How Google is Reverse Engineering Page Dates

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a disturbing new trend in Google SERP’s: Google has become much more aggressive at trying to reverse engineer the publication date of a post/page.First let’s be clear about what we’re discussing. In some cases, when you do a search, Google will show a date in the listing. See the example below:

Initially, Google only looked at the date that was near the H1/Title of the page and, if it found something, it used that as the date in the SERP’s. This was fairly easy to override: when a post hit a certain age you could “remove” the date with a date based trigger and the date would disappear from the SERP’s. Now, however, Google has gotten a lot more aggressive in trying to assign a date to a page/post. Here are some methods I’ve seen them use:

  • Full format dates inside the main content of pages (month/day/year)
  • Dates in the comments, when no other date appears on a page
  • Decoding dates in URL’s (I have seen them decode 20091225 and 12252009 formats)

I have a few sites in which I use date format URL’s; at this point, I am giving very serious consideration to changing that procedure. In fact, I’m testing as we speak. Issuing a massive sitewide 301 is a dangerous thing and not something I’d recommend for everyone. That said, if you like to roll the dice and are on WordPress, give Dean’s Permalink Migration plugin a try. It makes the whole process pretty painless.
photo credit: dierken

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