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

  • 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


  • Updating our technical Webmaster Guidelines

    Webmaster level: All

    We recently announced that our indexing system has been rendering web pages more like a typical modern browser, with CSS and JavaScript turned on. Today, we're updating one of our technical Webmaster Guidelines in light of this announcement.

    For optimal rendering and indexing, our new guideline specifies that you should allow Googlebot access to the JavaScript, CSS, and image files that your pages use. This provides you optimal rendering and indexing for your site. Disallowing crawling of Javascript or CSS files in your site’s robots.txt directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content and can result in suboptimal rankings.

    Updated advice for optimal indexing

    Historically, Google indexing systems resembled old text-only browsers, such as Lynx, and that’s what our Webmaster Guidelines said. Now, with indexing based on page rendering, it's no longer accurate to see our indexing systems as a text-only browser. Instead, a more accurate approximation is a modern web browser. With that new perspective, keep the following in mind:

    • Just like modern browsers, our rendering engine might not support all of the technologies a page uses. Make sure your web design adheres to the principles of progressive enhancement as this helps our systems (and a wider range of browsers) see usable content and basic functionality when certain web design features are not yet supported.
    • Pages that render quickly not only help users get to your content easier, but make indexing of those pages more efficient too. We advise you follow the best practices for page performance optimization, specifically:
    • Make sure your server can handle the additional load for serving of JavaScript and CSS files to Googlebot.

    Testing and troubleshooting

    In conjunction with the launch of our rendering-based indexing, we also updated the Fetch and Render as Google feature in Webmaster Tools so webmasters could see how our systems render the page. With it, you'll be able to identify a number of indexing issues: improper robots.txt restrictions, redirects that Googlebot cannot follow, and more.

    And, as always, if you have any comments or questions, please ask in our Webmaster Help forum.

    Posted by Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst


  • Best practices for XML sitemaps & RSS/Atom feeds

    Webmaster level: intermediate-advanced

    Submitting sitemaps can be an important part of optimizing websites. Sitemaps enable search engines to discover all pages on a site and to download them quickly when they change. This blog post explains which fields in sitemaps are important, when to use XML sitemaps and RSS/Atom feeds, and how to optimize them for Google.

    Sitemaps and feeds

    Sitemaps can be in XML sitemap, RSS, or Atom formats. The important difference between these formats is that XML sitemaps describe the whole set of URLs within a site, while RSS/Atom feeds describe recent changes. This has important implications:

    • XML sitemaps are usually large; RSS/Atom feeds are small, containing only the most recent updates to your site.
    • XML sitemaps are downloaded less frequently than RSS/Atom feeds.

    For optimal crawling, we recommend using both XML sitemaps and RSS/Atom feeds. XML sitemaps will give Google information about all of the pages on your site. RSS/Atom feeds will provide all updates on your site, helping Google to keep your content fresher in its index. Note that submitting sitemaps or feeds does not guarantee the indexing of those URLs.

    Example of an XML sitemap:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
     <url>
       <loc>http://example.com/mypage</loc>
       <lastmod>2011-06-27T19:34:00+01:00</lastmod>
       <!-- optional additional tags -->
     </url>
     <url>
       ...
     </url>
    </urlset>

    Example of an RSS feed:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <rss>
     <channel>
       <!-- other tags -->
       <item>
         <!-- other tags -->
         <link>http://example.com/mypage</link>
         <pubDate>Mon, 27 Jun 2011 19:34:00 +0100</pubDate>
       </item>
       <item>
         ...
       </item>
     </channel>
    </rss>

    Example of an Atom feed:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <feed xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom">
     <!-- other tags -->
     <entry>
       <link href="http://example.com/mypage" />
       <updated>2011-06-27T19:34:00+01:00</updated>
       <!-- other tags -->
     </entry>
     <entry>
       ...
     </entry>
    </feed>

    “other tags” refer to both optional and required tags by their respective standards. We recommend that you specify the required tags for Atom/RSS as they will help you to appear on other properties that might use these feeds, in addition to Google Search.

    Best practices

    Important fields

    XML sitemaps and RSS/Atom feeds, in their core, are lists of URLs with metadata attached to them. The two most important pieces of information for Google are the URL itself and its last modification time:

    URLs

    URLs in XML sitemaps and RSS/Atom feeds should adhere to the following guidelines:

    • Only include URLs that can be fetched by Googlebot. A common mistake is including URLs disallowed by robots.txt — which cannot be fetched by Googlebot, or including URLs of pages that don't exist.
    • Only include canonical URLs. A common mistake is to include URLs of duplicate pages. This increases the load on your server without improving indexing.
    Last modification time

    Specify a last modification time for each URL in an XML sitemap and RSS/Atom feed. The last modification time should be the last time the content of the page changed meaningfully. If a change is meant to be visible in the search results, then the last modification time should be the time of this change.

    • XML sitemap uses  <lastmod>
    • RSS uses <pubDate>
    • Atom uses <updated>

    Be sure to set or update last modification time correctly:

    • Specify the time in the correct format: W3C Datetime for XML sitemaps, RFC3339 for Atom and RFC822 for RSS.
    • Only update modification time when the content changed meaningfully.
    • Don’t set the last modification time to the current time whenever the sitemap or feed is served.

    XML sitemaps

    XML sitemaps should contain URLs of all pages on your site. They are often large and update infrequently. Follow these guidelines:

    • For a single XML sitemap: update it at least once a day (if your site changes regularly) and ping Google after you update it.
    • For a set of XML sitemaps: maximize the number of URLs in each XML sitemap. The limit is 50,000 URLs or a maximum size of 10MB uncompressed, whichever is reached first. Ping Google for each updated XML sitemap (or once for the sitemap index, if that's used) every time it is updated. A common mistake is to put only a handful of URLs into each XML sitemap file, which usually makes it harder for Google to download all of these XML sitemaps in a reasonable time.

    RSS/Atom

    RSS/Atom feeds should convey recent updates of your site. They are usually small and updated frequently. For these feeds, we recommend:

    • When a new page is added or an existing page meaningfully changed, add the URL and the modification time to the feed.
    • In order for Google to not miss updates, the RSS/Atom feed should have all updates in it since at least the last time Google downloaded it. The best way to achieve this is by using PubSubHubbub. The hub will propagate the content of your feed to all interested parties (RSS readers, search engines, etc.) in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

    Generating both XML sitemaps and Atom/RSS feeds is a great way to optimize crawling of a site for Google and other search engines. The key information in these files is the canonical URL and the time of the last modification of pages within the website. Setting these properly, and notifying Google and other search engines through sitemaps pings and PubSubHubbub, will allow your website to be crawled optimally, and represented accordingly in search results.

    If you have any questions, feel free to post them here, or to join other webmasters in the webmaster help forum section on sitemaps.

    Posted by Alkis Evlogimenos, Google Feeds Team


  • Bring your local business online -- no website required!
    Webmaster Level: Beginner

    “Hey, how do I get my business on the web?” Having worked at Google for nine years, if I had a penny for every time someone asked me that question… :) To answer, today we’re releasing a short video series (30 minutes total!), sharing the same advice we’d give to our friends and family. It’s the advice I’d give to my sister, Marnie, who owns a jewelry store, or my cousin, Scott, who works as a realtor. Video spoiler alert: You won’t need to make a website, but you definitely need a way for your local business to reach potential customers using their mobile phones, tablets, or desktop computers.

    Video series to help local business owners of all technical levels to get their business found on the web. It focuses on the benefits of creating a Yelp business page, Facebook page, Google+ page, etc.

    The great thing about video is that you can pause at any time and work at your own pace. Next time you hear the question: “How do I get my business on Google?”, please share the link and let's get more local businesses online!

    Series: Build an online presence for your local business

    Video #1: Introduction and hot topics (3:22)
    Meet my sister, Marnie, who owns a jewelry store and my cousin, Scott, who works as a realtor. Follow them as we talk about the big changes in the last decade, such as making sure your business can reach customers at work, home, or on-the-go using their mobile phones.
    Video #2: Determine your business’ value-add and online goal (4:08)
    With the example of Scott, the realtor, you’ll learn about the marketing funnel, setting an online goal, and highlighting what makes your business special.
    Video #3. Find potential customers (7:41)
    Marnie and Scott figure out their customers’ most common journeys to reach their business. We'll use their examples to brainstorm how you can reach customers on review sites, through search engines, maps apps, and social and professional networking sites.
    Video #4: Basic implementation and best practices (5:23)
    The fundamentals and best practices to take your business from offline to online!
    Video #5: Differentiate your business from the competition (5:09)
    With Scott’s business as a realtor, see how to demonstrate that your local business is the best choice for customers by adding photos, videos, and getting reviews.
    Video #6: Engage customers with a holistic online identity (4:51)
    We'll end the series by showing how Scott makes sure his online presence sends a cohesive message to customers and answers all their common questions. :)
    Written by Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead


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