Versioning Content

Should a website keep track of versions of your Content?

My website provides news and articles about Small Business.

As it is coded now, there is only one record/version of any given Article.

To me this was an acceptable design, because I put a lot of effort into writing professional grade articles that have been thoroughly researched, edited and proofed. So why would I need to keep track of versions?!

However, someone had pointed this out to me, and the more I think about it, maybe this person is right?! :-/

From a CONTENT standpoint, do readers need or expect to know when content changes?

I’m used to content being fairly static - even in the news - and if there is some major mistake/update, then either a new article is written, or there is a “Corrections” footnote beneath the article.

I suppose it might be nice to see when things change, but then again, unless your readers are using “DIFF software” or comparing two Microsoft Word documents using the Comparison and Proofing Tools, I highly doubt people need that much detail… :rolleyes:

What do you think?



P.S. My entire website is hand-coded, so I don’t have any built-in functionality to do Content Versioning. If people think it is really essential, I can certainly re-design things to make it happen, BUT there needs to be a pretty good business justification for me to add yet another layer of complexity to my website. if it won’t add great value to users or my bottom-line, then it obviously isn’t worth the added development time!!

IMHO, the beauty of publishing on the web is that you can keep content up to date … unlike printed material, which can’t be changed. You might consider adding a post date and “last modified” date if you like. But it’s not essential. Some bloggers like to add notes to their posts about what was updated and why, which is often a nice courtesy. The only time I really appreciate it is when they make an update based on someone’s comment/feedback. It’s only fair then to make it clear what’s been updated.

I already have that.

Except I am NOT a “blogger”…

Content on my website is not “casual thoughts and ramblings” like a blogger posts. I am publishing professional research papers and articles.

And it is my experience that journalists and columnists typically do not continually change and refine their articles ad nauseam like a blogger might, so that is why I question the need to store different versions of content on the backend.

From a technical standpoint, it would be great to have versioning in my database, so I could “roll back” to an earlier version should there be issues or whatever.

But the purpose of this thread is to ask, “Does a reader really need that level of granularity for well-written content that presumably won’t change much if at all?”

And the end goal being that I don’t want to waste my precious time coding in functionality into my website that nobody really cares about or uses!




You’ve raised some interesting questions.

For what it’s worth, this is what I do:

  1. Make a reasonable effort to keep articles up to date, and to correct any errors that come to light. But this must relfect the fact that it is not practical to constantly monitor and verify all the information that I have ever published.

  2. Whenever I update an article, I add a note to say that it’s been updated, with a summary of the update - but only if the update is non-trivial (for example, not if it is simply to correct a spelling error).

  3. Do not attemtp to provide access to previous versions of articles. Once an article is out-of-date or has been corrected in some way, let the old version die.

  4. Always date all articles.

Point 4 is something I feel strongly about. I am fed up with seeing so many articles that give topical or time-sensitive information, but which give no idea whether they were written last week, last month, or ten years ago.

Like you, Debbie, my aim is to publish authoritative well-researched articles which I hope will have a long-term appeal.



Thanks for the comments below!


That seems to be the approach newspapers take, and I’m okay with that as a footnote.


(I think the other person was just saying that you should physically keep all of the versions on the Article in your Database, and maybe also post a “Version #” with the Article.)

At this time, I compose everything in OpenOffice, so while I do keep every version as I develop an Article, I don’t think there is a need to store all of the versions in your database?!

Also, while I can see the benefit of posting a “Version #”, that implies there are LOTS of changes. (When I post something online for “public consumption”, it shouldn’t be changed after that short of extreme situations.)

If my website was part of a “Working Project Intranet” - think MS SharePoint - then, yes, the versioning would make sense. But Joe User on the Internet need not see my 20 revisions before I published something, AND, after things are published, I do NOT expect to make another 5 revisions!! (That is what Bloggers do…) :rolleyes:

I agree 110%!!! :tup:

BTW, would it add to much clutter to have both a “Published on:” and an “Updated on:” above the Article??

Glad to hear at least one other person takes this stuff seriously like it is “going to press” and is “set in ink”!! :slight_smile:



Since Penguin and Panda demonstrate in Google Algo, spinning or reproduce version articles are not effective nowadays. Penguin and Panda are very strict when it comes to the article quality. Then, here’s now the Google Hummingbird. Let’s see how this algo affects our campaign.

If you read Debbie’s post more carefully, you will see that it has nothing to do with spinning or creating versions of articles for SEO purposes. Her only concern was to provide a good service for her visitors.


Originally Posted by Mikl

  1. Always date all articles.
    Point 4 is something I feel strongly about. I am fed up with seeing so many articles that give topical or time-sensitive information, but which give no idea whether they were written last week, last month, or ten years ago.
  • I agree 110%!!!

I can agree as well, but in the meantime a dated article can put the visitor on wrong track.
What I mean is this:

  • Sometimes an article can be more or less “timeless” (say an article as “Why valid html and css is important”). If I wrote it 7 years ago, the visitor may think: “Oh, that’s an old article, and will be outdated now”.
  • An other article (say “How to use the *html hack for IE”) of 6 year ago is more recent and seems to have more value. But nowadays it is totally outdated and should go to the garbage can.
  • Ergo: a visitor who came in via Google cannot distinct the value of the info just by the publication date.

Maybe a solution can be to put a “time validation flag”:

  1. Publication date: …-…-… (time appraisal per 2013, oct. 3: still useful information)
  2. Publication date: …-…-… (time appraisal per 2013, oct. 3: still useful information, see update note)
  3. Publication date: …-…-… (time appraisal per 2013, oct. 3: archive article, information is obsolete nowadays)

Contra: you have to judge all articles every now and then (or 2 times a year) to update the flag.
On the other hand: once an article is set as archive article on a certain date, it will always stay there and doesn’t need to change.
If an archive article is important and got an update, the flag can be changed.
In case there is no database for all articles, maybe it is possible to give an archive article an extra “AA” in the file name, so it’s easy recognizable in the file list.

Blogging isn’t just “casual thoughts and ramblings”. Blog posts can be thoroughly researched and highly technical as well. They aren’t limited to casual users. It’s simply a medium and means of publishing content.

The thing about blogging is that there is a huge range of quality because it’s easy for anyone to use a blog. But that doesn’t mean the quality is low in every instance–it just makes self-publishing easily accessible.