Google Moderator Beta: Ask a Google Engineer
A few days ago, I noticed that Zurich-based Googler John Mueller posted a Twitter link to Google’s new Moderator application and invited everyone to ask Google engineers, such as Matt Cutts, questions. I asked Matt to bring me some frozen yogurt from the Google cafe. As Google Moderator takes advantage of the wisdom of crowds, my question soon plummeted to last place as apparently I’m the only one interested in my need for icy treats and everyone else (er, at least 86 people) voted that they didn’t like my question. (I don’t mind being voted down; I just wish I at least had some frozen yogurt!)
Matt blogged about this tool, explaining that it has been available internally at Google for a while and is a great way to prioritize questions.
If only it were searchable
You can see that Google is indexing what’s in the noscript tag by checking out the search result:
As a sidenote on how ensuring your site is search-friendly can help usability, note that these issues also keep the back button from working in the browser, so if you read an answer, you can’t easily get back to the list of questions.
(The site has other, more minor, search issues, such as that the logo doesn’t link to the home page and there’s no meta description, but really, fixing those issues would be like using a thimble to bail out a sinking boat with a hole the size of a bowling ball in the bottom of it.)
Go ahead, ask me a question
I started a question series to test out the system, and I will answer the questions that are voted to the top, but I’m likely to answer them here (and post links to the answers there) because of that er, minor indexing issue. Feel free to ask a question there and test things out yourself.
Answering questions to Matt
I’m not Matt, nor do I play him on TV, but I did see a few questions to him that I thought I’d steal away to answer. (Although he has answered quite a few already himself!)
Q: What’s the best way to get a count of indexed pages in Google? Last I checked, Webmaster Tools just links to the standard “site:” operator. Various query tricks have had different levels of success in the past, but none have been reliable. (Nick, Chicago)
I love this question because I get to talk up Google Webmaster Central. A reliable count does indeed exist! Simply create an XML Sitemap that includes a comprehensive and accurate list of the pages you would like indexed. Alternately, you could create several Sitemaps, each with a different set of pages you want to track. If you want to track more than 50,000 URLs, simply add multiple Sitemaps to one Sitemap Index file. Submit the Sitemap or Sitemap Index file to Google Webmaster Tools and check back after it’s been processed. The Sitemaps tab displays not only the Sitemap URL count, but also tells you the number of URLs from that Sitemap that have been indexed. You can track this number of time to measure indexing coverage.
It’s a pretty handy trick and much more accurate than the site: operator.
Q: Is Google looking for a true solution to deal with duplicate content between UK & US Websites own by the same company? (François, Brussels) and How will Google Identifies that Particular Website belongs to particular location even when it is hosted in US, and uses that Data to show that website to users of country for which it is appropriate? (Cold, Jaipur India)
I can’t speak for what Google is looking to do, but I do know that generally search engines filter duplicate content and show the most relevant version to the searcher. So, in the case of US and UK content, Google would look to show the US version to the US searcher and the UK version to the UK searcher. It wouldn’t generally look to show both versions in a single search result. Google figures out which is more relevant to the searcher using things like the searcher’s geographic location (based on IP address) and whether the searcher is using google.com or google.co.uk.
You can provide signals to Google about the content using TLD (putting the US content on yoursite.com and the UK content on yoursite.co.uk) or domains hosted in the target country (yoursiteus.com hosted in the US and yoursiteuk.com hosted in the UK), segmenting the content into subdomains or subfolders and then specifying the target country for each in Google Webmaster Tools (us.yoursite.com associated with US and uk.yoursite.com associated with UK), and using the meta language element. (To be honest, I’m not entirely sure about the meta country tag. Anyone have experience with this?)
So, back to the tool
In particular, I think this tool could be really handy for QA at conferences. I’ve spoken at several conferences (including SMX and Web 2.0 Expo) where attendees could use an online system to submit questions, and I’ve used Twitter for this a few times, but this is the first system I’ve seen that also lets the rest of the audience vote questions up or down. I may have to try it out for my next event.