Thursday, January 28, 2010

Request visitors' permission before installing software

(Cross-posted on the Google Korea Blog)

Webmaster Level: All

Legitimate websites may require that their visitors install software. These sites often do so to provide their users with additional functionality beyond what's available in standard web browsers, like viewing a special type of document. Please note, however, that if your site requires specific software for your visitors, the implementation of this software installation process is very important. Incorrect implementation can appear as though you're installing malware, triggering our malware detection filters, and resulting in your site being labeled with a 'This site may harm your computer' malware warning in our search results.

If using your site requires a special software install, you need to first inform visitors why they need to install additional software. Here are two bad examples and one good example of how to handle the situation of a new visitor to such a site:

Bad: Install the required software without giving the visitor a chance to choose whether or not they want to install the software.

Bad: Pop up a confirmation dialog box that prompts the visitor to agree to install the software, without providing enough detail for the visitor to make an informed choice. (This includes the standard ActiveX control installation dialog box, since it doesn't contain enough meaningful information for a visitor to make an informed decision about that particular piece of software.)

Good: Redirect the new visitor to an information page which provides thorough details on why a special software installation is required to use the site. From this page the visitor can initiate the installation of the required software if they decide to proceed with installation.

Has your site been labeled with a malware warning in our search results due to a poorly implemented software installation requirement? Updating the installation process to ensure that visitors are fully informed on why the installation is necessary, and giving them a chance to opt out, should resolve this issue. Once you've got this in place, you can go to Webmaster Tools and request a malware review to expedite the process of removing any malware warnings associated with your site in Google's search results.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Protect your site from spammers with reCAPTCHA

Webmaster Level: All

If you allow users to publish content on your website, from leaving comments to creating user profiles, you’ll likely see spammers attempt to take advantage of these mechanisms to generate traffic to their own sites. Having this spammy content on your site isn't fun for anyone. Users may be subjected to annoying advertisements directing them to low-quality or dangerous sites containing scams or malware. And you as a webmaster may be hosting content that violates a search engine's quality guidelines, which can harm your site's standing in search results.

There are ways to handle this abuse, such as moderating comments and reviewing new user accounts, but there is often so much spam created that it can become impossible to keep up with. Spam can easily get to this unmanageable level because most spam isn’t created manually by a human spammer. Instead, spammers use computer programs called “bots” to automatically fill out web forms to create spam, and these bots can generate spam much faster than a human can review it.

To level the playing field, you can take steps to make sure that only humans can interact with potentially spammable features of your website. One way to determine which of your visitors are human is by using a CAPTCHA , which stands for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart." A typical CAPTCHA contains an image of distorted letters which humans can read, but are not easily understood by computers. Here's an example:

You can easily take advantage of this technology on your own site by using reCAPTCHA, a free service owned by Google. One unique aspect of reCAPTCHA is that data collected from the service is used to improve the process of scanning text, such as from books or newspapers. By using reCAPTCHA, you're not only protecting your site from spammers; you're helping to digitize the world's books.

Luis Von Ahn, one reCAPTCHA's co-founders, gives more details about how the service works in the video below:

If you’d like to implement reCAPTCHA for free on your own site, you can sign up here. Plugins are available for easy installation on popular applications and programming environments such as WordPress and PHP.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Introducing a new Rich Snippets format: Events

Webmaster Level: All

Last year we introduced Rich Snippets, a new feature that makes it possible to surface structured data from your pages on Google's search results. So far, user reaction to Rich Snippets has been enthusiastic -- after all, Rich Snippets help people make more informed clicks and find what they need even faster.

We originally introduced Rich Snippets with two formats: reviews and people. Later in the year we added support for marking up video information which is used to improve Video Search. Today, we're excited to kick off the new year by adding support for events.

Events markup is based off of the hCalendar microformat. Here's an example of what the new events Rich Snippets will look like:

The new format shows links to specific events on the page along with dates and locations. It provides a fast and convenient way for users to determine if a page has events they may be interested in.

If you have event listings on your site, we encourage you to review the events documentation we've prepared to help you get started. Please note, however, that marking up your content is not a guarantee that Rich Snippets will show for your site. Just as we did for previous formats, we will take a gradual approach to incorporating the new event snippets to ensure a great user experience along the way.

Stay tuned for more developments in Rich Snippets throughout the year!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Google SEO resources for beginners

Webmaster Level: Beginner

Want to eat healthier and exercise more in 2010? That's tough! Want to learn about search engine optimization (SEO) so you can disregard the rumors and know what's important? That's easy! Here's how to gain SEO knowledge as you go about your new start to 2010:

Step 1: Absorb the basics
  • If you like to learn by reading, download our SEO Starter Guide for reading while you're on an exercise bike, training for Ironman.
  • Or, if you're more a video watcher, try listening to my "Search Friendly Development" session while you're cleaning your house. Keep in mind that some parts of the presentation are a little more technical.

  • For good measure, and because at some point you'll hear references to them, check out our webmaster guidelines for yourself.

Step 2: Explore details that pique your interest
Are you done with the basics but now you have some questions? Good for you! Try researching a particular topic in our Webmaster Help Center. For example, do you want more information about crawling and indexing or understanding what links are all about?

Step 3: Verify ownership of your site in Webmaster Tools
It takes a little bit of skill, but we have tons of help for verification. Once you verify ownership of your site (i.e., signal to Google that you're the owner), you can:

A sample message regarding the crawlability of your site

Step 4: Research before you do anything drastic
Usually the basics (e.g., good content/service and a crawlable site with indexable information) are the necessities for SEO. You may hear or read differently, but before you do anything drastic on your site such as robots.txt disallow'ing all of your directories or revamping your entire site architecture, please try:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

State of the Index 2009

Webmaster Level: All

At PubCon in Las Vegas in November 2009, I gave a "State of the Index" talk which covers what Google has done for users, web developers, and webmasters in the last year. I recently recreated it on video for those of you who didn't make it to the conference. You can watch it below:

And here are the slides if you'd like to follow along:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Test your webmaster know-how!

Webmaster Level: All

We thought it might be fun and educational to create a quiz for webmasters about issues we commonly see in the Webmaster Help Forum. Together with our awesome Bionic Posters, we've tried to come up with questions and answers that reflect recurring concerns in the forum and some information that may not be well known. Some things to keep in mind when taking this quiz:
  • The quiz will be available to take from today until Wednesday, January 27 at 5PM PST.
  • It doesn't cover all facets of webmaster problems that arise, and—as with any test—it is at best only a fun way to test your webmaster prowess ;). We leave discussion of specific cases to the forum.
  • We've set up the quiz using our very own Google Docs. This means you won't see results right away, but we plan to write a follow-up blog post explaining answers and listing top scorers. Be sure to save your answers or print out your completed quiz before submitting! This way you can check your answers against the correct ones when we publish them.
  • It's just for fun!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Answering your December Grab Bag questions

Webmaster Level: All

You asked and Matt Cutts answered. It's time to answer the latest round of Grab Bag questions! Here's the first answer, complete with Matt's new hairstyle:

We have a lot of videos ready to share, so we're not currently taking new questions for the Grab Bag. If you have a question that you would like answered, your best bet as always is to head to our Webmaster Help Forum, where you'll find plenty of knowledgeable webmasters, including some Bionic Posters!

To be kept up-to-date on our latest video releases, you can follow @googlewmc on Twitter, where we'll announce new videos and blog posts as they're published.