Google's Supplemental Index Announcement Drives More Confusion

Dec 20, 2007 • 7:44 am | comments (10) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

The Ultimate Fate of Supplemental Results from the Google Webmaster Central blog announces, what Google calls, the "next major milestone" for Google's supplemental results. What is happening exactly? Google is implying that when you conduct a search in, Google will not just search their main index, but also search the "supplemental index" to return results from both indexes, dare I say it, equally. Or at least, that is how I understand it.

Did webmasters notice anything? Yes! We covered what Webmasters were noticing yesterday with Is Google's Supplemental Index Increasing? This was before Google announced anything, so something was up and yes, it was noticeable. How noticeable? Hard to say since a drop in rankings can come from a ton of different areas and since Google hides which results are supplemental, it is almost impossible for us to determine if a supplemental results is outranking a non-supplemental result.

Reading through to large forum threads, one from WebmasterWorld and the other from Google Groups, it is painful. There is so much confusion over the supplemental results, probably even more than what we had over a year ago, which, in my opinion, is very sad.

Hiding the supplemental index was a solution? I guess not. Does telling webmasters Google now searches both the supplemental index and the main index clarify anything? Nah. How is that working exactly? Is one index better than the other? I would assume so? I assume it only impacts very long tail queries. Google does offer some hints with this:

From a user perspective, this means that you'll be seeing more relevant documents and a much deeper slice of the web, especially for non-English queries. For webmasters, this means that good-quality pages that were less visible in our index are more likely to come up for queries.

Non-english queries, hmm... From the webmaster comment, you would think your less visible but quality pages that are non-English are more likely to come up? Why would a "good-quality page" be in the supplemental index in the first place? A linkage issue? Freshness?

I'll call Google out on this one, and I rarely do.

Google, we need you to stop hiding this index from us. We really need an explanation of what this index does, why a page would be placed in the supplemental index. When Google actually searches it? In what examples would a page in the supplemental index rank better than a page in the main index?

The confusion over the supplemental index has gone on too long.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld and Google Groups.

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handsome rob

12/20/2007 01:56 pm

I'm not the "slippery slope" argument type, but if Google keeps filling up the serps with Google products, book search, onebox maps, flights, stock info, knols, news, etc... eventually anything not owned and operated by G is going to be "supplemental".


12/20/2007 02:38 pm

I guess that's not completely rolled out yet. A few days ago Matt told us that the first data center queries the secondary index for each search.

Craig Geis

12/20/2007 03:28 pm

"PageRank is the primary factor determining whether a url is in the main index vs. the supplemental results." - Matt Cutts If PageRank was the primary factor in determining the Supplemental Index in the past, then the recent announcement indicates a change in the way they are looking at pages without assigned PageRank. Either they found a way to fabricate PR for these pages or they're allowing these pages to slip into the mix based on standard "on-page" factors.


12/20/2007 04:47 pm

"Either they found a way to fabricate PR for these pages or they're allowing these pages to slip into the mix based on standard "on-page" factors." Not really, some supplemental pages had PageRank, just not enough to get into the main index.

Michael Martinez

12/20/2007 04:51 pm

I don't care if they hide the index as long as they return the most relevant results first. Right now, I am still not seeing the most relevant results come up first.

Matt Cutts

12/20/2007 05:32 pm

Michael, what's an example search/result for you?

Chris Beasley

12/20/2007 05:46 pm

All pages have a minimum pagerank of 1-d, it is impossible for a page to have a true 0 PR in Google's system... of course you could be talking about the foolbar... in which case...

Matt Cutts

12/20/2007 05:51 pm

"it is impossible for a page to have a true 0 PR in Google's system" That's not the case, Chris. If a site doesn't have any links or the links to a site don't flow PageRank, the site/page can have zero PageRank. You don't have to seed nodes in the graph with 1/n values if you don't want to; it depends on how you want to implement the PageRank idea.


12/20/2007 07:39 pm

I agree, Michael. Matt, here's an example. Look at the spamtastic website ranking #1 for "billboard printing". Does hiding thousands of keywords like that really still work???


12/20/2007 09:33 pm

Nice one Tyson wow that Source Code is a doozy.

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