The first ever Google Webmaster Central's Live Chat session that was held on 28th March 2008, turned out to be a huge success. Webmasters and site owners worldwide actively participated in this one of a kind online session. Google discussed the site owners' queries, doubts and provided answers to their lingering questions. Around 150 questions were answered in this approximately 2 hour live chat session.
Some of the SEO related Q&As were:
Webmaster: What is the criteria for getting the 'more results' for the 1st search result?
It's not just appearing first and having a sitemap recognized by Google because I've seen both for a given site with no 'more results', so what is it?
Google Expert: Gabe, are you talking about Sitelinks?
Webmaster: About SiteLinks, what would be your advice to get results appear. I see them in the GWC, but not in SERPS.
Webmaster: The first result returning specific sitelinks below just after 'more results'.
Google Expert: Gabe, Sitelinks are purely algorithmic, you can find some more information here:
Webmaster: Is Website Tools verifying site not working? i've tried verifying my site and it just doesn't work
Google Expert: Linda, the team is working on something with verification, it seems to be affecting some sites.
Webmaster: I wanna know about social media optimization! what is the Google opinion about that?
Google Expert: Social media is a great way of attracting relevant visitors!
Webmaster: Would you recommend no following the sorting links?
Google Expert: Mark, if those links lead to duplicate content, you can either add a nofollow to the links or block indexing through meta tags or a robots.txt entry.
Webmaster: If RSS feeds have near identical content as HTML pages, might that cause duplicate content penalties
Google Expert: RSS feeds do not need to be indexed, you can block indexing through your robots.txt.
Webmaster: Why's he using ALT TEXT on text at the bottom of his site – is that wrong? LearningGuitars.com
Google Expert: Hi Dockarl, the site Wysz was talking about was learningguitarnow.com
Webmaster: What are your views on image replacement versus using alt= on an image. Is it a bad thing if used legitimately?
Google Expert: There are many high-quality sites that use image replacement techniques (such as Fahrner image replacement) to provide a better user experience. If you're using this technique in a legitimate way to benefit your users, you shouldn't have problems.
Webmaster: Any chance that Google will develop its own directory that folks can directly submit their website to?
Google Expert: Hi Nancy, we use the ODP (open directory project), to learn more go to dmoz.org
Webmaster: Can I ask a video sitemap question? We submitted a video sitemap back on Feb 19th. In Webmaster Tools, total URL is 11k, but Indexed URLs are 0. Of the 115 sitemaps off the index, 2 have warnings. Do video sitemaps just take a long time to get indexed?
Google Expert: Video sitemaps take some time to get approved — it can take up to 2-3 months.
Webmaster: So duplicate content can cause page rank issues? I thought you were able to filter duplicate content?
Google Expert: If you have multiple URL's for the same content within your site, each URL could be attracting it's own links. It would be better to instead have one page for everyone to link to thus consolidating the value of all the external links.
Webmaster: Related to the robots.txt issue – if you've placed a no robots tag on every page of a site and a disallow for all in the robots.txt file, but the home page still shows up in the top 10 for a competitive keyword, how else can
you get the site removed?
Google Expert: If you are blocking crawling with robots.txt, we won't be able to see the robots meta tag. If you want the URL removed, it would be better to allow crawling (not block it in a robots.txt) so that the meta tag can be read.
Webmaster: would you suggest sub domains or folders for state specific content for a US site? i.e. az.domain.com or www.domain.com/az ?
Google Expert: Both work.
Webmaster: I wanna know about duplicate content inside blogs. about categories, archives, authors, have the same content of the article. In my web pages i am blocking using robots txt, i blocked categories and archives. is it good?
Google expert: Cassiano, If your content is the original, I wouldn't recommend blocking it. If you have content fed in from another site, it might be smart to use robots.txt as you've said. I'd recommend taking your site to the Webmaster
Help Group as well.
Webmaster: Is there any major issue with using CMS, e.g. Joomla?
Google Expert: If the CMS is compliant with the normal web standard it should be no problem. However, each tool is only as strong as the person using it — all CMS can create great sites and they can create bad sites.
Webmaster: So, how Google see websites what receive a lot of good links, by natural way but use rel="nofollow" in all of its external links?
Google Expert: Hi Jonatas, could you clarify? Good Site A links to Good Site B, and Good Site B has rel="nofollow" links?
Webmaster: With regards to the paid links question above about asking for inclusion, would it be the same to nofollow the paid links instead of just having them removed?
Google Expert: Yes, if you had paid links and added rel=nofollow to them, you can explain that in your reconsideration request.
Webmaster: We have a regional sub domain, canada.domain.com (we don't have domain.ca). We set the geolocation to Canada in Google Webmaster Tools a few weeks ago, but site is still not indexed as a Canadian site. How long does it take? Any other steps we should take?
Google Expert: This can take some time to take affect. If the setting is set, you should be fine in the long run.
Webmaster: Does Google rank "static" URLs better than dynamic URLs? Ex. /q-digital-camera.html vs /search?q=digital+camera
Google Expert: There's no preference.
Webmaster: Is there any process for confirming a TBPR penalty? Working with authority site which recently went PR7 -> PR3
Google Expert: If you know that the site did not comply with the webmaster guidelines, you can clean that up and file a reconsideration request.
Webmaster: How about ? Worth it? Or just let the search engines get it from the content?
Google Expert: We do not read the keywords meta tag — but if you want to use it for yourself, feel free to keep them.
Webmaster: One of my sites was severly penalized in Google though it respects all the guidelines. I filed a reconsideration request and it was quick restored though I didn't change anything at my end. The problem has happened thrice in 3 months.. Can I prevent this ?
Google Expert: Amit, reconsideration requests are the right path. You may want to set up a Webmaster Tools account to check the message center if you haven't already.
Webmaster: Our site is CSS based, content pages are hierarchy based, using 2 <h1> tags, 2 <h2> tags and then <h3> tags for additional content sections to organize content sections. Will we be penalized using this approach?
Google Expert: That's a great way to provide context to your content. Keep it up!
Webmaster: Is it possible sap.com is being penalized on Google.com by the geo-relevancy component due to the site being hosted on servers in Germany, japan, and the US? Load balancing determines which data center handles the session.
Google Expert: By setting the GEO targeting in webmaster tools the server location will be less of an impact. We understand the need for load sharing across locations.
Webmaster: Concerned about div tags. Any harm if they are used as a space saving technique and used completely legitimately.
Google Expert: Ali, There should be no harm in extra div tags if they are being used legitimately. Let me know if this doesn't answer the question.
Webmaster: OK here goes. This site melinas-music.com – starts out with an optional flash splash page which redirects (in flash) to the proper homepage which with js on is a /home/. With js off you dont' get the splash flash and the page displayed at the root url.
Google Expert: That should not be a problem.
Webmaster: Should we use alt and title tags, or just alt tags, on images?
Google Expert: You can use both, since the title tag is shown as a tool tip in Firefox, but the alt text is more of a replacement for the image — they're two different things, which can be used at the same time.
Webmaster: For top menus displayed on all pages, we load the CSS menu at the end of the page in a hidden div and set to the proper div after loading for help search engines not see the common content first. Is this OK ?
Google Expert: That's fine, if it works for the users and if the content shown / hidden is not misleading to search engines.
Webmaster: Should you only submit for re-inclusion if your site has been completely banned from the index? or can you submit if you've seen a huge drop in rankings but you're still in the index? What if only a few pages got dropped?
Google Expert: You can request reconsideration at any time, if you've seen a sudden and significant change in your site's performance.
Webmaster: Does Google have plans to include programming algorithms that provide higher results for W3C standards-compliant sites as well as great content?
Google Expert: If your site has compliant code then that could increase your number of happy visitors — which could in turn help your site across the board.
Webmaster: can sub domains increase my visibility
Google Expert: Ali, pages on sub domains should not increase visibility any more than pages on subdirectories. It's more of an organization (and sometimes navigation) preference.
Webmaster: does a noindex, follow page pass PageRank?
Google Expert: Noindex pages accrue Google PR, and can pass Google PR – even though as a page in its own right, it does not exist in the SERP's. A good use for this would be pages such as sitemaps that you don't want to appear in the SERP's, but that you want to accrue.
Webmaster: If there's a paid links penalty, what's to stop my competition from buying paid links to get my site penalized? And, many of the top rankings sites for a client of mine are breaking all the paid link rules. How are they ranking and my site isn't?
Google Expert: If you feel that a different site is buying / selling links, you can report that in Webmaster Tools. This helps us fine-tune our algorithms. In the end, we will take a look at the broader picture.
Webmaster: We have a very large site with tons of dynamically created pages (like user generated content). We notice that Googlebot's crawl rate fluctuates a lot. Any tips on increasing Googlebot's crawl rate? Crawl rate is already set to Fast in Webmaster Tools.
Google Expert: One thing I'd recommend is to try to limit any duplicate URLs on your site. E.g. if we're crawling the same content under more than one URL, we're "wasting" some of our bandwidth on that when we could instead be crawling new and unique content on your site.
Webmaster: Follow-up. We haven't made a full analysis, but we want to confirm the penalty first. No known contravention of TOS, but initial thoughts are that some external linking may have been viewed as paid while they are not.
Google Expert: Richard, doesn't look like we have time to do any more individual site analysis, but if you suspect a penalty, I'd recommend submitting a reconsideration request or visiting our Webmsater Help Group.
Webmaster: Should I rather have HTML drop downs to all the 50 categories on my website, or should I rather have the top 5 category links on my front page.
Google Expert: I would try to limit the number of links to less than 100 per page — if you can make 50 links more usable to your user than 5, it can be good for your site in general.
Webmaster: Site penalized, not ranking for company name. Buying links I was the only thing I did b/c everyone else was. Not anymore. How do I fix?
Google Expert: If you can get those links removed or if you can add a rel=nofollow to them that would be a good idea. Once you have cleaned up as much as possible, filing a reconsideration request would be a good next step.
Webmaster: Site A has a link with nofollow to site B, will Google visit site B by this link?
Google Expert: No, but keep in mind there may be other links out there pointing to site B.
Webmaster: If multiple keywords are used in a url is it better to separate with an underscore, dash or does it matter?
Google Expert: It doesn't really matter.
Webmaster: If I provide good keywords within Title and Description tags, will I need additional Keywords tag in meta information?
Google Expert: First and foremost you should make sure that the relevant words are included in your site's content. Title and meta tags can supplement that, but they're not a replacement for highly relevant content.
Webmaster: The page uses at /hopme/ "noindex,follow" whereas the regular homepage has no block.
Google Expert: That's a great way to control the indexing of it.
Webmaster: If we have two websites one .ca and one .com, how would Google.com or Google.ca handle these?
Google Expert: Google can use that information to determine which one would be most relevant to the users (especially those in Canada who use "sites in this country" as a search setting).
Webmaster: How does Google deal with syndicated articles or duplicated content. How do the original content providers get the original value?
Google Expert: If content is syndicated, you might want to make sure that you have a link back to your site (if your site is the original).
Webmaster: Matt, if a site is hosted internationally, its preferred to use a top level domain extension such as .co.uk, however wont that affect traffic within the US though.
Google Expert: Ali, Ah, I see. If you have a country-specific TLD, you are inherently already targeting a region. If you have a generic TLD, you can use the geo location feature in Webmaster Tools to specify either a sub domain or subdirectory as targeted to a country.
Webmaster: how often do take action on paid text link (or spam reports) reports in Google webmaster tools.
Google Expert: Alan, be assured that all spam reports which are submitted are reviewed.
Webmaster: Any pros cons around using h1 tags. I like to add them from a usability perspective (for instance on a product detail page)
Google Expert: If you can provide context to your content by using headers, by all means use them.
Webmaster: What would be the process if you feel Google thinks you have paid links but you do not.
Google Expert: If you feel that your site may have been detected as being in violation of the Webmaster Guidelines and it is not (or is no longer), then submitting a reconsideration request in Webmaster Tools is the way to go.
Webmaster: again with asking for inclusion, would you need to wait until Google has re crawled any/all sites you have had paid links changed on before asking? And how long would you expect to wait to see results from asking for inclusion?
Google Expert: If you have cleaned up the links to your site as much as possible, make sure that you detail what you did and file a reconsideration request. However, make sure that all of your site complies with all of the guidelines beforehand.
Webmaster: I have reported a competitor for spam multiple times (they use CSS to push about 50 repeated keywords off the screen on load). I've seen nothing happen as a result of my spam report, is there a better way to report this?
Google Expert: The spam report is the best way to do this. FYI we do take all spam reports into account, but we don't take immediate manual action on all of them (we use many of them to improve our algorithms in the long term), so you may not see immediate changes.
Webmaster: can you explain rel=nofollow tags on links? When and where should we use these tags?
Google Expert: If you want to link to a site that you either don't trust or can't vouch for use rel nofollow. For user generated content like the comments section of a blog, user added URLs can be auto nofollowed if you don't have time to monitor these Links.
Webmaster: Are .com domains better placed in SERPs than say .in domains ?
Google Expert: Manish, the .com domain is a generic top-level domain, while .in is a country-specific domain. While they could appear mixed in the SERPs, the .in domains would be naturally better targeted for India-specific local queries.
Webmaster: Does the country where your .in domain is hosted makes any difference in SERPs
Google Expert: Hi Manish, this may affect different geographical google domains, such as google.co.uk or google.com. I would suggest using WM Tools to set geolocation preferences.
Webmaster: Evan, the geolocation preference only works for generic tld's, isn't that true? If your tld is already a country tld then that's the geolocaiton already.
Google Expert: True.
Webmaster: Is it better to have a site with a different tld for different languages or to point someone to a language based on their IP address.
Google Expert: Both can work, or you can use a generic tld and use webmaster tools to assign geo targeting. Again: I'd recommend always allowing the user to make a choice about what language to see; some people may prefer a different language than you would automatically assign to them based on their IP.
Webmaster: How would you rate the importance of <title> tags?
Google Expert: Title tags are important for users to understand what to expect on your website. Google will serve your title tag in the results page, and you want your users to have a clear understanding of where they are going.
Webmaster: Wanting to serve mobile content at mobile.example.com using the same db and some of the same content on the main site. How do I get ranked on mobile devices and still avoid duplicate content filters on the mobile content?
Google Expert: That should be fine — don't forget mobile sitemaps </title></h3></h2></h1></meta>
For a detailed Q&A transcript, click here