Do You Still Have to Avoid Supplemental Results?
Google Supplemental Results Changes
The term "Supplemental results" is largely used nowadays, but not everybody really knows and understands what it means, that is why we are trying to give a definition of this term, before showing its importance.
This notion used to be seen as a menace and site owners had a lot to worry if their site was to be found with the label "Supplemetal Result" on the search results page, up untill recently when Google made some changes.
Supplemental Results were introduced by Google in 2003 and were to generate relevant search results by indexing more pages. Back then, Supplemental index was more like a filter which was meant to put pages with low page ranks in the same place. In other words, only "less important" pages or those containing more complex URLs went straight to the supplemental rasults, and this was like a back-up solution: if a match couldn't be found in the main index, then Google would search into the supplemental index for listings. The main problem that site owners had to face, was having their site in the supplemantal results for approximately a three-month period, when indexing spiders would have visited the site again.
Of course, changes have been made in order to improve the users' search experience. Thus, in the current system, URLs are indexed with more parameters and consequently fewer restrictions are placed on sites. Due to these continuous changes, the differences between the main and the supplemental index are fading more and more. Now, supplemental results do have a better chance of ranking than in the past.
As a consequence of all the progress made so far, Google decided to stop labeling URLs as "Supplemental Results", but this does not mean that one can no longer benefit from Google's supplemental index. Supplemental results are a part of an auxiliary index (Google), appearing on supplemental listing and having less restrictions compared to those appearing on the main page of results.
Although it has been said that supplemental index does not affect at all page ranking, the truth is that only pages on the main index will always show up first. Supplemental results come as an "alternative" whenever results in the main index are not sufficient. Nevertheless, this is not a very fortunate solution, because as many think today: if a page is indexed in the supplementary results, it practically does not exist. The "good part" is that site owners are not currently able to know if they have their page in the supplemental index; in this respect, a site status verification tool would be useful.
On the other hand, supplemental results could be seen as an indication of the fact that the information on a website is duplicated or that the information showed is similar enough to the information on other sites, therefore Google "sees" it as duplicate content.
What pages appear in supplemental results?
Most of the time blogs and forums, error pages, log-in pages and also pages which contain no links are automatically indexed in the supplemental results. Also, orphaned pages are very likely to be seen as supplemental. Orphaned pages are those pages which lost all their backlinks. To avoid orphan pages on your site, you must ensure that all your pages are linked to each other. Sites with orphan pages are detected by search engines as unprofessional and thus, not "worthy" of being highly ranked.
A good alternative to the 404 error page is the 301 redirect page which ensures the preservation of the search engine rankings for that page. You can read the article Effective SEO through good code structure in order to better understand the importance of efficient content structure.
How to prevent a page from being indexed in the supplementary?
There are some factors which must be taken into account to prevent a web page from being included in the supplemental results and which are still valid:
- In case your web page uses text in the title tag, you must make sure that the same title is not used for more pages. The title must be strictly related to the page content and it should not be very long.
- It is not recommended to put too much similar text on every page if you want your site to be indexed in the first page of Google results. Unique and relevant information provides your site with a place in the main index. Pages containing similar text are a real danger in the way of your site to the top of the main index.
- The actual structure of the website is extremely important. Pages which have few backlinks may appear in the supplemental results. Google sees this kind of pages to be of less importance than the ones which are very well designed.
- Canonical issues can also be a cause, meaning that if you link to your page with or without "www", with or without the page name, in this case you create a canonical issue.
- Big distance to the URL root, i.e. as a rule: the more clicks you take to reach a page from the root URL, the closer you are to the Supplemental index. Read more about how to make your URLs SEO friendly
- Frequent major changes to the site structure are not recommended, because when changing the format and starting with a new one, the old pages remain indexed. The new pages used to appear only in the supplementary results, as a consequence of the fact that they could not be found in the main index, where the old pages were.
- All pages must be linked. Usually, having links from pages with at least a Page Rank 1 will remain in the main index
- The new pages must replace the old ones and a sitemap should be resubmitted, because sitemaps represent an extremely important way of communication with search engines and are one of the best ways of optimizing a site. Sitemaps are meant to evidence the structure of a site and its sections and make navigation much easier. Websites have the main function of helping visitors in finding pages on the website, because the search engines follow the sitemap when reading the structure of that site.
To sum up, supplemental results are not the best idea of where a website should end, although they represent an alternative, whenever there is no sufficient information to be found in the main index. Although removing the Google supplemental label represents an important upside for websites in general, much attention on the part of webmasters is needed for the site content and also for the rules previously mentioned to be taken into consideration. So, if you have duplicate content, change it; if you have poor content, enrich it and if you have orpahned pages, make links to them.
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