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Cached Pages on Google and What They Mean to You

Search results on Google often come with a handy “Cached” page link next to the green website address. This cached page link will take you to the version of the page that Google saw when it last visited the site and indexed its content. Some websites change frequently, so these cached versions can be very different from the current page you’ll see if you click on the search result.

There are two ways this can be useful: 1. if the site is no longer available, you can still access the cached page that Google has stored in its archives, and 2. if the site has changed dramatically and is no longer related to your search, the cached page will likely include the content that is relevant.

Sometimes, however, you may not want people to be able to access your cached content. In one case, we had a client whose site had been hacked and stuffed with spammy content about prescription drugs. They had updated their site, but Google still showed the spammy text in the cached page link.

Google’s Webmaster Tools allows you to take embarrassing cached pages like this out of circulation. You can follow the steps here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35306.

A few good things to note:

  • Removing the cached page will not affect search rank in any way.
  • However, removing the cached page will mean that you search result no longer includes a short description snippet.
  • The cached page link and snippet will return the next time Google visits the page.
  • If you do not want the page to ever be cached, you can place the following tag in the <Head> portion of your page’s code: <meta name=”robots” content=”noarchive”>

The Google help page reference above indicates (as of the writing of this blog post) that the cached page will be removed for a minimum of 6 months. According to a Google employee, this is a typo and should indicate that it takes a maximum of 6 months for the cached page to be replaced by an updated page. In our experience, it is usually much shorter than that.

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2 Responses to "Cached Pages on Google and What They Mean to You"

  • Daniel O'Neil
    September 30, 2009 - 11:28 am Reply

    Hi Megan,

    Great blog post. Since we know the maximum amount and we’re pretty sure that it is shorter than that, do we have any sense of the average time it takes to update a cache?

  • Tom Atkinson
    November 10, 2009 - 3:54 pm Reply

    Cache update time is related to that pages Page Rank score and/or other authority scores. The more inlinks you have, the faster the updates.

    One other score that is likely used is a historical “change frequency” calculation done internally at Google. This one uses duplicate content intelligence to not notice small changes like dates, and recognize big ones like textual and content changes.

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