Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Using Webmaster Tools like an SEO

Webmaster Level: Beginner to Intermediate

We on the Webmaster Central team aren’t SEOs, but that doesn’t stop me from pretending to be one! In our latest video, I’ll talk about utilizing some features in Webmaster Tools as though I were the SEO for

Just as a grandparent raves about their grandchild, I could have gone on for hours about (my baby!) Webmaster Tools. Thankfully I stopped myself -- but if you have tips to share or questions to ask, please comment below.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to deal with planned site downtime

Webmaster level: Intermediate to Advanced

Once in a while we get asked whether a site’s visibility in Google’s search results can be impacted in a negative way if it’s unavailable when Googlebot tries to crawl it. Sometimes downtime is unavoidable: a webmaster might decide to take a site down due to ongoing site maintenance, or legal or cultural requirements. Outages that are not clearly marked as such can negatively affect a site’s reputation. While we cannot guarantee any crawling, indexing or ranking, there are methods to deal with planned website downtime in a way that will generally not negatively affect your site’s visibility in the search results.

For example, instead of returning an HTTP result code 404 (Not Found) or showing an error page with the status code 200 (OK) when a page is requested, it’s better to return a 503 HTTP result code (Service Unavailable) which tells search engine crawlers that the downtime is temporary. Moreover, it allows webmasters to provide visitors and bots with an estimated time when the site will be up and running again. If known, the length of the downtime in seconds or the estimated date and time when the downtime will be complete can be specified in an optional Retry-After header, which Googlebot may use to determine when to recrawl the URL.

Returning a 503 HTTP result code can be a great solution for a number of other situations. We encounter a lot of problems with sites that return 200 (OK) result codes for server errors, downtime, bandwidth-overruns or for temporary placeholder pages (“Under Construction”). The 503 HTTP result code is the webmaster’s solution of choice for all these situations. As for planned server downtime like hardware maintenance, it’s a good idea to have a separate
server available to actually return the 503 HTTP result code. It is important, however, to not treat 503 as a permanent solution: lasting 503s can eventually be seen as a sign that the server is now permanently unavailable and can result in us removing URLs from Google’s index.

header('HTTP/1.1 503 Service Temporarily Unavailable');
header('Retry-After: Sat, 8 Oct 2011 18:27:00 GMT');

If you set up a 503 (Service Unavailable) response, the header information might look like this when using PHP.
Similar to how you can make 404 pages more useful to users, it’s also a good idea to provide a customized 503 message explaining the situation to users and letting them know when the site will be available again. For further information regarding HTTP result codes, please see RFC 2616.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Understanding your Opportunities with AdSense

Webmaster Level: Beginner to Intermediate

As you’re working to increase your traffic with Webmaster Tools, did you know that you’re also able to monetize this traffic with Google AdSense?

Google AdSense is a program that enables webmasters like you to display relevant ads on your websites and earn revenue. It’s free to use and gives you access to Google’s vast network of advertisers. After a quick and easy set up, AdSense is designed to help you start showing ads on your site that fit in with your audience, while allowing you to earn money from the unique content you’ve created.

A key factor in understanding the opportunities you have with AdSense is understanding the traffic you have coming to your site. Webmaster Tools and other Google tools, such as Google Analytics, provide you with the insight to identify who your visitors are and where they’re coming from. You’re working to bring more people to your site and optimize your most successful pages to boost overall traffic. You can use this information with Google AdSense to display ads that are targeted to your traffic and better suited to match the content on your most successful pages. For example, you can use Webmaster Tools to identify how often your pages appear within Google search results. Knowing these to potentially be your most visible pages, you can use AdSense to display optimized ads on these pages.

Take a look below to see what different AdSense ads can look like.

Text Ad - Medium Rectangle (300x250)Video Ad - Medium Rectangle (300x250)
Text AdVideo Ad

Image Ad - Leaderboad (728x90)

Image Ad - Leaderboard

Why use Google AdSense?
  • Earn revenue from relevant and engaging advertising that enhances the user experience of your site.
  • You’re in control, protecting your brand by customizing the size, location, and type of ads that appear.
  • Gain insight with the powerful integration of Google Analytics and AdSense, helping you easily identify trends and factors that influence the earning potential of your website.
  • Simple and easy to set up. Just add a few lines of code to your site and you’re ready to start showing ads.
  • No risk. No obligation. There’s no minimum term of commitment. And it’s free.
Google AdSense automatically delivers ads that are targeted to your content and audience. AdSense also allows you to create Custom Channels that help advertisers target certain pages of your website, or even specific sections of these pages. As a Webmaster Tools user you have an advantage in understanding which Google search results guide traffic to your pages. You can use this information to provide more accurate descriptions of your custom channels for advertisers, allowing you to show even more relevant ads to your users. In turn, you can earn more revenue by displaying these more relevant and high quality ads.

Sign up and monetize your website with Google AdSense.
You can also learn more about Google AdSense in the AdSense Help Forum.