Search Engine SmackDown!

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While the prospect of the seeing the Super Session panel members dressed for Friday Nights on UPN may be a frightening prospect, seeing them at WebmasterWorld’s PubCon Boston and hearing their advice on search provided a better experience for WebProNews editor Mike McDonald.

Search Engine SmackDown!
A View From The Search Engine Perspective

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Tim Mayer from Yahoo, Matt Cutts from Google, Ramez Naam from MSN Search, and a pair of Ask.com search pros, Rahul Lahiri and Kaushal Kurapati, occupied the end of day Super Session: Search Engines and Webmasters.

The group hit on the important issues, the basics that everyone starts out following closely, and forgetting later in the quest to nail a high organic search ranking. Focus on the user, not the algorithm. Focus on quality content, not quantity of inbound links. Webmasters can influence the user experience with quality content.

Those search engines want the basics as much as the user community does. As has been noted in stories on link building, webmasters should link to quality sites, and use anchor text related and relevant to one’s subject.

Many webmasters already know how important title tags, descriptions, and URLs with full words can be to a site’s ranking. It’s more important to know the sneaky tactics that, if employed, will elicit hearty chuckles from the respective Super Session Speakers as they send a website into the boundless ether, where no searcher will find them.

So try not to do any of these things, because it would be awful if one of those experts missed work due to shattering a rib from laughing too hard:

•  Affiliate sites with no useful content
•  Artificial sites that point to the main site
•  Invisible hidden text
•  Irrelevant reciprocal links
•  Link farms
•  Cloaking
•  Misspelled anchors text
•  Redirect gateways
•  Wiki mirrors

Ask.com’s duo noted that their search engine does not accept cookies, and webmasters should not include session IDs in the URLs they want indexed. They do recommend providing a http-last modified header, and to ensure a 404 message appears on any custom 404 pages.

Also, Ask’s spider obeys the Crawl-Delay directive in robots.txt files, useful if the Ask bot is too aggressive in crawling pages.

Cutts listed a whole batch of new products from Google. He also noted how the Traffic Power lawsuit had been dropped, as well as the completion of Google’s “Bigdaddy” infrastructure update. But he wanted to talk more about the single most useful tool Google makes available to webmasters: Google Sitemaps.

(Editor’s note: we reviewed Google Sitemaps at length in early April.)

Sitemaps helps webmasters diagnose and debug crawler problems. It provides a way for webmasters to tell Google which URLs are most important.

Sitemaps will report 40 different errors in 5 categories. Said Cutts: “Its really helpful to be able to see problems without having to ask Google directly.”

Spam results in Google’s index has been a concern for webmasters and Google alike. “We’re trying to improve spam report communication,” Cutts said. Legit webmasters would be delighted to see Google do that.

Along with the various Bigdaddy search infrastructure updates, like fresher indexing, smarter crawling that uses less bandwidth, and a new crawl cache, Google has been refreshing a supplemental index at one data center. Cutts identified its IP address as, mostly visible by Canadian visitors right now.

“The interaction between search engines and webmasters is much better than it was a few years ago,” Yahoo’s Mayer said. As an example of that, he provided some tips that can help webmasters with their Yahoo Search indexing:

•  Use Page specific titles and page specific metatags
•  Separate pages only when there is separate content
•  Utilize multiple domains only when there are distinct businesses

Mayer also identified the crawlers webmasters may see dwelling in their logfiles, by name and focus:

Slurp – Search
Seeker – Shopping
YahooMMCrawler/3.x – Images
Yahoo-MMAudVid/1.0 – Multimedia

He also provided a brief overview of SiteExplorer; “This is a way to give you a quick view of what’s going on with a site,” Mayer said. Webmasters should give it a try.

Along with following the Super Session recommendations, of course.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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