Forbes has an article about the Google supplemental index, and as usual for a major publication, gets many facts about Google wrong, despite Andy Greenberg interviewing Aaron Wall, Jim Boykin and Michael Gray.
To summarize the article, Andy interviews several e-commerce website owners who hired shady SEO firms and now find traffic to their site has plummeted. These site owners place the blame on a myriad of things, including Google’s supplemental index.
Don’t anger the Google gods. He sold $3 million dollars worth of jewelry a year. Then, he says, Google turned its back on Skyfacet.com, condemning the site to Internet obscurity.
In retrospect, Sanar thinks he can trace his problem to a search marketing consultant he had paid $35,000 to improve Skyfacet’s Google rankings. He now believes the consultant mistakenly replicated content on many of the site’s pages, making them look like duplicate–that is, spam–content. But even after he reversed the consultant’s changes, he couldn’t get Skyfacet’s pages out of Google Hell, where they remain today.
35 grand on SEO – first that is a fair chunk of change for an SEO, and it’s hard to tell what was done.
- All pages have titles that are unique and fairly well written. the diamonds page
- www.skyfacet .com/diamonds.php has a gray PR bar – definitely a bad sign
- Google backlink search reveals 4 links, ouch this hurts
- 279 cached pages and quite a few of them are supplemental
- 184 backlinks in Yahoo site explorer. Some of the links are on unrelated sites but nothing too spectacularly bad.
- diamondengagementringnews.info – fairly sketchy and definitely not a site I would want to be linked with. It’s a .info, registered in Malang, has regurgitated keyword stuffed content, and sends off more link farm signals than Charlottes Web
- www.skyscent.com – ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. This was likely a mirrored domain name that carried duplicate or unwanted content.
The Forbes article says this site has removed potentially offending content, and this seems to be the case. However, suppmental results, or “supplemental hell” as Andy calls them are not necessarily bad.
Google’s original stated purpose for their Supplemental Index is to augment the results for obscure queries. So if you are searching for a very particular thing, you may see supplemental results. For a page (URL) that goes 404 or the domain expires, Google keeps a copy of the very last version of the page that they saw, as a Supplemental Result and show it in the index when the number of other pages returned is low. The cached copy can be quite old. More on WMW.
From Matt Cutts:
As a reminder, supplemental results aren’t something to be afraid of; I’ve got pages from my site in the supplemental results, for example. A complete software rewrite of the infrastructure for supplemental results launched in Summer o’ 2005, and the supplemental results continue to get fresher. Having urls in the supplemental results doesn’t mean that you have some sort of penalty at all; the main determinant of whether a url is in our main web index or in the supplemental index is PageRank. If you used to have pages in our main web index and now they’re in the supplemental results, a good hypothesis is that we might not be counting links to your pages with the same weight as we have in the past. The approach I’d recommend in that case is to use solid white-hat SEO to get high-quality links (e.g. editorially given by other sites on the basis of merit).
So in laymans terms, here is a possible scenerio: You hire a shady linkbuilder to beg/borrow/steal thousands of links of questionable character. These inlinks are evenly distributed to all your site pages. The first few months, everything is hunky dory, and it looks like 35k well spent. Then Google realizes these links are a sham, so all your previously high ranking internal pages now have no links pointing to them. With no backlinks, all your internal site pages go supplental. Not a wise long term investment of 35k.
Matt Cutts also directly responded to this post here, reiterating the fact that the supplental index really isn’t a hell, at least not as Dante would describe it. WebProNews, Derek, Geary, Selaplana, Internet Marketing de, & Andy Beal have their own outtakes.