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How Does Google Recognise A Posts Publish Date

Help Google Search know the best date for your web page

In light of Google’s recent article on Webmaster Central Blog, SEOs, webmasters and developers have all been reminded just how important it is to attribute the correct date to the pages on their sites. As part of Google’s indexing process, the search engine giant attributes a publication date to every webpage on the SERPs in order to determine how relevant and recent each page is.

This has become particularly important as of late, with Google’s focus on accurate and highly authoritative content as part of its E-A-T guideline update back in August 2018 and the latest broad core algorithm update in March of this year. Ensuring that content is not only high quality but holds expertise, trustworthiness and authority, as well as a relevant date, can convince Google’s crawlers that your website is worthy of that top spot.

Why Does Google Need To Know The Date?

Back in 2010, Google released Caffeine, an algorithm update that completely changed how the SERPs were organised. This update rolled out on the 8th June that year and allowed Google’s bots to crawl webpages with increased efficiency, storing data in a way that would allow them to provide much fresher and more accurate results. A further update was released in 2011, simply named the ‘Freshness’ update, which saw even fresher results and affected around 6-10% of all search queries.

These updates and Google’s continued focus on improving user experience on their platform has led to content marketers and webmasters alike having to adapt to a demand for high-quality content that is completely up to date. By determining the most relevant date on the page, Google can better determine when the information was posted or updated, and therefore list the webpage more effectively depending on the search query.

How Does Google Determine The Date?

Despite the importance of freshness, the date doesn’t always appear when your page is indexed in the SERPs. In most cases, in fact, it’ll be shown without the date and this will only be used to determine the relevancy to particular search queries or topics. For this reason, Google utilises a combination of methods in which to determine the most likely date on which the page was either published or updated.

Typically, the time of publishing/updating is found using a combination of two methods; the crawlers will find any prominent date listed on the page and can utilise any dates provided through structured mark-up by the publisher. They use a mixture of these different methods to determine the most likely date so consistency is key. Inconsistent dating across a page could see the ‘wrong’ one attributed to the page and your ranking could suffer as a result.

How Does Google Determine The Date?

How Do You Specify A Date On Your Webpage?

Attributing a date for your webpage is arguably simple, but there are a number of things Google suggests can help improve efficiency. To first get a date attributed to your site, however, you need to either print it clearly on the page or make sure that the structured data lists this correctly:

When listing a date in user-visible formats directly on a page, you’ll need to make sure that it is clear to Google’s bots that the date listed is the one you want to attribute to the piece. Using phrases like ‘Published March 4th 2019’ and ‘Last Updated: March 4th 2019’ can help Google find this and, should it match with the structured data, list your page under the date given.

For structured data on AMP or non-AMP pages, you’ll need to utilise the ‘datePublished’ and ‘dateModifed’ schema in order to structure the data correctly. To truly make the most of this, ensure you’re using the correct time zone designator and that the dates are listed in the ISO 8601 format. You can visit Google’s structure data guidelines for more information.

Once this has been put into place, there are a number of ‘best practices’ that Google have suggested to webmasters. These include:

Use The Right Date

Even if you’ve got the coding and user-visible dates listed correctly, this won’t benefit your site properly if you aren’t using the right date. Essentially, this means posting accurate, honest and correct dates for publication and for any updates that follow. Google warns against using future dates in particular, specifically when it comes to posting or writing about upcoming events.

Additionally, you may need to amend or ‘minimise’ other dates within the webpage in order to ensure the correct one is being picked up. On occasion, Google’s bots may attribute the incorrect date to your webpage if there are dates within the content or listed against links to other pages, so making sure the main published date is prominent can give it better visibility.

You also need to ensure you’re using the right time zone within your content and the structured data. A time zone can make a considerable amount of difference to when Google thinks a piece was published, particularly where news stories are concerned, so make sure to list the right time zone alongside the publication date and time.

Updates

When updating your web pages, whether it’s the main page on your website or a blog, you should always list the new or ‘updated’ date in a similar way to the main publication date. Listing user-visible dates for both original publication and new updates can not only help the reader understand that the information on your web page is up to date but this, alongside the ‘dateModified’ schema, can ensure Google’s algorithms understand the same.

Consistency

Without consistency, none of the above will provide your site with any significant benefit. While Google will still be able to pick up a date if there’s no consistency, this isn’t guaranteed to be the right one or the one you’d like for your page to show. For this reason, using consistent times and dates within the content and structured data will give Google a better chance at selecting and showing the right one.

Is Google News Any Different?

While all of the above is standard for any web page or blog, Google News’ way of organising articles is a little different. Any news pieces you’d like to appear in this part of the platform require a date and time of publication within the content, and this needs to match up with the structured data to give your story the best chance. The date needs to be visible on the page, settled between the headline and the main text and any significant updates should be listed with a new ‘updated’ time and date.

Google News has strict guidelines that need to be adhered to extending far past the date. In fact, attributing a new date to a piece can only be done if a noticeable and significant amount of change has taken place, with new information available for the reader. Google claims that there needs to be a compelling reason for the refreshing of a news story and that webmasters “[should] not create a very slightly updated story from the one previously published, then delete the old story and redirect to the new one”. This is listed as being against their guidelines for article URLs, and so those looking to appear within Google News need to familiarise themselves with these before publishing.

Our Approach Here at Absolute Digital Media

Here at Absolute, we’re constantly working alongside our clients to improve upon their content in light of updates, algorithm changes and ongoing trends within their industry. In order to adhere to Google’s guidelines for fresh content, we’ve been conducting regular content audits and keyword gap analyses to find areas that we can adapt, refresh or consolidate in order to produce a better, more authoritative page.

Once these content audits and keyword gaps have taken place, we utilise the information and data we’ve compiled in order to take action, putting together a full strategy. In order to ensure the right dates are attributed to the piece and that this remains consistent, our content and web development teams work together when uploading the content to ensure the page and schema data match completely.

We’ve also been taking a particular interest in helping our clients with producing more in-depth and high-value blogs and guides. By compiling some of their industry’s most up to date and in-depth information, our content teams have been learning the ins and outs of a whole host of different topics to ensure each client is provided with pieces that offer readers value. By producing these pieces on a regular basis, our clients can capture Google’s focus on fresh content and carve out secure and authoritative positions within their industries, as well as the SERPs.

Google’s algorithms are consistently changing, but one thing that has remained constant since the Caffeine update of 2010 is the preference for fresh and relevant content. For help with your webpages and correct date attribution, or to find out more about any of our services, you can get in touch with a member of our team on 0800 088 6000, today.

To find out more about the digital marketing services available at Absolute Digital,
get in touch on 0800 088 6000 or fill in the contact form below.

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