Generally site owners mention published date or last updated date or both in the articles to inform users about the validity of the content. This is a best practice for webmasters especially for the time bound blog posts. Without the published date it is difficult for users to come to a conclusion on whether the article is valid on current date or not.
However, there are plenty of websites do not mention the published date and sometimes you may need it for understanding the validity or citing or linking it on your page. If you are looking for finding last updated date, checkout our article on how to find the last updated date of a web page.
How to Find Published Date of a Web Page?
- Check the meta data on a web page
- Look at the URL structure
- Check the XML Sitemap
- View web page source code
- Check in Google Search
- Use query in Google Search
1. Scan Through the Web Page
Published date is one of the meta data required for creating a web page online. This is part of the schema and search engines need this date to understand the originally published date to show in the relevant search results. Many website owners show the published date as a meta data under the blog post title. However, some authors may display the published date below the article depending upon the design of the site.
In our site, we show the published date below the title. We replace the published date with lasted updated date to show the last modified date which is relevant for readers.
2. Look at the URL Structure
There are different ways to show the URL of a web page in the browser’s address bar. Popular content management systems like WordPress, allow website owners to set the URL with month and year based structure. Look at the URL of the page. If the author uses structured way of creating URL with month and year then this could help you in understanding the possible month / year on which the page was published. For example, the URL could be like this – https://www.webnots.com/2015/05/this-is-my-page/. Here you can assume the article was published on May month of 2015.
Here is an example of the URL from CNN, published on 02 May 2019 –https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/02/asia/mount-everest-trash-cleanup-scli-intl/index.html
If the web page URL has different structure then check the image URLs on the site. Sometimes, the images can have month based URLs though the page URL has different structure (we use images in this manner).
3. Check XML Sitemap
If you can’t find the published date on the article then look at the XML Sitemap of the website.
- You can access the XML Sitemap using the URL “https://www.website.com/sitemap.xml”.
- You should find the published date, if the web page is not updated after publishing. Otherwise, in general published date will be over written with the last modified date.
4. Check Source Code
View the page source by right clicking and look for the header section between <head> </head> tags. The <meta> tags may contain published or last updated date of that page. Most of the time you find the last modified date as it should be part of HTTP header data of a web page. You can check the header of any web page using this HTTP header checker tool.
5. Check Internet Archive
Internet archive has the history of all publicly available web pages. You can search for the web page and find the first indexed snapshot. Though this is not the published date, it should be approximately nearer to the published date.
6. Find Published Date of a Page with Google
If you do not find the publication date of a page in the above mentioned methods then Google may help in finding that.
Besides the original published date of an article there is another date referred as “Indexed date”. This is the date when the search engines first index the page to show it in the search results. Given the fact that Google has the capabilities to index pages within few hours of publication, generally the published date and indexed date shown in the search results are same or with mere difference of hours or a day. So finding the indexed date in Google may help to find the original published date of a webpage or blog post.
- Step 1 – Open google.com, type the query “inurl:https://www.webnots.com/” in the search box and press enter. You will see search results showing all pages containing the https://www.webnots.com/ in the URL.
- Step 2 – now go to the address bar of the browser and add “&as_qdr=y15” at the end of the URL and hit enter.
- Step 3 – you will see the same search results but with the date of indexing before meta description as shown in the picture below. And this is the approximate published date of a web page which you can refer.
The date shown in the Google is the indexed date which will match the published date if the article was not updated after the initial publication. However, if the article was updated then Google will re-index the updated content and the date shown in the search needs to be considered as last updated date.
Why You Need to Know Published Date?
One of the other reasons for site owners looking for published date of articles is during migration. Assume you have a site build with individual pages and you want to migrate the entire site to a new hosting platform as a blog. Typical example here could be migrating a content site built with Weebly to a blogging platforms like WordPress.
Generally pages do not have published date mentioned and blog posts need to have the date mentioned. When migrating you may want to assign the published date as the original published date of the page instead of the current date. Here you can find the original published date of pages of old site using the above method.
Why I Can’t Find Published Date?
Unfortunately, many popular blogs hide the published date so that users do not find the original published date. They use this practice to recycle the old content. For example, if the original blog title is “How to Build a Website in 2020?”, it can be easily changed to “….2021” and so on for each year without updating the content.
Some content management systems like WordPress allows the author to change the original published date at any time. In addition, whenever the site owner setup 301 redirect, the page will be with new content and new published date while the original published date could be much earlier with different URL.
In all the above cases, you may not able to find the correct published date as it was intentionally changed or hidden by the owner. In our opinion, hiding the date in time bound article is a shabby black hat SEO practice to trick users and hence search engines.