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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yahoo Asks You to Do Their Work (Again)

Niraj Sanghvi is 24 years old, lives in Chicago and works as internal consultant at an insurance compancy. In his spare time he likes to blog at and learn about web languages and technologies.

Remember a few months ago when Yahoo introduced the “nocontent” syntax to let you flag the parts of your page that were navigation and should not get indexed?

Well, now they want you to help them by identifying when your pages are dynamic and which dynamic parameters they should ignore to prevent duplication. So you tell them which parameters may appear in your URL that will not affect the content of the page, and they will rewrite your URL when indexing to ignore/remove the parameter.

Yahoo’s making it sound like a huge gift to site owners:

Today comes a new dawn for search engines with the first-ever Beta launch of ’Dynamic URL Rewriting’ in Site Explorer. The new feature provides the ability for site owners to alert Yahoo! of the dynamic parameters in URLs that they’d like Yahoo! to ignore, which we’ll then automatically rewrite accordingly. Try this out for all the cases where you’d want to use parameters in your URLs that don’t affect the content of your page, but that have other important uses.

But really it’s just another gimmick to get site owners to do some work for them. As we’ve talked about on these forums before, site owners should not be responsible for designing webpages for search engines. They’re making them for users. While something like nofollow might make sense to prevent spam on the website end, things like discovery of navigation and duplicate content generated by optional parameters are something that a search engine should be able to deduce on its own. There’s no reason to go burdening a site owner with a requirement (especially one that is not standard across the search engines) to provide additional information or clarification when its something that can be figured out on the search engine end, even if it requires a bit of extra work.

Basically, Yahoo, don’t introduce parameters and processes for site owners to follow if:

a) it can be avoided and you can figure it out without the site owner’s involvement
b) it’s not a standard across search engines like noindex, nofollow, etc.


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