Researching on Google? Watch for those sell-by dates

HTWB Google

I find Google absolutely incredible as a resource to help find out about absolutely anything. But ….

For most of us, Google has replaced the old-fashioned “public library” as a resource for research. And it’s brilliant: there is no doubt whatsoever that it has brought most of the world’s written resources right to our desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. 

I find Google absolutely incredible as a resource to help find out about absolutely anything I might want to research either for my work or for my hobbies and other interests. It’s just amazing.

But … there are a few essential issues you need to be aware of if your research is to be genuinely valid and up to date.

Check the dates when the information has been published

Google usually categorizes entries on the basis of relevance, not necessarily date order.

This means that when you’re researching something that is subject to change and updating over a shortish period, you can be attracted to articles, blog posts, etc., that turn out to be out of date.

When you check out the Google results, you won’t always see dates appearing to warn you when the piece of information was published.

Take a look at this example:
HTWB research 001
Unless I’m going blind, only two out of the seven examples shown tell you the date on which they were published.

Bearing in mind that the ground rules of SEO have been changing quite a lot in the last 2-3 years, it’s hard to know whether an article or blog post that attracts your eye, is actually going to share up-to-date information with you.

Next, check out the article or blog post

Using this same example I clicked on the appealing headline of  “6 Uncomplicated Social SEO Tips for Small Businesses,” by Danielle Cormier on
HTWB research 2

Once again, unless I have an eyesight problem there is no mention of a publication date on this article. 

Much as I understand many bloggers’ reluctance to date their posts by including the publication date in full view, where time-sensitive topics are concerned by not including the publication date they aren’t doing their readers any favors.

Having read the article through I think it’s excellent, by the way! But given that Google’s pickups stay around for years, it really would be helpful to know its publication date and also whether or not it has been updated – and if so, when.

I’m a bit guilty here when we look at some of the articles I wrote a couple of years ago about link farms and other internet junk which now have been eradicated by new Google algorithms like Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird. But at least with my articles you can see the publication dates and draw your own conclusions.

Already I have started updating older articles with new information, like this one, and I plan to do that with all my obsolete articles when I get some free time (in about 2095, at this rate…)

Use the need to update information to help your readers

This is another offshoot of the “sell-by date” problem that you can turn around to your benefit.

As I suggested above, I am going to revisit older articles here on HTWB  and provide everyone with updates as necessary. Provided that you include a substantial amount of new text or other media, I think Google will regard that as fresh content. Win-win.

How do you plan to update your earlier blog posts and articles to keep up to date with your own business area, for the benefit for your customers/clients?

Please share!




  1. I think if you tried hard enough you could stuff “publication date” a couple more times into that article. Gotta get that keyword density up! Also: “Having read the article through it I think it’s excellent, by the way!” Gotta grammar issue there.

    • Hi Mujona – actually the keywords for this article were “research” and “Google” – but I have just Googled “publication date” and there were 302 million results, so I don’t suppose that could hurt! Considering that’s what the whole article was about, the fact I mention “publication date” 5 times (just counted!) isn’t exactly a hanging offence. In any case so far I haven’t got any search traffic for “publication date” which should please you.

      And as for the sentence you mention, it’s a typo – sorry about that. I have removed the word “it” and it is now correct.

      “Gotta a grammar issue” is American slang and is grammatically nonsensical. If you’re going to be bitchy and criticize, at least get your own stuff right!

      Many thanks for your feedback. Is English your first language, by the way? 🙂

  2. Useful stuff, as ever, Stephen 🙂


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