No more indexed search pages

Matt Cutts recently posted about indexing search results pages on your site. This interested (and worried) me as I'm quite a fan of getting my search results indexed.

The bottom line is, Google says you should block your search results pages from being indexed, using robots.txt or your favorite other method.

Browse vs Search

I understand this to a certain point, because seach results pages are not always useful. But quite often, they are useful. Quite often, sites have no "browse" functionality, and searching is the only way to navigate through the site.
Google's own site is a classic example of this. Google's clean, uncluttered design is nice, but their navigation is shit, and searching is the only way to find anything on their site. If you don't believe me, go try and find their webmaster guidelines page without using the search.

Even if your site does have a browse functionality, this is often a search which shows products in a certain category. Most of the time, these pages are machine generated search results pages. Most of the time, the content returned on these pages is relevant to the term the visitor was searching for.

Spammy search results

I also understand there are millions of spammy search results pages indexed by Google. I understand the need to remove these pages, but I think Google is missing the point. Google is paying for most of these sites by allowing Adsense to run on these search results pages. As a result, webmasters are quite happy to rank for any term at all, even if not relevant to their site because the traffic can be monetized by Adsense.

The problem of irrelevant search results exists largely because there is no quality control on the Adsense programme. I truly believe that if MFA (made for adsense) sites did not exist, those of us with legitimate search results pages would not have to hide our relevant content from search engines.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. I have been working hard to improve the uniqueness of these pages anyway by adding hand-written content to tags pages. I don't use Adsense on most of my sites (which are largely bricks and mortar sites) and I'm just not sure I'm ready to start noindexing otherwise good content.

Webmaster guidelines

I almost gave up, but here's the click trail...
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Tags: searchresultsresults search