When you revise or adjust old posts, should you let your readers know by adding updated dates so they can see a change was made?
As your blog gets older, you’ll eventually face a question about how to deal with old posts. Over time, attitudes and opinions change. Technology definitely changes. What we think we know about a subject also changes. So, once in a while, you may find that an older post desperately needs an update. If you revise old posts, it’s a good idea to include updated dates on those posts.
But there may be a bigger question we should settle first.
Should you display a date on blog posts at all?
I still remember this debate back from when I first started this blog almost 20 years ago! I didn’t understand the debate then and I don’t understand it two decades later.
Some people seem to believe that by putting a date on a post, you’re limiting its longevity. Who, after all, would want to read an article written 10 years ago — or maybe even two years ago? That’s their reasoning, at least.
But we read older pieces all the time, particularly when we look up an article on something that happened at that time. The article serves as a record of the event. An article written long after the fact might miss nuances that would have been clear back when the event itself happened.
As Laura King Edwards put it at WrayWard.com, “Dates provide critical context:”
As a user, I find a blog post without a date almost as frustrating as a blog post that’s poorly written or generally unhelpful. If I don’t know whether the content is five days, five months or five years old, how do I know whether the information is still relevant?
She wrote the article in 2022. In a few months, it’ll be more than two years old. But do you find the point of view any less useful today than you would have if you read it the week she wrote it? I don’t.
That’s not to say that an article I wrote five years ago is less valuable — or less valid — than one I wrote last week. In fact, I may have updated that article with the five-year-old published date as recently as last week.
But you wouldn’t necessarily know that.
That brings me to updated dates on blog posts
What if you update a post you published 10 years ago with new information? How would your reader know?
You could manually add a “last modified” date at the top or bottom of the post. I’ve tried that before and it’s a little tedious. I wanted to have something a bit more “automatic” whenever I update a post.
So I found the WP Last Modified Info plugin, which is free for WordPress self-hosted installations.
Going forward, any time I update a post, a notation will appear right before the article text indicating the date of the update. You can see it in action in this recent post of mine that I updated shortly after originally publishing it.
I think it’s important, particularly for older posts, that you need to indicate when a post is updated. This plugin won’t work retroactively. That is to say, it won’t display any previous updates before its installations.
But at least now, as I go forward, if I make changes to any older post, the updated date will now appear.
I think that’s good information that might benefit the reader, and it requires no effort on my part to flag the post with the update notification.