Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting had recently conducted an interview with Google's Maile Ohye, who is an integral part of Google Webmaster Central.
Here are a few excerpts from the one on one interaction between Eric Enge and Maile Ohye:
Eric Enge: Can you talk a bit about the Webmaster Tools API that you announced in June?
Maile Ohye: Yes, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love to. For us, the Webmaster Tools really allowed us to reach webmasters of all levels. The API allows for verification, and submission of sitemaps, and it allows us to work with hosting programs. Through these hosting programs, we can reach the webmasters who might not have already heard of Webmaster Tools at all, and help them build better sites. Also, the API allows us to reach the more advanced audience.
Eric Enge: Okay. So, one thing that I noticed recently is that there is the ability now to designate an RSS feed as a sitemap file. And, if you go into the interface, it will actually tell you what your RSS feeds are and ask you if you want to make them a sitemap. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Maile Ohye: Sure. This is part of our effort to reach more and more webmasters, and to make it simpler for you. The RSS sitemap is already rich with a convenient format that we can extract links from. So, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already got one we can detect that and let you know that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to take some of that data to help us understand your site better. When you submit a sitemap, you can also get more indexing stats about your site. So the URL is extracted from your sitemap, and it will tell you the percent of URLs in the index and things like that.
Eric Enge: Right. So, back to the RSS thing for the moment; if you do agree to have an RSS feed be a sitemap file, does that tie into the whole notion of query deserves freshness at all? I ask this because RSS feeds imply time based data. I was just wondering if it might increase the speed in which something is indexed when itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s delivered through an RSS feed rather than as a static page in a sitemap.
Maile Ohye: Thinking about how our pipeline works, I would say that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not going to improve that speed. There is no added weight because it came from a source RSS.
Eric Enge: Right. I understand. Okay, so with spam reporting one of the new things I noticed is that you provide confirmation of spam report submissions in Webmaster Tools. I am not sure how long thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been around, but when did that start?
Maile Ohye: Sure. The confirmation of spam reports I believe started earlier this month. We want to get the spam reports, but at the same time we keep a lot of this information confidential within ourselves. We want to acknowledge that we are receiving them. We are looking to give more helpful messages in message centers in general. Another one we rolled out that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t widely announced was the Chilling Effects messages. You know how you can file a DMCA request to have content taken down from a certain webpage? When that request is approved, then we will take down that content. But, also because we have some verified website owners for some of these sites, that DMCA request effects your site, and you are verified in Webmaster Tools. You can also get a message there notifying you of what the request was and what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done on behalf of the request.
Eric Enge: Right, so then next question for paid links that get reported in Webmaster Tools. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fairly well stated that the primary thing you do with it is use it to improve your algorithms. But, if you do confirm a link is a paid link when you get the report, is it normally disabled from passing PageRank?
Maile Ohye: Yes, we do disable such links from passing PageRank.
Eric Enge: So, will a link embedded in Flash pass PageRank?
Maile Ohye: Yes, it functions as a regular link.
Eric Enge: Excellent, so part of this update you added support for SWFObject?
Maile Ohye: Yes. There is a lot of Flash loaded through SWFObject.
Eric Enge: Alright. Can you talk a little bit about the Geographic Target Option and what it does?
Maile Ohye: Sure. The Geographic Target option is especially useful if you have a top level domain like a dotcom, and you would like to target a verified subdirectory or sub-domain to a particular region. So, if I have example.com/Canada, then I might have that regional specific content there, within that subdirectory. I can actually target that to the geographic location of Canada. Once we have that information, we can use that to provide better results for searchers who want more Canadian information, whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s based on the fact that they are in Canada, or they are searching for something specific to Canada. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great area where getting webmaster input allows us to improve search quality.