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How to get out of Googles supplemental results

January 14th, 2007 · 14 Comments

One of the reasons I started seeing an increase in revenue at the tail end of 2006 was thanks to some work I put in around October time. I’d been lazy with the way I’d put together a few of my sites and, as a result, these sites had been confined to Google’s supplemental index.

If you don’t know what the supplemental index is, a full definition can be found at the Google Webmaster Help Center. Basically if your site ends up in the supplemental index then there is little chance of you appearing in the search results and, therefore, your search engine traffic will be pretty minimal.

I made a few little tweaks on a couple of sites and am now starting to see the benefit. They’re pretty easy fixes and shouldn’t take you too long to implement.

The first thing you need to do is see whether you’ve got a problem with how Google has indexed your site and whether you’ve got a lot of pages in the supplemental index. To do this, open up Google and enter this as your search: site:www.yourdomain.com This will return all of the pages from your site in Googles index.

Google results for www.twentysteps.com

In the example above, the first supplemental result didn’t come until after 180+ results. There are 260 pages indexed for this site in Google so I’m quite happy with that. However, before I tweaked Twenty Steps and a number of my other sites, I was getting supplementals on the first page of results. That’s bad. The sites had only just come out of the Sandbox and I was still no closer to getting any traffic.

So what did I do?

Firstly I ensured that I had unique title tags for each page. I had been lazy previously and made my title tag something like “Site Name – Page Name”. Google sees this as being a bit spammy so I took the site name out of the title altogether and just made the title something relevant to the content and made sure I had one or two keyphrases in there for good measure. As I said in my previous article about tips to improve your search engine ranking aim for 65 characters.

Next I ensured that each page had a unique meta description. Again, I’d been lazy and used the same one across the sites. I rewrote every description across the site making it laser focused on the content, again using keyphrases. It might seem like a lot of effort to write unqiue descriptions for 100 pages but it will certainly pay dividends in the end.

Next were meta keywords. I didn’t spend too much time on these as Google don’t seem to pay too much attention to them but I figured since I was doing all this hard work that I might as well include them. Laser focused keywords relating to the page content and not, as I’d done previously, site content.

I trimmed down the actual URLs I’d been using to make them more streamlined whilst still retaining keywords in the URL. Google seems to see long hyphenated URLs as being spammy so keep the URL short and punchy but still retain your keywords.

Some other things which can place you in the supplemental results are having orphaned pages, duplicate content and deep linked pages. Personally this wasn’t an issue for me but it’s something to consider with your own site. In a lot of ways it makes sense to ensure that all of your pages are linked and avoid going any deeper than two pages deep.

With this site, and a couple of my other WordPress sites, I took out all of the META tags. This seems to have worked a treat. I also rearranged the way the title tag works so that the page title comes first followed by the site name. I’m pretty sure there are some WP plugins out there which will help create unique META data. I may well have a look at them and give them a whirl but in the meanwhile, I’ve ditched the lot.

It took a lot of hard work to come up with unique descriptions, tags and such like but I’m starting to see the results. What’s the point of sitting in the Sandbox for 6 months only to then sit in the supplemental index?

Tech Tags : , , , , , , ,

Tags: Search Marketing

14 responses so far ↓

  • Mike // Jan 21, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    For a more detailed description of what the supplemental index is, factors that affect whether you appear in it and more in depth tips on how to avoid ending up there, have a look at the article on SEO4Fun entitled Supplemental Listings – How To Avoid Them.

    It’s a long read and goes into great detail on some of the points but there are some very good examples in there.

    Thanks to Marc Hil Macalua for the tip off.

  • Blog Bloke // Jan 28, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Good stuff Mike. Keep up the good work.

    Sorry to hear about your ‘real world’ problems. Don’t I know it :-)

    See you in the movies!

    …BB

  • Mike // Jan 30, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Cheers BB. Things will improve over the next few weeks once I’m back on a film set 😀

  • Dave Dugdale // Jun 21, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Getting pages out of supplemental can be hard. You only have enough link juice to spread around your site – so the only other way is to get more links to the deep pages of your site.

  • Mike // Jun 21, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    You’re right, Dave. Getting out of the supplemental can be a real bitch but if you’re smart in the way you structure your site, you can cut a lot of the problems off before they begin.

    Sadly this knowledge comes from the pain of being stuck in the supps but it can be remedied by being smarter with the way you put your site together and, as you say, deep linking is one of those ways.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • Dave Dugdale // Jul 17, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Mike,

    It appears that Google is now starting to get away from the supplemental index, either that or I have most of my pages out of supplemental.

  • Mike // Jul 18, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I’m sure that I read somewhere that Matt Cutts had suggested that supplementals were being scaled back. I just wish I could remember where I saw it.

    It doesn’t help that Big G in their infinite wisdom have made it very difficult for site owners to find their supplemental results by removing the in built queries… 👿

  • David Besnette // Dec 9, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    I am a better writer than a programmer, which seems to be working out to my advantage in terms of getting pages out of supplemental. Seems like the pages on my site (s) that I have really taken the time to write some good information that was well researched and completely un-spammy get out of supplemental relatively quickly.
    Thankfully I took a typing class way back in junior high school!

  • Mike // Dec 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Glad to hear that you’re managing to avoid falling into the supp’s, David. Whilst writing style isn’t necessarily a major part of how G ranks a site, it’s pretty clear that taking the time to craft a well written page does can a difference. Unique copy that isn’t crammed with keywords will always rate well.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :)

  • Senior T // Nov 10, 2008 at 5:05 am

    This past year, I had a site in the Google penalty (worse than just supplemental) so the entire site was out of the index. I did all the stuff you mentioned and then used the testing tool at validator.w3.org/ to make sure every page was squeaky clean. I also removed some duplicate pages. I am not sure what really fixed it but I submitted a re-inclusion request and got it. Now it gets Google traffic.

  • Mike // Nov 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Glad to hear my tips worked out for you :)

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