If you have a mature site, then it is time to think about the issue of how to deal with post dates and about removing post date in SERPs. Should you do this or not? Keep reading.
If you have a relatively new site, you probably do not think about post dates and how this might affect your click rate in SERPs. Also, if you are a beginner, then perhaps you have followed some courses or SEO gurus who would suggest you to always have the date displayed in your posts.
I cannot argue with gurus, everybody will have his or her reasons why the dates should or should not be displayed. But I have my own reasons for removing the dates in search engine pages (SERPs) and I shall try to explain them here. After that it is up to you to decide what the best way is for you.
This text is motivated by a recent question at my hosting platform where we have a forum, and somebody asked about the issue. I was surprised that the discussion was focused on the post date, while the real issue is the date in SERPs.
Post dates and SERPs dates
So these are two different things in terms of the overall effect on your site traffic. If this is about the date in your actual post, then it may be far less important, and I shall not focus on this. The reason is that a visitor will see this post date when he or she is already in your site.
I am concerned about potential readers that may or may not come to the site in the first place because of the date. So this is about SERPs and about snippets that Google and other search engines show to people who search the Internet.
I searched in Google by using the search phrase Removing Post Date in SERPs or Not. So below you can see one of the results, this is not my post:
Note, the text was on the first page in Google, though it was on the bottom. So this tells you something, Google did not care about the date when this post was published, and this was almost 8 years ago. The text was still on the top SERP page. This is probably because Google finds it useful and decides to show it to me. In other words, the issue is not necessarily about SEO side of the problem.
In fact, this is about people who search the Internet and how they react when they see the old date. You can assume that some people will actually overlook the date. But my guess is, and I stress this is only my guess, that many will do pay attention.
So if you are in such a situation, ask yourself, would you really click on this snippet? Wouldn’t you rather click on something that is new or more recent?
Why and when I decided to change/remove my SERPs post dates
I really did not know how to deal with the issue of post dates in SERPs. But some 4 years or so after my first site was launched, it was obvious that I had to do something. When I was checking for my keywords in Google, I would see my posts appearing. They were ranked, but my snippets indicating 4 years old texts did not look good surrounded with those that were only months old.
So I asked around, and I could not find any answer that would be good enough. There were no real proofs that would suggest what the best strategy would be.
This was when I started making mistakes. This means, I started changing the dates manually. I did this in several sites. Some of them had hundreds of posts. So I was doing this for a couple of years, one year after another. Clearly, this was time consuming and I could not continue indefinitely.
I suspect that this has had negative effects because Google was probably able to notice what I was doing. Reluctantly, I decided to completely remove the dates in some of my sites.
So how to remove the post dates in SERPs?
Actually, this is very easy if you have a WordPress site. Here is what to do. Go to your dashboard, Settings, General, and you set the date and time format as in the screenshot below, this is an example from my actual site where the dates do not show in SERPs any longer.
Note that the effects in SERPs will not be instantly visible. It may take many months before your all snippets will be there without dates. You can check occasionally if you go to Google, and in its search bar type something similar to what I have done for the site which you are visiting right now:
Are there any negative effects of removing the posts dates in SERPs?
I think it is fair to say that I have no firm proof to claim anything. In Google Search Console, under Search Results there is Average CTR (click through rate) that should show something. But it is difficult to make conclusions.
For example I can see that this Average CTR is higher in a site where I keep the dates. But the average rating of this site is better than the rating of the other sites, and this has always been so even before I started dealing with the dates.
On the other hand, I did this several years ago, and I did not save data. But what I remember is that I could not see differences in the CTR after the dates were removed. This may be simply because, as previously mentioned, the process of disappearing dates in SERPs was very slow. My sites are also seasonal so this masks the other possible effects and variations
This is why I cannot be sure and cannot know for certain. But if you have something from your own personal experience, let me know.
But how about this issue from readers’ perspective. When people search on Google, they may notice that the date is missing. So is this worse than when they see a date that indicates a text that is several years old?
I have no answer. But my guess is that, if people notice such details, it is probably more harmful when there is an old date visible, than when there is no date at all. Any proof? No, but if you know more, do share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Is there any alternative to removing the date in SERPs?
I would say no, there is not. But there are easy ways to deal with the dates in posts. In fact, in the mentioned site that has a better CTR than the other sites, I have done this. But I do not think that this explains its better CTR.
In any case, what I did was easy because of the WP theme that I use, this is Metro Pro from Studio Press, the same theme is used in this site which you are visiting now.
So in this theme, under Appearance, Customize, I have Theme Settings. Here I have Singular Content option, and in the box I added this piece of code:
With this I have “LAST MODIFIED:” and then the date when it was modified, this is displayed under the title. So when I modify the post, the new date is displayed.
If you do not have this option, this is possible to do with some coding. There is plenty of information about this around. There are also a few plugins that you might want to try. Not all of them will work properly, so you will have to try, this is probably dependent on the theme.
Now, is this “last modified” thing a permanent solution? Well, I do not think so. If I do not visit old posts, this “last modified” together with the date is clearly even more visible than in the case when I have only the date.
But remember, this all story is about SERPs and not about posts in the site. So this option does not solve the issue in SERPs, it only changes the date in the post itself. I think the same is with the mentioned plugins, but I may be wrong. In other words, this all is useless if you want to deal with the real issue, and this is how to remove post dates in SERPs.
So, sooner or later I shall remove the dates in the mentioned site as well. I do not think that I have much choice. If/when this happens, perhaps I shall be able to notice something in Search Console, and I shall add this information here in the text later. So stay tuned, bookmark this site and come again.