Google Answers Some Tricky Questions
Recently, during a live chat Q&A, Googlers Matt Cutts and Maile Ohye, among others, faced the burning questions of webmasters around the world. Together, they put to rest some fears and myths, and confirmed some speculations.
Below are the meatier results, with the straightest answers given first, followed by responses that were a bit on the ambiguous side, which we took the liberty of translating. Did you know there are about 200 factors that go into determining a site’s ranking in the search results? How about that Google made 450 tweaks to its algorithm last year?
Only one question during that session received conflicting answers from Googlers and wasn’t reconciled: Does the age of a website/domain affect its ranking?
Ohye answered this way: a site’s reputation can be a indicator to search engines, but of course, it’s not everything. Having a site for a long period of time can establish credibility with users, and as a search engine we also want to reflect this type of credibility. Of course, newer domains can also gain users and credibility. It seems like running a good site is a bit like running a reputable business. So yes, if your domain has been credible for years it can help. If you buy an old domain and put all your content on it in hopes of getting instant rankings, that’s not the best idea.
But, when the question was rephrased from another webmaster, Cutts answered: In the majority of cases, it actually doesn’t matter–we want to return the best information, not just the oldest information. Especially if you’re a mom/pop site, we try to find ways to rank your site even if your site is newer or doesn’t have many links. I think it is fair for Google to use that as a signal in some circumstances, and I try never to rule a signal out completely, but I wouldn’t obsess about it.
Official translation: Sometimes, when we say it does.
GOOGLE STRAIGHT TALK
Do 301 redirects carry over PageRank?
Where appropriate, ranking signals will be transferred across 301 redirects (if the same page has moved from one URL to another). This may take some time, so you should probably leave the redirect in place as long as you have control over the URL.
How many 301 redirects are acceptable?
It’s ok to chain a few together. The HTTP 1.0 standard allows for a maximum of 5 redirects for a URL, so keep it minimal.
Why do pages translated into different languages each have different rankings in their respective engines?
Google looks at content on a URL-by-URL basis, so even if you have translated top content from one language to another, Google might not treat it the same way as they would treat the original content. It’s also possible that the translated content is not as relevant as other original content in that language. Generally speaking, making sure that your content is as unique and compelling as possible for the users in that target market is the best thing to do.
Do backlinks from bad sites negatively affect my PageRank?
Those links might be positively affecting your PageRank (PageRank does not go down from "bad" links like those from adult sites). In general, you don’t have to worry about bad links like that which point to your site that aren’t under your control.
How often does your search algorithm change?
We change the algorithms all the time – last year we had over 450 changes.
Could sharing an IP address with a bad site get my site penalized?
The situations where it would matter are when the server is overloaded (can’t respond to your visitors) and when it’s incorrectly configured (not returning your site to your visitors). But otherwise that is no longer a concern.
Does Google have a problem with rank-checking software?
Rank-checking software is against Google’s Terms of Service and could result in blocking your IP address, and it doesn’t really help, especially when it comes to personalized or geotargeted results.
CIRCUITOUS ROUTES AND TRANSLATIONS
Question: Is there PageRank boost from .edu or .gov links?
Google’s Answer: You don’t get any PageRank boost from having an .edu link or .gov link automatically. If you get an .edu link and no one is linking to that .edu page, you’re not going to get any PageRank at all because that .edu page doesn’t have any PageRank.
Translation: If the .edu or .gov page is linked to, then yes, because that webpage now has some authority, just like with any (non-.gov or .edu) page.
Question: Does a page load time play a crucial role in Google Page Ranking? If yes how important is it?
Google’s Answer: I think the more important issue here is user experience. If your site loads fast, your users will be happy; if it loads slow, users will be less happy. Make your users happy, right?
Translation: Yes, and as important as 200 other factors.
Question: Aaron D’Souza of the Search Quality team was reported as stating that publishing the same content on two separate geotargeted paths under your domain will not trigger the dupe content filters. Is this correct?
Google’s Answer: In general, in a case like that, we’d try to pick the best page based on various factors, including geotargeting and language choices. If that page is one which is also available for other geotargeting/language choices, we will generally try to pick the version that our algorithms feel makes the most sense.
Translation: Yes, we think.
Question: I have reported sites that clearly have paid links (e.g. the backlink page says "Advertising" above the link), but Google does not seem to take action. Why would that be the case? These are .orgs who are clearly selling their .org juice.
Google’s Answer: While paid links and spam reports are being taken very seriously by Google, the results may not be seen immediately for users or even not at all. This does not mean no action is being taken on the offending sites. Also, the TLD of the sites should not be a factor being taken into account. For this reason reporting both, web spam and PageRank passing link selling makes sense and contributes in an important way to the quality of Google’s index.
Translation, partly based on .gov/.edu response: Google treats all top level domains the same, so a .org would have no more juice than a .com or .info. Further, clearly marked paid links (ones on pages labeled “Advertising”) are not necessarily violations of Google’s guidelines. If the links you reported were found to be nofollow links, then no action would be necessary. But keep trying to sabotage the competition. Business is war.
Question: Is it true that the fewer the links FROM your website, the more influence they have on the sites receiving those links?
Google’s Answer: PageRank is split up over the links from a page, but I would recommend not concentrating on this (as you won’t be able to "measure" and act upon it anyway) and instead making your site as usable as possible for your visitors.
Translation: Yes, the more you link the more the link juice passed on is diluted, but don’t go trying to figure out the formula in order to game the system. We’ll figure you out. We’re Google.
Question: Does getting a lot of comments in a blog help in being well indexed/ranked by Google?
Google’s answer: Having a lot of enthusiastic users commenting on your posts and doing so generating content on your site, certainly does not harm your rankings Furthermore, a large fan base gives the webmaster a bit of independence from search engine traffic, which is the reason why generating original and compelling content in order to nurture a group of committed users is something I would highly recommend to any blogger
Question: Recently, you removed this suggestion: "Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!" from your guidelines. Is there any chance that you will be discounting these kinds of links for ranking value in future?
Google’s Answer: There’s always the chance that we’ll discount directory links in the future. What we were seeing was quite a few novice people would see the "directory" recommendation and go out and just try to submit to a ton of directories, even if some of the directories were lower-quality or even fly-by-night directories that weren’t great for users. Right now we haven’t changed how we’re weighting directory links–we’ve only removed the directory suggestion from the webmaster guidelines.
Question: Until recentley (the last six months or so) a high ranking was achievable by submitting articles to article directories (providing they were 40%-60% unique), it no longer seems to be the case. Have links from article sites been de-valued at all?
Google’s Answer: In my experience, not every article directory site is high-quality. Sometimes you see a ton of articles copied all over the place, and it’s hard to even find original content on the site. The user experience for a lot of those article directory sites can be pretty bad too. So you’d see users landing on those sorts of pages have a bad experience. If you’re thinking of boosting your reputation and getting to be well-known, I might not start as the very first thing with an article directory. Sometimes it’s nice to get to be known a little better before jumping in and submitting a ton of articles as the first thing.