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Aidan Rogers
SEO - doin it for the lolz
SEO - doin it for the lolz

Aidan's posts

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The Heroic Story of my City of Birth
Two siblings of my mother fought in the Warsaw Uprising

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Why you should never use the number of search results reported by Google for serious activities

The chart that I have attached to this post shows the current results of an on-going experiment about de-indexing resources. I had about 30,000 unimportant resources in a web site and I 410ed them, to see how Google would react to the big change.

The expected results were that the quantity of those resources would decrease over time and in order to monitor this quantity I have used two of the most less reliable tools that you can think of: the "site:" search operator and the number of results reported by Google.

Now, there is an extremely good reason why the number of results reported by Google, either for a "site:" query or for any other kind of queries, should never be used for SEO reasons in a serious way. For example you don't want to rely on these numbers for calculating "query competition" indexes. The reason is that that feature is not actually a counter. It simply doesn't count the resources that are listed in the SERP. It's a completely different beast.

The number on resources reported by Google is usually an estimation so crazily raw that anyone would call the restaurant maître to ask for this steak to be cooked more. This estimation is so bad that it will mislead you and, more importantly, it would negatively affect the behavior of any formula that would rely on it.

There are several well-known examples and proofs about how unreliable that number is. For example, many SEOs have observer that the number of results reported in the first SERP page changes if you go to the second, third or last page of results. Even Matt Cutts has addressed this issue in the following video:
Why might the estimated number of results change when going from page 1 to page 2?

In the chart that I'm sharing with you, the reported number of "Results C" is about 4,000, at the moment, but if you move towards the last pages of results, you get a count of just 90 results. So, we're talking about a difference of almost two orders of magnitude between what's reported in the first page and what's reported in the last one!

The chart also shows a common issue of any Google query: results change also according to the datacenter that replies to the user request. That's why you see deep trough in all those lines: datacenters are never perfectly synchronized and you can get very different numbers even for queries submitted within the same day.

Another usual phenomenon is that in some cases, the number of results reported for a specific directory of a website can be higher than the number of results reported for the entire site. So, the whole thing is reportedly smaller than one of its pieces.

You would think that these discrepancies and excessive estimations are the effects of a bug, but that's not the case. The reason is, again, that the feature we are talking about has never been designed to be a counter and, more importantly, it has not been designed to provide useful, actionable information to webmasters or SEOs.

A way more precise tool to know the number of indexed resources of a website is the one provided by Google Webmaster Tools, but it's updated very slowly and it only shows the quantity of indexed results of the entire website; if you want to monitor how many resources have been indexed in specific directories, you can't.

All these considerations lead us to the final conclusion of this post: the chart that I'm sharing is mostly useless, because the data upon which it is based is practically bogus. You can use it to monitor a trend over time but the actual numbers are almost meaningless.

(after my test is over I'll also share with you what I learned about the mass 410'd of those results)


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RIP Google Authorship. Interesting - rel=publisher still alive and kicking. Personalized content from circles will still show.
I’ve been involved since we first started testing authorship markup and displaying it in search results. We've gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we've tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we've also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we've made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results. 

(If you’re curious -- in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)

On a personal note, it's been fun and interesting travelling the road of authorship with all of you. There have been weird quirks, bugs, some spam to fight, but the most rewarding thing has been (and will continue to be) interacting with webmasters themselves. We realize authorship wasn't always easy to implement, and we greatly appreciate the effort you put into continually improving your sites for your users.  Thank you!

Going forward, we're strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we'll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.

It’s also worth mentioning that Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they’re relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features.

As always, we’ll keep expanding and improving the set of free tools we provide to make it easier for you to optimize your sites. Thank you again, and please keep the feedback coming.

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Whole thing worth a watch. #google  

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A tiny chip implanted under a woman's skin can deliver hormonal birth control for up to 16 years and is entering pre-clinical trials next year: 
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