Saturday, 23 August 2008

Userpage Google envy

Brianna Goldberg, a Canadian journalist with the National Post, wrote on Friday about her efforts to become the number one Google result for her name. Her quest was sparked by discovering that the Wikipedia user page of another Brianna Goldberg was ensconced in the top spot.

The journalist Goldberg obtained advice from search engine optimization experts on methods for advancing her ranking, but still had difficulty displacing the userpage. Moreover, the article on the journalist comes in second to the userpage in results from Wikipedia. Wikipedia user pages are certainly highly visible: every time you sign an edit, you're creating a link to your user page.

This relates to a discussion from last month on the mailing list about whether user pages (and certain other types of pages) should be indexed by search engines at all. The Wikimedia sites already instruct search engines not to crawl certain pages, including deletion debates, requests for arbitration pages and requests for adminship, but there have regularly been calls for more types of pages to be restricted (see here for example).

So, should user pages be blocked from search engine crawlers?

4 comments:

Daniel said...

You said "Wikipedia user pages are certainly highly visible: every time you sign an edit, you're creating a link to your user page" This is misleading - you create a link on Special:Recentchanges and on the page history, but those pages are ignored by google, because they are flagged with the noindex and nofollow directives.

Links to your user page basically only "count" if you create them as page content, for example, by signing a comment on a discussion page. And they count more if the discussion page itself is high profile - so if deletion requests are no longer indexed, that might have an impact.

However, I believe the main reason that Wikipedia user pages rank high is that the sites ranking is factored in. And Wikipedia as a whole has an insanely high Google ranking. It's hard to compete with that. The best way is probably to have content interesting enough to make a lot of people link to you :)

Stephen said...

Yes, as I said, "every time you sign an edit" (not every time you make an edit, which is what you must have thought I said).

Daniel said...

Yea, it sounded to me like you just meant "every edit" -- though in retrospect, it doesn't sound like that so much anymore.

Oh well, as long as I'm the only one who read it that way...

Steven Walling said...

I've tried noindexing (through the newly available __NOINDEX__ magic word) my user page, but there are so many user subpages and user pages (89, because of my SUL), that it fails to really be effective.

For it to work, all user space would have to be noindexed.

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