18th September 2007

What would JLH do

posted in Google |

David Naylor posed an interesting question, ” What would I do if I were Google?” To which I quickly and without much thought responded:

1. Stop preaching and start helping/answering questions/communicating.
2. Disable the worthless link: command.
3. Show supplemental pages in webmaster’s central
4. Update statistics every 5 years or so in webmaster’s central.
5. Give up on the nofollow disaster they’ve created and let people get back to making sites for people and not machines.

6. Update their webmaster’s blog more than quarterly.

Adam Lasnik took some time out of his weekend to respond to my comment with his own thoughts on the subject.

Okay, JLH, I’ll bite (again :P)

> 1. Stop preaching and start helping/answering questions/communicating.

Like a Help Center in 18 languages? Dozens of Googlers at conferences around the world? Dozens of Googler Posts a month in U2U groups in multiple languages? (and counting John Mueller, we’re now talking a lot more posts :D)

> 2. Disable the worthless link: command.

Why? So competitors can’t get a sampling of your backlinks? Don’t be greedy! :)

> 3. Show supplemental pages in webmaster’s central

I don’t see this as likely, but I expect we’ll be offering more tools that help webmasters get at the root of issues rather than fumbling along trying to make incorrect assumptions just based upon what index a document happens to be placed in. I won’t even mention that *all* the other major search engines have gone on record as noting they have multiple distinct indexes, and yet I haven’t seem people clamoring for tags in that context.

> 4. Update statistics every 5 years or so in webmaster’s central.

I expect updates in Webmaster Tools will be more frequent.

> 5. Give up on the nofollow disaster they’ve created and let people get back to making sites for people and not machines.

Should we also give up on robots.txt, too, since that’s for machines rather than people, right? I expect nofollow will be used with increasing precision and fairness; e.g., expiring nofollows for trusted contributors.

> 6. Update their webmaster’s blog more than quarterly.

8 posts in the last month… and that’s not counting our German or Chinese webmaster blogs, either. Methinks you have a strange conception of quarterly ;).

I thought I’d respond here instead of Dave’s site, because, well I can take my time. Plus since he nofollows his comments like Google wants, it will show up as a one-way link to him, and that’s got to far outweigh anything I could add to his blog post.

First up, I’m not quite sure what to make of Adam’s opening volley, “Okay, JLH, I’ll bite (again :P).” The ‘I’ll bite’ implies some sort of adversarial relationship between us and ‘again’ indicates that this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten under his skin. If this is true, I’d say that’s sad, because as hard as it is to believe we are on the same team. Oh sure, people don’t fawn over my every comment, but I’d like to think I am doing as much as my limited capabilities will allow to help webmaster’s construct their sites better for Google’s sake. I’d imagine that a few of the thousands of post’s I’ve made have helped a person or two. It’s actually not easy work, the hardest part is figuring out who to try to help along and who is just a two-bit-spammer looking to get their MFA site back in the index. I’m sure after a while he thinks I am working against Google as the only thing he probably sees is the negative postings, but believe me when I my rants are in the hope of improving things, but I digress. Let’s get to his list.

  1. This may be more a matter of my poor communication skills than any real conflict. If you take my original statement and add “more” to the end of it, it would have been closer to my real meaning. I don’t want to sound like I am completely dissing their efforts so far, they’ve been admirable. The new FAQ are great and the continued webmaster guidelines updates are welcome. I do take issue with Google’s (or maybe just Adam’s) assessment that the conferences attending is meant for anyone but the very very small minority of people that actually go to them. Some even have a moratorium that the information cannot be shared. Conferences are not meant or designed to be ways to disseminate information to the masses but rather to the paying attendees. Sure a few people blog about them, but really even that reaches a very small audience when compared to the millions and millions of site owners out there. When I talk about communication with webmasters, I am speaking about the real salt-of-the-earth types who own and maintain one site, their own. The professional bloggers, search engine watchers, and big-time SEO’s probably already got your ear anyway. I have noticed that Google has changed the emphasis on promoting the GWHG from being an official Google help group to a community of like minded webmasters. It will be the death of the group by the way, but that’s another story. The group averages eight to nine thousand posts a month, if Adam thinks that “dozens” of Googler responses is the only effort they need to put forth, then I am truly disappointed. I would have thought they were working on improving that, but I was mistaken, and saddened. I am trying to inspire Google to help get the word out to the other 99.9999% of site owners that don’t go to conferences or have Adam’s ear.
  2. Regarding the link: command, I just think it’s a disservice to the brand and quality that Google has worked many years to develop. You, I, and Adam know why it’s been crippled but the average person (remember him/her? The one that can’t afford to go to your conferences) is looking for information on their site and know of all the links that are out there and then see that Google can’t find them. If for some reason they see the need to keep the crippled version live they should really add a disclaimer saying that it is intentionally broken, if for no other reason for brand protection. “You want to organize the worlds information, but yet from the outside you cannot even return accurate results” is the impression from the outside. I invite anyone doubting this to spend a few hours combing through the posts at the GWHG and despite being clearly mentioned in the FAQ section it is still a concern. Once again, fixing this would be to Google’s benefit, not John’s.
  3. Show supplemental results or don’t show them. My concerns are not with the tag itself, as I think that caused more trouble than its worth. Again, I am looking out for the webmaster not the professional. I’d love it if people were able to diagnose crawling and ranking issues based on site architecture. The supplemental tag gave us at least some feedback, but if you’ve got plans for better tools, I’m willing to wait. I won’t even mention that the subject of the original post was what you would do if you were Google, not if you were the other search engines. Oh wait, I did mention it, oops.
  4. More frequent updates would make the information their usable, right now it just satisfies curiosity at best. Thank you for the update.
  5. Sure robots.txt is for machines, then again so is HTML as I have yet to see any work without one. What I was referring to was the concept of having the webmaster community being the ones to judge which links are relative or not. Not only requiring them to judge, but also penalizing for not judging correctly, in the case of paid links. If Google really thinks that the webmasters are capable of adding nofollow where appropriate and not using it were inappropriate then why don’t they start ranking pages based on the keyword meta tag then? Since they’ve got so much trust in millions of site owners knowing the correct application of the nofollow attribute then they should also trust the webmasters ability to know what his/her site is about. Google has made billions on being able to rank web pages, invest some of that into figuring out which links are good and which ones are not. AGAIN, spend a little time in GWHG looking at real sites, not just talking to the likes of Danny Sullivan and other search rockstars. There are people royally screwing up their sites with the misguided use of nofollow and I have yet to see any proactive approach to helping those people.
  6. In all fairness, two of those eight blog posts were put up after my comment, and only three so far this month, and six all of August. It would be great if some of these dozens of Googlers would write down their speeches at conferences and post them online, or even if you all took turns putting out a post a day. That way it would only come around to you once every couple weeks. There are thousands of blogs devoted to Google that find plenty to write about, I’d think you all in the midst of it could think of something meaningful to say at least once a day. Then again if you are satisfied with what I would consider mediocre communications then I don’t have a chance of convincing you other wise. You can’t fix something that you don’t recognize is broken.

So there it is, my response. Harsh? yes, but if you look at it from an honest point of view I am only concerned with these issues because I think if they were addressed the quality of the index, quality of sites, and thus Google would improve. If that’s adversarial inferring bait to which Adam needs to bite, I’m sorry. Since we are not actually engaged in a discussion here, I know how writing can turn quickly from responding to something to defending yourself, I do it all the time.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 at 3:14 am and is filed under Google. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. All comments are subject to my NoFollow policy. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 4 responses to “What would JLH do”

Why not let me know what you think by adding your own comment! All the cool kids are doing it.

  1. 1 MyAvatars 0.2 On September 19th, 2007, John Honeck "JLH" said:

    That’s what I am talking about!


    It’s not brain science or rocket surgery but it’s useful, and it’s from GOOGLE.

  2. 2 MyAvatars 0.2 On September 21st, 2007, Sasch Mayer said:

    An extremely well made series of points, especially about the general ignorance of 99% of site owners out there and the dissemination of information.

    Unless you get a basic knowledge of standards/guidelines/whatever into the grass-roots of the webmaster community, you’re forever going to fighting an uphill battle where site structure, nofollow tags, guidelines and whatnot are concerned [as evidenced by the many repetitive posts in GWHG].

    Just out of interest, how many bucket hats were you wearing when you wrote this? ;-)

  3. 3 MyAvatars 0.2 On September 21st, 2007, John Honeck "JLH" said:

    Thanks Sasch, I agree completely of course. Education of the masses does not take place by teaching the scholars, they have their own agendas, you need to get to the people directly.

    Whenever I write about Adam I always wear the appropriate gear, dressing up like a pirate when talking about Matt Cutts is kind of weird, but you have to do what you have to do.

  4. 4 MyAvatars 0.2 On March 28th, 2008, Adam Moro said:

    I can’t remember how I ended up on such an old post but I just want to add that it’s been over six months and still no response from Lasnik. I know it’s obvious he’s not going to respond but wow. I’d say you stumped him.

    Anyway, seen any improvements yet?

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