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Google Offer Guidelines for Best Publication Date to Show in Search Results

In an article published today, Google explains how publication dates within search snippets work.

The post specifies when and which dates it shows next to a web page in search results snippets.

While explaining how it determines these dates, Google also offered a few best practices for improving the accuracy to find the right date.

How Google Determines Dates

Google stresses that it does not rely on a one single factor, but a variety of factors listed below are used when determining publication dates, including:

  • Any prominent date listed on the page itself,
  • Dates provided by the publisher through structured markup.

Google shows dates next to the listings in its search results snippets only when their automated system finds it relevant, like pages that have time-sensitive content, such as news articles.

Here is an example screen shot of dates in Google search results snippets:

Publication Date in Google Search Results Snippet

How to Specify a Date on a Web Page

Google advises publishers and website owners help them pick the right date by:

  • Showing clear visible date prominently on the page.
  • Use schema markup “datePublished” and “dateModified” with the correct time zone designator for AMP or non-AMP pages.
  • Make sure dates are in ISO 8601 format when using structured data.

Best Practices for Google News

Strictly, Google News require web pages to show both the date and time when a content was published or updated.

“Structured data alone is not enough,” says Google. The date and time of publication must be placed between the headline and the article text.

Furthermore, Google advises to modify dates only after an article has been substantially changed.

Google warns against “artificially freshening a story.”

That means, it’s against guidelines to change dates “without adding significant information or other compelling reason.”

Additionally, Google’s article URLs guidelines do not permit to “create a slightly updated version of existing published story, then deleting the old story and redirecting to the new one.”

Additional Guidelines for Dates on Web Pages

Google concludes the article with the additional best practices following to help them pick the best date to show in search:

  • Show when a page has been updated.
  • Use the right time zone.
  • Use consistent data and time format in structured data and in the visible part of web page content.
  • Don’t use future dates or dates related to what a page is about.
  • Follow structured data guidelines.
  • Troubleshoot by minimizing other dates on the page.
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