SEO: using Wayback Machine, Google Cache

SEO: using Wayback Machine, Google Cache

Search engine optimization tools come and go. But two have been around for decades and remain essential and free: Wayback Machine and Google cache.

Both take recurring snapshots of billions of web pages and allow everyone to see the images.

Those images are useful for general research, but they are invaluable to SEO, and help to understand a page’s history and what may have caused it to boost or decrease its rankings.

Both tools, incidentally, allow website owners to prevent archiving of their pages through meta tags: noarchive (for Wayback Machine) and nocache (for Google cache). Not many sites use those tags, but if you can’t find a page in any archive, that may be why.

The following are three ways Wayback Machine and Google Cache can help your SEO.

Wayback Machine, Google Cache

Wayback Machine, Google Cache

Identify changes to the page. In 2019, Wayback Machine launched a useful feature: the ability to compare two versions of the same page.

It is useful for many SEO tasks, such as diagnosing a decrease in traffic to your own site and analyzing the rise of a competitor to a reverse engineer.

Wayback Machine’s comparison feature helps identify page changes.

The choice of date (as before the increase in the ranking of a competitor) is not typically obvious. Google’s algorithm often takes a long time to react to page changes. An increase in ranking in April, for example, could result from a change of page in January. So you may need to repeat the exercise a few times to find the changes.

The printers below show a change to the Facebook privacy page. The yellow on the left highlights the deleted content. The blue on the right shows new content.

Comparing two versions of the Facebook privacy page shows deleted (left) and new content.

To be sure, page changes are not the only reason for an organic change in ranking. But it is an important factor. Comparing the two pages:

Determine the age of a page. Whether a page is old or new can answer ranking questions, such as:

Using Wayback Machine, we can tell the approximate age but not the exact launch date. The official Wayback Machine extension for Google Chrome provides easy access to the oldest archived version of any page. Right-click anywhere on the page and select “Oldest version.”

The Wayback Machine extension for Google Chrome provides easy access to the oldest archived version of a page.

Alternative archiving sites include Oldweb.Today and the U.S. Library of Congress Web Archive. Check those sources if your page is not available on Wayback Machine.

Confirm that Google can access an entire page. Google Cache informs if you can crawl all links and text on a page. To access:

This process also reveals whether Google is caching your desktop or mobile version – a good indicator of page evaluation by Google.

A Chrome extension called “Web Archives” provides quick access to the Google cache of any web page as well as the cache of Bing and Wayback Machine.

Keep Your Own Archive

Keep Your Own Archive

Lastly, consider storing an archive of your strongest competitor’s landing pages and, more importantly, receiving notifications when they change. Use Visualping, which is free for up to five daily checks. It also helps identify which changes to the page have an impact on rankings and whether those pages are cached in Google and Wayback Machine.