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16Dec/140

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

10Dec/140

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

4Dec/140

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

19Nov/140

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

29Oct/140

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

27Oct/140

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 as in our Webmaster Help forum.

Posted by Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst

16Oct/140

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

11Sep/140

An update to the Webmaster Tools API

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.

If you've used other Google APIs, getting started with the new Webmaster Tools API will be easy! We have examples for Python, Java, as well as OACurl (for fans of command lines).

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

9Sep/140

Webmaster Academy now available in 22 languages

Webmaster level: Beginner

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

6Sep/140

An improved search box within the search results

Webmaster level: All

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

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