Datelines in news articles served by publishers have become more important to Google’s search engine, which uses those dates in part to determine whether or not the post is current and when it should include the news or events in the Google Search timeline feature.
The search feature in the “tools” drop-down menu within News allows those searching for information to query the most recent articles or those that have posted within the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, and other parameters.
Increasingly, however, Google publishes the incorrect date. I’ve noticed it myself, but on Monday Google published a blog detailing how it automates the date it shows in the brief, and the types of things search marketers can do to ensure that the date served is correct.
Google determines the date based on a variety of factors, such as any obvious date listed on the page being served or the dates provided by the publisher through structured markup.
John Mueller, developer advocate at Google, wrote that helping Google pick the correct date means site owners and publishers should show a visible date on the page and use structured data, such as the datePublished and the dateModified schema with the correct time zone for AMP or non-AMP pages.
“Google News requires clearly showing both the date and the time that content was published or updated,” Mueller wrote. “Structured data alone is not enough, though it is recommended to use in addition to a visible date and time. Date and time should be positioned between the headline and the article text.”
Mueller also suggests that if the article has been “substantially changed,” site owners and publishers should freshen the date and time. He suggests creating a slight update to the story and then deleting the old one or redirecting to the new one.
Don’t use future dates or dates related to what a page is about, follow Google's structured data guidelines, and troubleshoot by minimizing other dates on the page, he wrote.