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.
- 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
- Check your pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test
- Read our updated documentation on our Webmasters Mobile Guide on how to create and improve your mobile site
- See the Mobile usability report in Google Webmaster Tools, which highlights major mobile usability issues across your entire site, not just one page
- Check our how-to guide for third-party software like WordPress or Joomla, in order to migrate your website hosted on a CMS (Content Management System) to use a mobile-friendly template
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.
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
Webmaster level: All
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:
- Eliminate unnecessary downloads
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 as in our Webmaster Help forum.
Posted by Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst
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"?>
<!-- optional additional tags -->
Example of an RSS feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!-- other tags -->
<!-- other tags -->
<pubDate>Mon, 27 Jun 2011 19:34:00 +0100</pubDate>
Example of an Atom feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!-- other tags -->
<link href="http://example.com/mypage" />
<!-- other tags -->
“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.
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 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
- RSS uses
- Atom uses
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 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 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
Webmaster level: advanced
Over the summer the Webmaster Tools team has been cooking up an update to the Webmaster Tools API. The new API is consistent with other Google APIs, makes it easier to authenticate for apps or web-services, and provides access to some of the main features of Webmaster Tools.
This API allows you to:
- list, add, or remove sites from your account (you can currently have up to 500 sites in your account)
- list, add, or remove sitemaps for your websites
- get warning, error, and indexed counts for individual sitemaps
- get a time-series of all kinds of crawl errors for your site
- list crawl error samples for specific types of errors
- mark individual crawl errors as "fixed" (this doesn't change how they're processed, but can help simplify the UI for you)
We'd love to see what you're building with our APIs! Feel free to link to your projects in the comments below. Should you have any questions about the usage of the API, feel free to post in our help forum as well.
Posted by John Mueller, fan of long command lines, Google Zürich
Today, the new Webmaster Academy goes live in 22 languages! New or beginner webmasters speaking a multitude of languages can now learn the fundamentals of making a great site, providing an enjoyable user experience, and ranking well in search results. And if you think you’re already familiar with these topics, take the quizzes at the end of each module to prove it .
So give Webmaster Academy a read in your preferred language and let us know in the comments or help forum what you think. We’ve gotten such great and helpful feedback after the English version launched this past March so we hope this straightforward and easy-to-read guide can be helpful (and fun!) to everyone.
Let’s get great sites and searchable content up and running around the world.
Posted by Mary Chen, Webmaster Outreach
Today you’ll see a new and improved sitelinks search box. When shown, it will make it easier for users to reach specific content on your site, directly through your own site-search pages.
What’s this search box and when does it appear for my site?
When users search for a company by name—for example, [Megadodo Publications] or [Dunder Mifflin]—they may actually be looking for something specific on that website. In the past, when our algorithms recognized this, they'd display a larger set of sitelinks and an additional search box below that search result, which let users do site: searches over the site straight from the results, for example [site:example.com hitchhiker guides].
This search box is now more prominent (above the sitelinks), supports Autocomplete, and—if you use the right markup—will send the user directly to your website's own search pages.
How can I mark up my site?
You need to have a working site-specific search engine for your site. If you already have one, you can let us know by marking up your homepage as a schema.org/WebSite entity with the potentialAction property of the schema.org/SearchAction markup. You can use JSON-LD, microdata, or RDFa to do this; check out the full implementation details on our developer site.
If you implement the markup on your site, users will have the ability to jump directly from the sitelinks search box to your site’s search results page. If we don’t find any markup, we’ll show them a Google search results page for the corresponding site: query, as we’ve done until now.
As always, if you have questions, feel free to ask in our Webmaster Help forum.
Posted by Mariya Moeva, Webmaster Trends Analyst, and Kaylin Spitz, Software Engineer
Webmaster level: advanced
An easy solution for web users is to use an optimizing proxy, like Chrome's. When users opt into this service their HTTP traffic goes via Google's proxy, which optimizes their page loads and cuts bandwidth usage by 50%. While this is great for these users, it's limited to people using Chrome who turn the feature on and it can't optimize HTTPS traffic.
With Optimize for Bandwidth, the PageSpeed team is bringing this same technology to webmasters so that everyone can benefit: users of other browsers, secure sites, desktop users, and site owners who want to bring down their outbound traffic bills. Just install the PageSpeed module on your Apache or Nginx server , turn on Optimize for Bandwidth in your configuration, and PageSpeed will do the rest.
Posted by Jeff Kaufman, Make the Web Fast
Webmaster level: All
This June, we introduced a weeklong social campaign called #NoHacked. The goals for #NoHacked are to bring awareness to hacking attacks and offer tips on how to keep your sites safe from hackers.
We held the campaign in 11 languages on multiple channels including Google+, Twitter and Weibo. About 1 million people viewed our tips and hundreds of users used the hashtag #NoHacked to spread awareness and to share their own tips. Check them out below!
Posts we shared during the campaign:
Some of the many tips shared by users across the globe:
- Pablo Silvio Esquivel from Brazil recommends users not to use pirated software (source)
- Rens Blom from the Netherlands suggests using different passwords for your accounts, changing them regularly, and using an extra layer of security such as two-step authentication (source)
- Дмитрий Комягин from Russia says to regularly monitor traffic sources, search queries and landing pages, and to look out for spikes in traffic (source)
- 工務店コンサルタント from Japan advises everyone to choose a good hosting company that's knowledgeable in hacking issues and to set email forwarding in Webmaster Tools (source)
- Kamil Guzdek from Poland advocates changing the default table prefix in wp-config to a custom one when installing a new WordPress to lower the risk of the database from being hacked (source)
Hacking is still a surprisingly common issue around the world so we highly encourage all webmasters to follow these useful tips. Feel free to continue using the hashtag #NoHacked to share your own tips or experiences around hacking prevention and awareness. Thanks for supporting the #NoHacked campaign!
And in the unfortunate event that your site gets hacked, we’ll help you toward a speedy and thorough recovery:
Posted by your friendly #NoHacked helpers
Webmaster level: all
Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default. That means that people using Search, Gmail and Google Drive, for example, automatically have a secure connection to Google.
Beyond our own stuff, we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure. For instance, we have created resources to help webmasters prevent and fix security breaches on their sites.
For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
In the coming weeks, we’ll publish detailed best practices (we’ll add a link to it from here) to make TLS adoption easier, and to avoid common mistakes. Here are some basic tips to get started:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.
If your website is already serving on HTTPS, you can test its security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool. If you are concerned about TLS and your site’s performance, have a look at Is TLS fast yet?. And of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to post in our Webmaster Help Forums.
We hope to see more websites using HTTPS in the future. Let’s all make the web more secure!