SMX Live: Your Toughest Technical SEO Questions Answered

Mar 9, 2011 - 7:50 pm 0 by
Filed Under SMX West 2011

Live Blogging Coverage SMXBelow is live coverage of the Your Toughest Technical SEO Questions Answered panel from the SMX West 2011 conference. This coverage is provided by Barry Schwartz of RustyBrick.

Disclaimer: The coverage is brought to you in real time, using a custom live blogging tool. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments for inclusion into the live coverage. During the live event, live notes will auto-scroll with newest entries at top. After the session is complete the archive version will have the oldest entries at the top. We ask you to please excuse any typos, as these are live notes.

Finished Auto-Refresh: Off
Barry Schwartz: 4:54:14 pm
Starting in 5 minutes...
Barry Schwartz: 4:57:48 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:02:13 pm
Just taught Vanessa a think or two about technical SEO ;-)
Brian Ussery: 5:02:14 pm
Your Toughest Technical SEO Questions Answered:

No powerpoint here! This session is all about Q&A to solve the specific technical issues you’re having. Bring your toughest questions! Topics will likely include URL canonicalization (pagination, faceted navigation, breadcrumbs, parameters, analytics tracking, IIS URL issues, redirects, localized URLs…), aggregation and duplication (search results pages, tag pages…), crawl inefficiency (when should you 404 vs. redirect? Is the canonical tag the same as a 301? How to use status codes effectively), internationalization (serving regional content based on IP address, blocking certain regions from restricted content…). Our panelists will have real answers to these tricky issues and more.

Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land

Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land
Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer, Google Inc.
Marshall Simmonds, Founder and CEO, Define Media Group, Inc.
Barry Schwartz: 5:02:22 pm
okay, we start really any second now...
Barry Schwartz: 5:04:54 pm
Maile wants to stand up the whole time during Q&A
Barry Schwartz: 5:05:01 pm
But Marshall will sit
Barry Schwartz: 5:05:04 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:05:09 pm
Wait, she is sitting on the table
Brian Ussery: 5:05:11 pm
Maile would like to site on the table and is doing so now :)
Barry Schwartz: 5:05:30 pm
Here is a picture...
Barry Schwartz: 5:05:32 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:06:12 pm
Marshall may or may not get on the table...
Barry Schwartz: 5:06:19 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:06:43 pm
He said, "I totally understand if all your Questions go to Maile."
Barry Schwartz: 5:07:42 pm
Ask your Qs at
Barry Schwartz: 5:07:59 pm
Easy Q to start off....
Barry Schwartz: 5:08:12 pm
When is the best time to use canonicalization
Barry Schwartz: 5:08:35 pm
I hope the table doesn't collapse
Brian Ussery: 5:08:39 pm
VF: Canonicalization and when to use it, (Marshall gets on table)
Barry Schwartz: 5:08:41 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:09:44 pm
Marshall says for New York Times, indexation and canonicalization are the two biggest problems. According to him rel canonical is a band-aid.
Barry Schwartz: 5:10:24 pm
<--- letting Brian do the hard work ;-) (okay, I'll help out a bit)
Brian Ussery: 5:10:41 pm
According to Marshall, fix duplicate content for obvious reasons but if you can't fix use rel canonical.

Brian Ussery: 5:10:57 pm
Thanks Barry ;)
Barry Schwartz: 5:11:18 pm
Maile said, the main issue with people using rel canonical is that people noindex the page with the rel canonical :)
Brian Ussery: 5:12:11 pm
Maile: five years ago the solution was to robots.txt duplicates
Barry Schwartz: 5:12:17 pm
Google says, try not to robots.txt, but instead 301 and if you cant 301, then use rel canonical
Barry Schwartz: 5:12:34 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:13:23 pm
Today the best solution is to use rel canonical if you can't 301. When it comes to parameter handling, be sure to use name value pairs...
Brian Ussery: 5:15:52 pm
Marshall asks how close paginated pages have to be to the original for Google to honor. In other words, can you use rel canonical to for pages 2-10?

Maile: was not intended to help numerous pages to rank for one URL...
Brian Ussery: 5:17:34 pm
If paginated content uses "view all" page if it loads well you can put rel canonical on those URLs.

If you don't have a "view all" page 2 isn't a subset so you can't use rel canonical.
Brian Ussery: 5:18:58 pm
VF's recap, if you have an article that is paginated then you can either do a view all or let each page rank.

If it's a shoe site and page 1 is what you want indexed, noindex the supporting pages.
Brian Ussery: 5:21:13 pm
Audience question:

There was a time when Google took top position for definition queries, why did that happen?

VF: define operator


Maile one boxes help users on demand...
Brian Ussery: 5:22:06 pm
VF: the idea behind the one box is to put it at the top.
Barry Schwartz: 5:24:12 pm
Rel canonical will trigger Google to first look to see if Page A and B are similar enough.
Brian Ussery: 5:24:24 pm
Next question: Going back to canonical, dup page canonical URLs aren't spidered?

VF: they should be the same righ?

Maile: several things you said are shady :) What site.

If page B says canonical is A Google crawls B less frequently but if page B has 5 links (which should be on A)
Barry Schwartz: 5:24:24 pm
IF they are similar, then Google will use the rel canonical
Brian Ussery: 5:26:50 pm
Marshall: Feels like Google has relaxed some on this for major content site. Matt Cutts has backed off "near duplicate" approach....

Point is you need to test

Maile: Form the beginning we've said they should be near neighbors and we can crawl. (She is GOING after Marshall)
Barry Schwartz: 5:26:54 pm
Maile said "near" duplicate is not enough, they need to be dups to use the rel conical
Barry Schwartz: 5:27:01 pm
Brian Ussery: 5:30:53 pm
Question: How long does it take to register robots.txt rel canonical or noindex?

Maile: Our crawl team wants to help folks and realizes not every site is perfect. They have a table and a threshold and a bug report has been filed. In some cases sites with high urls may get a note in webmaster tools that says they have a high number of URLs because they do. Nothing is really going to fix this...

(Someone said to ignore this note)
Barry Schwartz: 5:32:36 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:32:59 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:33:03 pm
VF: rel canonical will consolidate links....

VF making Maile get off table and launch into slides. (WHAT no presentations)

VF talks about -99 indent, VF says to Google this looks spammy. Maile recently did a blog post about this topic. Not sure if that is Google blog or
Barry Schwartz: 5:33:20 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:33:31 pm
Maile is going over images
Barry Schwartz: 5:33:48 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:34:18 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:34:32 pm
Maile: What if images are dynamic? Maile showing dynamic image link or header with text (basic image swap) due to swap, you can't really use alt.

Barry Schwartz: 5:34:47 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:35:44 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:36:29 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:37:13 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 5:37:34 pm
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Brian Ussery: 5:37:35 pm
Maile: If you desire anchor text with dynamic image

unfriendly solution: CS with -999px

++Common spam technique++

#topNav h1 {
position absolute;

BUT the GOOD NEWs is that there is a new solution that is friendly. USE @font-face for text...

Again the first method is the old method and could signal spam FONT-FACE is the new method.
Barry Schwartz: 5:37:47 pm
That was Maile's tip...
Brian Ussery: 5:38:17 pm
VF nor Marshall use and someone in audience says not supported by IE7
Barry Schwartz: 5:38:33 pm
IE7 = IE6, I believe
Barry Schwartz: 5:40:55 pm
Maile said display none can be used but the text within the display none "you do not want your important text in that display none" --- interesting...
Brian Ussery: 5:41:36 pm
Maile, lets bring this up with Matt.

Next question, how do you bring this up when it comes to accessiblity as in skip to something...

VF if page is loading Flash file VF uses skip this and go to html

Q: Is it spammy to use "display none"?

Maile: no but dont put valuable text in display none

Q: does google render CSS?

Maile: yes


VF says it's shady :)
Brian Ussery: 5:43:26 pm
WHAT is Barry doing, I lost VF on explaining Barry's situation.

Maile: if you have content you want engines to find, place it in text. Is the best idea.

Barry says comments don't matter :)
Barry Schwartz: 5:45:39 pm
Disqus is a 3rd party commenting system, and the only way to embed it is via AJAX JavaScript
Brian Ussery: 5:46:02 pm
VF: talks about the Onion who said they follow no one.

Q: What signals come from Flash? Is SWFAddress the cause?

Maile: Flash is a tough problem, they're doing better but still not great. She suggests textual content not in Flash.

VF: Bing doesn't crawl FLash at all

Maile: still a work in progress

VF you need to do something if you want it in Bing
Barry Schwartz: 5:46:26 pm
So it doesn't show up for GoogleBot, so what I do is use the Disqus API and print out the comments using CSS in a noscript type of tag, so if you do not have JavaScript it shows the comments
Brian Ussery: 5:47:16 pm
VF Maile you looked at Disney yesterday

Maile does NOT endorse Disney practices for Flash. She was checking out something related to auto previews yesterday and that is different from the question being asked.
Barry Schwartz: 5:49:52 pm
I think I am going to leave soon. Brian may want to stay, but up to him...
Brian Ussery: 5:50:40 pm
VF talking about sites like Yelp with lots of aggrigated info that may not be of the highest quality or even blank in some cases...

Maile: You could block with robots.txt disallow but the best idea is to noindex boilerplate pages. That way you can remove later if you have quality content...

VF asking about crawl allotment implecations

Maile:robots.txt in general is a good idea but maybe not in this case

Brian Ussery: 5:53:41 pm
Q: Say you're a content site and have multiple content pages of aggregated content that is not unique how do you get that indexed?

VF why would anyone want to interact with your site and not the original is what you have to ask?

Marshall: Huffington Post is a good example that NYT deals with all the time.
Brian Ussery: 5:54:28 pm
VF I wrote about this last night after talking about the content farm but HP has brand appeal and as a result gets links...
Brian Ussery: 5:57:29 pm
Q: How do shopping comparison sites rank when they really don't have original content?

Maile: We say create compelling content or service. If content gets better, service needs to advance as well.

VF If lots of folks link then that can impact

MS Be first to market in prod comparisons because prod descriptions aren't unique

Brian Ussery: 6:01:48 pm
VF: On duplicate content when it comes to mobile sites what to do?

Maile: This is a common problem but mobile specific sites can be accessed by Googlebot mobile. She seems to be suggesting returning different content based on user agent.

VF is that why regular pages get indexed in mobile

Maile: yes

VF what about canonical

Maile: only way I can endorse is if very similar

Maile: if mobile site is different only return to mobile Googlebot

VF: has anyone had issues with this

Brian Ussery: 6:02:57 pm
Q: Could you noindex follow different versions?

Maile: why would you want to do this

In cases where it is difficult to do redirect

Maile: I don't want to answer off the top of my head.

Brian Ussery: 6:04:48 pm
FARMER question,

VF not sure this is technical

Maile: if ALGO question, Matt has authority to discuss

Q: Is it ok to use display none to hide...

Maile: Yes as long as some action make visible

Brian Ussery: 6:11:35 pm
VF: Question from office hours, large sites with lots of stuff going on. They can't make changes in phases and can only roll out one server at a time.... (CANT keep up with VF on this question)

Basically is it OK to cloak

Maile: Cloaking is never a good idea. Moving a site is difficult. We have a post, "best practices for moving site". We suggest moving in sections. Vanessa is asking to move more than usual.

Maile asking VF if it is OK to robots.txt disallow

VF well you could but........

Maile, so if old URL wouldn't that go to old URL

VF Load balancing

If url doesn't exist on URL A then push to that server.

MARSHALL SAYS this is where you manage expectations!

VF if load balancing is dynamic, critera could be changed so Googlebot wouldn't go to new servers then you might be ok but Maile doesn't agree.

Round Robin would be an issue and cloaking in some ways...

VF not Googlebot focused

Maile: cloaking is in Googlebot do x then there is non specific Googlebot cloaking
Brian Ussery: 6:13:43 pm
Q: A 301 REDIRECT QUESTION! How long do you leave up the redirect?


Marshall managing 301s forever isn't easy but necessary. We've moved entire parts of NYT movies and understand we have to manage 8 million redirects for ever. If tech doesn't understand don't move forward

Maile says if it's not valuable content 404 it
Brian Ussery: 6:14:16 pm
TBL quote about cool URLs changing
Brian Ussery: 6:16:30 pm
Q: With Caffeine update, we've seen an increase in crawls but we want more what can we do to signal more crawling? As we make changes we'd like to get more frequent updates?

Maile: signals to Googlbot to crawl scheduling indexing signal to recheck.

sitemap for new URLs & indexing signals

more links, fresh, frequent updates

Brian Ussery: 6:17:21 pm
Maile: links and frequency of updates are good ways to help get updates.

Brian Ussery: 6:17:50 pm
Marshall suggests checking out Google Webmaster TOols

VF suggests increasing crawl efficiency....

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