Yahoo! Supports Robots-Nocontent: Enabling Organic Search Page Section Targeting

May 3, 2007 • 7:20 am | comments (1) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Yahoo Search Engine Optimization
 

Yesterday afternoon, Yahoo! announced support for a new attribute that Webmasters and SEOs can use on their pages to help aid the search spiders determine what content is the most important content on the page, by excluding extraneous or irrelevant content. You basically apply these elements to your page:

<div class="robots-nocontent">This is the navigational menu of the site and is common on all pages. It contains many terms and keywords not related to this site</div>
<span class="robots-nocontent">This is the site header that is present on all pages of the site and is not related to any particular page</span>
<p class="robots-nocontent">This is a boilerplate legal disclaimer required on each page of the site</p>
<div class="robots-nocontent">This is a section where ads are displayed on the page. Words that show up in ads may be entirely unrelated to the page contents</div>

This empowers Webmasters and SEOs to say, this is the most important content on the page and do not index the other content on the page. Specifically, this is a "nocontent" attribute, so you are telling Yahoo! this is not the main content on the page. Is this cloaking? No worries, Yahoo! specifically addressed that saying:

Note: Using a "nocontent" tag to mark explicit sections of content is not considered "cloaking" because all of the content on the page is available to protect the relevance of the results (unlike "cloaking" where we may be served content that is different from what visitors see).

Here is the page to Yahoo!'s help section on this new attribute, robots-nocontent.

Of course, Danny Sullivan has an excellent write up on this tag. He explains that this won't prevent crawling because the search engine needs to crawl the page to see if this tag is there. In addition, this won't prevent indexing of the content because they need to index the parts you do not want to be searchable in the Yahoo! Search index.

Matt Cutts of Google found this release interesting and posted a comment at Danny's post with more questions. He asked:

Danny, can you ask how Yahoo intends to treat links in the "robots-nocontent" section? I could imagine:
- don't follow the links or index the anchortext with the destination document
- allow the links for discovery, but don't apply weight to the links or apply anchortext to the destination document
- links are treated normally in terms of indexing, anchortext, etc.
- other behaviors?
I'm sure Yahoo has chosen which behavior they're going to take with links in robots-nocontent sections, so I'm curious which way they decided to go.

I wonder if Yahoo! will answer Matt's SEO questions? Trade secret data, potentially Yahoo also does not want to tell SEOs this information, who knows. Maybe we will get an answer or maybe not, but excellent questions Matt.

Update: Matt's questions were answered by Priyank Garg of Yahoo at the comments of the Yahoo! post.

This new tag does not change any treatment of inlinks from the page. Links within the section marked with 'robots-nocontent' will be treated just like links in the rest of the page.

They will continue to be actually crawled to find the target page, but they will not carry link attribution if they have the 'rel=nofollow' tag.

To the forums...

Cre8asite Forums has a mixed reaction to this release. Bill Slawski says this is somewhat similar to Y!Q tagging. Softplus is worried about if people make mistakes with their code and accidently "break the closing tag or nest tags incorrectly." eKstreme said he isn't happy that Yahoo! went the "pseudo-CSS class" route, comparing this to the Google AdSense section targeting that "was comments based - nothing to do with the markup."

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums, DigitalPoint Forums and WebmasterWorld.

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Comments:

Sebastian

05/03/2007 12:55 pm

Priyank Garg over at the Yahoo! blog said: "This new tag does not change any treatment of inlinks from the page. Links within the section marked with 'robots-nocontent' will be treated just like links in the rest of the page. They will continue to be actually crawled to find the target page, but they will not carry link attribution if they have the 'rel=nofollow' tag." So this allows to tag nav-links with "robots-nocontent" with no impact on crawling or indexing the link destinations. Although unsearchable page areas are a great thing to have, the implementation is flawed and not well thought out. Webmasters of static sites sites have to edit each and every page. That gives one "edit all pages" to implement rel-nofollow on ads and paid links for Google, after the upload Yahoo creates a new class name resulting in just another "edit all pages", and next week there will be another reason to touch everything just because the engines can't gather to define an evolved robots.txt syntax. DIV.hMenu, TD#bNav { content:noindex; rel:nofollow; } /* make site-wide links unsearchable */ in robots.txt would accomplish the same thing without that much hassles. Other crawlers would just ignore the robots.txt-syntax they don't understand.

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