Google Is Showing Old Content Like It’s New

    July 28, 2013
    Chris Crum

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

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.