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I noticed a site using this tag:

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="XXXXXXXXX" href="http://www.XXXXXXXXXX.com/api/opensearch" />

As I understand it (based on http://www.opensearch.org/Home), this tag is a way of describing search results (so you use it on pages which contain search results) to make it easier for other search engines to understand and use your results.

Given that Matt Cutts has said Google generally frowns on "search results within search results" is using this tag a bad idea on a page that you hope to achieve a good ranking in Google?

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    OpenSearchDescriptions are used sitewide by any site with a search function they want to tell user-agents about, not just on search result pages. Just look at the StackExchange sites. And if Google doesn't like indexing search result pages, then the solution isn't to disguise your search result pages. That's a common tactic on spam sites and is greyhat at best. Those types of practices are what will get your site penalized by search engines in the long run. – Lèse majesté Feb 17 '11 at 8:22
  • I think it's a fine line. For example, this page: zazzle.com/high+jump+shoes ranks #17 for "high jump shoes" google.com/search?q=high+jump+shoes&pws=0 but A) Google is ranking it (in spite of the use of the opensearchdescription tag), and B) I don't think Zazzle's page is spammy. It just seems like Zazzle should let Google decide if that page is a search result page, not nudge them for some unclear benefit. Could easily be a self-inflicted wound to use that tag and encourage Google to make a decision that would exclude you. – JeremyB Feb 17 '11 at 18:15
  • You're still missing the point of that tag. They don't go on result pages exclusively. If you have an OpenSearch plugin, then you'd put the OpenSearchDescription tag on all pages to let the browser know where to find the plugin. It's how browsers detect whether a site has an OpenSearch plugin. It's got nothing to do with search results. And just because Zazzle isn't a spam site doesn't mean nothing they do is spammy. A ton of large sites do things like keyword stuffing page titles. That is still spammy. That's the problem with people who put SEO above usability/user experience. – Lèse majesté Feb 21 '11 at 3:01
  • Thanks for the clarification. I couldn't conceive of why a sitewide directive like that would need to be on every page. Seems like it would make much more sense for that information to be conveyed in the robots.txt file. Anyway, that clears it up. Thanks. – JeremyB Feb 21 '11 at 22:50
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No. That's just meta content that other user agents (a.k.a. browsers, software) can use to find those results. What Matt Cutts is talking about are pages whose content is just search results from within your site. If the content of your page is just a search result then you run the risk of Google penalizing the page.

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  • but wouldn't it be a reasonable signal for Googlebot to look at that tag as a clue that they're dealing with search results and exclude them? assuming you want to get ranked for a page you know in your heart Google frowns on, it seems like a bad idea to include the tag. – JeremyB Feb 17 '11 at 2:13
  • I just re-read your question and realized that tag is related to the content of the page. In that case having it may clue search engines in as to the content of the page. But if the page is just search results, and Google is out to eliminate them from their serps, then the point is moot because you're trying to get content to rank well that you know they don't want. It's a waste of time as if it does get indexed it's gonna get flagged and dropped before too long anyway and if they don't have a problem with it then that tag may help your cause by telling them more about the page. I say leave it – John Conde Feb 17 '11 at 4:54

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