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I have a website with a number of long form content articles that I keep updated. The page generates two date snippets from this:

<time itemprop="datePublished" datetime="2014-04-29T14:08:40+01:00">Published: 29 Apr 14</time>
<time itemprop="dateModified" datetime="2015-03-22T14:59:33+00:00">Last Updated: 22 Mar 15</time>

The date Google displays in the SERPS however is always the date published date.

Moz however has the last updated date for its beginners guide to SEO used in the SERPs.

It has the following two date snippets used:

<meta itemprop="datePublished" content="2014-03-04T17:42:15-05:00">
<div id="last-updated">01.08.2015</div>

Has anyone seen any patterns with on how Google decides which date to use?

  • 2
    I did some research on this for another answer though it does not answer your question specifically, it will give you some valuable information: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/59559/… Things may have changed lately. The crawler has not historically used meta tags for dates and has preferred dates returned by the web server. Please note that in the past, some CMS and other software has effectively interrupted this process whereas an index.html files would be properly marked as being updated. – closetnoc Mar 26 '15 at 16:53
  • @closetnoc that's interesting, I'd not considered that it would just use the if modified date. Having said that, I've only seen it enable the date on pages marked up as schema articles so perhaps it's both. I'm also not sure how drupal handles modified headers. having said that in the past I've modified title tags and google has re-crawled. displayed the new title and not changed the date which would seem to indicate that it wasnt the header. – Dominic Woodman Mar 27 '15 at 21:13
  • This is something that should be looked into again. I have thought about doing some experiments in code to see what is what. It seems that there are varying results depending upon software. It would be nice to nail down the full truth on this. It sure would be nice to give a clear answer on this. – closetnoc Mar 27 '15 at 22:08
6

Historically, Google said they ignored structured data which was not used to markup visible content.

Because your snippet shows both date published and date updated as visible on-page content but the Moz example shows date published as non-visible meta data, I'd try tweaking that and seeing if it works to get Google to show the last update date instead.

  • Yep this worked. Despite the new moves towards JSON-LD it looks like at the moment Google will ignore date metadata which isn't visible to users if it can find another pertinent date on the page. – Dominic Woodman Apr 20 '15 at 12:08
  • Yeah, I asked a question grappling with that too, you can read this answer to get a little more insight webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/56123/… – adam-asdf Apr 21 '15 at 15:13
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Here's the final mark-up I have on my page:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article">
      <meta itemprop="datePublished" content="2014-05-09T05:40:51+01:00">
      ... Page goes here...
      <time itemprop="dateModified" datetime="2015-02-22T14:55:06+00:00">Last Updated: 22 Feb 15</time>
</div>

Which gives me a in serp date of

22 Feb 2015
  • Just checking if you ever found out a way to tell Google to use the updated date for SERP while displaying both the dates to the users? I want to be clear to the visitor when the page was published and updated, but I also want to show the updated date in SERP so that the visitor knows that the content is recent or at least edited to make it compatible with recent changes? – singhnsk Jul 6 '18 at 10:57

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