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Showing dates in search engines results can be tricky, though Google does make an attempt at it with their advanced search tools.

How do I get the search engines to include the date an item was posted in the results? I waste a lot of time opening and searching search results, only to find the information is obsolete or no longer applicable?

In this excerpt from Answercast #93 I look at the problems involved in displaying a date in search results and how Google attempts to solve the problem.

Dates in search engines

The very short answer to your question is that you don't. The search engines display what the search engines display.

I suppose you could lobby them to include the date - but unfortunately, the date an item has been posted can be a very difficult thing for a computer to determine. It seems like it should be really obvious but in fact it's not. There are many, many ways that computers can get that information wrong.

Google search tools

Now, there is another thing you can try. In Google, if you search Google for something, in the search results, near the top are options for "more".

Google typically changes the way things look, the way things are placed from time to time - and in fact I can see right now that it's been changed. So you have to look.

What you'll find is that there are options at the top of the Google search results that allow you to say, "I want to look at the search results from the last hour, or the last 24 hours or the last week or the last month or the last year."

You can even specify a custom range.

Google's time range

That is Google making an attempt to say - okay, we're going to give you search results we think were made within the last whatever timeframe that is.

But like I said, it's problematic; it's error prone. It's very easy to get wrong - and in all honesty I don't blame the search engines for not necessarily throwing the date on search engine results.

They try. Google in particular, at least, tries to make the search results as relevant as possible based on a number of different features, a number of different factors, one of which is date. But like I said they don't show the date, whether for good or bad.

The other search engines that you've apparently tried don't. Other than finding a search engine that you can use that does include the date in the search results, there's no way that I know to force the dates into the results.

The only thing that comes kind-of close are these options in Google's "Advanced search" that allow you to specify a time range.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6300 - February 8, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Karl Menzel
February 12, 2013 9:58 AM

I cannot see in GOOGLE search the other or more option about which you talk here re dates.

Ron Webb
February 12, 2013 11:03 AM

I do a lot of searching and the lack of a published on date is very irritating to say the least.

One way to force the creators of web sites to include a published date would be to refuse to have that site included in search results. That might force compliance.

Out of date information is useless and in some cases such as medical information, dangerous.

Alex Dow
February 12, 2013 12:11 PM

The Google system must know the Date & Time it actually found the items.

Whilst not the source date of the article/s, it does have some relationship that the item was created before that Date, so would give some guidance as to whether relevant or not.

February 12, 2013 2:53 PM

@Karl Menzel,
Today (Feb 2013) you have to first search for something, then a new search options bar will appear. Click on "Search Tools" and another bar will appear with the option for "Any Time". Click on that and you will see some time choices.

As Leo says, Google changes it all the time so it could very well be different for future viewers. Just a short while ago it was in a left-hand column.

March 1, 2013 10:42 AM

Hey Leo!

This actually answers in part one of my frustrations with your website. When I want to search for something that I read in the last 6 months, I get tons of hits, but trying to find the article I read is often frustrating. I've often wished there were dates. Since you use Google for your search, it kind of makes sense now.

However, isn't the information that Google displays come from META or other tags in your HTML code? Since you code your own pages, couldn't you include the date in the tag so that Google would show the dates for your articles?

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