Keeping up with consistently writing and publishing blog posts to your website can be hard – especially if you’re a small business. You’re probably already juggling the day to day, the accounts, enquiries, book-keeping, marketing etc. Blogging can end up fairly low down the priority list.
If you use platforms like WordPress, where you can schedule posts, it can become very tempting to backdate your blog posts. It means your blog archive on the website looks consistent for your visitors, so it must be good right? I’ve been wanting to explore the advantages and disadvantages for a while, and with a couple of hours free over the weekend I managed to get stuck into Google to figure out if it is good, or bad.
Advantages of backdating blog posts
As I touched on above, the obvious advantage is that you can ensure content you’ve created still appears on your website, at the date you want. Let’s say for example you wanted to write Christmas-themed content but you never quite got around to it before the day itself… backdate the post and anyone looking will probably assume it was posted before Christmas (and then marvel in how organised and informed you are).
It’s also a great way of pulling information over from perhaps another site of yours, and slotting it in – we’ve done this ourselves when we closed our Digida website. There were some useful blogs on there, so we’ve basically repurposed them for this website, and fitted them in dates wise.
But what about the disadvantages?
First of all, you have to know that the search engines are not so easily tricked. You can remove the publish date from a post, but there will still be an index date for it (when it first appeared on the web). So you could write a post today, backdate it to June but search engines would still know – so if you ARE trying to get traffic on that Christmas post, backdating could be futile. If you do opt to go down the route of removing dates off your blogs, also consider the fact that this might mean they appear less trustworthy to your readers. For example, if I’m searching on how to do something on social media (let’s say, how to add a page into a group), I’ll only look at reading blog posts that are recently published – more likely to be correct and with up to date information.
Content is king, and we all know by now that adding fresh (quality) content to your website will help your search engine optimisation (SEO), and newer content generally gets more attention. Posting regularly with fresh and new content means your website and brand will look relevant, and you can impress visitors with being at the fore of bringing that information to them.
What about genuinly updating posts?
I’ve done this before, and recently too. I updated the information on a 2 year old blog post about colour theory and included the new Canva colour wheel, changed the publish date to reflect the day I did the update and sat happily back. Now, this isn’t *quite* the same as backdating posts, but perhaps what I should have done was just add a small bit of text to the bottom of the blog to say I’d been in and updated it. Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be an agreement online as to whether or not manipulating the date in this way has an effect on SEO. If anything, all it did do was appeal to the users as the content looked fresher (and to a degree, it was). I did come across a snippet from Google’s Gary Illyes in an SEJ blog post though that suggest if you did this often, it could remove dates for your site as whole, which would be pretty major for certain industries.
My general summary about this is that you can fool your users into thinking your content is older than it is by backdating, but not Google, and so, making it pointless. I think though, it’s important to note that this is only the case if you are actually out there to fill in those date gaps. Especially pointless if your visitors might come back to your website often to read your informative posts, and then 3 months later there’s a whole flurry of posts that have been backdated – it would make you question why. It’d make your visitors question how genuine and honest the website is as a whole.
I couldn’t find anything definitive that says Google or other search engines will penalise you for backdating though, which was the question I’d had in mind for a very long time.
In a sense, the choice is yours but logically for me, you shouldn’t ever backdate – fresh quality content is more popular.