The Google Webmaster Central team hit a home run this week with their latest “Popular Picks” thread — this is where webmasters are invited to fire away with any questions on their minds, and the Google crew picks some of the popular questions to answer. The most recent set of answers has been highlighted on the GWC blog, but a few of the answers deserve a call out here on SBSM.
Maile Ohye was super-generous with her detailed explanation of Google Sitelinks. Use the link to read the full post, but here’s what stood out for me:
In search results, the sitelinks displayed are determined algorithmically based on the user’s query. So, while Webmaster Tools may show 8 sitelinks for your verified site, it’s possible that search results show only a subset (e.g. search results display 4 sitelinks). Furthermore, the sitelinks displayed in search results can vary according to the query (e.g. different combinations of sitelinks for different queries).
In other words, the sitelinks that show in Google’s SERPs are dynamic, and can change depending on the query. That’s good to know.
Image Search Rankings
Evan T. answered a question about what impacts rankings of photos in image search. After addressing the crawlability/availability issue (i.e., making sure Google can reach and index your images), he added this about image search rankings:
“…image rankings and inclusions come from many factors beyond alt text and title tags. Image rankings also consider the ranking of the parent or linking page, meaning that if the parent or linking page does not provide enough information or rank well, then Google may not have enough confidence to serve those images as results to our users.”
In other words, images placed on your strong/authoritative pages should have a better shot at being found in image search. Something to keep in mind if you rely on traffic from image search.
URLs in Redirects
When moving to a new domain, or perhaps when restructuring your site, you’ll need to use 301 redirects to tell Google (and other search engines) that an old page has been replaced by a new page. The old and new URLs are spelled out in your 301 redirect, but one webmaster asked if it matters whether you use absolute or relative URLs. John Mueller answered by saying both are fine, but absolute is better.
I’d really recommend that you use absolute URLs with the full host name because it just makes things clearer. For instance, it might be that your redirect to “/otherpage.htm” was found on both www.domain.com and domain.com. If you additionally redirect to your preferred domain name, it could mean that we (and all other users) have to go through two redirects before ending up on the final one. Using an absolute URL makes this process much faster.
Props to the Google Webmaster Central team for sharing good information like this with webmasters.