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Third Google Online Webmaster Chat

Extracts from the Chat

The third online webmaster chat was attended by Google’s Matt Cutts, Wysz, JohnMu, Maile Ohye and many others. Search engine optimizers and webmasters had some difficult questions for the Google team. Many myths, fears and confusions were cleared out in this chat conference. Some of the extracts are below:

Sitemap Questions:

Question: If my website has an extremely large number of pages, like Amazon.com, should I include every single URL that I want indexed in my XML sitemap? If not, how should I go about populating my XML sitemap?

Google’s Answer: Feel free to use your Sitemap to list all of your pages… that’s what it’s for! 🙂 However, if you have many duplicate URLs for the same content, then you may want to only list your preferred versions of the URLs in your Sitemap.

Question: In addition to a XML sitemap, does it make any sense to have also an HTML sitemap on the same website? Does HTML sitemap helps improve the rating?

Google’s Answer: A HTML sitemap file can help search engines, especially those that don’t use XML Sitemap files. Also, the 404 widget in Webmaster Tools (which you can place on your 404 pages) will use “/sitemap.htm” and similar files to help users to find the content they’re looking for. So yes, I would recommend making HTML sitemap files, however I’d focus on the user and not the search engines.

Directory Submissions

Question: Until recently (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.

External Links

Question: Will too much of “rel=nofollow” or totally “nofollow” to all outgoing links by the author of a blog be stamped as over optimization and penalized? Is there any penalty for over optimization sort of stuff?

Google’s Answer: I wouldn’t worry about this, Raj. I would try to work on making the site as natural as possible.

Question: Many believe that to rank well, you simply need “quality” backlinks. But how important is having your keywords in the homepage, and throughout your site? Is keyword density of any importance to show what the page is about? What % is suggested?

Google’s Answer: Links are just one factor involved in Google’s ranking of pages. We look at both on-page and off-page content, so what you have on your page can be an essential part of ranking. However, there is no recommended “keyword density.” Your content should be high quality and written for users. If you try writing for search engines, the language can become very unnatural, which may end up hurting you more than it helps.

Question: Until recently external links from article directories could improve page ranking. Is this still valid? Do links from article directories have a better weight than links from web sites or blogs?

Google’s Answer: Article directory links certainly aren’t inherently worth more and don’t get more weight than other web sites or blogs. I answered another question about article directories as well.

Social Media Networking

Question: How will social media or more specifically share of comments (buzz about a brand) influence the SERPs?

Google’s Answer: Social media is great! But, there are a few things to say about this… Social media can add buzz to your site, finding new visitors, people linking to you, etc. That’s a bonus and the more users that enjoy your content, often the better your site will show in SERPs. We want results to reflect what users are searching for, so social buzz can certainly be helpful.

A few things to note:

  1. If you allow user-generated content on your site, remember to monitor for spam.
  2. Also, if you’re looking to get buzz to directly help your site in SERPs, know that we normally don’t crawl JavaScript, so if it’s hosted in JavaScript you’ll still get the user traffic from the buzz (which can eventually lead better rankings), but the user comments themselves won’t be indexed.
  3. If you want to get the user-generated content associated with your site (as part of your URLs), then make sure you host the user-generated content on your domain (so it’s not link to a separate site).

Site Factors:

Question: Does inconsistent capitalization of URLs cause duplicate content issues and dilution of page rank? For example, www.site.com/abc vs www.site.com/Abc. On Windows hosts, these are the same page, but are different pages on Unix hosts.

Google’s Answer: Hi John, based on the existing standards, URLs are case-sensitive, so yes, these would be seen as separate URLs. Since the content on the URLs is the same, we’ll generally recognize that and only keep one of them. However, we’d recommend that you try to keep all links going to one version of the URL. Keep in mind that this also applies to robots.txt files.

Question: Any chance of Google favoring sites with valid markup anytime soon? On the principle that if the webmaster has taken the trouble to write valid markup, it’s less likely to be a spammy site?

Google’s Answer: Since less than 5% of the pages out there actually validate according to study done by Opera, it wouldn’t make much sense for us to give the other 95% of the pages any trouble.

Link Selling

Question: What is ok/not ok to sell links? We get requests on a daily base, we not offering to sell links, but sometimes we get a related request and wonder if we are “allowed” to sell one or two links without hurting our rankings?

Google’s Answer: Paid links that pass page rank are not a good idea

Visit Webmaster Chat for more questions and answers.

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