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Why are comments on retrocomputing.stackexchange.com completely invisible to google search ?

Last time I checked extensively, months ago, I found that all comments on retrocomputing.stackexchange.com are completely invisible to google search .

Why am I highlighting this? - Comments often contain very valuable information, which later on people want to find and read again, however, they cannot always remember which question they were posted on .

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    All the StackExchange sites have associated meta sites for questions about the site itself. I suspect the idea is that a correct answer in a comment should really be posted as an answer itself, and comments are intended to be just that: comments – Matt Lacey Jun 5 '20 at 3:40
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    If you feel the correct answer is in a comment, you should suggest the person who wrote it to put it in an answer, or write an answer yourself and credit the commenter. As to why comments aren't indexed, maybe because it would make them attractive to spammers. – snips-n-snails Jun 5 '20 at 5:28
  • Note you can't search for the contents of comments using the stackexchange search feature either. – fadden Jun 5 '20 at 14:50
  • Do we even know if Google is seeing the same pages that we see when the crawler comes around? How do we know what SE is even giving Google in the first place? – Will Hartung Jun 5 '20 at 20:51
  • It could be that Google doesn't index them for some reason. It could be that Stack Exchange does something that prevents them from being indexed either by accident or on purpose. I'm not sure if you can do anything in the stylesheet or robots.txt at that scope. Comments don't seem to be added by JavaScript, which could've worked to prevent indexing... – hippietrail Jun 6 '20 at 11:07
  • Are comments in other areas visible to Google search? What about Software Engineering or Spanish Language? Does Google index comments on those sites? – Walter Mitty Jun 14 '20 at 12:55
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In many cases, half of the correct answers are in the comments, not to mention valuable information which usually much more interesting than the question .

They shouldn't be. I generally only read comments to see if they make the question clearer, and I make one when it could help improve the question. Anyone who thinks they have a correct answer should make it an answer!

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    While true (and upvoted), this doesn't answer the question asked, but comments on handling in general, right? – Raffzahn Jun 5 '20 at 12:51
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    If you want to be pedantic you could simply say that this is how the stackexchange website was designed, but the real question is why was it designed this way. – Bruce Abbott Jun 6 '20 at 2:59
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    ? Erm, now you lost me. The question asked is why Google doesn't list comments, isn't it? So, how can writing an answer be the answer, when it's about comments? Equally I miss the logic path between the 'why was SE designed the way it is' and indexing by google. – Raffzahn Jun 6 '20 at 6:18
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    @Raffzahn - but this is (now) meta. Aren't the rules for answers different here? At least on SO meta seems to be more accepting of "answers" that aren't answers but are "process change suggestions" or something. This answer is useful in that (if people agree, and in fact people are upvoting it) it might point out something that needs to be improved on Retrocomputing. I myself have noticed that the comments on retrocomputing frequently add useful information - even when they're not answers in their own right. (And I've noticed that your comments - mine too! - are frequently like that!) – davidbak Jun 6 '20 at 15:47
  • @davidbak Would you mind to explain what this has to do with 'acceptance of answer' ? Not sure why you need to mention "if people agree, and in fact people are upvoting it" - didn't I even state that I upvoted it as well? Right at the start? Even with assuming different rules for Meta (which there are as it's about finding a consense, not "the" right answer), an answer should try to tackle the issue the OP presents, shouldn't it? Regarding information in comments, you may have noticed, that I do edit information from comments into an answer. More: that's exactly the problem the OP brings up. – Raffzahn Jun 6 '20 at 19:30
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    @Raffzahn "The question asked is why Google doesn't list comments, isn't it?" - If this really is just a technical question about how Google operates then it should be on another Stack Exchange site, not here. But what it's really about is should comments show up on Google, and should something be done about them not showing up. Which is why it's here. – Bruce Abbott Jun 6 '20 at 21:40
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    @Raffzahn - my comment was a question really - aren't rules for "answers" different on meta than on the original stack? that's what I've observed over at SO. I've seen it accepted on SO meta that answers need not actually answer the question, but discuss other related aspects. I could be wrong though, so that's why I'm asking. – davidbak Jun 6 '20 at 22:22
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Not just Retrocomputing, other sites too.

Without knowing the inner workings of Google, which are doubtless not made public, we can't be sure. However, it is clear that Google ranks all StackExchange sites highly. Search for a solution to a problem and you will get a listing of relevant SE questions.
So, it is very probable that Google recognizes the true purpose of comments. They are meant to be ephemeral and not for answers and are therefore not worth indexing.

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    Or, since google's web spiders identify themselves, perhaps SE doesn't put the comments on pages it returns to the spider (so it is SE making the decision not to index comments, not Google). (Note that "comments" on other sites are in the google index, e.g., you can find comments on blogspot blogs.) – davidbak Jun 6 '20 at 15:46
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As Chenmunka already explains, one may only speculate about Googles working.

But one point is clear, items toward the top of a page are more likely to get a higher score than the same word combination further down.

Another known parameter is the length of a the text block the searched word(s) are in. A longer block results in a higher placement. I guess for both the basic assumption is that main topics for a text are usually already mentioned early on, as well as appearing in real text (in contrast to link text or picture text). In our case it perfectly reflects the 'value' of an answer as well, as upvoted answers stay higher up on the page.

A major point to me seams that comments are usually not only shorter blocks, but as well rather abbreviated, thus not necessary including the search terms in a recognizable way or at all.

Beside that, Stackoverflow/Stackexchange is a major knowledge site, so, much like with Wiki or other major qualifying content providers, it's worth to add a specific scanner to generate higher quality indexing by eliminating 'noise'. SE's delivery generation does a good work of marking all parts with constant labels, so selection of question and answer text is pretty straight forward. In fact, both even use the same class attribute class="post-text".

So I would assume that everything tagged accordingly gets a way higher score, while the rest doesn't get the same bonus. And I wouldn't wonder if the score gets used as well.


Beside that, and as it has been mentioned, it's always good for authors of answers to pick up worthwhile additions found in comments and incooperates them - or encourage commentors to write their own answer if it's about a different viewpoint/solution.

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Comments on Stack Exchange in general are treated as second-class citizens. This is not my observation, this is something that's been repeated multiple times by the founders and developers and is even mentioned in the tag wiki on meta sites.

The core of Stack Exchange is a Q&A site: people post questions to problems they have, and people post their answers. Everything on Stack Exchange is aimed at improving the quality of questions and answers, ranging from reputation, tags and bounties to chat and meta. And comments are no different.

Comments are meant to ask for clarification on a question or an answer, but the reply should also be added to the question/answer. They are not meant for answering the question and never should be used for that purpose. Comments, in fact, can be deleted at a moment's notice and have very limited editing options. They are also not meant for discussion. If you want to discuss stuff, there are dedicated chat rooms, and if you create too many comments on a question, you even automatically get a recommendation to continue the discussion in chat.

Comments are the wrong place for answers. if someone posts an answer in a comment or something really important for an existing answer, the recommended response is actually to either repost the comment as an answer, or edit an existing answer to include the comment (but please credit them if you can).

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