Sharing advice from our site clinic

Monday, March 15, 2010

Members of the Google Search Quality Team have participated in site clinic panels on a number of occasions. We receive a lot of positive feedback from these events and we've been thinking of ways to expand our efforts to reach even more webmasters. We decided to organize a small pilot site clinic at Google in Dublin, and opened the invitation to webmasters from the neighborhood. The response we received was overwhelming and exceeded our expectations.

Webmasters presenting at the site clinic event

Meet the Googlers who hosted the site clinic: Anu Ilomaki, Alfredo Pulvirenti, Adel Saoud, Fili Wiese, Kaspar Szymanski and Uli Lutz.

It was fantastic to see the large turnout and we would like to share the slides presented as well as the takeaways.

These are some questions we came across, along with the advice shared:

  1. I have 3 blogs with the same content, is that a problem?

    If the content is identical, it's likely only one of the blogs will rank for it. Also, with this scattered of an effortwith this scattered of an effort chances are your incoming links will be distributed across the different blogs, instead of pointing to one source. Therefore you're running the risk of both users and search engines not knowing which of your blogs is the definitive source. You can mitigate that by redirecting to the preferred version or using the cross domain canonical to point to one source.

  2. Should I believe SEO agencies that promise to make my site rank first in Google in a few months and with a precise number of links?

    No one can make that promise; therefore the short answer is no, you should not. However, we have some great tips on how to find a trustworthy SEO in our Help Center.

  3. There are keywords that are relevant for my website, but they're inappropriate to be shown in the content for example, because they could be misunderstood, slang or offensive. How can I show the relevance to Google?

    Depending on the topic of your site and expectations of the target group, you might consider actually using these keywords in a positive way, for example, explaining their meaning and showing your users you're an authority on the subject. However if the words are plain abusive and completely inappropriate for your website, it's rather questionable whether the traffic resulting from these search queries is interesting for your website anyway.

  4. Would you advise to use the rewrite URL function?

    Some users may like seeing descriptive URLs in the search results. However, it's quite hard to correctly create and maintain rewrites that change dynamic URLs to static-looking URLs. That's why, generally speaking, we don't recommend rewriting them. If you still want to give it a try, please be sure to remove unnecessary parameters while maintaining a dynamic-looking URL and have a close look at our blog post on this topic. And if you don't, keep in mind that we might still make your URLs look readable in our search results no matter how weird they actually are.

  5. If I used the geo-targeting tool for Ireland, is Northern Ireland included?

    Google Webmaster Tools geo-targeting works on a country basis, which means that Northern Ireland would not be targeted if the setting was Republic of Ireland. One possible solution is to create a separate site or part of a website for Northern Ireland and to geo-target this site to the United Kingdom in Webmaster Tools.

  6. Is there any preference between TLDs like .com and .info in ranking?

    No, there is none. Our focus is on the content of the site.

  7. I have a website on a dot SO (.so) domain name with content meant for the Republic of Ireland. Will this hurt my rankings in the Irish search results?

    .so is the Internet country code top-level domain for Somalia. This is one factor we look into not pointing to the desired destination. But we do look at a larger number of factors when ranking your website. The extension of the domain name is just one of these. Your website can still rank in the Irish search results if you have topic-specific content. However, keep in mind that it may take our algorithms a little bit longer to fully understand where to best serve your website in our search results.

We would like to thank all participants for their time and effort. It was a pleasure to help you and we hope that it was beneficial for you, too. For any remaining questions, please don't hesitate to join the community on our GWHF.