What Happened To My /* Search Query?
Before this change, one of the tools still available to SEO practitioners to give an indication of the depth of site indexing was to add /* to the end on a site: search query.
Thus you would use
site:andybeard.eu/ – this would return the total pages supposedly indexed
site:andybeard.eu/* – this would return the number of pages in the primary index
By subtracting one from the other, you get some indication of the number of pages that might be in the supplemental results.
The numbers changed on a daily basis, and by datacenter, and were a little unpredictable, but it at least gave some indication.
Typically Seo Book and Michael Gray had very deep index penetration, with above 90% of their pages in the primary index as indicated by /*
Many of the higher output SEO blogs faired far worse, with sometimes less than 50% primary index penetration, but far more total pages in the primary index.
Site structure makes a huge difference – if you have lots of duplicate content pages such as extensive use of tagging, you might end up with a fair number of those pages in the Supplemental Index because they do not receive a huge amount of links from external sources, and many receive a very small percentage of internal linking.
They would however still rank well for long tail search queries because of the different title tag, and combinations of content presented.
A wider net sometimes has bigger holes…
/* Now Returns Significantly Fewer Results
SEO Book now returns less than 50% of pages with /*
Michael manages 50%
SEOmoz has less than 20%
Search Engine Land seems to be fairing well with close to 75%, actually more than previously (I seem to remember less than 50%)
Search Engine Journal also manages close to 75%, again more than previously (again it was less than 50%)
I have dropped down to around 30% what was previously 85%, though my site structure isn’t quite the same as I had it before WordPress 2.3.1 (I still need to get some plugins modified)
Site structure might have had as much as a 10 or 20% difference, but not more.
I still see very little difference in Search traffic or positioning
I Don’t Know What It Means…
- It could be some datacenter issues that mean that only a small percentage of sites have so far been updated
- I am currently discounting this being some kind of penalty
- Rather than reducing the size of the supplemental index, Google might now be storing the majority of pages in Supplemental, and effectively have a “super primary” index instead.
- The tool could just be broken or set to give random results
I can understand the removal of supplemental results from the primary SERPs, but /* was actually quite useful. If supplemental results have disappeared, you would expect it to return the same number of pages as the search query without /*
Why do we have a useful tool fubarred?