Is Google caching getting even more confusing?
Even if "it doesn't mean much," seeing organic rating data not matching the latest crawl data is concerning.
Last October Maria Cieslak wrote about Google caching dates being outdated. The response we’ve got from John Mueller on that was that “the date on the cached page doesn’t really mean much.”
This begs a few questions for me. Firstly, if it doesn’t mean much – why is it there? It must be used for something, otherwise, it won’t be visible to users, right? Also, what does it actually represent? We know that Google doesn’t always create a snapshot every time it re-indexes a page, but there are a few things that made me raise a brow.
What is the caching date issue?
In the last week, I’ve been looking at this in more detail and found that most sites have a cache date of April 9 or 10. Those are sites from different verticals, so it doesn’t seem that it’s industry specific. I have also asked around in the SEO community and everyone sees the same thing.
Funnily enough, that coincides with the time when Google fixed the indexing issue bug. Is it possible that something else was knocked off in the process?
Cache and last crawl date affect SERPs differently
The thing that concerns me the most is seeing some organic ratings data not matching the latest crawl data. One page I was checking had 3.4/5 out of 209 reviews showing in search.
The meta has been picked up from what Google deems relevant on the page. Within the information captured in that it shows “displaying all 551 ratings,” which is the latest number. The schema, however, is still reflecting the numbers from a month ago.
Leaving aside the number of reviews, in this specific case, the thing that will have a more significant impact is the aggregate rating. A month ago, that was 3.4/5 and the client has put in a lot of effort to get this to 4/5. With rating under four showing in search, the business might be missing out on potential traffic, instead of gaining more of it because of the improved score.
For this page, like with the many others I’ve tried, the cache date is also April 9. When checking in Google Search Console, I see that the last crawl date is May 9.
I checked the latest reviews content on the page to make sure it has been indexed in search, and it has. That is good news at least. It still leaves the question of why the schema information has not been updated to reflect the content.
I haven’t noticed (yet) the same thing with different types of schema, but it will be interesting to see if there are mismatches in product schema attributes showing up, mainly price and availability.
What to do about it?
It might be worth checking some of your sites and seeing if the rich snippets pulled in Google are based on the latest schema on the page or is it a legacy issue. The same goes for newly added content.
The biggest task is for Google’s team to do. We need more clarity on how to make sense of the cache dates showing. Before the March 12 Core algorithm update and the following indexing glitches, the cache date was a good indication of how often Google checks a page and what it sees when it checks it.
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