A few notes from SMX Advanced I consider important:
Google Still Insists on “No Site Search pages”
Good SEO work integrates user experience with search engine expectations. Sometimes (often?) that includes creating kick-ass site search pages for our users. We all agree that search is important, and site search is very useful (to users) for many (especially large) sites. Google even sells local site search products you can use. So when a good SEO hand-picks certain essential site search results sets and optimizes them to get indexed…. does it still violate Google’s webmaster guidelines?
Yes, according to Maile Ohye of Google (front row left). Google does not want to index search results, and the webmaster guidelines unequivocally state that site search results pages need to be marked no-index or otherwise blocked so they are not in the Google search results.
White Hatters can now go back to work… the rest of this post is just nuance.
For the rest of you: continue to properly managing your seo-friendly URLs. Maile acknowledged Google is actively testing some new approaches to handling the local site search issue, but emphasized there is no doubt that the current policy is “no search results in the index“. Read on for insights into what sort of solutions the current Google team is likely to produce and test.
Faceted Navigation is now Additive Filters (because Google says so)
The term “Faceted Navigation” refers to user nav crafted around functional qualities.. like a submenu under category shoes that offers navigation links for mens, womens, and kids. SEOs are working hard to create a great user experience, based on careful (and expensive) user tracking and behavior modeling. What Adam Audette called faceted navigation is, to put it plainly, awesome for users.
Google on the other hand… well let’s just note that while Google says some things, they often act differently. Google calls this “additive filters” and is currently investigating how they may (someday) accommodate it. Google loves name-value pairs in URLs and is very likely to produce a “solution” that relies on name-value pairs in the URL, something Maile Ohye referred to as “standard encodings“.
Drum Roll Please…..The biggest take-away from SMX Advanced for me was….
Google is increasingly a data-based company when dealing with webmasters (despite the “serve the users” rhetoric). Increasingly, Google will give webmasters marching orders that give priority to uniformity of structure, even if that trumps user experience. Watch for it going forward.
In order to maintain control, Google needs transparency in the crawl/index process. Transparency from YOU, the publisher.
Sitemaps tell Google your priorities, your freshness, and your canonicalization even before a site crawl. Microformats tell Google your content components and their purpose, separate from their context or how well your designers represented that context to users. Webmaster console identifies a person with authority for accessing your hosting server, and requires her phone number if she comes through a proxy or international network. The list continues to grow with name-value pairs and any future “solutions” this current Google technology team is considering via the name-value pairs approach : force webmasters to disclose their information architecture in the URL, so content can be parsed effectively outside of the view (URL).
That’s one reason “faceted navigation” is now “additive filters”… Google’s team views the URL discovery process as a parsing of content (e.g. filters) and NOT a collection and presentation prep process for “views” suitable for search users. Views would be considered unique (and thus worthy of indexing and producing YOUR URLS in SERPs). Structured sets (identified by structured “encodings”) simply represent data. As always, Google’s eyes are on organizing your information (not your web pages).
No matter how beautiful, engaging, and awesome you might make some of your local site search results sets, if Google requires you to identify them as product=shoes&color=brown instead of /brown-shoes-for-men, Google can control the data presentation layer outside of your web page.
End note: I apologize to the astute reader. You are correct… nothing new under the sun, same stuff we’ve been seeing all along, and your advanced SEO strategies probably do not have to change much based on this report from SMX Advanced 2010. But doesn’t it feel good to see things following a recognizable pathway?