Archives for January 2009

Give Google feedback on “noresults” pages

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 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.

Video of my “Preventing Virtual Blight” talk

If you need a search fix, we just posted a video on the official Google webmaster blog. Essentially I recreated a talk I did for Web 2.0 and posted it online. You can also watch it below if you’d prefer:

and you can also view the presentation slides I used or watch the slides directly below:

I’m making a resolution this year that when I do a substantial (not just Q&A) presentation at a conference, I’ll try to recreate a version of the talk later on for the people who couldn’t attend the conference. I’d like Google to communicate more and more this year, so this is another step to help with that.

Hat-tip to Jonah Stein; he was one of the first people to highlight the phrase “virtual blight” and how that blight makes the net a worse place.

Some fun links

I caught up on some of my non-search feed reading this weekend. Normally I’d drop some of these links in my Twitter stream, but I ended up with a ton of links. So I thought I’d drop them here.

In case you missed it, Google’s webmaster console launched a new Webmaster Tools API a few weeks ago. A few days after that, they announced that Google’s Webmaster Tools are now available in 40 languages. I think every webmaster should be using this free service at this point.

Mac vs. PC is a really entertaining video:

It’s amazing that a small production can do match moves (tracking camera motion from video, then inserting virtual objects) so well. At this rate, it feels like we might not even need actors in a decade or two. 😉

Google had a Festivus pole over the holidays and I missed it?

Mmm, Girl Scout cookies. Learn how to make home-made Girl Scout cookies.

Seth Godin hits marketers over the head with his obvious stick in an excellent post:

If your ads work, if you can measure them and they return more profit than they cost, why not keep buying them until they stop working?

And if they don’t work, why are you running them?

The time-tested response is that you’re not sure, that ads are risky, that you can’t tell. …

Digital ads are different (or they should be). You should know cost per click and revenue per click and be able to make a smart guess about lifetime value of a click. And if that’s positive, buy, buy, buy.

And if you don’t know those things, why are you buying digital ads?

Jacob Gube did a great post about 10 ways to improve your website’s performance.

I love this video where a projector shows objects falling down a whiteboard and reacting to things on the whiteboard.

Michael Zalewski on Google’s security team had a blog post about Google’s new Browser Security Handbook. The stuff about browser security mechanisms is pretty interesting.

Darren Rowse discusses the 21 things all new camera owners should know.

Reto Meier had a good post about programming for Android. It made me hit Amazon to order his Android programming book. While I was there, I picked up Erica Sadun’s book about programming the iPhone. I kind of want to make a movie where the two books fight with each other.

If you want to convert your blog to a different format, the Google Blog Converters project can help. It looks like it can convert back and forth between Blogger, WordPress, MovableType, and LiveJournal. I like that you can use this code to move your data out of (or into!) Blogger, which holds with the “not trapping users’ data” philosophy that Google has.

Ideal conference badge

I don’t even know how many conferences I’ve been to in the last decade, but it’s probably 30-40. In that time, maybe 2-3 conferences have really nailed the conference badge for attendees. Here’s what the ideal conference badge should look like, in my opinion:

Best conference badge

I’ll walk you through the important features of this badge:
– Each attendee’s first name needs to be large and easily readable. When you’re walking up to someone and they look half-familiar, you want to be able to glance down at their badge and see a first name that will jog your memory or allow you to greet them. The last name and company name don’t matter as much, so they should be smaller to make more room for the first name.
Make the badge big. Four inches by six inches maybe.
– At every conference, about half the people are walking around with their badge facing backwards so that no one can see their name. That’s why conferences should put the attendee’s name on the front and the back of the badge.
– If your conferences costs hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, throw a little hologram sticker up in the top right to keep people from creating fake badges. If fake badges aren’t a problem, don’t bother.

There you have it. Conferences, please don’t write the name in a tiny 12-point font or put the name only on one side of the badge. See also Mike Davidson’s take on the right way to do a conference badge.

Webspam in 2009?

It’s the beginning of the year, so I just wanted to get some outside opinions: what would you like to see Google’s webspam team tackle in 2009? Here’s how I asked for suggestions in 2006:

Based on your experiences, close your eyes and think about what area(s) you wish Google would work on. You probably want to think about it for a while without viewing other people’s comments, and I’m not going to mention any specific area that would bias you; I want people to independently consider what they think Google should work on to decrease webspam in the next six months to a year.

Once you’ve come up with the idea(s) that you think are most pressing, please add a constructive comment. I don’t want individual sites called out or much discussion; just chime in once with what you’d like to see Google work on in webspam.

Add your suggestion below.