A Conversation With Google’s Vanessa Fox

    April 12, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Nobody stands up Mike McDonald. Nobody, not even Google’s Vanessa Fox. Back on a cold December day amid the howling Chicago winds, poor Mike sat alone, waiting for Google’s Webmaster Central product manager. Alas, but all is vanity, and SEOMoz.org’s Rand Fishkin stole the show (and the interview).

Well this time, it’s payback, and it’s for real. Vanessa agreed to an interview with Mike at SES New York, and guess who didn’t show up this time. And since Rand already proved that video interviews were so easy a caveman could do it, Mike got his absent revenge and Rand got another shot at pinning her down.

Ahem. Pinning her down on Webmaster issues, I meant. Meanwhile, Mike looks for his lost Nokia N93 digital video camera phone…in New York, where it’s probably already been sold out of the back of someone’s truck.

Some quotables you’ll want to listen for:


Vanessa: Is Mike gonna come over and kill you?

Rand: I should have tied those ropes tighter.

And there was something about Rand and pole dancing, just so you’re warned.

Otherwise, Rand brings up some great questions, and Vanessa has some great answers. One of the most useful tips is deep into the video, so it’s a good idea to highlight it here.

The burning question: When a webmaster moves an entire site, what’s the best way to handle the dip in the search engine rankings while that transition is made?

The (suddenly) common sense answer: Fox stressed that it was a bad idea to simultaneously move a website to a new domain and redesign the whole thing. Instead, she says, take the pages from your old site and put them on your new site exactly as they are. Redirect the pages one at a time, carefully mapping on a one-to-one basis. 

"What I see people do a lot when they do this move," she said, "is that they restructure the content of their pages instead of having this one-to-one mapping."

It’s easier for the folks at Google and the robots working for them to know that this is the same site as before, just in a different place.

But it’s also easier for the Webmaster if he or she does approaches moving by doing it one thing at a time. When the inevitable dip in ranking comes, the one-thing-at-a-time approach makes it easier to pinpoint what’s causing it. 

Other Important Questions To Listen For:

  • Is there a way to use Google Base to increase visibility in the main search engine results pages?
  • What’s the secret formula to get my headline or image into Google News?
  • Is there going to be additional functionality in Webmaster Central?
  • Will Google try to compete with Alexa?
  • What about that pesky alphabetized link sorting in Webmaster Central?
  • How does Webmaster Central impact supplemental results?
  • Are supplemental results as bad as we think they are?
  • Is there a penalty for buying links from well-known link networks?
  • What is Google doing about comment spam and "parasite hosting" on .edu domains?