This is just a quick tip for all the bloggers out there. If you’re using your site for anything more than just a personal journal, I would strongly suggest avoiding dates in your urls. There are numerous good reasons for this. I’ll outline three below.
Inability to republish articles
Perhaps the biggest reason you shouldn’t use dates in your permalink structure is that it makes it impossible to update your post and “republish” it at a future date without breaking all the old links.
For example, here at jammer(six), I’m using a permalink structure similar to this:
If I ever want to update a post and republish it, it’s just a matter of going into the WordPress dashboard, making the necessary edits, and changing the publication date. The url will stay the same and all the old links (internal as well as external) will remain functional, but the post will appear at the top of the site as new content.
If, on the other hand, I had a date in the url, such as this:
Then I’d have no choice but to: (1) leave well enough alone with the old post, and write a new one instead, or (2) update it, republish it, and break the links. While you could perhaps minimize the damage with a well-crafted 301 redirect from the old url to the new one, this would rapidly get unwieldy on an active site.
Search visitor behavior
This is a more subtle effect, but when you run a Google search, the url is visible below each listing. With dates in your url, there’s a distinct possibility that people will see your post from three years ago, decide that it’s likely out of date, and skip over it in search of fresher content.
Beyond people spotting the date in the url, Google seems (in some instances at least) to extract the date information from the url and add it to the page blurb in their search results. This is just another reason to shy away from dates in permalinks.
The main reason this concerns me is that date information is one of the things that I look for when skimming through search results. If I see an old date, I’m much less likely to click through. While I may be more savvy and/or observant that the average internet user, I don’t want to risk turning even one potential reader away.
This is related to the republication point above, but it bears repeating. Jim over at Wangarific actually takes things a step further than I did, suggesting that you might want to have one “master” post for reference info that regularly changes.
When crafting this post, be sure not to include any date-related info in the title slug, as that would defeat the purpose of removing dates from permalink structure. When it comes time to update, you can move the old info into a separate post and update the master post with the new info.
This strategy works especially well with annual information. For example, if you’re running a sports blog and want to track the top-ranked football teams, you could have a master post with the current info. You’re free to title it something like “2010 Football Rankings,” but make sure the url is more along the lines:
At the end of every year, you could then create a separate reference post with a snapshot of the “final standings,” move the year-end rankings into that, and continue updating the master post.
This strategy allows you to republish the master post with fresh info on a regular basis, thereby helping you to continue collecting inbound links to that one page. At the same time, you’re creating “snapshots” of the annual information, which will likewise be indexed and available for people looking for historical data.
In other words, it’s a classic win-win.