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May 27, 2010

Super Sleuthing Page Age

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This is a guest post by Annie Cushing and the final part of a series of guest posts featured on the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog all week long. Annie shares a little known trick to uncover the age of a Web page. Read on and enjoy!

Most professionals in the SEO industry are well versed in how to assess a site’s age. That’s been well documented. You can use any one of the fine SEO plug-ins out there. A fave of mine is SEO Book’s SEO for Firefox. But you could use Webconfs.com’s bulk domain age checker or go old skool with a good WhoIs service.

cat figuring out page age

But enough splashing around in the shallow end of the SEO pool. Let’s say you need the find out the age of a particular page on a site. There are several reasons you might need to find this out:

  • To see if the advice being offered on the page is outdated. I should have taken my own advice just past weekend. I was doing a search for how create a custom 404 error page in my Thesis theme for a client’s site because I was spinning my wheels and getting mud all over myself. I’m pretty much a Thesis tard and know just enough to hobble along, but I didn’t think my attorney client would want a 404 page that sports the words gnarly or dude. After unsuccessfully going through several different tutorials online (that didn’t specify which version of Thesis they were written for), I discovered a really simple solution that must have specifically written for Thesis 1.7 because everything was just as he said. In retrospect, I should have checked the page age of some of those pages to get an idea for how old they were before wasting my time tinkering with my gnarly php code.
  • To do competitive analysis. Let’s say I’m doing competitive analysis for a client, and I see that one of her competitors has a white-hot landing page with 2000+ backlinks. If the page is talking about coolest apps for the iPad, I can obviously assume that this is a newer page and that the competitor has gained backlinks fast — either as a result of an aggressive link-building campaign or because the content went viral. But if the content isn’t suggestive of a particular time period (let’s say it lists best sites to find coupons online), I may want to know the page’s age to see if it’s just accrued links naturally over the years and is also ranking well because it’s old or if the competitor is progressing because of guerilla marketing efforts.
  • To protect yourself from a copyright claim. Let’s say you write a tutorial for how to switch out faces in Photoshop. Later someone hits you up with a cease and desist letter with a claim that you scraped your awesome tutorial from your competitor’s site. If you don’t have your page date stamped because you don’t want Google to advertise your tutorial as being two years old (hat tip to Michael Gray who proffered that tip at Search & Social Spring Summit) but you want to prove you published your tutorial before your egomaniacal opponent, you can use this technique to make Google display the publication date for each of the pages.
  • To find out when someone last updated their Twitter or Facebook fan page. Let’s say you want to know when Vince Blackham first started representing himself with a shirtless pic of Tom Selleck on Twitter or when I inserted myself into a God-awful New Moon poster. (Some people just have to play.) Can’t imagine WHY you’d want to know either of these things, but I’m sure you can deduce a useful application. For one, if you want to find out when someone joined Twitter (provided they don’t play with their avatar and settings, thus resetting the publication date), you could use this method.

Okay, enough pontificating over why you might want to find out a page’s age and more talking about how to do it.

Note: I’m going to demonstrate these steps with a site that has a tutorial showing how to switch out faces, but that’s just because I made myself curious with the reference. This site is not accused of such deplorable scraping tactics, that I’m aware of. </disclaimer>

  1. Go to google.com and paste the URL you want to check into the search box.
  2. Insert the inurl: operator in front of the URL (no spaces) and click the Search button.

    inurl:http://www.ehow.com/how_5791371_put-another-body-using-photoshop.html
  3. Click in your browser’s address bar and navigate to the end of the resulting URL. In Firefox, I just click the address once to highlight it, then hit the right arrow key on my keyboard to quickly get to the end and deselect the URL so I can add to the URL without overwriting it.

    inurl search
  4. Paste this little magical parameter at the end of the URL: &as_qdr=y15. Don’t ask me how I remember this or where I found this trick. Or why it works, for that matter. I’m not a propeller head; I’m a super sleuth. In my example, the resultant URL looks like this:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbo=p&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS326US328&tbs=qdr%3Ay15&q=inurl%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.ehow.com%2Fhow_5791371_put-another-body-using-photoshop.html&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&as_qdr=y15
  5. Voila. You will see the date appear before the listing.
    Before and after search results
  6. I wish I could say this technique was foolproof and worked for every page indexed in Google’s database. Alas, it doesn’t. It appears to work more predictably with pages that reach a certain threshold of popularity.

    Happy sleuthing, gumshoes!

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8 responses to “Super Sleuthing Page Age”

  1. White Label SEO Reseller writes:

    You’ve made excellent points about age. Although, there are times when age does not apply to competitiveness. I’ve seen a lot of older active sites that are overrun by newer sites. But it’s still safe to understand that age IS taken into consideration in SERPs.

    I know this is a bit off topic, but if you don’t mind, I just want to ask, what would you suggest is an effective step to take if ever you found out that a competitor is utilizing the so-called “Guerilla Marketing” method?

  2. Michael VanDeMar writes:

    You can do this with the site: command too, and skim a large number of page dates on a site at once.

  3. Annie Cushing writes:

    Absolutely. My point is if I find out a page with a slew of backlinks is newer, I take notice b/c there’s actionable data to be culled from that discovery. By exploring them with Yahoo’s Site Explorer or a ninja link-exploration tool, I can find out if the competitor got them from social media (like maybe it went viral or hit the front page of Digg) or if they engaged in an aggressive a link campaign. If it’s the former, I can get ideas for a possible social media campaign; if the latter, I can suggest those sites to my client to approach for backlinks too.

  4. Annie Cushing writes:

    The site: command doesn’t give you dates though, unless Google has the date included in its index. (We’re seeing this more and more with pages that list the date on the page, like blogs and news sites.) In that case, it shows up in the SERPs and is on the page itself, so you wouldn’t need to use the site: command.

    You would just do this if there’s no age listed on the page for Google to scrape.

  5. White Label SEO Reseller writes:

    So basically, it gives you hints on where you can place a powerful counterattack to your competitor’s campaigns. Is my understanding on this correct?

    Oh, and thank you for your kind reply.

  6. Annie Cushing writes:

    Yes, exactly. I let clients know the competitors that are easy to pick off and the ones that will require some heavy lifting.

    I have one right now that’s in an extremely competitive vertical, and these techniques play a critical role with some of their more important landing pages.

    Oh, and you’re welcome. My pleasure. :)

  7. Andy Kuiper - SEO Vancouver writes:

    What a neat tip – it works! thanks Annie :-)

  8. Annie Cushing writes:

    Thanks, Andy. I just had to use it this weekend for a reason I didn’t list in the post, and now I can’t remember what it was for the life of me. But it really comes in handy.



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