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Inside Google Sitemaps: Live in our hometown

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Live in our hometown

We had a great time at Search Engine Watch Live Seattle last week, answering questions and getting feedback. We even got to meet one of our Google Group members! We wanted to share some of the questions we answered for those who couldn't be there.

When I do a link: search, the results don't include all the links to my site. How can I tell you about the other links?
A search using the link: operator returns only a sampling of pages that link to a site. It doesn't include the full list we know about. We find links to your site through our regular crawling mechanisms, so there's no need to tell us separately. Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links.

Natural links are links to your site that develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors. Unnatural links are links to your site placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines. Some of these types of links are covered in our webmaster guidelines:

  • Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
  • Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines.

In general, linking to web spammers and "bad neighborhoods" can harm your site's indexing and ranking. And while links from these sites won't harm your site, they won't help your indexing or ranking. Only natural links add value and are helpful for indexing and ranking your site.

My site participates in an affiliate program. What tips can you provide?
Google's goal is to provide relevant and useful results to searchers. Make sure that your site provides unique content that adds value beyond an affiliate link or the content provided as part of the program. We talk about this in our webmaster guidelines as well:

  • Avoid "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
  • If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

Look at your site and determine what you can offer that will make searchers want to visit and what can distinguish it from other sites in the same affiliate program. And while we expanded on the information in our guidelines specifically because so many people asked us about their affiliate sites, this information is true for all sites. If there's no added value to users, then it's unlikely that search engines will find added value either.

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