Google Is Showing Old Content Like It’s New

    July 28, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google News is showing news stories as much more recent than they actually are. While it’s unclear if this is a bug on Google’s part or a way publishers are gaming the system, it is happening fairly frequently.

Do you feel some publishers are getting unfair advantages in Google News search results because of this issue? Does it significantly hurt the Google News experience or is it just not that big a deal? Let us know what you think.

This is something I’ve noticed in the past, but never really gave a lot of thought to, but Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land has now called Google out on it, and shares a statement from the company:

“We are aware of this issue and working quickly to improve the experience for users.”

Not incredibly informative, but at least the company is acknowledging that the issue exists, and is apparently working to fix it. The word “quickly” is debatable, however.

Schwartz first wrote about the issue on his Search Engine Roundtable blog last Friday, and it’s still happening. At SEL, Scwhartz shares an example of a USA Today story about House of Cards getting Emmy nominations showing up as 14 minutes old, despite having been posted over 24 hours earlier.

I searched for “house of cards emmy” on Wednesday to see what would come up, and I didn’t immediately see that particular story, but I did see one from Suburbanite, which Google News said was 5 hours old. When I clicked through to the article, it said it was posted on July 18th (last Thursday) – even older than the USA Today piece.

Google News showing old content

Google news shows old content

I tried some queries again on Friday. Still happening, often multiple times for the same query, and on the first page of results.

Here’s one from Vulture listed as “1 hour ago,” even though the article literally says it was posted “yesterday”.

Vulture - Orange is the New Black

Vulture orange

Here’s one from CNET listed as 6 hours ago (in the top news box, no less), while the article is actually from the previous day – almost a full day earlier.

CNET, Netflix

CNET Netflix

This example is particularly interesting, because the result also appears in the Universal Search news box for a simple “netflix” query on Google Web Search, giving it much more visibility. The news box appears only after the paid listing and organic result for Netflix.com.

Old results as new

So, basically, at this moment in time, Google is saying this is the third most relevant result for a Netflix query (not counting ads, Knowledge Graph or sitelinks). To be clear, I have no problem with the article, and it might be a fine result, but it’s definitely older than six hours. It’s not that fresh.

For that matter, all three stories Google shows in the news box here (again, for a simple “netflix” query) are about the same thing despite there being plenty of other Netflix-related topics in the news. They debuted a new original show on Friday, for example, which would seem like a logical fit. Why not show three different stories in the news box instead of three versions of the same story? The query was not about Google’s Chromecast.

I’m sure I could spend all day finding more examples. These were very easy to find, but I think you get the idea.

Google has often emphasized freshness a key ingredient in search rankings. You would think that in the News vertical this would be an even more key ingredient. However, when users are looking for fresh content and click the articles that are labeled with fresh timestamps, they expect to see actually fresh content. This is really something Google needs to fix, especially if it’s not going to bring back the realtime search feature.

Do you see old content labeled as new in Google results very often? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.theimproper.com redacter

    This is just one of the ways that Google seems to have tipped the playing field in favor of large corporate sites and corporate web networks through its algorithm changes. It will display a story from USAToday that is 18 hours old, instead of a more recent story from a smaller site. I’ve seen some stories from large sites that are three and four days old on the Google News front page.

  • Phil

    Dunno about the topical news but I’ve made several requests that Fox News not be included in search results until they become a legitimate news org.

    • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin


  • http://cyberturfstrategic.com Janet

    A good reminder to get news from the source, the publisher, not from a search engine. For breaking news, Twitter or Reddit are the places to check, despite the problems with legitimacy; no search engine indexes quickly or accurately, and probably never will.

  • http://newscanada-network.com/ jadtechnic

    Google does as google chooses and gets away with it because its treated like the only show in town ..

    its nearly impossible for a news site or new service to get a good footing and start today because of the factors of these mega gaint corporations taking over as if they are the only one who could ever do anything good or right ..

    if you are small and just starting local news you are alway buried on all the big searches yahoo dont care you exist bing nly interested in big $$ sites and company google is a bit better how ever if your name isnt CNN fox you will never have more then one article show up in even an alert of 100 if your lucky to get that …

    how ever this is only part of the problem the bigger issue is not the big $$ corps taking over its the users who suck it all up for free perk they offer with its fact stealing backend prople will moan and whine about lack of privacy but they simplly give there lifes away freely to these groups for the free perks..

    many companys like facebook, google are getting so super good at it they no longer sell clicks and banner to advertisers they sell there users to advertisers in the form of aps be it game aps phone apps immage apps groups pages events ..

    if they are offering it free people download it and along with it give away there privacy , What happen to the days when if a company wanted information from you they had to be the ones to pay for it ..
    remember then days ??

    you know full service gas where you fill up you get free checks oil topped up free sir window washers filled with a smile no extra charge ??

    cheesy maybe but bank would give away toasters and such for a time to encourage larger savings deposits you could collect whole sets of china over time while grocery shopping to get bigger sales ..

    today you register to a website give all your privacy away for an ap that will post a picture on the internet for the world to see then whine cause some pervert got it and used it for not so good reason or some type of fraud scheeme ..

    today you get taken you choose to be then complain just my opinion if more online users would support the little guy in time the tables would swing more toward fairness from the big guys so they could at least remain ..

    • http://www.sbwebcenter.com Steve B

      Unfortunately, it’s not just the big news publishers that are winning, the big corporations are dominating google search results for shopping and information. It seems to be popularity contest – no longer about who has the most relevant/quality content.

      The small guys have a huge disadvantage, especially newer businesses.

  • frank burns

    Perhaps Google owners might consider buying a television station to broadcast news direct to the public via the many reliable products they developed in gathering news as it happens. Offering subscription based services on a yearly plan whilst incorporating Google_News via an App at Google Play Store might be a jump ahead of all themajor players! #ThinkQuarterly

  • Steve Perry

    This news glitch is not Google’s main problem if you look at the main search results for any given keyword articles over 10 years old are showing up over fresh data. This is killing small businesses trying to compete with trash.

    • http://www.enviroequipment.com Enviro Equipment Inc.

      I’ve noticed the same thing as well. This is especially frustrating as our company relies upon the most up-to-date information and finding articles that were written three years ago don’t help us when it comes to getting info on the latest regulations involving our industry

    • Mike Bisch

      Steve is right and here’s proof.
      Our website is a yahoo merchant store and because of that were punished in a serious bad way by google.
      Google lets paid Misses Marthahomemakerstewart site rank higher than us in several 100 percent realeavent searches even when we dominate the key words, description and age of our site even though her crap has no relavancy what so ever, has no age close to us and has absolutely no related key words phrases even.
      Ive tried several times to contact Matt Cutt and another google employee on this issue with solid proof that we should rank higher but as we all know now for sure google and its employees are like the poor guys in the movie ” The Toy ” google is Mr. Bates, so when google says drop your pants, its employees will do as told regardless of who it hurts or puts out of business weither its right or wrong.
      No problem Matt but you know, honestly, I expected more from a guy I went to school with.
      Every one has a price.
      Content is king as long as your not competiting with someone that pays google 50,000 a year right Matt?
      Sincerely Mike in Louisville Kentucky

  • http://www.TeachU.com Chris Reich

    I have noticed that it is particularly difficult to research products. Searching for terms like “best 7″ tablet” yields results from 2011 at the top. Yes, you can enter advanced parameters but if Google’s goal is truly to maximize the user’s experience, they are missing the boat. Most users don’t even know how to use the advanced settings.

    This should be scary for Google because the moment they lose even a shred of relevance, people will defect and they will not return to a technology perceived as ‘old school’.

  • Lloyd Cormier

    Yahoo has been doing this for years!

  • Voltara Smith

    Google News is a joke, anyway. It rarely ranks anything outside the mainstream anymore. Here in Australia half the news links it ranks on the home pages take you to a paragraph of content with the rest behind a pay wall. Their preference for mainstream news organisations is in keeping with most of the changes they’ve made over the last few years to prove they are now well and truly members of the ruling-class establishment.

  • HJ

    Google News is one of the things which is messing up other results as well. One site gets News status for the contents which can not be classified 100% as news and then that page automatically gets a lot of back links because of News aggregating sites and ranks unnaturally high for the normal searches as well. I have come across examples where 7 out of the top 1 search results (non news) are from one single site because of the above mentioned reasons.

    Another funny thing I noted today when I was searching for “Ichimoku cloud”. Amazon comes on the first page for the book on Ichimoku cloud. Now that is really silly :). If some one wants to buy a book on that subject, he/she should go to Amazon and search. or he should search for “Ichimoku cloud books”. A search engine should provide search results where a person can find free information on that subject (if a person is not searching for books etc.)

  • Mary

    It’s been a problem for me too, when I’m looking for the most current update on a story on Google, only to find listings of news stories that are days old as the most current, and even older below that. I’ve been going directly to newspapers to find updates.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cx-qZZAyQg&list=UUzYHJiFC2O94G2vxUGmJVNg Danny

    I think you may find this is happening with a number of news sources.

    Often I go to certain news websites thinking I’ll get the latest news, I often see a bunch of “re hashed ” stories.

    Also, some websites are doing the same thing, and are basically sending off emails to their Newsletter subscribers that they have a “great post’ just in…..

    Turns out the posts are from two or three years back(rehashed old posts) and they also have comments disabled so there is no way the reader can make a comment.

  • https://www.webmasterquery.com Jeff

    I read that some news sites were updating the date of the publication daily so that it looked new. It seems like an easy way to game Google if it is the publisher.