Like any good Whovian, I’m consistently excited by most manipulations of time. Google recently gave me cause for such celebration by crediting me with a blog post written a full month in the future. Don’t believe it’s possible? Check this out:
The below blog post was written and published on January 2, 2013. Approximately 6:30 p.m., and I was wearing batman pajama pants and possibly a shirt. Here’s what the search result for this indexed post looks like:
At first I thought this was incredibly bizarre, but on further review the problem is pretty clear. Click through to my makeshift WordPress blog and you’ll see the post dated as 2/1/2013. To the untrained eye, it does look like I was trying to markup this post with a publish date 1 month ahead of time.
Why would I do such a thing?
The short answer is: I wouldn’t. There’s a glitch in my WordPress admin settings that prevents me from changing the post date structure (you get what you pay for). I haven’t really sunk much time into fixing the glitch and as a result, all posts register with this weird, obnoxious, completely illogical structure. For example, a post published on December 19, 2012 registers as 19/12/12. Because, of course.
In this case, though, Google was able to suss out that there is no 19th month.
Mostly, I just found this kind of fascinating, and by fascinating I understand that I mean “a deep level of self-centered nerdishness.” But I do think there’s one relevant bit of information here.
Schema Manipulation: The Anchor Text of the Future
Now, in the present, I don’t see much benefit to dating my post in the future. (Honestly, I’ve tried it, and dating posts just never works the way you think it will. Sure, at first it’s romance and surprise candies, but what happens when you can’t agree on whether you saved a draft before your browser crashed?)
Is someone more likely to click on my ‘How-to’ article because it claims to be from February 2013? Probably not. Unless I was operating an online time travel investment portfolio and this boosted my credibility… and even then, a month hardly seems impressive enough.
In my mind, though, this little mixup does highlight the potential (and potential ease) of Schema manipulation. I won’t go into too much detail with Schema because plenty of smart online marketers have already done a better job than I would. In short, Schema allows you to markup the code of your website or blog, and occasionally add information directly to a search results page.
As an example, any time you see star ratings or a picture of the author directly in search results, they’re using semantic markup. For another shameless real life example:
It’s a cool idea, and it’s getting a lot of hype as something online business and marketers need to be utilizing. But there’s also almost no way to police the markup right now.
For example, using something convenient like RavenTools free Schema generator, just about anybody can provide a “review rating” in a post. This is a really neat trick if you’re actually reviewing something, but what if you’re not? Guess what? You can still add this markup and possibly boost your search result with a cool 5/5 star rating. What’s it rating? Who knows! But your post got 5 stars! Way to go!
The same sort of theory could be used for the post date fiasco I mentioned. What if I changed my marked up blog post date to one month in advance, every month? Would I continue to get a “freshness” boost as if my content was serving up a newer take on a searcher’s query?
It’s very possible that the answer to this is a resounding no, you big idiot. At this point, I don’t actually know that structured markup is a certain problem. From this little accident, though, I can at least see how it easily could be the most abused SEO tactic since exact match anchor text.
We may all be seeing stars soon enough.
Note: Click here if you want to see my neat trick for playing Marvel: Avengers Alliance on your iPad. Game’s addicting as all heck.