It seems I run into a (WordPress) blog every day that has a full date archive. You’ll know what I mean, a list of links, with one link for every month in the last 3, 4, X years that they published a post in. My buddy Avinash has one (sorry Avinash for using you as an example) and it’s about a mile long. Archives like this are, in my humble opinion, stupid and bad for your SEO. Let me explain why you should base your archives on topics and not on dates.
Archives by date
Did you ever wake up in the morning and think “hey, I’m gonna go to site X and read what they wrote this time 4 years ago”? If you’re searching for a post on a specific topic on a site, would you go to the monthly archives? Or would you start browsing by tag or category? The latter makes far more sense right? Real people hardly ever use date archives. They might sometimes (and of course you can now come up with 20 use cases for them), but in the majority of cases, archives by date are not the most useful archives on a blog. They do however live in a very large percentage of site wide sidebars. This means that on every page on such a site, there are a lot of links that point nowhere.
From an archive SEO perspective, the issue with archives by date is that they are only related because of just that: the date of publication.
Archives by taxonomy
Whether you use categories, tags or custom taxonomies, they all have one thing in common: you won’t apply any of them to a post when it’s not related to it. For instance, I’ll tag this post “WordPress SEO”, as it’s related to that. All other posts with that tag are related to that topic too. Any search engine would like that and, surprise surprise, so do your users. Recently, in some testing here, I broke my tag archives. I got about 25 emails within 2 days about my tag archives being broken. Apparently, a lot of people actually use those!
So, if you have a date archive on your blog, do yourself a favor and improve the SEO of your site by removing them from your sidebar.
WordPress Archive SEO settings
My WordPress SEO plugins has several settings related to date archives:
The plugin either allows you to
noindex, follow the archives, which means that they won’t be shown in search result pages but search engines will follow the links on them, or to disable them entirely. As you can see, here on Yoast I’ve opted for the last. This means that if you try and access a date archive here on my blog you get redirected to the homepage.
Whether you decide to just
noindex, follow them or disable them is up to you, but I urge you to really think hard about what the benefits are of having that date based archive in your sidebar. I personally think it should go. Would love to hear all your thoughts in the comments though!