, some coding, and help from my WordPress developer, but finally, I could add a line in the metadata of every updated article.
So, after weeks of work, I’m very happy and my conscience is clear. Readers of Just Publishing Advice can now see both the original publishing and updated content dates at the head of every article.
Right or wrong?
The evergreen content argument is not one that can be categorized as right or wrong. For some evergreen bloggers, dates are not an issue and should remain hidden.
For others showing dates is okay. While for a few perhaps, showing dates is beneficial for SEO or like me now, out of respect for my readers. There is no single correct approach, other than to decide what is the best for your blog.
For my site, I would now prefer to be open about the content I write and post, and about what has happened to the content since it was originally published.
By adding an updated notation I can at least inform my readers that I have revisited an article and checked its content and usefulness.
I would be very interest to hear from readers as to what you think about the importance of dates on blog posts and articles you read.
Article update: Since writing this article, I have re-visited this date issue (yet) again, and made a small change to how the article date is shown. There is now only one date, which shows the most recent posting update. So this one date is either the original publishing date or the date on which the article was last updated.