Confusion Over Google's Supplemental Index

Nov 20, 2006 • 7:13 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

It seems the more Google talks about the supplemental index, you know the results in Google that are labeled as "supplemental," the more confused SEOs are, including myself. Here is an image of what a result in from the supplemental index might look at.


Typically, there results only appear for very obscure queries. Why? Because, a supplemental by definition, belongs towards the back of a novel and it just enhances any missing parts of a complete story. So first you would get results from the main index and then the supplemental index when all is equal.

But traveling through the forums recently, it appears that Google is trying to give off the impression that the supplemental index is nothing bad for your site. Whereas, all expert SEOs used to and some currently, call the supplemental index, the sign of death (in terms of your site ranking in Google).

A Search Engine Watch Forums thread is named "supplemental not bad according to matt cutts?" And you also have this huge 17 page thread for about two weeks ago that is still very active at WebmasterWorld linking to Adam Lasnik's Google Groups post named The skinny on the supplemental index.

Adam explains;

1) Penalty? When your site has pages in our supplemental index, it does *not* indicate that your site has been penalized. In particular, we do not move a site's pages from our main to our supplemental index in response to any violations of our Webmaster Guidelines.

2) Freshness? You can expect to see a fresher supplemental index in the coming quarters. By the definition of "supplemental," however, I don't forsee it becoming as comprehensive or frequently updated as our main index.

3) Cure? Get more quality backlinks. This is a key way that our algorithms will view your pages as more valuable to retain in our main index.

Ok, first two are great Google-like responses, IMO. But to call something a "cure," kind of implies that there is a major issue with being in the supplemental index.

At PubCon, Matt Cutts and Vanessa Fox both said that the supplemental index is not a bad thing. But is it a good thing? Not bad for who?

I would love to hear a definitive pro and con on the supplemental index from Google.

Forum discussion at Search Engine Watch Forums & WebmasterWorld.

Update: There is an other thread at WebmasterWorld named Supplemental Results: What exactly are they where Adam Lasnik of Google posted to yesterday where he said;

Pages are in the supplemental results because we still wanted to be able to show them to users, but the pages didn't have enough PageRank to make it into our main index (which is more extensive and updated with greater frequency).

Getting more *quality* backlinks is generally a good way to get more of your pages in the main index.

Still, there is a lot of confusion on this.

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11/20/2006 02:53 pm

This is ridiculous.... if you have a site with tons of pages how the hell can you possibly get quality backlinks to all of them to keep them from going supplemental? I have pages on my sites that don't have any backlinks but the text in the riddle or the answer to it is often exactly what the user is looking for. So why should it be supplemental?

Michael Martinez

11/20/2006 09:41 pm

I have been pointing out for years that the SEO community is totally confused on the Supplemental Index issue. No one should be concerned about whether a page showing in the SERPs is tagged as "supplemental". The only legitimate concern should be for where supplemental pages DO NOT SHOW in the SERPs.

Dave White

11/21/2006 01:27 pm

There should be some definite solution to this growing confusion .Google should address this matter and resolve it to overcome the confusion.

No Name

11/22/2006 09:37 am

there has been lots of discussion going on this issue but i still feel google should come up with the exact definition supplemental pages in its index. i mean the criteria on which a page is tagged supplemental

Dave Insane

11/27/2006 09:11 pm

I recently watched one of my minor sites (fortunately) transition from the main index to the supplemental index. Now those pages will not appear even for a unique phase that is within one of the documents. Worse if one does a link: on Google it returns nothing. But backlinks are readily apparent in a normal Google search. As an example if you do a search for some unique series of keywords like 1. gemstones 2. from 3. heaven 4. idaho There are returned hits with links. Only two things recently changed on the site that may have transitioned it to "supplemental" 1. I added a sitemap per Google's python script and instructions. 2. I aligned the file name, title and first H1 text as the same text.(ie gemstones-from-heaven-in-idaho.html and gemstones from heaven in Idaho). I have recently read that this may be faulted for over optimizations. I wasn't trying to be spamming just following Google's advice.


12/18/2006 02:45 pm

How do i check if i'm in the supplemental index???


12/26/2006 09:10 pm

Google Sucks! I'm gonna just keep doing what I'm doing and if Google doesn't value my site then that's just the way it will have to be. Google isn't the only search engine. I do quite fine with Yahoo, MSN and others!

Andrew Kelsall

03/28/2007 12:47 am

Quote: "How do i check if i'm in the supplemental index???" Type in *** -sljktf it will then show you in Googles results...

Bart Gibby

05/04/2007 07:47 pm

Supplemental index is better than nothing! Stop being so ungrateful. Google owes you nothing! They send you free traffic every day! At least they do for me. Give me free email, webmaster tools, free search results, free word processor, free spreadsheets, etc. When was the last time you gave them anything! I am so sick and tired of hearing you all bitch and moan. If your page is not good enough then its not. Do something about it or don't. Don't forget that Google is a business, they are there to make money. We help them make money, they help us make money. Thats the way it works.


05/16/2007 10:27 am

Hi everyone, I have a question about the Google search results. Google says there are 11,400 English webpages containing the phrase "a style of living". But I was able to read no more than a thousand search results and Google seems to refuse to show all of them. Does anyone have an idea or explanation? Thanks in advance, GQS


11/19/2007 02:27 am

I had a blog that was on the second page of google, I then published a ezine article with the same content. The enzine article went to page 5 and my blog cannot be found in the top 10, has it gone to the index?

No Name

04/24/2010 03:18 pm

I had a Website,But the keyword in websites are not get top 10 ranks in Google..

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