Google Optimization

18 Jul30 day challenge: no social media, no news

I realized that I didn’t mention this widely: my current 30 day challenge (July 2013) is not to read any news or social media. So no Twitter, Google News, Techmeme, Google+, Hacker News, Reddit, Imgur, etc. So if you’re wondering why I haven’t replied to a question, that’s the reason. I might still share a link if I run across something interesting, but I’m trying not to read any social media or news.

Why am I doing this? I find it to be a useful challenge. I’m crunching on a bunch of stuff and really wanted to get my head down and focus on some projects. I did this challenge in January 2013 and got a ton of stuff done. After the no-news challenge in January, I started surfing Twitter less often. I’d still check in every 3-4 days to read the tweets that people were sending my way, but otherwise I’d hit Nuzzel to skim just the most important tweets.

Longer-term, I’m trying to find a healthier approach to news and social media. On the spectrum of books to magazines to newspapers to social media with its second-by-second focus, I’d like to shift my media consumption more toward books and research. I’d also like to spend less time consuming media and more time doing things. See Clay Johnson’s Information Diet book for more about those kinds of ideas.

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12 JulA reminder about manipulative or deceptive behavior

Webmaster level: All

Our quality guidelines prohibit manipulative or deceptive behavior, and this stance has remained unchanged since the guidelines were first published over a decade ago. Recently, we’ve seen some user complaints about a deceptive technique which inserts new pages into users’ browsing histories. When users click the “back” button on their browser, they land on a new page that they’ve never visited before. Users coming from a search results page may think that they’re going back to their search results. Instead, they’re taken to a page that looks similar, but is actually entirely advertisements:

list of advertisements

To protect our users, we may take action on, including removal of, sites which violate our quality guidelines, including for inserting deceptive or manipulative pages into a user’s browser history. As always, if you believe your site has been impacted by a manual spam action and is no longer violating our guidelines, you can let us know by requesting reconsideration.

Posted by , Search Quality Team

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02 JulEasier navigation without GPS

Webmaster level: All

Today we’re unveiling a shiny new navigation in Webmaster Tools. The update will make the features you already use easier to find, as well as unveil some exciting additions.

Navigation reflects how search works

We’ve organized the Webmaster Tools features in groups that match the stages of search:

  • Crawl: see information about how we discover and crawl your content. Here you will find crawl stats, crawl errors, any URLs you’ve blocked from crawling, Sitemaps, URL parameters, and the Fetch as Google feature.
  • Google Index: keep track of how many of your pages are in Google’s index and how we understand their content: you can monitor the overall indexed counts for your site (Index Status), see what keywords we’ve found on your pages (Content Keywords), or request to remove URLs from the search results.
  • Search Traffic: check how your pages are doing in the search results — how people find your site (Search Queries), who’s recommended your site (Links to Your Site), and see a sample of pages from your site that have incoming links from other internal pages.
  • Search Appearance: mark up your pages to help Google understand your content better during indexing and potentially influence how your pages appear in our search results. This includes the Structured Data dashboard, Data Highlighter, Sitelinks, and HTML Improvements.

Account-level administrative tasks now accessible from the Settings menu

Account-level admin tasks such as setting User permissions, Site Settings, and Change of Address are now grouped under the gear icon in the top right corner so they’re always accessible to you:

This is the list of items as visible to site owners, “full” or “restricted” users will see a subset of these options. For example, if you’re a “restricted” user for a site, the “Users & Site Owners” menu item will not appear.

New Search Appearance pop-up

Beginner webmasters will appreciate the new Search Appearance pop-up, which can be used to visualize how your site may appear in search and learn more about the content or structure changes that may help to influence each element:

To access the pop-up window, click on the question mark icon next to the Search Appearance menu in the side navigation.

It includes the essential search result elements like title, snippet and URL, as well as optional elements such as sitelinks, breadcrumbs, search within a site, event and product rich snippets, and authorship information.

We hope the new navigation makes it easier for you to make the most of Webmaster Tools. As always, if you have additional questions, feel free to post in the Webmaster Help Forum.

Posted by , Webmaster Trends Analyst

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01 JulThe heart of a computer is now the network connection

Back in the 90s, the heart of a computer was the CPU. The faster the CPU, the better the computer was–you could do more, and the speed of the CPU directly affected your productivity. People upgraded their computers or bought new ones whenever they could to take advantage of faster CPU speeds.

I remember the point when computers got “fast enough” though. Around 1997 or 1998, computers started hitting 166 MHz or 200 MHz and you could feel the returns diminishing. At some point, the heart of a computer switched from being a CPU to the hard drive. What mattered wasn’t the speed of your Intel or AMD chip, but the data that you had stored on your computer.

The era of the hard drive lasted for a decade or so. Now I think we’re shifting away from the hard drive to the network connection. Or at least the heart of a computer has shifted for me. In 2006 I contemplated a future where “documents sat in a magic Writely [note: now Google Docs] cloud where I could get to them from anywhere.” Sure enough, I keep all my important files in Google Docs now. At this point, if I have a file that sits only on a local hard drive, I get really nervous. I’ve had local hard drives fail. By 2008, I was spending 98% of my time in a web browser.

Don’t get me wrong. Local hard drives are great for caching things. Plus sometimes you want to run apps locally. But for most people, the heart of a computer will soon be its network connection. Ask yourself: could you get by with a minimal hard drive? Sure. Plenty of people store their files on Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, iCloud, or SkyDrive. Or they back up their data with CrashPlan, SpiderOak, Carbonite, or Mozy. But would you want a computer that couldn’t browse the web, do email, or watch YouTube videos? Not likely.

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27 JunIntroducing website satisfaction by Google Consumer Surveys


Webmaster level: all

We’re now offering webmasters an easy and free way to collect feedback from your website visitors with website satisfaction surveys. All you have to do is paste a small snippet of code in the HTML for your website and this will load a discreet satisfaction survey in the lower right hand corner of your website. Google automatically aggregates and analyzes responses, providing the data back to you through a simple online interface.

Users will be asked to complete a four-question satisfaction survey. Surveys will run until they have received 500 responses and will start again after 30 days so you can track responses over time. This is currently limited to US English visitors on non-mobile devices. The default questions are free and you can customize questions for just $0.01 per response or $5.00 for 500 responses.


Survey Setup and Code Placement Tips

To set up the survey code, you’ll need to have access to the source code for your website.

  1. Sign into Google Consumer Surveys for website satisfaction to find the code snippet.
  2. You have the option to enter the website name and URL, survey timing, and survey frequency.
  3. Click on the “Activate survey” button when ready.
  4. Once you find the code snippet on top of the setup page, copy and paste it into your web page, just before the closing </head> tag. If your website uses templates to generate pages, enter it just before the closing </head> tag in the file that contains the <head> section.

If  you have any questions, please read our Help Center article to learn more.

Posted by Marisa Currie-Rose

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21 JunBacklinks and reconsideration requests

Webmaster level: advanced

When talking to site owners on Google Webmaster Forums we come across questions on reconsideration requests and how to handle backlink-related issues. Here are some common questions, along with our recommendations.

When should I file a reconsideration request?

If your site violates our Google Quality Guidelines or did in the past, a manual spam action may be applied to your site to prevent spam in our search results. You may learn about this violation from a notification in Google Webmaster Tools, or perhaps from someone else such as a previous owner or SEO of the site. To get this manual action revoked, first make sure that your site no longer violates the quality guidelines. After you’ve done that, it’s time to file a reconsideration request.

Should I file a reconsideration request if I think my site is affected by an algorithmic change?

Reconsideration requests are intended for sites with manual spam actions. If your site’s visibility has been solely affected by an algorithmic change, there’s no manual action to be revoked, and therefore no need to file a reconsideration request. If you’re unsure if it’s an algorithmic change or a manual action, and have found issues that you have resolved, then submitting a reconsideration request is fine.

How can I assess the quality of a site’s backlinks?

The links to your site section of Google Webmaster Tools is a great starting point for an investigation as it shows a significant amount of your site’s inbound links. If you know that you ran an SEO campaign during a particular period of time, downloading the latest links can come handy in slicing links created at that time. Using the links found in Google Webmaster Tools, we recommend looking for patterns that point to general issues that are worth resolving. For example, spammy blog comments, auto generated forum posts or text advertisements with links that pass PageRank are likely to be seen as unnatural links and would violate Google’s quality guidelines. For individual examples and hands-on advice we recommend getting help of peers and expert webmasters on the Google Webmaster Forum.

How do I clean a bad backlink profile?

Make sure to identify poor links first, then make a strong effort to get them either removed or nofollowed. Then use the Disavow Links Tool to deal with remaining unnatural backlinks. We recommend using domain-wide operator for sites with a complicated URL structure, very obvious spam sites, such as gibberish content sites or low quality sites with content that shows no editorial value. See our video on common mistakes when using the disavow tool for more information.

How much information do I need to provide?

Detailed documentation submitted along with a reconsideration request can contribute to its success, as it demonstrates the efforts made by the webmaster and helps Googlers with their investigation. If you are including a link to a shared document, make sure that it’s accessible to anyone with the link.

How long does it take to process reconsideration requests?

Reconsideration requests for sites affected by a manual spam action are investigated by a Googler. We strive to respond in a timely manner, normally within just a few days. However, the volume of incoming reconsideration requests can vary considerably, hence we don’t provide a guaranteed turnaround time.

What are the possible outcomes of a reconsideration request?

Upon submitting a reconsideration request, you will first receive an automated confirmation in Google Webmaster Tools. After your request is processed, we’ll send you another message to let you know the outcome of the request. In most cases, this message will either inform you that the manual action has been revoked or that your site still violates our quality guidelines.

Where can I get more guidance?

For more information on reconsideration requests, please visit our Help Center. And as always, the Google Webmaster Forum is a great place for further discussions as well as seeking more advice from experienced webmasters and Google guides.

Written by Kaspar Szymanski and Uli Lutz, Search Quality Team

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18 JunFunny SEO emails, part 6

Folks at Google get cold-call emails out of the blue just like everybody else. Here’s an email that a colleague of mine got recently:

I was on your website www.google.com and wanted to shoot you a quick note. I think I can make a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO – wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results, for a few of the select terms.

This is NOT like one of those foreign emails you probably get in your inbox every day. Just to be upfront I have 3 agents that work with me for development /SEO.

I would just need to know which (if not both) services you’re open to checking out information about, either web design or SEO. Would you be open to seeing more brief info / quote for what I would like to accomplish?

Regards,
XXXXXX XXXXX

So this person is offering help to convert Google visitors into leads. Or, you know, to improve Google’s rankings in organic search results. Sigh.

Earlier this week, I got a different email that said

I would like to extend our knowledge to your audience in the form of a uest post [sic]. This post will be written by a college educated writer fluent in English.

To recap we will provide-
- 100% original guest post with statical [sic] data and studies from professional writers.

Here’s my rule of thumb: if someone sends you an email with an SEO offer out of the blue, be skeptical. For example, check out some other fun SEO emails that I’ve gotten in the past.

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17 JunPenguin 2.0 rolled out today

We started rolling out the next generation of the Penguin webspam algorithm this afternoon (May 22, 2013), and the rollout is now complete. About 2.3% of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice. The change has also finished rolling out for other languages world-wide. The scope of Penguin varies by language, e.g. languages with more webspam will see more impact.

This is the fourth Penguin-related launch Google has done, but because this is an updated algorithm (not just a data refresh), we’ve been referring to this change as Penguin 2.0 internally. For more information on what SEOs should expect in the coming months, see the video that we recently released.

Added: If there are spam sites that you’d like to report after Penguin, we made a special spam report form at http://bit.ly/penguinspamreport . Tell us about spam sites you see and we’ll check it out.

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17 JunVerify your site in Webmaster Tools using Google Tag Manager

Webmaster level: Intermediate

If you use Google Tag Manager to add and update your site tags, now you can quickly and easily verify ownership of your site in Webmaster Tools using the container snippet code.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. On the Webmaster Tools home page, click Manage site for the site you’d like to verify, then select Verify this site. If you haven’t added the site yet, you can click the Add a site button in the top right corner.

To do this, you must have “View, Edit, and Manage” account level permissions in Google Tag Manager.

2. On the Verification page, select Google Tag Manager as the verification method and follow the steps on your screen.

3. Click Verify.

And you’re done!

If you’ve got any questions about this verification method, drop by the Webmaster Help Forum.

Posted by , Webmaster Trends Analyst

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12 JunChanges in rankings of smartphone search results

Webmaster level: Intermediate

Smartphone users are a significant and fast growing segment of Internet users, and at Google we want them to experience the full richness of the web. As part of our efforts to improve the mobile web, we published our recommendations and the most common configuration mistakes.

Avoiding these mistakes helps your smartphone users engage with your site fully and helps searchers find what they’re looking for faster. To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.

Let’s now look at two of the most common mistakes and how to fix them.

Faulty redirects

Some websites use separate URLs to serve desktop and smartphone users. A faulty redirect is when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to an irrelevant page on the smartphone-optimized website. A typical example is when all pages on the desktop site redirect smartphone users to the homepage of the smartphone-optimized site. For example, in the figure below, the redirects shown as red arrows are considered faulty:

This kind of redirect disrupts a user’s workflow and may lead them to stop using the site and go elsewhere. Even if the user doesn’t abandon the site, irrelevant redirects add more work for them to handle, which is particularly troublesome when they’re on slow mobile networks. These faulty redirects frustrate users whether they’re looking for a webpage, video, or something else, and our ranking changes will affect many types of searches.

Avoiding irrelevant redirects is very easy: Simply redirect smartphone users from a desktop page to its equivalent smartphone-optimized page. If the content doesn’t exist in a smartphone-friendly format, showing the desktop content is better than redirecting to an irrelevant page.

We have more tips about redirects, and be sure to read our recommendations for having separate URLs for desktop and smartphone users.

Smartphone-only errors

Some sites serve content to desktop users accessing a URL but show an error page to smartphone users. There are many scenarios where smartphone-only errors are seen. Some common ones are:

  • If you recognize a user is visiting a desktop page from a mobile device and you have an equivalent smartphone-friendly page at a different URL, redirect them to that URL instead of serving a 404 or a soft 404 page.

  • Make sure that the smartphone-friendly page itself is not an error page. If your content is not available in a smartphone-friendly format, serve the desktop page instead. Showing the content the user was looking for is a much better experience than showing an error page.

  • Incorrectly handling Googlebot-Mobile. A typical mistake is when Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones is incorrectly redirected to the website optimized for feature phones which, in turn, redirects Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones back to desktop site. This results in infinite redirect loop, which we recognize as error.

    Avoiding this mistake is easy: All Googlebot-Mobile user-agents identify themselves as specific mobile devices, and you should treat these Googlebot user-agents exactly like you would treat these devices. For example, Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones currently identifies itself as an iPhone and you should serve it the same response an iPhone user would get.

  • Unplayable videos on smartphone devices. Many websites embed videos in a way that works well on desktops but is unplayable on smartphone devices. For example, if content requires Adobe Flash, it won’t be playable on an iPhone or on Android versions 4.1 and higher.

Although we covered only two types of mistakes here, it’s important for webmasters to focus on avoiding all of the common smartphone website misconfigurations. Try to test your site on as many different mobile devices and operating systems, or their emulators, as possible, including testing the videos included on your site. Doing so will improve the mobile web, make your users happy, and allow searchers to experience and experience your content fully.

As always, please ask in our forums if you have any questions.

By Yoshikiyo Kato, Software Engineer, on behalf of Mobile Search team, and , Webmaster Trends Analyst

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