Google is reminding site owners how to specify which date is displayed next to a web page in search results.
In an article where Google explains how dates are determined, the company lets site owners know there are ways to help Google get it right.
How Google Determines Dates
Google determines dates using a variety of factors, including:
- Any prominent date listed on the page itself.
- Dates provided by the publisher through structured markup.
Google stresses that it does not rely on one single factor, it uses a combination of those listed above.
However, even when Google determines a date, it might not always get displayed in search results.
Google only shows the date of a page when it’s considered particularly relevant to the content.
An example would be pages that have time-sensitive content, such as breaking news articles.
How to Specify a Web Page Date
To help Google to pick the right date, site owners and publishers should:
- Show a clear date: Show a visible date prominently on the page.
- Use structured data: Use the datePublished and dateModified schema with the correct time zone designator for AMP or non-AMP pages.
When using structured data, make sure to use the ISO 8601 format for dates.
Different Requirements for Google News
Google News has a stricter set of guidelines, requiring pages to show both the date and time.
Structured data on its own is not enough for Google News. The date and time of publication must be visible between the headline and article text.
Changing Dates After Publication
Google advises against “artificially freshen”-ing a story. In other words, only modify dates after publication if an article has been substantially changed.
“If an article has been substantially changed, it can make sense to give it a fresh date and time. However, don’t artificially freshen a story without adding significant information or some other compelling reason for the freshening.”
Best Practices for Most Web Pages
Google concludes its PSA on web page dates with a list of best practices for most web sites to follow.
How to help Google determine the best date to show in search results:
- Show when a page has been updated
- Use the right time zone
- Use a consistent date & time format in the structured data and visible on-page content.
- Don’t use future dates or dates related to what a page is about.
- Follow Google’s structured data guidelines.
- Troubleshoot by minimizing other dates on the page.