Today's webmaster central hangout was a good one. It was the first one that I have personally attended. It was quite interesting to take part in the chat that goes along behind the scenes.
I've summarized the entire hangout below. Here are the important parts:
1:00 - Are links disappearing in WMT? Barry Schwarz asked if there was an issue where links are not appearing in WMT for sites? John said not that he knows. Perhaps if a large site got dropped from the search results you could see a decrease in numbers. (Note from me: I had a client this morning who had a good number of their links disappear from WMT, so it's possible that there is a bug for some sites.)
3:30 - User asked if something happened in Google around the 22nd of March. John said, “I’m not aware of anything”. My note: Pretty sure Panda refreshed then.
6:37 - Should you disavow pre-emptively? Don’t need to deal with unnatural links if you haven’t been involved in link building. But if you’re aware of things done in the past, then yes, clean it up.
10:30 - Transitioning to https - Is there anything special that needs to be done? No, just set up redirects from non https to https version. Nothing needs to be changed in WMT other than make sure that both versions are verified
12:45 - Would a switch to https help a site that is waiting for a Penguin refresh? No.
13:40 - When migrating domains what happens to pages that return a soft 404? You should redirect those as well or ideally make sure they return a real 404. Generally soft 404s shouldn’t affect the site migration at all.
14:42 -Should internal search results pages always be noindexed? It can depend. If they are low quality thin content then noindex. But if there are valuable searches that are on there it might be ok to have them in the index. Perhaps use robots.txt to block search page.
17:18 - Will Google be announcing when it happens that Penguin is incorporated into the algorithm? John, “I don’t know. It’s hard for me to promise things in advance.”
18:49 - Is a nofollowed link from a guest post recommended? In general, if it’s a guest post that you’re syndicating to people, then yes because there’s been so much abuse. If you’re ending the guest post by linking to your own site it can kind of be viewed as an advertisement and should be nofollowed. My note - This makes sense for syndicated guest posting but what about guest posting on reputable sites?
20:00 - Question about 3rd party lead generation pages that are nofollowed. Will they get in trouble with duplicate content? John said he needed more specifics. If they are duplicate, then Google is usually pretty good at figuring out which should rank. Otherwise, use a canonical. If they’re landing pages for ads, consider noindex.
22:00 - Just because a site has indexed search pages it doesn’t mean that they are a spammy site. The question about about a site that was producing a whack of links to theirs via links pages. No need to disavow if it’s a legitimate site.
24:30 - How to make sure your content gets indexed quickly. Question about an online magazine where new articles can take up to 4 days to get into the Google index. What can they do to improve? Make sure the site is easily crawlable - can find content easily - no server errors. Make sure you have a sitemap file and an automated system to ping Google every time there is an update. Could use an RSS file or also Pubs Hub. (My note: I would like to know more about this. If you have information on how you can create a sitemap that automatically pings Google when new content is added, can you leave a comment below?)
27:11 - Should you report sites that have paid links? Yes. Google can’t promise they will always act.
30:42 - A question about a site that has 3rd party reviews that has info from their site and gets syndicated across many sites. Would that be a Panda issue? Make sure that your own page has unique content and just doesn’t contain the content that is syndicated.
33:14 - Are scholarship links unnatural? I asked a question about an audit that I am doing for a site that has a lot of unnatural links but also has links to a scholarship that they created. The links are natural and the scholarship is real. But, the links were probably obtained for SEO reasons. Are they unnatural? John didn’t have a direct answer. If they did a whole bunch of mini-scholarships and this makes up most of their link profile, then it’s probably a problem. But, it may be ok. Would probably ok in the algorithms unless this was the main type of link they have. John said it may be worthwhile to keep these links and file and see what kind of a response we get from the webspam team. (My note: We will likely keep these links when we file for reconsideration. If we happen to fail and get scholarships given as example links then I'll update this post.)
38:23 - You don't have to get ALL of your bad links: John said, “We know that you can’t clean up 100% of your bad links” But they do want to see that you’ve taken significant effort to clean those up. Sometimes you’ll get sample links that really look like OK links. John says that might be because they’ve taken an “unhappy sample” but usually it means that looking at the overall pattern there is sitll work to do. It’s not that the webspam team is pushing you to clean up everything
39:18 - Is having unrelated content on your site ok? Question about a page on a site that is not at all related to the site’s content. It has attracted a lot of links. It’s quality content on its own but is not related to the site. John said that should be fine. “It’s not like the algorithms say that your site has to be on a certain topic”. But for example if you have joke content on a serious site it could confuse the algorithms because lots of people could bounce off of the page and not engage with your site.
42:51 - The site: query can be innaccurate. Question about why site: query doesn’t reflect what Google says is indexed in WMT. Site query uses very rough approximations and may not be accurate.
45:28 - Interesting answer about partial match penalties. A sitewide penalty was downgraded to a partial match penalty but the site owner did not receive any example links. The site owner said that they had disavowed or removed almost every unnatural link. John says that if you have a partial penalty then you may not need to do anything because Google is able to deal with it on their side. They understand that you are not able to clean them all up or even see them. “We’ll take them out of the link graph on our side.” He recommends just ignoring the partial penalty! But he says it might also makes sense to have someone else look at the links to see if you’ve missed anything. My note: I have always been of the mindset that if there is a partial penalty there it is best to do the work required to get rid of it. Sure, it's possible that Google may simply discount the unnatural links pointing to your site, but we don't know for certain whether these links will be discounted in the eyes of the Penguin algorithm.
52:10 - The wrong phone number is being shown in Google searches. John says these numbers usually come from your Google+ local page.
53:00 - A site moved domains 9m ago but the old domain is still being shown in search. John said it’s not an issue but that Google will try to figure it out.
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