Photo courtesy @kr4ydnb on Twitter.
Google has a big issue with the timestamps on articles, posts, and news items, and it absolutely needs to be fixed. This week, the timestamp issue has been more visible to the public in light of recent news events. People have pointed out to Google that their timestamps were horribly wrong on news article posts. Despite ongoing breaking news, Google timestamped article as being posted 2 days prior.
I’ve personally written about this and even brought this up (in person more than once) to Googlers as an issue. In fact, I’ve written about it more than once here on my site, as well, as early as November 2016.
Not The Fault of Website Owners
Google has the timestamps wrong, and there’s absolutely nothing a website can do to tell Google when something was actually posted. Even though I post something at 10:00am CST and Google crawls the URL, within 3 minutes it’s in Google’s search results. And Google timestamps that it was posted 11 hours ago. Refresh and it’s now posted 5 hours ago. Refresh the SERPs again and it’s 7 hours ago.
In my investigation of this, I have done the following:
- I have had Cloudflare look into the issue, and their response was that this is not their fault–the timestamps and time zone settings are all correct on their end.
- I looked at my own server time, and it’s correct for my time zone. I also looked at the server header, to see what the date and time is there. It’s correct.
- I looked at the time stamp on the blog post itself, the “pub date”. It’s correct for my time zone, which is Central Standard Time (Dallas time).
- I looked at the WordPress settings for my site, and it’s correct for my time zone.
I personally cannot figure out where Google is determining the time and exact date of when something was posted. In fact, you’d think that Google would either take the server’s header date and time. But they don’t. You’d think they would even record, internally, the date and time of when they first crawled that post or article. Yet they don’t use that. It’s not possible. They use whatever date and time they want. It makes absolutely no sense to me. And, again, refreshing the search results will show that the timestamp will change over and over again.
How Long Has Google Known About This Bug?
This is a huge issue that Google absolutely must address–and it’s been an issue for more than 2 years. Google has known about this issue (I personally brought it up to them, in person) for over a year. Among one of the responses that I did get (I’m paraphrasing this based on my memory of the response) was that the Google engineers that were responsible for that part of the code has been disbanded. My anonymous source at Google told me that that team of engineers were working on other parts of the Google algorithm. There was a question as to whether or not they had someone available who knew about that part of the code. I don’t know the current situation internally at Google, but I can say that this is a Google bug that Google has known about since at least November 2016, when I first wrote about it (they knew it was an issue even earlier than that).
The Google Timestamp Issue is Still a Problem
As I’m writing this post, it’s 10:30am CST (Central Standard Time) here in Dallas. To prove that this is still a problem, I’m going to publish this post, get it indexed in Google, and then post a screen shot below showing the current timestamp that Google has for this post.
Here’s the screen shot of this post in the Google search engine results pages:
As you can see, I JUST POSTED THIS. Yet Google’s search results now show that I posted this 6 hours ago.