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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Japanese WMC Blog launched

Konnichiwa! Hajimemashite! *Hello, Nice to meet you!

We just launched a new Webmaster Central Blog in Japanese. For those of you who feel more comfortable reading Japanese, and are interested in webmaster-related information from Google, and even learning about issues specific to our region and language, we hope you enjoy on our Japanese version of the Webmaster Central Blog :D

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad from the Spanish Webmaster Central team!

About three and a half months ago we kicked off the Spanish Webmaster Central blog hoping to reach many webmasters. Given the time of the year, we would like to say a big ¡Muchas Gracias! to all our readers.

It's been both a pleasure and a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge and hear your feedback. A few of this year's highlights:

For the blog, we had:
As for conferences, we had the chance to talk to some of you in:
And last, but not least, the Spanish Help Group, with lots of interesting stories.

This is us, several members of the Spanish Webmaster Central team:


From left to right: Cristina, Alvar, Rebecca, and Esperanza in Google's Dublin office, with a holiday touch :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing you and your site a happy holiday!

Your presence is our favorite present -- thanks for joining us for another year of making your site, and therefore the web, a better place.


Every day we see new people commenting and joining the discussion. This holiday season we'll try to update our blog to accommodate your growing needs. Always feel free to let us know how we're doing (especially if we publish a typo! :), because first and foremost and everywhere in the middle, we're trying to improve for you.

Happy holidays from all of us at Webmaster Central.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quick and easy tips for the holiday rush

Season's greetings, webmasters! We've compiled a list of quick and simple tips for websites preparing for the holiday rush. For online and offline retailers, we understand that your website is a big part of your business, especially this time of year. Whether it's to make the sale online or to increase foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar location, your web presence is a critical part of your business plan. The tips below are fast, free, and can make a big difference.

Verify that your site is indexed by Google (and is returned in search results)
Check your snippet content and page titles with the site: command [site:example.com] -- do they look accurate and descriptive for users? Ideally, each title and snippet should be unique in order to reflect that each URL contains unique content. If anything is missing or you want more details, you can also use the Content Analysis tool in Webmaster Tools. There you can see which URLs on your site show duplicate titles or meta descriptions.


Label your images accurately
Don't miss out on potential customers! Because good 'alt' text and descriptive filenames help us better understand images, make sure you change non-descriptive file names [001.jpg] to something more accurate [NintendoWii.jpg]. Image Search is one of our largest search properties, so you should take advantage of it.

Know what Google knows (about your site)
Check for crawl errors and learn the top queries that bring traffic to your site through Webmaster Tools. See our diagnostics checklist.

Have a plan for expiring and temporary pages
Make sure to serve accurate HTTP status codes. If you no longer sell a product, serve a 404. If you have changed a product page to a new URL, serve a 301 to redirect the old page to the new one. Keeping your site up-to-date can help bring more targeted traffic your way.

Increase foot traffic too
If your website directs customers to a brick-and-mortar location, make sure you claim and double check your business listing in Google Local.


Usability 101
Test the usability of your checkout process with various browsers. Ask yourself if a user can get from product page to checkout without assistance. Is your checkout button easy to find?

Tell us where to find all of your web pages
If you upload new products faster than Google crawls your site, make sure to submit a Sitemap and include 'last modification' and change frequency' information. A Sitemap can point Googlebot to your new or hard-to-find content.

Manage your sitelinks
Your site may be triggering Sitelinks in the search results, so check the links and make sure the destination pages are fully functional. Remember: in Webmaster Tools you can remove any sitelinks that you don't think users will find useful.


Don't forget to check out these additional resources:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sitemap Submission Made Simple

Submitting a Sitemap to Google just became even easier. No longer do you have to specify the Sitemap file type—we'll determine the type of data you're submitting automatically. Let's take a quick look at the kinds of Sitemap files we support as well as the ways they can be submitted to us.

A sample Webmaster Tools account with Sitemaps

Sitemap file formats supported by Google

Part of what makes the web so interesting is that there are so many different kinds of content out there. Do you use videos on your website? If so, send us a Video Sitemap file so that we can send you visitors to those videos! Do you host source-code samples? Submit a Code Search Sitemap! Here are the various kinds of Sitemap files that Google supports at the moment:

If you have multiple Sitemap files that you wish to submit to Google, you can include up to 1,000 of these in an XML Sitemap Index file. If you have more than 1,000 Sitemap files, you can just submit multiple Sitemap Index files - we'd love to take them all!

Submitting your Sitemap files to Google

Once you have your Sitemap files ready and available on your server, all that's left is making sure that the search engines can find them. Google supports three simple ways to submit Sitemap files:
  • Using Google Webmaster Tools
    Submitting your Sitemap files through Google Webmaster Tools is the preferred way of letting us know about them. The main advantage of doing it this way is that you'll always have direct feedback about how your Sitemap files were downloaded (were we able to reach your server?), how they were recognized (were they in the right format?) and what happened to the web pages listed in them (how many were indexed?). To submit your Sitemap files, make sure that your website is verified in Webmaster Tools, then go to "Sitemaps" in Webmaster Tools and enter the file name of your Sitemap(s).

    Sometimes it makes sense to keep your Sitemap file on a different server / domain name. To submit Sitemap files like that, you must verify ownership of both sites in Webmaster Tools and submit the Sitemap on the appropriate site. For instance, if your Sitemap file for http://www.example.com is kept on http://sitemap-files.example.com/ then you need to verify ownership of both sites and then submit the Sitemap file under http://sitemap-files.example.com (even though the URLs listed in it are for http://www.example.com). For more information, please see our Help Center topic on submitting Sitemap files for multiple sites.
  • Listing Sitemap files in the robots.txt file
    Another way of submitting a Sitemap file is to specify the URL in your robots.txt file. If you use this method of submitting a Sitemap file, it will be found by all search engines that support the Sitemaps protocol (although not all of them support the extensions listed above). Since you can specify the full URL of your Sitemap file in the robots.txt file, this method also allows you to store your Sitemap file on a different domain. Keep in mind that while Sitemap files submitted this way are processed on our side, they will not be automatically listed in your Webmaster Tools account. In order to receive feedback on your files, we recommend adding them manually to your account as well.
  • Using an HTTP "ping"
    If your Sitemap files are generated automatically, a convenient way to submit (and re-submit) them is to access the "ping" URL for Google Sitemaps. This URL includes the URL of your Sitemap file. For more information on the "ping" URL for your website, please see the Help Center article on Updating a Sitemap. Feel free to "ping" this URL whenever you update your Sitemap file - we'll know to pick it up and process it again. If you also have your Sitemap file registered in Webmaster Tools, we'll update the status there as well. This method is also valid if your Sitemap file is kept on a different server, but you must still verify both sites in Webmaster Tools as previously mentioned.

    Search engines that are a members of sitemaps.org support a similar way of submitting general web Sitemap files.

We hope these simplifications make it even easier for you to send us your Sitemap files!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Webmaster Tools in 40 languages!

(Инструменти за уеб администратори, Eines per a administradors web de Google, Webmaster Tools, Googlen Verkkovastaavan työkalut, Εργαλεία για Webmasters, Alat WebMaster, Tīmekļa pārziņa rīki, Žiniatinkli valdytojo įrankiai, Ferramentas para o webmaster do Google, Алатке за вебмастере, Nástroje správcu webu, Orodja za spletne skrbnike, Інструменти для веб-майстра, Công cụ Quản trị Trang Web)

In our recent Webmaster Tools launch, we went live in 14 new languages, bringing our total language support count to 40! With the launch of Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Filipino, Greek, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Portuguese (Portugal), Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese, Webmaster Tools joins Google products such as Google.com, AdWords, Gmail and Toolbar to reach the 40 Language Initiative (Google's company-wide initiative to make sure Google products are available in the 40 languages read by more than 98% of Internet users).

Our team is very excited to reach so many of you by offering our tools in 40 languages. At the same time, both the Google Localization and Webmaster Tools teams know that there's more room for improvements in the features and quality of our service. We hope to hear your input in the comments below, especially on the linguistic quality of our new languages.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Message Center info through our API

Recently we mentioned some updates in the Webmaster Tools GData API: we've just launched a whole new API, the Message Center GData API, as part of the Webmaster Tools API. The Message Center is the way that Google communicates to webmasters important issues regarding their sites—for example, if there's a problem crawling your site, or if someone has requested a change in crawl rate. Until now it was only possible to access these messages through the Message Center section of Webmaster Tools; but now you can also use GData to access it as a feed. This way you don't need to continually check your messages in Webmaster Tools, you can retrieve the messages feed automatically and be informed as soon as possible of any critical issues regarding your site.
What can I do?
The Message Center GData API lets you retrieve all messages, mark the messages as read or unread, and delete messages. You can do these tasks using the provided Java client libraries, or you can create your own client code based on the protocol information.
  • Retrieve messages: The messages feed contains all the messages sent to your account. These messages have important information about your verified sites. Examples of messages include infinite spaces warnings and crawl rate change notifications.
  • Mark messages as read or unread: In order to keep track of new communications from Google, you can mark your messages as read or unread, the same way that you would manage your inbox. If you retrieve a single message, this message will be automatically marked as read.
  • Delete mesages: It's possible to delete messages using the GData API. However, be careful because if you delete a message through the API it will also be deleted in your Webmaster Tools account, as both interfaces share the same data.
How do I do it?
You can download code samples in Java for all these new features. These samples provide simple ways to use the messages feed. The following snippet shows how to retrieve the messages feed in a supported language and print all the messages:
  // Connect with the service and authenticate
  WebmasterToolsService service
      =
new WebmasterToolsService("exampleCo-exampleApp-1");
  
try {
    service.setUserCredentials(
USERNAME, PASSWORD);
  }
catch (AuthenticationException e) {
    System.out.println(
"Username or password invalid");
    
return;
  }

  // Retrieve messages feed
  MessagesFeed messages;
  
try {
    URL feedUrl;
    
if (USER_LANGUAGE == null) {
      feedUrl =
new URL(MESSAGES_FEED_URI);
    }
else {
      feedUrl =
new URL(MESSAGES_FEED_URI
          +
"?hl=" + USER_LANGUAGE);
    }
    messages = service.getFeed(feedUrl, MessagesFeed.
class);
  }
catch (IOException e) {
    System.out.println(
"There was a network error.");
    
return;
  }
catch (ServiceException e) {
    System.out.println(
"The service is not available.");
    
return;
  }

  // Print the messages feed
  System.out.println(messages.getTitle().getPlainText());
  
for (MessageEntry entry : messages.getEntries()) {
    
if (entry.getRead()) {
      System.out.print(
"   \t");
    }
else {
      System.out.print(
"new\t");
    }
    System.out.print(entry.getDate().toUiString() +
"\t");
    System.out.println(entry.getSubject());
  }

Where do I get it?
If you want to know more about GData, you may want to start by checking out the GData website. The homepage of the Webmaster Tools GData API contains a section on the messages feed, with details about the protocol. You can also download the sample Message Center client form the GData download site. It will show you how to use all the Message Center GData API features.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reintroducing your English Webmaster Help Google Guides

When we announced our latest round of Bionic Posters in the old Help Group, an astute webmaster noted that we had never fully introduced ourselves to the webmaster community. With our announcement of a new English Webmaster Help forum, I'm happy to (re)introduce you all to the Google Guides from around the world who will be hanging out in the English forum:

Guides in Mountain View, California (from left to right): Adam, Maile, Matt Cutts, Chris, Wysz, Matt, Chark, and Adi.

Also in Mountain View: Evan, Jessica, and Nate.

Guides in Kirkland, Washington: Susan, Riona, and Jonathan.

Guides in Zürich, Switzerland: John Mueller and Balázs.

Guides in Hyderabad, India: Koti, Reid (visiting from Mountain View), and Jayan.


Guide in Ottowa Ottawa :), Ontario: Oliver.
All of us look forward to seeing you around the forum! Our Google Guides in non-English Webmaster Help Groups introduce themselves here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friend Connect now available in beta to everyone

Update: The described product or service is no longer available.

If you've been looking for a way to grow traffic and make your site more interactive, check out Google Friend Connect -- now in beta and available to all webmasters. Remember that with Friend Connect, you can easily add social features to your site by just copying and pasting a few snippets of code, no programming necessary! Your visitors will be able to join your site, create or link to a profile, interact with other visitors, and invite friends to visit your site. Best of all, your visitors won't be required to create yet another username and password -- Friend Connect lets them sign in using an existing Google, Yahoo, AOL, or OpenID account. To learn more, watch the video below:


So for any of you who were interested in Friend Connect after our first announcement, and also to all of the newer readers out there, go ahead and give Friend Connect a try.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One place for changing your site's settings

One of the many useful features of Webmaster Tools is the ability to adjust settings for your site, such as crawl rate or geographic target. We've been steadily adding settings over time and have now gotten to the point where they merit their own page. That's right, Webmaster Tools now provides a single, dedicated page where you can see and adjust all the settings for your site.

The settings that have been moved to the new Settings page are:
1. Geographic Target
2. Preferred domain control
3. Opting in to enhanced image search
4. Crawl rate control





Changing a Setting
Whenever you change a setting, you will be given an option to save or cancel the change.

Please note: The Save/Cancel option is provided on a per setting basis and hence if you change multiple settings, you'll have to click the Save button associated with each setting.


Expiration of a setting
Some of the settings are time-bounded. That is, your setting will expire after a certain time period. For example, the crawl rate setting has an expiration period of 90 days. After this period, it's automatically reset to the default setting. Whenever you visit the Settings page, you can view the date that your setting will expire underneath the setting name.


That's all there is to it!

We always like adding features and making our interface clearer based on your suggestions, so keep them coming! Please share your feedback (or ask questions) in the Webmaster Help Forum.

A new look for our Webmaster Help Group

Googlers strongly believe in dogfooding our own products. We manage our work schedules with Google Calendar, publish our blogs on Blogger, and store scads of documentation on Google Sites. So, ever since we launched our first Webmaster Help Group, we've been using Google Groups to facilitate conversations about Webmaster Tools and web search issues.
Today, however, I'm thrilled to announce that our English and Polish Help Groups are getting a makeover. And the changes are more than just skin-deep. Our new Help Forums should make it easier for you to find answers, share resources with others, and have your participation acknowledged.
You can read more about the changes on the Official Google Blog, and then check it out for yourself: English, Polish.
Q: What will happen to the old English and Polish Help Groups?
A: While our old groups are now closed to new posts, they will still be available in read-only mode in case you want to reference any of your favorite posts from the good old days. Many of the most frequently-asked questions (and answers!) have already been transferred to our new Help Forums.
Q: If I was a member of the old group, will I automatically be a member of the new forum?
A: We won't be "transferring" membership from the old groups to the new, so even if you were a member of our Google Groups forum, you'll still need to join the new forum in order to participate. Nicknames and user profiles are also managed separately, so you're welcome to recreate your Google Groups profile in our new forum, or reinvent yourself.
Q: What about the Webmaster Help Groups in other languages?
A: They'll be moving to the new Help Forum format in 2009. Specific dates will be announced in each of the groups as they get closer to their moving date.
Feel free to post any other questions about the new Help Forums in the comments below.

More control of Googlebot's crawl rate

We've upgraded the crawl rate setting in Webmaster Tools so that webmasters experiencing problems with Googlebot can now provide us more specific information. Crawl rate for your site determines the time used by Googlebot to crawl your site on each visit. Our goal is to thoroughly crawl your site (so your pages can be indexed and returned in search results!) without creating a noticeable impact on your server's bandwidth. While most webmasters are fine using the default crawl setting (i.e. no changes needed, more on that below), some webmasters may have more specific needs.

Googlebot employs sophisticated algorithms that determine how much to crawl each site it visits. For a vast majority of sites, it's probably best to choose the "Let Google determine my crawl rate" option, which is the default. However, if you're an advanced user or if you're facing bandwidth issues with your server, you can customize your crawl rate to the speed most optimal for your web server(s). The custom crawl rate option allows you to provide Googlebot insight to the maximum number of requests per second and the number of seconds between requests that you feel are best for your environment.

Googlebot determines the range of crawl rate values you'll have available in Webmaster Tools. This is based on our understanding of your server's capabilities. This range may vary from one site to another and across time based on several factors. Setting the crawl rate to a lower-than-default value may affect the coverage and freshness of your site in Google's search results. However, setting it to higher value than the default won't improve your coverage or ranking. If you do set a custom crawl rate, the new rate will be in effect for 90 days after which it resets to Google's recommended value.

You may use this setting only for root level sites and sites not hosted on a large domain like blogspot.com (we have special settings assigned for them). To check the crawl rate setting, sign in to Webmaster Tools and visit the Settings tab. If you have additional questions, visit the Webmaster Help Center to learn more about how Google crawls your site or post your questions in the Webmaster Help Forum.