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Google bug in recording a page's publish date?

     
8:44 am on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On my blog I write tutorials (kind of how-tos). The competition is very high and in order to be in the first slots in the SERP you have to be first to write such articles. Among the competitor there is a "strong" authority website which is pretty famous.
Yesterday (14/02) I wrote my usual tutorial while this strong competitor had not written anything yet and in fact my post ranked in the first page, first slot.
This morning with my surprise, In saw that in the first slot there was the article belonging to the strong website which was backdated to 13/02.
He obviously didnt write the article on such a date because I keep a close eye on him.

So basically he backdated the article and Google picked this fake date and reported it on the SERP such as:

14 Feb...How to red widget bla bla bla

is this a bug or an attempt to manipulate Google search result?
3:05 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On the face of it, it sounds like a little of both: an attempt to manipulate a bug in how Google stores dates. You can't know for sure, especially based on just one instance.
4:35 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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But does google consider the dates entered by website owners for storing page dates? I was never sure on how google discovers dates for a page! Sometimes a page gets indexed much later but still google used the original published date!

I also notice that for some pages google displays the dates in the results while for others it doesn't.Why is it so?
4:55 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Are these dates from the same time zone?
5:01 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The dates in result snippets seems to almost always come from a date written to the page itself in a readable format. Which, of course, can be anything!
7:10 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Are these dates from the same time zone?

No, the time zone is different but I calculcated it before posting here my finding. However the article was written yesterday but the time stamp reported it was written two days ago...
7:28 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I would go with a little of both as well. In fact, one could argue that their site being stronger than yours played into their #1 ranking more than the older date on the article did.

It's no secret that Google wants to see fresh content on hot topics though, so showing a date after a competitor might not necessarily be a bad thing in some situations.

I've seen many instances where Google will grab any date on a page and use it as a published date. In cases where that date is old (even just 2010), it can make the article look outdated and suffer accordingly; whether that's via Google in dropping off the first page, or user with a lower CTR.

That is a bug that I'd be interested in them fixing.
8:01 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Content published in the UK from midnight to 8 a.m. UK time is sometimes credited with the previous days date.

Sometimes the assigned date is that as used in California, not that where the content was published.

Be aware of the time and date being served in the HTTP header. That may have a bearing on things, especially if you are hosted in some other country, different to whatever the domain TLD might hint.
 

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