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Google is encouraging brands to ensure content is properly dated in search engines by using multiple date indicators on each page. 

The recommendation came in the wake of an issue with Google News where the wrong dates were being shown.

In the response, Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, emphasized that while many factors may have contributed in this specific situation, the lack of proper date signals made it difficult to show correct info in the search results. 

“That page is a particular challenge since the main story lacks a visible date (it only has a time), and the page contains multiple stories which do contain full dates. Our guidance warns about this.”

To prevent situations like this from arising, Sullivan says it is important to use several signals to clarify the date content is published:

“Understand that ideally, the meta data alone would seem to some to be enough, and we’ll keep working to improve. But there are good reasons why we like multiple date signals present.”

Why Does This Matter?

It may not seem like a big deal for the wrong date to occasionally get shown with content in the search results. However, these can undermine your authority, lead to confusion, and create a poor user experience. All of these can lead to decreased page performance and even demotions in Google’s search results.

On the other hand, situations like this also highlight the need for Google to deliver more consistent ways to signal a page’s publishing date. 

For now, the best recommendation Google has is to use a scattershot approach for the best chance of having your page correctly dated:

“Google doesn’t depend on a single date factor because all factors can be prone to issues. That’s why our systems look at several factors to determine our best estimate of when a page was published or significantly updated.”