In chairing the AMA's Hot Topic: Search Engine Marketing conference on Friday, I had the pleasure of hearing the presentation of Trevor Foucher, Software Engineer at Google. Not only did Trevor explain the value of Google Webmaster Central as well as some webmaster do's and don'ts, he also gave us attendees an inside glimpse of Google.com -- through statistics provided in Google Webmaster Central to verified sites, and Google.com was a verified site! So we got to see, for example, that Webmaster Central reports 19,818,383 total links to www.google.com and 1,432,828 links to the www.google.com home page. And that the top search queries for the Google.com site, on average over the last 3 weeks, were: google, translate, translation, froogle, google translate, "www google", finance, google finance, google talk, calendar, youtube, google analytics. And that the most popular words used in external links pointing to Google.com were: google, help, jobs, google web directory, ads by google, google bookmarks, aggiungi su google.
What I found most fascinating in all the reports was Googlebot's error reporting for the Google.com site. The following URLs made it to the top of the report, all with 404 errors:
Apparently there are a large number of sites incorrectly linking to Google with an extra space or two (or three) after the /. I pointed out to Trevor that Google should 301 redirect those %20 URLs to the Google.com home page to funnel the PageRank to the home page. That will mean Google will be able to pass more PageRank down into deeper pages of their site.
Trevor's response was that Google isn't concerned about SEO'ing their site. I can see his point. But still, it's a missed opportunity, because most of their site doesn't have much PageRank. Webmaster Central showed the PageRank breakdown of the pages of Google.com (roughly) as follows:
where the first row is High, second row is Medium, third row is Low, and fourth is "PageRank not yet assigned".
Google's mantra in response to all SEO questions is "Do what's good for the user." In this case, 301 redirecting is good for the user. Because look at the horrible user experience if I clicked on a link leading to http://www.google.com/%20 -- click here. Yuch! There's nowhere to even go.