We often say on here that simply helping Google understand your content can be very important, and knowing how Google understands dates is a big part of that.
For more, check out the full post over on the Official Google Blog.
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When you perform a search on Google, many of the results will have their published date with them. How does Google come up with that date, and why does it matter?
If Google thinks that your search is time-sensitive, they’re more likely to show the date in the results. Similarly, if your content is time-sensitive, you want to make sure that Google knows the date so that you have a better chance of coming up for those kinds of queries.
It’s not as easy to determine the date as you might think, so Google has a few places where they look. First, they look for any prominent date on the page itself. This is easy to abuse with fake dates, but it’s likely what Google uses the most.
Second, they’ll look for any structured markup on the page that shows the date, most often the datePublished attribute. If you use WordPress or similar platforms, that is typically included in your posts automatically.
In a recent post, linked in our show notes, Google outlined a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Show when a page has been updated, and make sure it’s clear to your readers. Updating old content can be a great way to help improve your rankings, but be clear to Google about what you’re doing.
- Use the right time zone. Again WordPress will do the automatically, but you need to make sure that your WordPress installation is set for the correct timezone. This is often missed, so check yours under “Settings” —> “General”.
- Be consistent in how you show your dates. Again, systems like WordPress will do that by default.
- Don’t use future dates or content-based dates. Dating in the future is a clear sign that it’s not accurate, and you shouldn’t date items based on the date the event occurred; it should simply be the date when you published the content.
There are a few more tips on that page for you to check out, but those are the main ones. For most of you, there’s not much you need to do since it happens automatically, but you might want to check out your time zone settings to make sure everything is accurate.