Has your mother created a Google Custom Search Engine yet?
Yes, I’m being facetious. But I want to make a point. Custom Search Engines are drop-dead easy to create. According to Google’s new Custom Search Blog, “tens of thousands of people have already started contributing”. The volume of posts on the Google Co-op Group, which I monitor and contribute to daily (handle = “greyhound”) is high and growing. The program looks like it’s off to a roaring start. But amid all this success, lies a hidden problem that is baffling many new CSE users. We’ll call it the “Supplemental Results Syndrome”, and if it bites you, it can be fatal to your CSE.
The ease of creating CSEs belies the tremendously powerful framework upon which they sit. Because they’re so easy, many people who might have stayed away from advanced search engine technology are flocking to it. And herewith the problem: when you’re literally building your own search engine, there are going to be some things that are a little bit harder than filling out forms.
Today, I want to describe the problem that smacks sufferers of Supplemental Results Syndrome (SrS) right in the face, and how you can diagnose it. (Over the next few days, we’ll provide some recommendations about how to cure this devastating web site illness). To SrS sufferers, Custom Search Engines are broken. “Why don’t I see my site when I do a search on my custom search engine?”, they cry. “I can see it when I search at google.com, but not in my own search engine!” Why not? The answer is simple and complex. The simple answer is that their site is locked up in Google’s supplemental index and… drum roll… Google Custom Search Engines do not include results from the supplemental index.
Let’s talk more about the supplemental index. Before CSEs, the supplemental index was transparent to most people. Do a search on some unique term that turns up a page on your site, and there — in glorious color for all to behold — is your page nestled in the Search Engine Results Page. But look closer at those results. If the words “Supplemental Result” appears next to your URL, then I’m sorry to say it, but this page is afflicted, and it ain’t gonna make it into anyone’s CSE, no way, no how.
Sadly, many low traffic, niche web sites — run by some of the very people who are so attracted to CSEs in the first place — have much or all of their site in the supplemental index. Why? Reasons vary, but far and away the biggest cause of SrS is lack of quality inbound links. Put simply, Google maintains two indexes: the “main” index, where all the big boys live, and where you definitely want to be, is link party central. If you’re in the main index, it’s because you’ve got lots of inbound links, you’ve probably got some PageRank, and life is good. If you’re in the supplemental index, you’re a world wide web wallflower. (Sticking with the high school dance analogy) not enough people know you (link to you), and you aren’t one of Google’s favorite dance partners (you’re not showing up in a lot of searches, so you’re not getting the level of search engine driven traffic that you want).
We’ll wrap up today’s post by showing you the definitive diagnostic test for SrS. Go to google.com and search on “site:yourdomain.com” (no quotes). Examine the results. If many/most of your pages display “Supplemental Result” next to the URL, you’re an SrS sufferer, and we need to prescribe some Search Engine Optimization medicine to make your site well. Remember, if you’ve got SrS, CSEs are not the cure — they will only frustrate you. The good news is that once you discover you have SrS, perhaps by accident when you built your first baffling CSE, you’ve taken the first step towards recovery (that is, knowing you have a problem!). And when you get your web site all healthy, you can build a CSE that even your mother will be proud of.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will take you through the steps needed to cure SrS once and for all.