We have a website which create publications and newsletters. In most (if not all) the search results for our downloadable files, the Google snippets show dates which are less than when those files were actually published, from one to three months before. It would be impossible since those files did not even exist before the dates mentioned. The dates themselves do not seem to have any significance in our site.

Any suggestions where the dates come from?


I have included this link to a similar question that I answered. It is a rather extensive and thorough answer.

How to tell how old a page is?

In the case of a download that is a binary file, various parsers exits to read many of these files, however, there may not always be a good clue for Google to assess a date. It may be that in some cases, the date is taken from the linking page- just a guess.

There are some things you can do to try and manipulate the date depending upon what it is. Google makes it no secret that it looks for dates in documents such as PDFs, Word, Excell, etc. There is a suggestion about adding a date to the first page of your document. As well, for HTML pages, adding a date just under the first H1 tag seems to help. In addition you can use mark-up. However, I warn you that not all of Googles code is completed and it may not recognize and use the markup yet depending upon the situation. I assume you can use markup around the links to indicate a date. In time I expect that will work if it does not today.

Please let me know if this is enough to answer your question. I an always try and add more.

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  • Thanks closetnoc. Interesting link; I would have voted up if I have additional reputation. One thing though, in step 2) if I'm not mistaken, only the date modified is returned in the response header and not the creation date – alds Apr 8 '14 at 5:09
  • Concerning current question, I tend to agree with you: Google gets date from inside the file especially if the search result is the actual file itself (filetype:pdf). Looking at some of our files, Google seems smart enough to assume that the heading "End of 4th Quarter" inside a file should equate to 12/31/2013. However, the date is 12/1/2013 in some files and not 12/31/2013. Also, Google seems to place more emphasis on dates in headings instead of text. The question though is how to set the correct date inside the file themselves especially if the file is expected to contain many dates. – alds Apr 8 '14 at 5:28
  • Google is said to read dates associated in the first page of any non-HTML document and or about the title (properly formatted). I cannot remember if I got that from the Google appliance documentation or the Google Scholar citation stuff. As for the response headers, you may be right, I did get that notion from documentation somewhere. I might have to trigger some GET and HEAD requests and check the packets for fun. – closetnoc Apr 8 '14 at 14:59
  • Yes. It looks like the HTTP header only has date modified according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_header_fields. I edited my original answer. This explains the inception date better. Thanks for the tip! I want better answers. – closetnoc Apr 8 '14 at 15:11

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