Banner

Follow Along

RSS Feed Join Us on Twitter On Facebook

Get Engaged

Banner

Related Reading

Our Sponsors

Banner
Banner
Banner

Join Us

Banner

Warning: file_put_contents() [function.file-put-contents]: Only 249856 of 275940 bytes written, possibly out of free disk space in /home/searchne/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 8666

Warning: /home/searchne/public_html/cache/ebfad296b45e46d73ad90a140456b27b.spc is not writeable in /home/searchne/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 1779

Warning: file_put_contents() [function.file-put-contents]: Only 249856 of 275940 bytes written, possibly out of free disk space in /home/searchne/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 8666

Warning: /home/searchne/public_html/cache/ebfad296b45e46d73ad90a140456b27b.spc is not writeable in /home/searchne/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 1779
Newsfeeds from around the industry
Google Webmaster Central Blog
Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index.

  • An update on Google's feature-phone crawling & indexing

    Limited mobile devices, "feature-phones", require a special form of markup or a transcoder for web content. Most websites don't provide feature-phone-compatible content in WAP/WML any more. Given these developments, we've made changes in how we crawl feature-phone content (note: these changes don't affect smartphone content):

    1. We've retired the feature-phone Googlebot

    We won't be using the feature-phone user-agents for crawling for search going forward.

    2. Use "handheld" link annotations for dynamic serving of feature-phone content.

    Some sites provide content for feature-phones through dynamic serving, based on the user's user-agent. To understand this configuration, make sure your desktop and smartphone pages have a self-referential alternate URL link for handheld (feature-phone) devices:

    <link rel="alternate" media="handheld" href="/[current page URL]" />

    This is a change from our previous guidance of only using the "vary: user-agent" HTTP header. We've updated our documentation on making feature-phone pages accordingly. We hope adding this link element is possible on your side, and thank you for your help in this regard. We'll continue to show feature-phone URLs in search when we can recognize them, and when they're appropriate for users.

    3. We're retiring feature-phone tools in Search Console

    Without the feature-phone Googlebot, special sitemaps extensions for feature-phone, the Fetch as Google feature-phone options, and feature-phone crawl errors are no longer needed. We continue to support sitemaps and other sitemaps extensions (such as for videos or Google News), as well as the other Fetch as Google options in Search Console.


    We've worked to make these changes as minimal as possible. Most websites don't serve feature-phone content, and wouldn't be affected. If your site has been providing feature-phone content, we thank you for your help in bringing the Internet to feature-phone users worldwide!

    For any questions, feel free to drop by our Webmaster Help Forums!

    Posted by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google Switzerland


  • Saying goodbye to Content Keywords

    In the early days - back when Search Console was still called Webmaster Tools - the content keywords feature was the only way to see what Googlebot found when it crawled a website. It was useful to see that Google was able to crawl your pages at all, or if your site was hacked.

    In the meantime, you can easily check any page on your website and see how Googlebot fetches it immediately, Search Analytics shows you which keywords we've shown your site in search for, and Google informs you of many kinds of hacks automatically. Additionally, users were often confused about the keywords listed in content keywords. And so, the time has come to retire the Content Keywords feature in Search Console.

    The words on your pages, the keywords if you will, are still important for Google's (and your users') understanding of your pages. While our systems have gotten better, they can't read your mind: be clear about what your site is about, and what you'd like to be found for. Tell visitors what makes your site, your products and services, special!

    What was your most surprising, or favorite, keyword shown? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google Switzerland


  • Rich Cards expands to more verticals

    At Google I/O in May, we launched Rich Cards for Movies and Recipes, creating a new way for site owners to present previews of their content on the Search results page. Today, we’re expanding to two new verticals for US-based sites: Local restaurants and Online courses.

    Evolution of search results for queries like [best New Orleans restaurants] and [leadership courses]: with rich cards, results are presented in new UIs, like carousels that are easy to browse by scrolling left and right, or a vertical three-pack that displays more individual courses

    By building Rich Cards, you have a new opportunity to attract more engaged users to your page. Users can swipe through restaurant recommendations from sites like TripAdvisor, Thrillist, Time Out, Eater, and 10Best. In addition to food, users can browse through courses from sites like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, EdX, Harvard, Udacity, FutureLearn, Edureka, Open University, Udemy, Canvas Network, and NPTEL.

    If you have a site that contains local restaurant information or offers online courses, check out our developer docs to start building Rich Cards in the Local restaurant and Online courses verticals.

    While AMP HTML is not required for Local restaurant pages and Online Courses rich cards, AMP provides Google Search users with a consistently fast experience, so we recommend that you create AMP pages to further engage users. Users consuming AMP’d content will be able to swipe near instantly from restaurant to restaurant or from recipe to recipe within your site.

    Users who tap on your Rich Card will be taken near instantly to your AMP page, and be able to swipe between pages within your site.

    Check out our developer site for implementation details.

    To make it easier for you to create Rich Cards, we made some changes in our tools:

    • The Structured Data Testing Tool displays markup errors and a preview card for Local restaurant content as it might appear on Search.
    • The Rich Cards report in Search Console shows which cards across verticals contain errors, and which ones could be enhanced with more markup.
    • The AMP Test helps validate AMP pages as well as mark up on the page.

    What’s next?

    We are actively experimenting with new verticals globally to provide more opportunities for you to display richer previews of your content.

    If you have questions, find us in the dedicated Structured data section of our forum, on Twitter or on Google+.


    Post by Stacie Chan, Global Product Partnerships


  • Building Indexable Progressive Web Apps

    Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are taking advantage of new technologies to bring the best of mobile sites and native applications to users -- and they’re one of the most exciting new ideas on the web. But to truly have an impact, it's important that they’re indexable and linkable. Every recommendation presented in this article is an existing best practice for indexability -- regardless of whether you're building a Progressive Web App or a simple static website. Nonetheless, we have collated these best practices to provide a checklist to guide you:

    Make Your Content Crawlable

    Why? Historically, websites would always generate or render their HTML on the server which is the simplest way to ensure your content is directly linkable. Web applications popularised the concept of client-side rendering in which content is updated dynamically on the page as the users navigates without requiring the page to be reloaded.

    The modern approach is hybrid rendering, in which server-side rendering is used when a user navigates directly to a URL and client-side rendering is used after the initial page load for subsequent navigation and asynchronous requests.

    Our server-side PWA sample demonstrates pure server-side rendering, while our hybrid PWA sample demonstrates the combined approach.

    If you are unfamiliar with the server-side and client-side rendering terminology, check out these articles on the web read here and here.

    Best Practice:

    Use server-side or hybrid rendering so users receive the content in the initial payload of their web request.

    Always ensure your URLs are independently accessible:

    https://www.example.com/product/25/

    The above should deep link to that particular resource.

    If you can’t support server-side or hybrid rendering for your Progressive Web App and you decide to use client-side rendering, we recommend using the Google Search Console “Fetch as Google tool” to verify your content successfully renders for our search crawler.

    Don’t:

    Don't redirect users accessing deep links back to your web app's homepage.

    Additionally, serving an error page to users instead of deep linking should also be avoided.


    Provide Clean URLs

    Why? Fragment identifiers (#user/24601/ or #!user/24601/) were an effective workaround for browsers to AJAX new content from a server without reloading the page. This design is known as client-side rendering.

    However, the fragment identifier syntax isn’t compatible with some web tools, frameworks and protocols such as Facebook’s Open Graph protocol.

    The History API enables us to update the URL without fragment identifiers while still fetching resources asynchronously and therefore avoiding page reloads -- it’s the best of both worlds. The AJAX crawling scheme (with its #! / escaped-fragment URLs) made sense at its time, but is now no longer recommended.

    Our hybrid PWA and client-side PWA samples demonstrate the History API.

    Best Practice:

    Provide clean URLs without fragment identifiers (# or #!) such as:

    https://www.example.com/product/25/

    If using client-side or hybrid rendering be sure to support browser navigation with the History API.

    Avoid:

    Using the #! URL structure to drive unique URLs is discouraged:

    https://www.example.com/#!product/25/

    It was introduced as a workaround before the advent of the History API. It is considered a separate pattern to the purely # URL structure.

    Don’t:

    Using the # URL structure without the accompanying ! symbol is unsupported:

    https://www.example.com/#product/25/

    This URL structure is already a concept in the web and relates to deep linking into content on a particular page.


    Specify Canonical URLs

    Why? The best way to eliminate confusion for indexing when the same content is available under multiple URLs (be it the same or different domains) is to mark one page as the canonical, and all other pages that duplicate that content to refer to it.

    Best Practice:

    Include the following tag across all pages mirroring a particular piece of content:

    <link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/your-url/" />

    If you are supporting Accelerated Mobile Pages be sure to correctly use its counterpart rel=”amphtml” instruction as well.

    Avoid:

    Avoid purposely duplicating content across multiple URLs and not using the rel="canonical" link element.

    For example, the rel="canonical" link element can reduce ambiguity for URLs with tracking parameters.

    Don’t:

    Avoid creating conflicting canonical references between your pages.


    Design for Multiple Devices

    Why? It’s important that all your users get the best experience possible when viewing your website, regardless of their device.

    Make your site responsive in its design -- fonts, margins, paddings, buttons and general design of your site should scale dynamically based on screen resolutions and device viewports.

    Small images scaled up for desktop or tablet devices give a poor experience. Conversely, super high resolution images take a long time to download on mobile phones and may impact mobile scroll performance.

    Read more UX for PWAs here.

    Best Practice:

    Use “srcset” attribute to fetch different resolution images for different density screens to avoid downloading images larger than the device’s screen is capable of displaying.

    Scale your font size and line height to ensure your text is legible no matter the size of the device. Similarly ensure the padding and margins of elements also scale sensibly.

    Test various screen resolutions using the Chrome Developer Tool’s Device Mode feature and Mobile Friendly Test tool.

    Don’t:

    Don't show different content to users than you show to Google. If you use redirects or user agent detection (a.k.a. browser sniffing or dynamic serving) to alter the design of your site for different devices it’s important that the content itself remains the same.

    Use the Search Console “Fetch as Google” tool to verify the content fetched by Google matches the content a user sees.

    For usability reasons, avoid using fixed-size fonts.


    Develop Iteratively

    Why? One of the safest paths to take when adding features to a web application is to make changes iteratively. If you add features one at a time you can observe the impact of each individual change.

    Alternatively many developers prefer to view their progressive web application as an opportunity to overhaul their mobile site in one fell swoop -- developing the new web app in an isolated environment and swapping it with their existing mobile site once ready.

    When developing features iteratively try to break the changes into separate pieces. For example, if you intend to move from server-side rendering to hybrid rendering then tackle that as a single iteration -- rather than in combination with other features.

    Both approaches have their own pros and cons. Iterating reduces the complexity of dealing with search indexability as the transition is continuous. However, iterating might result in a slower development process and potentially a less innovative overhaul if development is not starting from scratch.

    In either case, the most sensitive areas to keep an eye on are your canonical URLs and your site’s robots.txt configuration.

    Best Practice:

    Iterate on your website incrementally by adding new features piece by piece.

    For example, if don’t support HTTPS yet then start by migrating to a secure site.

    Avoid:

    If you’ve developed your progressive web app in an isolated environment, then avoid launching it without checking the rel-canonical links and robots.txt are setup appropriately.

    Ensure your rel-canonical links point to the real site and that your robots.txt configuration allows crawlers to crawl your new site.

    Don’t:

    It’s logical to prevent crawlers from indexing your in-development site before launch but don’t forget to unblock crawlers from accessing your new site when you launch.


    Use Progressive Enhancement

    Why? Wherever possible it’s important to detect browser features before using them. Feature detection is also better than testing for browsers that you believe support a given feature.

    A common bad practice in the past was to enable or disable features by testing which browser the user had. However, as browsers are constantly evolving with features this technique is strongly discouraged.

    Service Worker is a relatively new technology and it’s important to not break compatibility in the pursuit of progress -- it's a perfect example of when to use progressive enhancement.

    Best Practice:

    Before registering a Service Worker check for the availability of its API:

    if ('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
    ...

    Use per API detection method for all your website’s features.

    Don’t:

    Never use the browser’s user agent to enable or disable features in your web app. Always check whether the feature’s API is available and gracefully degrade if unavailable.

    Avoid updating or launching your site without testing across multiple browsers! Check your site analytics to learn which browsers are most popular among your user base.


    Test with Search Console

    Why? It’s important to understand how Google Search views your site’s content. You can use Search Console to fetch individual URLs from your site and see how Google Search views them using the “Crawl > Fetch as Google“ feature. Search Console will process your JavaScript and render the page when that option is selected; otherwise only the raw HTML response is shown

    Google Search Console also analyses the content on your page in a variety of ways including detecting the presence of Structured Data, Rich Cards, Sitelinks & Accelerated Mobile Pages.

    Best Practice:

    Monitor your site using Search Console and explore its features including “Fetch as Google”.

    Provide a Sitemap via Search Console “Crawl > Sitemaps” It can be an effective way to ensure Google Search is aware of all your site’s pages.


    Annotate with Schema.org structured data

    Why? Schema.org structured data is a flexible vocabulary for summarizing the most important parts of your page as machine-processable data. This can be as general as simply saying that a page is a NewsArticle, or as specific as detailing the location, band name, venue and ticket vendor for a touring band, or summarizing the ingredients and steps for a recipe.

    The use of this metadata may not make sense for every page on your web application but it’s recommended where it’s sensible. Google extracts it after the page is rendered.

    There are a variety of data types including “NewsArticle”, “Recipe” & “Product” to name a few. Explore all the supported data types here.

    Best Practice:

    Verify that your Schema.org meta data is correct using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

    Check that the data you provided is appearing and there are no errors present.

    Don’t:

    Avoid using a data type that doesn’t match your page’s actual content. For example don’t use “Recipe” for a T-Shirt you’re selling -- use “Product” instead.


    Annotate with Open Graph & Twitter Cards

    Why? In addition to the Schema.org metadata it can be helpful to add support for Facebook’s Open Graph protocol and Twitter rich cards as well.

    These metadata formats improve the user experience when your content is shared on their corresponding social networks.

    If your existing site or web application utilises these formats it’s important to ensure they are included in your progressive web application as well for optimal virality.

    Best Practice:

    Test your Open Graph markup with the Facebook Object Debugger Tool.

    Familiarise yourself with Twitter’s metadata format.

    Don’t:

    Don’t forget to include these formats if your existing site supports them.


    Test with Multiple Browsers

    Why? Clearly from a user perspective it’s important that a website behaviors the same across all browsers. While the experience might adapt for different screen sizes we all expect a mobile site to work the same on similarly sized devices whether it’s an iPhone or an Android mobile phone.

    While the web can be perceived as fragmented due to number of browsers in use around the world, this variety and competition is part of what makes the web such an innovative platform. Thankfully, web standards have never been more mature than they are now and modern tools enable developers to build rich, cross browser compatible websites with confidence.

    Best Practice:

    Use cross browser testing tools such as BrowserStack.com, Browserling.com or BrowserShots.org to ensure your PWA is cross browser compatible.


    Measure Page Load Performance

    Why? The faster a website loads for a user the better their user experience will be. Optimizing for page speed is already a well known focus in web development but sometimes when developing a new version of a site the necessary optimizations are not considered a high priority.

    When developing a progressive web application we recommend measuring the performance of your page load speed and optimizing before launching the site for the best results.

    Best Practice:

    Use tools such as Page Speed Insights and Web Page Test to measure the page load performance of your site. While Googlebot has a bit more patience in rendering, research has shown that 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load..

    Read more about our web page performance recommendations and the critical rendering path here.

    Don’t:

    Avoid leaving optimization as a post-launch step. If your website’s content loads quickly before migrating to a new progressive web application then it’s important to not regress in your optimizations.


    We hope that the above checklist is useful and provides the right guidance to help you develop your Progressive Web Applications with indexability in mind.

    As you get started, be sure to check out our Progressive Web App indexability samples that demonstrate server-side, client-side and hybrid rendering. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out on our Webmaster Forums.


    Posted by Tom Greenaway, Developer Advocate


  • Mobile-first Indexing

    Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. However, our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.

    To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we're going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.

    We understand this is an important shift in our indexing and it’s one we take seriously. We’ll continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience. Though we’re only beginning this process, here are a few recommendations to help webmasters prepare as we move towards a more mobile-focused index.

    • If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
    • If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
      • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.

        Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.

        When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
      • Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
      • Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
    • If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.
    • If you only have a desktop site, we'll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we're using a mobile user agent to view your site.

      If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site. It's better for you to build up your mobile site and launch it when ready.  

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via the Webmaster forums or our public events. We anticipate this change will take some time and we’ll update you as we make progress on migrating our systems.


    Posted by Doantam Phan, Product Manager


All the Latest

Getting Around the Site

Home - all the latest on SNC
SEO - our collection of SEO articles
Technical SEO - for the geeks
Latest News - latest news in search
Analytics - measure up and convert
RSS Rack - feeds from around the industry
Search - looking for something specific?
Authors - Author Login
SEO Training - Our sister site
Contact Us - get in touch with SNC

What's New?

All content and images copyright Search News Central 2014
SNC is a Verve Developments production, the Forensic SEO Specialists- where Gypsies roam.