A job hunting friend wanted to Google prospective companies. A normal search returns pages filled with search results. But as you sift through them, one question remains — how do you get the latest up to date information?
There is no question about the quantity of information Google throws back at us. But try out a few searches of your own and you will see that “old” pages still sneak through. The pages may meet the gold standards of Google’s mystic search algorithm but the blast from the past doesn’t help my friend’s cause.
Some information has a shelf life. And, right now you just want to see the results in chronological order by date.
The Freshness Factor in Search Results
To Google’s credit, they have improved the algorithm a lot. Freshness is a ranking signal now after the slew of updates since 2011 to Google Search. But authority of the content trumps it in many instances. Google and SEO is still Greek to most of us. So, trust the Moz blog when it makes this point.
While some queries need fresh content, other search queries may be better served by older content.
For some queries, older information may be more trustworthy. But as you are on this post, I am sure you want to leapfrog over the old results and search by date for the latest on Google. As a reader, you want to see dates for some kind of content. They can be news posts, software reviews, health information, or even an Apple rumor that is short-lived.
So, we have two jobs in front of us:
- How to find the date of the page I am reading?
- How to search within a specific date?
Let’s find solutions for both as they are inter-twined. We start with an old tip.
1. Display a Date with a URL Hack
You might have noticed on a typical result page that Google does not always include publication dates next to the results. But some Google Snippets do display the date. This comes from permalinks, bylines, page metadata, sitemap, comments, WordPress, SEO plugins, and themes which add the timestamp etc. Google picks them up from the structured data of a webpage when it goes crawling through the blogosphere.
There are some SEO plugins which can suppress these dates in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Also, there are both advantages and disadvantages to use the published date in the results page for the site owners.
Digital Inspiration has a simple Google hack to display the date stamp on all results. Before you hit enter to start your search, suffix this string at the end of the search URL:
The string at the end of the search URL shows web pages indexed by Google over the past 15 years. but very old items will list as January 31, 2001. You can change the numeric part to any other number and the search will go back those number of years.
What you will see are the actual publication dates of the web page under the title in Google search results as in the above screenshot. Compare the two search results to note the difference.
Tip: Set up a custom Google Search in Google Chrome with the above string. It takes a couple of minutes and you can use your own Google Custom Search to display the date.
Using a specific number of years in the URL parameter is quick way to filter by date. It is the same convenience given to us by Google’s default time filter.
2. Just Use the Google “Any Time” Tool
Complete your search with a keyword. Go to Tools > Any time on the search page which is located just below the search bar. Pick an option from the list. For instance, select Past 24 hour to find sites updated within the last 24 hours. Notice that all results display a timestamp that corresponds to the publish date.
Tip 1. The Custom range in the same list is a handy investigative tool. You can use this to go back and verify the facts within a certain period. Let’s say, you want to dig into the archive of a newspaper website like The New York Times. Do a site search and then filter the results by date.
Use advanced Google search operators and the date range to uncover results that are submerged under the cascade of non-relevant results.
Tip 2. Google’s ability to search by date also makes it a powerful genealogy tool to search for your forefathers. Again, you may need to combine it with other advanced Google search tactics. But it is a good way to distill to the right results, especially if you ancestor has a common name.
Tip 3. When you are a hardworking researcher, you must dislike coming back to the same results you had visited the day before. Try a search with the Any time filter and the “Past hour” or “Past 24 hours” options to arrive at the fresher results.
Google indexes pages fast and almost on the publication dates. So, there’s a good chance that this will catch new results.
3. Use Google’s Advanced Search Page
Google’s complete range of search operators can be a handful to remember. Bookmark the Advanced Search page on your bookmarks bar for quick access and preserve your memory for other things. Remember, the advanced Google Search page can help you search by filetype, usage rights, region, and language too. You just have to enter the keywords.
With the keywords filled in, select your date choice from the last update dropdown. Did you notice that this dropdown does not have the custom date range? For that, you should use the main search page.
The results also may be the same as those from the Any time tool on the main Google page. But the fields help you construct a more targeted search query. And then – use the custom date range.
4. Go into The Source Code
Digging into the source code of a webpage is a lot of bother for a simple date. And, it is cumbersome to do it for the results of a Google Search. But, it is reliable and easy when you just need to type one word.
Chrome: Right-click on the webpage you want to find the date for. Select View page source from the context menu. The source HTML opens in another window. Press CTRL + F for the search box. Type “published” in the box and it highlights the published date as included in the HTML meta-tag.
Firefox: Right click on the screen. Select View page info. Scroll down in the Page info box till you see the meta tag for the date.
The methods only work if the dates have been provided for SEO optimization. The next extension does this job for you with a press on the mouse.
5. Find It with A Chrome Extension
Finitimus (beta) is a handy little browser add-on that can do it for you with a click. You don’t have to bother with the source code.
The quick check is useful when the webmaster excludes the date of publication from the page you are reading. But if it exists in the source code or the meta-data, then this date can be retrieved.
I met with a few “errors” while experimenting with the extension on our own MakeUseOf articles especially when the article was modified in some way or updated. To its credit, there is a small icon of a barometer which (probably) indicates the accuracy of the check.
6. Try Google When
Google When is not an official tool but a little Chrome extension that adds a date tag with your last visit time just beside your Google search results. So, it helps you in a roundabout way by saving you from revisiting the same links on the search page.
In that sense, it is not a direct “search by date” tool but a Chrome extension that tracks the date of your Google Search visits. Try it if you do a lot of research spread across a few days.
What Is Your Favorite Google Search Trick?
Bing and DuckDuckGo also help you filter results by date. But if you are habituated to Google, then you can have some fun when you search by date. For instance, I like to do a Google Image Search for funny GIFs and then use the Past 24 filter to limit myself to the latest finds.
In any case, keep in mind that you shouldn’t trust all types of Google Search results blindly.
Image Credit: enciktepstudio via Shutterstock