Undated legal informational may be regarded as stale and unreliable.

Any time — but particularly in times like these when the information need is keen and the law is changing rapidly — legal information published online should carry a conspicuous publication date.

Information that carries a date gives the reader a reference point from which to make inferences about currency and credibility. For example, legal information dated February 2020 regarding potential legal liabilities arising from the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic will not be perceived as reliable. The material is clearly stale.

Omitting the date entirely is no better.

Although blogging/CMS systems automatically store “create” and “update” information, website designers sometimes decide not to display create/update date information. And there is a wide variety of non-blog content emanating from law firms that will not automatically display a date: FAQs, slideshows, white papers, resource centers, practice area pages. Law firm publishers should take care to ensure that their materials conspicuously display create/update date information.

Google rewards information that bears an update. Its Dec. 5, 2019 search quality evaluator guidelines (PDF) — widely viewed as a window into the Google search ranking algorithm — states that “financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.” Google is demanding when it comes to legal information, rewarding those websites that bear strong indicia of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

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By Thomas O'Toole

A journalist with three decades' experience reporting on legal affairs, Tom is the managing editor and lead writer at Lawyers Media LLC.

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