Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Content needs a publication date!

(Last Updated on )

Dear everyone who writes content: please put publication date (and last updated, if applicable) right at the top of your article.

I’ve been bitten so often by out-of-date content (that’s still highly ranked by search engines) that now I look for a date before I start reading. And scrolling to the end of an article to find it, and then back up to start reading, is a pain in the gonads.

As Gerry McGovern writes,

On the Web, nothing is more damaging to your organization’s reputation and brand than out of date content.

and if you don’t have a prominent date on your content, it might as well be out of date. How can I trust it if I don’t know how current it is?

It’s good if the date is baked into the URL (I configured WordPress to show the year in the URL) but that’s not enough because some browsers (especially mobile) don’t show full URLs or the address bar all the time. Simply have it in good old fashioned plain text, near the article’s title.

I mark mine up with microdata as suggested by schema.org (founded and used by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex) in the hope that their search engines will prioritise newer content. pubdate and title are required by Apple’s WatchOS because, well, being needlessly different makes web development more fun.

Here’s the relevant markup:


<article itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/BlogPosting">
<header>
<h2 itemprop="title">
<a href="https://www.brucelawson.co.uk/2018/reading-list-201/">Reading List</a></h2>
<time itemprop="dateCreated pubdate datePublished"
datetime="2018-06-29">Friday 29 June 2018</time>
</header>
<p>Some marvellous, trustworthy content</p>
<p><strong>Update: <time itemprop="dateModified"
datetime="2018-06-30">Saturday 30 June 2018</time></strong>Updated content</p>

Whether your content is technical, financial, news or a list of schools closed because of snow (yes, one year I kept my kids at home because a three year old article surfaced at the top of a Google search!), reassuring me that your content is current is, to me at least, just as important as serving it over HTTPS.

Thank you for sharing your marvellous stuff! Please encourage me to read it by establishing my trust in it.

kthxbai.

Update, 27 May 2020. See the “Updated on” info under the publication date? I use an ingenious WordPress plugin called WP Last Modified Info to show a modified date automatically, if it’s more than 48 hours after the original publication date (because I’m forever spotting typos just after I hit publish!).

4 Responses to “ Content needs a publication date! ”

Comment by Šime Vidas

When an article doesn’t include a publication date, and I can’t decipher it based on the URL or the site’s RSS feed, I usually just paste the URL into Twitter’s search to check when it was originally shared. Works well enough.

Comment by Torsten

Thanks for posting this!
Shouldn’t it be itemprop="name" or itemprop="headline" for the title?
There seems to be no title property in schema.org.

Actually, it seems like itemprop="name headline" is the way to go.

Thanks!

Comment by Bruce

@Torsten

the title property is also for WatchOS. I haven’t marked up the header with any schema.org properties, because each article already has its own heading hierarchy and I dislike unnecessary duplication. YMMV, so you could go with itemprop=”name headline title”.

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