I recently posted asking what issues the Google webspam team should tackle in 2009. Getting this outside feedback is really handy, because it’s helpful to compare our internal perceptions against what annoys hundreds of people outside Google. After the first 150 or so comments I did a very rough tally of suggestions to see what issues are reported the most.
The #1 complaint (20+ comments) was “empty review” sites. Tons of people said something along the lines of “I hate when I search for [productname review] and then click on a result, only to land on a page that says ‘There are no reviews for this product.’ Grrr.” Many times such pages are not created to deceive users, but “no results found” or “empty review” pages can be annoying and contribute to a poor user experience. They can also fall under Google’s webmaster guidelines in a few ways:
Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.
Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches…
If a site does add a lot of value otherwise, our typical policy response would be just to remove from our index individual low-value or auto-generated pages from our index, without removing the entire site.
Given the number of people who complained about this, I’d like to ask for your help to gather examples of such pages. Specifically, you can help by sending us concrete examples of “no results” or “empty review” pages. I want the actual url that annoys you. We will be taking a close look at the reports, so this is your chance to provide example “no result” pages directly to the webspam team. Here’s how to report a bad user experience.
1. Go to our authenticated spam report form. You’ll need a Google account to sign into our webmaster console. This form is available in dozens of languages, not just English.
2. In the “Additional details” section, make sure you include the word “noresults” (all one word, all lowercase). Feel free to fill in the other fields with info if you want.
3. Provide an actual “no results found” or “empty review” example url. For example, in the “Additional details” section, the text can be as short as this:
When I searched for [blue widget reviews] on Google, the url http://www.example.com/review/2008?q=blue+widget looks like it has reviews, but when you click through you see the message “No Comments | 0 Positive Reviews | 0 Negative Reviews. Overall Rating: No Ratings. Leave Your Ratings or Reviews here!” The page doesn’t actually have any information or reviews of the blue widget product.
That’s a perfectly fine report. The main data I want to gather are specific site urls that demonstrate the “No reviews found” issue. Again, don’t forget to include “noresults” as a keyword in the report so that we can extract all the specific feedback. If this is something that you feel passionately about (and it appears that several people do), thanks in advance for pointing out which specific pages give a bad user experience.