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I was going to ask a question on SO, but I first searched for possible duplicates; did it through google, and indeed there was a previous question (altough different enough to allow me to dare to ask nontheless).

To be sure (well, almost but not quite) that no other related questions were present on SO, I had to see several google results pages, as there are 437 google results for the exact title of the old question.

This happens because tons of questions (talking of completely different stuff) show that question as related; there are also several revisions and few user pages among the results.

Is it possible to eliminate all (or most of) this noise?

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as there are 437 google results for the exact title of the old question

Yes, but only one of those has the title as the actual title. Google is smart enough to put this at the top.

Also, if you view source, you can see we use the canonical hint too.

<link rel="canonical" href="">

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This is ok when the title has nothing to do with the question; may be a problem when it has to do. I didn't search for the actual title at first, but for words related to my problem, words which happen to also be in the title of the question. Google will return hundreds of different questions, and each one may reguard what I'm interested to, or may not... – giorgian Sep 4 '09 at 13:23
still doesn't matter, since those result with better keyword matches (in title, in <h1> elements, etc) will show higher up. – Jeff Atwood Oct 5 '09 at 1:01
The problem is when a search result only matches all the search terms because one of the terms is in the text of the related column. e.g. [evil whitespace mode dollar] currently has… as it's 3rd result, but only because the question… is in the related column and has the word evil in it. Neither are good results for those search terms. – Sam Hasler Feb 19 '14 at 10:01
I've raised a new question since this one is declined:… – Sam Hasler Feb 19 '14 at 10:13

If the list were populated via AJAX, that would exclude the content from search engines.

(In theory, that counts as presenting different content to users vs. Google, and could get SO banned. In practice, Google loves SO dearly, and wouldn't dream of doing that. 8-)

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I was thinking of the same solution. I've read the pages on bad practice, and there isn't a single rule that does not end with: "this may be done by bad bad people with bad bad intentions or by good good people for good good reasons and we are unable to distinguish"... – giorgian Sep 4 '09 at 0:13
Nope. It doesn't count as serving different content. It's Google's problem that it can't index AJAX stuff, not Web sites'. They are serving identical pages (markup-wise) to Google and users. – xmm0 Sep 4 '09 at 4:55

You don't need anything as complicated as AJAX load of the right sidebar. You just put ref="nofollow" in the links. That's simple enough to do automatically. After all, user posted links in profiles and posts get that added automatically.

I think the issue is more about whether SO actually wants to exclude those or not. There is a case to be made that by presenting related questions, it helps the ranking of all the related links (for relevant searches).

Generally speaking, I do find this kind of thing annoying though. That is, when you search for something and you have to go through pages and pages of results that all have that mentioned in a sidebar thats actually an ad and has nothing to do with the page whatsoever. But I guess in this case they are related (in theory).

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The problem is that he searched for XYZ, which is the title of an SO question. So any question which shows XYZ in its sidebar has the string XYZ on its page, so Google returns it. rel="nofollow" won't fix that problem. – Kip Sep 4 '09 at 3:56

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