Saturday, May 24, 2008

Making more housecalls

All of us with Webmaster Central share one passion: a serious love for improving the Internet.

If you're organizing an event with an audience that would benefit from our discussing building search-engine friendly sites and maximizing the resources of Webmaster Central -- such as our Webmaster Tools, Help Center and Discussion Group -- please submit a speaker request. We'll work with our Corporate Communications team to see if we can add your event to our schedule.

With the intention of helping people make great content accessible on the web, we attended over 15 events this year -- including search conferences, business schools and marketing expos. We feel that we can be most helpful to:
  • Site owners/webmasters/bloggers who feature original, compelling content or tools, such as their...
    • Neighborhood store, restaurant, dentist office, etc.
    • Service or product (e.g. freelance photographer or online wizard for house decorating)
    • Passion, hobby, opinion (latest from the San Francisco music scene, perspectives on the upcoming election)
  • Web developers, web designers, SEOs/SEMs who build sites for others
Submitting a speaking request does not guarantee our attendance, but we'll definitely review each submission with our Communications team. Also, if we can't attend your event this time around, but we feel we could make a positive impact in the future, we'll keep the event on our radar.

Now I'd love to introduce two of our newest speakers who have been active in the Webmaster Help Group for some time: Michael Wyszomierski and Reid Yokoyama.

Hi, I'm Michael, but I go by "Wysz" in the Webmaster Help Group. When I'm not talking to webmasters or doing other search-related work, I like to tinker with my personal blog, take photos, and edit videos. Blogs, videos, podcasts, and other online media often come to my rescue when I'm searching for information online, so I'd love to talk to fellow content providers about how to make sure their sites can be understood by Google.
Hi, I'm Reid. I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but have fallen in love with the weather, biking trails, and culture of the Bay Area. I studied to be a historian and even wrote a Senior honors thesis on Japanese American resettlement in San Francisco after WWII, but as an avid blogger, found myself increasingly interested in the transaction of knowledge and information through the Internet. I'm particularly passionate about helping small businesses build out high quality websites and helping them understand how Google's tools can help them in the process.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Webmaster Tools now in 26 languages

Written by Liza Ma, Webmaster Tools Team

Webmasters come from all corners of the world and we are working hard to reach each and everyone of you. A few months back we introduced you to Googlers who help monitor our Webmaster Help Groups in fifteen languages. Since then, that number has grown to sixteen with the addition of the Chinese Help Group. Today, we're happy to announce that Webmaster Tools is now available in four more languages:
  • Arabic
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Thai
Webmaster Tools is already available in 22 other languages: British English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, and US English.

We're thrilled to be engaging with such a diverse community of webmasters. Thank you again for your feedback and support!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Becoming Social

Update: The described feature is no longer available.

Wondering how to make your site more social? We'd like to make it easier for you, which is why earlier tonight at Campfire One at the Googleplex, we announced a preview release of Google Friend Connect.

Google Friend Connect is a service that that helps you grow traffic by enabling you to easily provide social features for your visitors. Just add a snippet of code, and, voilà, you can add social functionality -- picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.

Social features can generate buzz and traffic to your pages. Using Google Friend Connect on your site, your visitors will be able to see, invite, and interact with their friends from existing sources of friends, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, LinkedIn, orkut, Plaxo, and others. And you'll be able to more actively engage your visitors by adding social features from a growing gallery of social applications.

We've heard from many site owners that even though their sites aren't social networks, they'd still like them to be social. Whether your site sells car parts or dishes out great guacamole recipes -- like the sample site in the YouTube video above -- you can visit or read more on the Official Google Blog to learn about Google Friend Connect. Right now, the preview is available for only a few sites, but soon we'll give the green light to even more. Sign up now to be on the wait list.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Design patterns for accessible, crawlable and indexable content

As a follow-up to my previous posts on accessibility, here are some design recommendations for creating web content that remains usable by the widest possible audience while helping ensure that the content gets indexed and crawled.

Avoid spurious XMLHttpRequests

Pages that enable users to look up information often use XMLHttpRequests to populate the page with additional information after the page has loaded. When using this pattern, ensure that your initial page has useful information on it -- otherwise Googlebot as well as those users who have disabled scripting in their browser may believe that your site contains only the message "loading..."

CSS sprites and navigation links

Having meaningful text to go with navigational links is equally important for Googlebot as well as users who cannot perceive the meaning of an image. While designing the look and feel of navigational links on your site, you may have chosen to go with images that function as links, e.g., by placing <img> tags within <a> elements. That design enables you to place the descriptive text as an alt attribute on the <img> tag.

But what if you've switched to using CSS sprites to optimize page loading? It's still possible to include that all-important descriptive text when applying CSS sprites; for a possible solution, see how the Google logo and the various nav-links at the bottom of the Google Results page are coded. In brief, we placed the descriptive text right under the CSS-sprited image.

Google search results with CSS enabled

Google search result with CSS disabled ("Google" sprited image lost, descriptive "Google" link remains)

Use unobtrusive JavaScript

We've talked about the concept of progressive enhancement when creating a rich, interactive site. As you add features, also use unobtrusive JavaScript techniques for creating JavaScript-powered web pages that degrade gracefully. These techniques ensure that your content remains accessible by the widest possible user base without the need to sacrifice the more interactive features of Web 2.0 applications.

Make printer-friendly versions easily available

Web sites with highly interactive visual designs often provide all of the content for a given story as a printer-friendly version. Generated from the same content as the interactive version, these are an excellent source of high-quality content for both the Googlebot as well as visually impaired users unable to experience all of the interactive features of a web site. But all too often, these printer-friendly versions remain hidden behind scripted links of the form:

<a href="#" onclick="javascript:print(...)">Print</a>

Creating actual URLs for these printer-friendly versions and linking to them via plain HTML anchors will vastly improve the quality of content that gets crawled.

<a href="" target="_blank">Print</a>

If you're especially worried about duplicate content from the interactive and printer-friendly version, then you may want to pick a preferred version of the content and submit a Sitemap containing the preferred URL as well as try to internally link to this version. This can help Google disambiguate if we see pieces of the article show up on different URLs.

Create URLs for your useful content

As a webmaster, you have the power to mint URLs for all of the useful content that you are publishing. Exercising this power is what makes the web spin. Creating URLs for every valuable nugget you publish, and linking to them via plain old HTML hyperlinks will ensure that:
  • Googlebot learns about that content,
  • users can find that content,
  • and users can bookmark it for returning later.
Failure to do this often forces your users to have to remember complex click trails to reach that nugget of information they know they previously viewed on your site.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sitemaps offer better coverage for your Custom Search Engine

If you're a webmaster or site owner, you realize the importance of providing high quality search on your site so that users easily find the right information.

We just announced today that AdSense for Search is now powered by Custom Search. Custom Search (a Google-powered search box that you can install on your website in minutes) helps your users quickly find what they're looking for. As a webmaster, Custom Search gives you advanced customization options to improve the accuracy of your site's search results. You can also choose to monetize your traffic with ads tuned to the topic of your site. If you don't want ads, you can use Custom Search Business Edition.

Now, we're also looking to index more of your site's content for inclusion in your Custom Search Engine (CSE) used for search on your site. We figure out what sites and URLs are included in your CSE, and -- if you've provided Sitemaps for the relevant sites -- we use that information to create a more comprehensive experience for your site's visitors. You don't have to do anything specific, besides submitting a Sitemap (via Webmaster Tools) for your site if you haven't already done so. Note that this change will not result in more pages indexed on and your search rankings on won't change. However, you will be able to get much better results coverage in your CSE.

Custom Search is built on top of the Google index. This means that all pages that are available on are also available to your search engine. We're now maintaining a CSE-specific index in addition to the index for enhancing the performance of search on your site. If you submit a Sitemap, it's likely that we will crawl those pages and include them in the additional index we build.

In order for us to index these additional pages, our crawlers must be able to crawl them. Your Sitemap will also help us identify the URLs that are important. Please ensure you are not blocking us from crawling any pages you want indexed. Improved index coverage is not instantaneous, as it takes some time for the pages to be crawled and indexed.

So what are you waiting for? Submit your Sitemap!