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Google Webmaster Central Blog
Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index.

  • Google Public DNS and Location-Sensitive DNS Responses

    Webmaster level: advanced

    Recently the Google Public DNS team, in collaboration with Akamai, reached an important milestone: Google Public DNS now propagates client location information to Akamai nameservers. This effort significantly improves the accuracy of approximately 30% of the location-sensitive DNS responses returned by Google Public DNS. In other words, client requests to Akamai hosted content can be routed to closer servers with lower latency and greater data transfer throughput. Overall, Google Public DNS resolvers serve 400 billion responses per day and more than 50% of them are location-sensitive.

    DNS is often used by Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) such as Akamai to achieve location-based load balancing by constructing responses based on clients’ IP addresses. However, CDNs usually see the DNS resolvers’ IP address instead of the actual clients’ and are therefore forced to assume that the resolvers are close to the clients. Unfortunately, the assumption is not always true. Many resolvers, especially those open to the Internet at large, are not deployed at every single local network.

    To solve this issue, a group of DNS and content providers, including Google, proposed an approach to allow resolvers to forward the client’s subnet to CDN nameservers in an extension field in the DNS request. The subnet is a portion of the client’s IP address, truncated to preserve privacy. The approach is officially named edns-client-subnet or ECS.

    This solution requires that both resolvers and CDNs adopt the new DNS extension. Google Public DNS resolvers automatically probe to discover ECS-aware nameservers and have observed the footprint of ECS support from CDNs expanding steadily over the past years. By now, more than 4000 nameservers from approximately 300 content providers support ECS. The Google-Akamai collaboration marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to ensure DNS contributes to keeping the Internet fast. We encourage more CDNs to join us by supporting the ECS option.

    For more information about Google Public DNS, please visit our website. For CDN operators, please also visit “A Faster Internet” for more technical details.


    Posted by Yunhong Gu, Tech Lead, Google Public DNS


  • The four steps to appiness

    Webmaster Level: intermediate to advanced

    App deep links are the new kid on the block in organic search, and they’re picking up speed faster than you can say “schema.org ViewAction”! For signed-in users, 15% of Google searches on Android now return deep links to apps through App Indexing. And over just the past quarter, we've seen the number of clicks on app deep links jump by 10x.

    We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from developers and seen a lot of implementations gone right and others that were good learning experiences since we opened up App Indexing back in June. We’d like to share with you four key steps to monitor app performance and drive user engagement:

    1. Give your app developer access to Webmaster Tools

    App indexing is a team effort between you (as a webmaster) and your app development team. We show information in Webmaster Tools that is key for your app developers to do their job well. Here’s what’s available right now:

    • Errors in indexed pages within apps
    • Weekly clicks and impressions from app deep link via Google search
    • Stats on your sitemap (if that’s how you implemented the app deep links)
    ...and we plan to add a lot more in the coming months!

    We’ve noticed that very few developers have access to Webmaster Tools. So if you want your app development team to get all of the information they need to fix app-related issues, it’s essential for them to have access to Webmaster Tools.

    Any verified site owner can add a new user. Pick restricted or full permissions, depending on the level of access you’d like to give:

    2. Understand how your app is doing in search results

    How are users engaging with your app from search results? We’ve introduced two new ways for you to track performance for your app deep links:

    • We now send a weekly clicks and impressions update to the Message center in your Webmaster Tools account.
    • You can now track how much traffic app deep links drive to your app using referrer information - specifically, the referrer extra in the ACTION_VIEW intent. We're working to integrate this information with Google Analytics for even easier access. Learn how to track referrer information on our Developer site.

    3. Make sure key app resources can be crawled

    Blocked resources are one of the top reasons for the “content mismatch” errors you see in Webmaster Tools’ Crawl Errors report. We need access to all the resources necessary to render your app page. This allows us to assess whether your associated web page has the same content as your app page.

    To help you find and fix these issues, we now show you the specific resources we can’t access that are critical for rendering your app page. If you see a content mismatch error for your app, look out for the list of blocked resources in “Step 5” of the details dialog:

    4. Watch out for Android App errors

    To help you identify errors when indexing your app, we’ll send you messages for all app errors we detect, and will also display most of them in the “Android apps” tab of the Crawl errors report.

    In addition to the currently available “Content mismatch” and “Intent URI not supported” error alerts, we’re introducing three new error types:

    • APK not found: we can’t find the package corresponding to the app.
    • No first-click free: the link to your app does not lead directly to the content, but requires login to access.
    • Back button violation: after following the link to your app, the back button did not return to search results.

    In our experience, the majority of errors are usually caused by a general setting in your app (e.g. a blocked resource, or a region picker that pops up when the user tries to open the app from search). Taking care of that generally resolves it for all involved URIs.

    Good luck in the pursuit of appiness! As always, if you have questions, feel free to drop by our Webmaster help forum.

    Posted by Mariya Moeva, Webmaster Trends Analyst


  • Are you a robot? Introducing “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA”
    reCAPTCHA protects the websites you love from spam and abuse. So, when you go online—say, for some last-minute holiday shopping—you won't be competing with robots and abusive scripts to access sites. For years, we’ve prompted users to confirm they aren’t robots by asking them to read distorted text and type it into a box, like this:
    But, we figured it would be easier to just directly ask our users whether or not they are robots—so, we did! We’ve begun rolling out a new API that radically simplifies the reCAPTCHA experience. We’re calling it the “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” and this is how it looks:
    On websites using this new API, a significant number of users will be able to securely and easily verify they’re human without actually having to solve a CAPTCHA. Instead, with just a single click, they’ll confirm they are not a robot.
    A brief history of CAPTCHAs 

    While the new reCAPTCHA API may sound simple, there is a high degree of sophistication behind that modest checkbox. CAPTCHAs have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text. However, our research recently showed that today’s Artificial Intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8% accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test.

    To counter this, last year we developed an Advanced Risk Analysis backend for reCAPTCHA that actively considers a user’s entire engagement with the CAPTCHA—before, during, and after—to determine whether that user is a human. This enables us to rely less on typing distorted text and, in turn, offer a better experience for users.  We talked about this in our Valentine’s Day post earlier this year.

    The new API is the next step in this steady evolution. Now, humans can just check the box and in most cases, they’re through the challenge.

    Are you sure you’re not a robot?

    However, CAPTCHAs aren't going away just yet. In cases when the risk analysis engine can't confidently predict whether a user is a human or an abusive agent, it will prompt a CAPTCHA to elicit more cues, increasing the number of security checkpoints to confirm the user is valid.
    Making reCAPTCHAs mobile-friendly

    This new API also lets us experiment with new types of challenges that are easier for us humans to use, particularly on mobile devices. In the example below, you can see a CAPTCHA based on a classic Computer Vision problem of image labeling. In this version of the CAPTCHA challenge, you’re asked to select all of the images that correspond with the clue. It's much easier to tap photos of cats or turkeys than to tediously type a line of distorted text on your phone.
    Adopting the new API on your site

    As more websites adopt the new API, more people will see "No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHAs".  Early adopters, like Snapchat, WordPress, Humble Bundle, and several others are already seeing great results with this new API. For example, in the last week, more than 60% of WordPress’ traffic and more than 80% of Humble Bundle’s traffic on reCAPTCHA encountered the No CAPTCHA experience—users got to these sites faster. To adopt the new reCAPTCHA for your website, visit our site to learn more.

    Humans, we'll continue our work to keep the Internet safe and easy to use. Abusive bots and scripts, it’ll only get worse—sorry we’re (still) not sorry.

    Posted by Vinay Shet, Product Manager, reCAPTCHA


  • Helping users find mobile-friendly pages
    Webmaster level: All

    Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content? This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone.

    This can be a frustrating experience for our mobile searchers. Starting today, to make it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for, we’re adding a “mobile-friendly” label to our mobile search results.
    Mobile-friendly search result
    This change will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks. A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
    • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
    • Uses text that is readable without zooming
    • Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom
    • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
    If you want to make sure that your page meets the mobile-friendly criteria: 
    The tools and documentation above are currently available in English. They will be available in additional languages within the next few weeks.

    We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.

    If you have any questions or want to help others make mobile-friendly sites, visit our Webmaster Help Forum. We hope to see many more mobile-friendly websites in the future. Let’s make the web better for all users!

    Posted by and , Google Mobile Search


  • Tracking mobile usability in Webmaster Tools

    Webmaster Level: intermediate

    Mobile is growing at a fantastic pace - in usage, not just in screen size. To keep you informed of issues mobile users might be seeing across your website, we've added the Mobile Usability feature to Webmaster Tools.

    The new feature shows mobile usability issues we’ve identified across your website, complete with graphs over time so that you see the progress that you've made.

    A mobile-friendly site is one that you can easily read & use on a smartphone, by only having to scroll up or down. Swiping left/right to search for content, zooming to read text and use UI elements, or not being able to see the content at all make a site harder to use for users on mobile phones. To help, the Mobile Usability reports show the following issues: Flash content, missing viewport (a critical meta-tag for mobile pages), tiny fonts, fixed-width viewports, content not sized to viewport, and clickable links/buttons too close to each other.

    We strongly recommend you take a look at these issues in Webmaster Tools, and think about how they might be resolved; sometimes it's just a matter of tweaking your site's template! More information on how to make a great mobile-friendly website can be found in our Web Fundamentals website (with more information to come soon).

    If you have any questions, feel free to join us in our webmaster help forums (on your phone too)!

    Posted by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Zurich


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