Flagging a recent change in Google’s behaviour, whereby the date sometimes appears in your SERP/meta description despite there being no indication of a date stamp in your source code, sitemap or anywhere else.
Late last week, a client called to tell me his site was displaying an arbitrary date in SERP listings. This was curious as we hadn’t made any big changes and the homepage contained no evidence of a date stamp. We checked the last published blog, the sitemap, the <head> section, and nothing indicated this peculiar date. It’s a bit of a problem because, like all evergreen content you want your company homepage to look ‘current’. The arbitrary date – in this case May 2015 – made it look as if the site was out of touch and that nobody had tended to it. Hoping for a pattern, I checked my own and other clients’ SERP results. Nothing.
Fast forward a few days and I find, to my surprise, that my own listings have changed; the meta description is suddenly prefixed by the 17th July 2015! Google’s ever-changing, ever-studied algorithms are clearly up to mischief. What on earth happened on the 17th July last year to warrant this? Did I make a large update to the site? Had I submitted a particularly big fetch request? Why did my source code not show this? Confused, I searched further, looking for some connection to this elusive day.
The Answer: YouTube Videos Affect SERP Date Listings
No wonder my markup didn’t show it! The answer is that Google search results appear to be affected by embedded YouTube videos. If a website has one, the page into which it is embedded will show the upload date on its SERP. It’s a bit of an odd move, as videos tend to be polished, produced and permanent additions to a company website. That they’re not considered evergreen will confuse lots of webmasters, and irritate many who’ve rightly chosen to embed videos into their home pages.
Anyway, I’ve removed the offending video and hope the problem rectifies itself. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Google fix this, as it seems a bit of a strange ingredient to SERP listings. In the meantime, I hope this helps anybody searching for why the date suddenly appears in their evergreen search results.