Google News Showing Old Stories As New: A Google Bug Or Publisher Hack?

google-news-featuredLast week, I reported on the Search Engine Roundtable, a huge array of complaints from Google News publishers and searchers that some news outlets are showing old stories in Google News, but they are appearing as breaking new stories.

The example I gave was a story from USA Today showing as being 14 minutes old but in reality being over 24 hours old. Here are screen shots from then, but I have confirmed this is still happening today.

Here is the Google News page showing the story was 14 minutes old:


Here was the article timestamp, which actually was over 24 hours old at the time of these screen shots:


I asked Google if this was a Google News bug or something being done specifically by the news outlet. Google told me, “we are aware of this issue and working quickly to improve the experience for users.” As you can see, Google is not admitting it was a bug.

From what I can tell, it seems as if USA Today was specifically sending newer dates to Google News. Meaning, Google News was being fed by USA Today artificial date information, and Google was using that information. Like I said, this is still happening now. On the front page of the Google News Sports section, I see a story that says 10 minutes old, but when I click through to the story, the story shows it was published last night — well over 9 hours ago.

A thread in the Google News publisher forum has publishers calling USA Today and some other large news outlets “cheaters.” People close to the situation told me that USA Today is not doing this to be malicious, and they are not gaming the system. But no one can argue that they are, indeed, benefiting from the situation. The publishers are saying USA Today is specifically refreshing the time of the article, as Google News sees it.

In a different complaint thread, Google News representative, Jack, told searchers to filter out the site using the “Rarely” slider. The truth is, publishers are not interested in that, they want Google News ranking to be an even playing field.

If you have more information about what these news outlets are doing and if it is or is not malicious, let us know in the comments.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: News | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Michael Martinez

    So does this explain why Search Engine Land and Marketing Land been including old content in the daily SearchCap articles?

  • Nikhil Raj. R

    I can see the same error in Google news for India. It seems Google took the Last Updated time from this page and showed that the news was published 1 hour ago when I searched at exactly that 1 hour mark after the Last Updated time. Seems like a bug with Google!

  • Daniel Chubb

    This is not a bug, it is publishers rehashing content and changing the time to get at top of news again. These websites should be removed, it is fair for someone to update an article and G News re-enter the content but we have seen a number of sites (You know the ones) doing this to gain traffic with things like “release date, specs and price” in the title. SPAM.

    Just take a look at their comments and you will see the post time and date doesn’t match 4 month old comments.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    USA today should be given a swift beat down. I count at least three TOS violations in their “feed”

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Now it’s the BBC’s turn to be penalized.

  • Christopher Simmons

    We found one syndicator pulling our content which seemed to be gaming google by updating the “publication time” of their news items to always land on top/last in results, so they’d be the “latest” news item/coverage in the main Google results. I complained about that one!

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