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Snippets and Preceding Dates

 5:16 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just a quick tip in regards to Google's aggressive handling of dates within Snippets. Be sure that if your content is date driven, that the date of last revision is the first date that Google sees in the source. If there are any other dates prior to that, there's a strong chance that is the date Google is going to display in the Snippet.

It appears that you can also influence this by using the revision date at the beginning of the META Description so that way there is no "guessing" on Googlebot's part.

One surefire way of guaranteeing a correct revision date is to use it in the <title>. There are certain sites that fit this concept like news driven sites. But, I wouldn't suggest that method unless dates were "very important".

I've been reviewing some reformatting of content using site: searches and am noticing some older dates appearing. Those older dates were references within the content to previous materials. Since there was no article date or revision date prior to that, Google grabbed that date for the Snippet. Bad Googlebot, Bad! Actually, Bad Webmaster, Bad! I keep forgetting how challenged that bot is and need to remember and give it to em straight. First in source, first to market. ;)

Oh, another tidbit, if you utilize ISO standards for date and time, Google has no problems in conversion. There were some issues with their MM-DD-YYYY formats being shown. We all know that the UK have it backwards with DD-MM-YYYY so it got a little confusing. I do believe they have corrected that bug, not sure though, haven't checked lately on those weird date formats. There is only one format in this scenario that works from all perspectives and that is: 2009-02-06



 2:36 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the tips. I now use yyyy-mm-dd ewverywhere in my life, online and offline. I am a geek - I should just print that on my checks ;)


 10:34 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Heh. Timely thread. I was just about to ask some stuff about this.

I have been working on a site where the date is shown at the beginning of the snippet, in "20 Nov 2008 format". In general, it only shows for pages that have PageRank. It mostly doesn't show for pages that are grey bar (and there are still quite a few of those, even though the site is more than a year old -- but the owners haven't really got going with link building yet). Sidenote: Is the lack of a date showing for a URL, a new "signal of Supplemental"?

The site uses PHP includes (for common content, navbar, footer, etc) and static content files to build the page, but all URLs have a .html extension.

On this site, there are three places Google could get the date from, and I was wondering which one they use?

- The HTTP Header, which changes every time the page is served (so, obviously not this one in this case).

- The DATE meta tag which has the date the page was last updated, in "2008-11-22" format.

- The "Last Updated: " text in the page footer, which also has the date in "2008-11-22" format.

I hadn't thought about adding the date in the title or in the meta description, but that's a place that many blogs might use.

There's another signal in the URL if it uses the /blog/2008/11/22/some-subject-here URL format, or similar; and therefore also from breadcrumb navigation (both from the URL in the link, and in the anchor text) on such a site.

I guess there's a number of signals they can use, but I wonder which will take precedence if there is conflicting data? Presumably the "latest/newest date" of all those presented, but likely discounting the data from the HTTP Header if it changes on every page refresh, without the page content changing?


 12:56 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

We all know that the UK have it backwards

Those crazy Limeys can't even spell simple words like "center" or "neighbor", what do you expect?

Anyone would think they invented the language and were using dates before 1776.

There is only one format in this scenario that works from all perspectives and that is: 2009-02-06

Agreed - but what is the significance of choosing the 2nd of June for your example?



 1:08 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Good try. But that's Feb 6th, because no-one on the planet uses yyyy-dd-mm.

With Year first, and four-digit year, it will always be Year-Month-Day, everywhere.

Once you learn that simple fact there's no going back.

With 07-02-2009 and 02-07-2009 you never know which is the month and which is the day.

It's a UK website, so it'll be dd-mm-yyyy then? Err, no, the CMS software was written in the US.

It's a US website, so it'll be mm-dd-yyyy then? Err, no, the website content is produced by the German parent company.

What format does a Japanese person working for a US company use when they write on their European website?

Ah, it'll be YYYY-MM-DD because that one is always unambiguous everywhere. :)

The US signed up under ANSI X3.30 and NIST FIPS 4-1 way back in 1968. Europe also got there in the end; see EN 28601 from the late 1980s onwards.

It's also an internet standard; see RFC 3339.


 1:47 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Good try. But that's Feb 6th, because no-one on the planet uses yyyy-dd-mm.

I'm sure you are aware of the deliberate flippancy in my post.

With Year first, and four-digit year, it will always be Year-Month-Day, everywhere.

That will indeed be the intention.

My point is that those who are accustomed to MM/DD/YYYY and who are not tech-savvy may still be confused unless there is a number greater than 12 in either the month or day.

It's a cultural thing, and we are stuck with it.

I was serious though, in agreeing that 2009-02-07 for 7th February is the only way forward.

And I am grateful for the other insights in the opening post.


[edited by: Samizdata at 1:55 pm (utc) on Feb. 7, 2009]


 2:34 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

The DATE meta tag which has the date the page was last updated, in "2008-11-22" format.

Ah-ha, I was waiting for that to find its way into this discussion.

<meta name="date" content="2009-02-07T06:30:00-08:00">

I don't think I've seen any discussion on the META Date Tag. In fact, when Google started displaying dates in snippets, I went on a major information hunt and dug up everything I could about expressing dates and times in documents. This is as close to an official statement on the META Date Tag...

Meta data profiles

As this specification is being written, it is common practice to use the date formats described in [RFC2616], section 3.3. As these formats are relatively hard to process, we recommend that authors use the [ISO8601] date format. For more information, see the sections on the INS and DEL elements.

I'm running tests now using the META Date Tag to see what effect it has on those date snippets. I've never used it before and rely on a last revised date and timestamp that is visible at the bottom of the page and the HTML source (for visual confirmation). Usually towards the closing </body> element. I know the server is also sending date and timestamps.

I'll keep you posted on my results which I should see here in the next week or so. I have some documents that are prime candidates for testing in this area. ;)

By the way, the W3 mention the INS and DEL elements. Anyone using those to their full extent?

<del datetime="2009-02-07T06:30:00-08:00">
<ins datetime="2009-02-07T06:31:00-08:00">

They are the only two elements where I can find documentation on the datetime attribute.


 10:59 pm on Feb 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

this deep discussion on the microformats wiki about defining a datetime pattern has some examples using the <abbr> element and the title= attribute to specify dates that looked interesting.
datetime-design-pattern - Microformats Wiki:

it includes a link to this >10 year old w3c note on the subject.
Date and Time Formats:


 11:49 pm on Feb 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

...and a link to a similar topic from ~2400 days ago: [webmasterworld.com...] :-)

So, PageOne, how long is your rebuttal fed Dateometer now? (---)

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