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We have a fairly large site 600k+ unique pages with various unique URLs along with a custom, local search interface for the site. The search interface has sorting and faceting capabilities to allow users to limit results and change display. We are getting over 200,000 search requests a day from googlebot alone, and have tried to address it in the following ways:

  • adding noindex to faceting and sorting requests
  • adding rel=next and rel=prev to results pages to allow google to understand structure

We are considering adding a sitemap.xml to ensure that content pages are found, and also attempting to add a Dissallow Disallow entry in the robots.txt for the search results. Does anyone have any experience with the effects of this? Ideally, we don't want to lose rankings or results in Google, but also would love to not suffer the impact of serving up 200k searches a day to a search engine bot that just wants real content and not search results.

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To clarify, those 200,000 search requests per day are performed by googlebot? –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 25 '13 at 2:20
    
that's what the webmaster tools says, 200,000 pages per day, and what our logs seem to indicate as well. Other bots are active, but are tiny in comparison. –  adam Feb 25 '13 at 3:25
    
Check the URLs that are being crawled. Are these URLs that you would expect to be crawled and don't have some never ending querystring param for instance? Probably just a typo in the question, but "Disallow" has 1 "s". –  w3d Feb 25 '13 at 8:14
    
The URLs being crawled are all valid; just refinements. The misspelling you point out was not in the actual robots.txt, simply in the above question. –  adam Feb 25 '13 at 15:11
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You should not allow Googlebot to crawl site search pages. In addition to putting undue stress on your server, Google doesn't want to crawl them. Here is Google's Matt Cutts blog post about the issue: Search results in search results by Matt Cutts on March 10, 2007 Google now actively penalizes sites that allow their site search results to be crawled and appear in Google's SERPs. By allowing googlebot to crawl your search result pages, you are risking all of your Google referral traffic. One favorite trick of a google reviewer is to use your site search for a spam terms such as "Viagra". When they see a crawlable page as the result (even if it says "no results for Viagra found") they will apply a manual penalty against your site as a spam site.

You should put your site search into robots.txt. Just make sure that googlebot can still crawl your content pages.

Having a sitemap that lists all your content files IS NOT ENOUGH to get all your content files indexed. Here is a very related question The Sitemap Paradox in which Jeff Atwood from Stack Overflow notes that pages in the sitemap which can't be crawled, don't get indexed. The question is answered by Google's John Mueller. He states in no uncertain terms:

The Sitemap file isn't meant to "fix" crawlability issues. If your site can't be crawled, fix that first. We don't use Sitemap files for ranking.

I would recommend that every piece of content on your site is available within 3 or 4 clicks from the home page. That is admittedly a tough task to do well, especially because neither users nor googlebot react well to large lists of links in your pages. If you do add links to your pages, try to make them as useful to users as possible and keep lists of links to fewer than 10. You can use dimensions out of your faceted navigation to create useful links on products like

  • Also by this manufacturer
  • Similar items by feature
  • Similar items by price
  • Users who bought this also bought
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Thanks. To clarify, if the robots.txt blocks site search, then we need to ensure that there is still a direct path for a spider to conceivably "discover" the page, e.g. a list page? Or, can the search interface work for users and the sitemap simply work for Googlebot? –  adam Feb 25 '13 at 15:07
    
Ah, I see why you are asking now. That is a much harder problem. I've updated my answer to give you more info. –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 25 '13 at 15:22
    
I edited my answer because I just learned that a sitemap is NOT enough to get your site indexed if it can't be crawled –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 28 '13 at 15:21
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Honestly, google should NEVER search your site. Not having a sitemap is the problem. WIth that amount of request you just need it.

But its not necessary to add noindex. Just make sure you specify on google webmaster tools whats the search parameter so google wont hit it.

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"google should NEVER search your site" - What do you mean by this? An XML sitemap is only advisory, Google will still crawl your site to discover new content with or without a sitemap. –  w3d Feb 25 '13 at 8:23
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google should never use a search function inside your website. it should have direct access to all the possible results in the search function. a sitemap is the established way to do that. –  Danilo Kobold Feb 25 '13 at 11:51
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