How to: Escape Google’s Supplemental Index

Unfortunately, the Google Sandbox now has two levels. Yes, you still need a lot of trust to get your pages ranking. But before you start worrying about that, you need to worry about getting your pages indexed in the first place.

Because, of course, you’re not really indexed if most of your pages have gone supplemental!

What happened? Well apparently the Google Indexer got tired of her nickname “Loose Louise”, she’s born again and now very choosy thankyouverymuch about who she lets enter. Rumor has it she’s only interested in trusted sites that are after a whitehat, long term commitment.

“What exactly is that supplemental index again?”

I won’t parrot the quasi-official Google answer here. (In fact, I can promise that I will never give you the “official Google answer” on Tropical SEO.) Take your pick:

  • The Google Supplemental index is the Siberian work camp for web pages.
  • The Google Supplemental index is to the normal index, as Scoreboard Media is to Tropical SEO.
  • The Google Supplemental index is where they put web pages with little trust.
  • The Google Supplemental index is where they put web pages that aren’t going to rank for anything important.

Got it? Cool.

Now, assuming your site is supplemental, here are five tips to get it out of Supplemental Hell.

1. Give each page a unique title.
This is so basic it kills me but sometimes people still aren’t doing it. There is absolutely no reason not to do this, as a unique title also helps SEO-wise, it helps accessibility-wise, gets higher clickthroughs in the SERPs, etc.

2. Give each page a unique META DESCRIPTION. Remember when we all thought META tags were dead? Well, Google’s gotten funny about that. Let’s not waste time wondering why. Just give every page a unique META DESCRIPTION, even if it just matches the title tag.

3. Make sure each page has a good amount of unique content. This problem can rear its ugly head in a few different ways. Most commonly, a particular piece of content is being served at multiple URLs. This is usually a CMS or shopping cart issue, and the fix will be unique to whatever system you use. Also pretty common is the existence of very thin pages (a lot of large, hollow/empty web directories have this problem). My rule of thumb (and it’s not authoritative, just what I go by), is that a page should have at least 100 words of unique content at a minimum.

4. Get some more trusted links. Link building is all about trust these days. A few links from older, already-ranking domains will do wonders towards convincing Google a newer site deserves to be trusted. I also like to get a few higher-PageRank links in there (sitewide? even better). Yes, I know that tip is going to bring out the haters (insert “PageRank is dead!” comment here). But it appears that “overall link weight” seems to matter again in Google, if not in terms of rankings, at least in terms of indexing.

5. Get some links to internal pages. This is all about convincing Google your site doesn’t have “hollow shell syndrome”–when a site has, say, 20 pages, and a few dozen backlinks, but 100% of those backlinks are pointing to the homepage. Most often, the homepage of the site is in the normal index but all of the internal pages have gone supplemental. I usually go “brute force” at one internal page and get 3 or 4 links to it (giving this one internal page so much link weight that Google pretty much has to index it); normally, GoogleBot revisits the entire site and re-crawls and indexes the other internal pages, too (up to a point: if the site has hundreds or thousands of pages, you’ll need to rinse+repeat this a few times).

That about covers it. Usually the bottleneck & hardest part is building the trusted links: for help with that, see my link baiting guide.

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16 comments ↓

#1 scoreboard on 02.11.07 at 11:15 pm

Not cool, man. Not. Cool.

#2 graywolf on 02.12.07 at 6:32 am

who would have thought we would have seen Aristolean syllogisms here at tropical seo ;-)

#3 billhartzer on 02.12.07 at 3:37 pm

A great post, as always…turns out that when I blogified my old site that was sitting around forever it went supplemental…and I actually had to use this stuff to get it all out! Cheers!

#4 Oliver Tani on 02.12.07 at 4:28 pm

Truly solid post. We’ve probably all lived and breathed each one of these at one point or another. On a personal note, I’ve had quite a few ecommerce sites that were plagued with session IDs and other horrific appendages to the URLs that are more than 4 years old or so that got supplemental’d as they were all seen as the same page. Ended up rewriting everything into clean URLs and removed any instance of the content being duplicated on another URL and was doing just dandy after a little bit of time.

Again, excellent post. :)

#5 SEOHolicc on 02.12.07 at 6:10 pm

This is a great article. These are the exact things that I have done for clients that are in supplemental results and I have found that it works every time. A lot of times with new clients, you will see that if you check their site in supplemental results most of the urls have the same titles and/or descriptions, so it is obvious what needs to be changed.

#6 mincus on 02.12.07 at 6:50 pm

The biggest reason that I see sites end up in the supplemental index for, is by having their content so far down in the HTML file that Google gives up trying to see if its unique.

If you have the same header, sidebar, JS, ADs, etc on every page before your content, a unique title won’t save you from the supplemental index.

Make sure that the content of your page is as close as possible to the top of your file in addition to these tips and you’ll be great.

#7 mark on 02.14.07 at 7:59 am

>> mincus, that is the strength of the CSS design. Using CSS positioning you can move your header, sidebar / navigation toward the bottom and have your content at the very top; code wise speaking.

mark

#8 rajdash on 02.20.07 at 11:05 pm

Someone at godaddy told me last week that Google patented a new algorithm last summer relating to ranking. The long and short of it, he said, is that if you want to rank as a serious publisher, register all of your domains for at least 5 years. (Forgive me if this is common knowledge. I’m new to learning SEO and haven’t come across that bit.)

#9 c4content on 02.21.07 at 5:53 am

thanks a lot - but what is to be done when my blog that has all the pages supplemented!

I have searched in copyscape - but no duplicate content (and I am sure about that - myself) was found!

The posts are long toooo!

Only reason may be that I have very few back links - I never looked for that - I wanted to see, how far one can go without artificially looking for links!

Can you please suggest me anything!

#10 swaptip on 02.22.07 at 9:00 pm

thanks for the great post. I’m sure my humble blog’s been supplementaled, and I’m going mental. I’ll definitely try your suggestions.

#11 webmelon media on 04.23.07 at 10:57 pm

I am in the process of conducting some experiments based on the information provided in this blog.

See http://www.webmelon.com.au/viewarticle.php?postid=884

Thanks and will post any results

#12 webmelon media on 04.23.07 at 10:58 pm

Great article - thanks for the advice

#13 xooMan on 06.19.07 at 8:47 pm

Sorry for double posting (please remove my previous comment: I didn’t take into account that all tags are stripped).

Well, I wonder if pages that have title like [BRANDNAME] | [ACTUAL TITLE] will end up in Supplemental? Has anyone had experience with this?

#14 angrykeyboarder on 08.09.07 at 8:18 am

In reference to point #2:

I couldn’t help but notice that the only META tags on this page are:

and

#15 jackyruth on 08.20.07 at 4:18 am

Ok as you say i will keep a unique title,keywords and description and then my site also escapes from supplemental results.I have a query For example after i get all my urls from the supplemental index by putting unique title,description and keywords after a period of 10 days or so somebody uses a tool like webceo and find out my title is useful. He decides to change his title to my own title, what will happen to my web url’s ,Will my url’s again come back to supplemental results?

#16 zeusukr on 11.08.07 at 7:26 am

Thanks. I find this information very useful. Especially Thanks for “5. Get some links to internal pages”.