Monday, November 7, 2011

Grow your audience with Google+

Webmaster Level: All

At Google, we help grow your audience by connecting you with new users. We introduced the +1 button so your site would stand out on search and your users could easily share your content on Google+. But, sometimes you want to join the conversation and post content directly to where people are sharing.

Today we’re introducing Google+ for Business, a collection of tools and products that help you grow your audience. At the core of this is Google+ Pages, your site’s identity on Google+.

Google+ Pages: Have real conversations with the right people

To get your site on Google+, you first need to create a Google+ Page. On your page, you can engage in conversations with your visitors, direct readers back to your site for the latest updates, send tailored messages to specific groups of people, and see how many +1’s you have across the web. Google+ Pages will help you build relationships with your users, encouraging them to spend more time engaging with your content.

Google+ Pages are at the heart of Google+ for Business

Sometimes you might want to chat with your users face-to-face.  For example, if you run a food blog, you may want to invite a chef to talk about her favorite recipe, or if you manage a fashion review site, beauty specialists might want to hold how-to sessions with makeup tips. Hangouts make this easy, by letting you have high-quality video chats with nine people with a single click. You can use Hangouts to hold live forums, break news or simply get to know people better, all in real time.

Hangouts let you meet your customers, face-to-face

Circles allow you to group followers of your Page into smaller audiences. You can then share specific messages with specific groups. For example, you could create a Circle containing your most loyal readers and offer them exclusive content.
The Google+ badge: Grow your audience on Google+

To help your users find your page and start sharing, there are two buttons you can add to your site by visiting our Google+ badge configuration tool:

The Google+ icon, a small icon that directly links to your Page.

The Google+ badge, which we’re introducing in the coming days. This badge lets people add your page to their circles without leaving your site, and allows them to get updates from your site via Google+.


Extend the power of +1, stand out in Google search
You can also link your site to your Google+ page so that all your +1s -- from your Page, your website, and search results -- will get tallied together and appear as a single total. Potential visitors will be more likely to see the recommendations your site has received, whether they’re looking at a search result, your website, or your Page, meaning your +1’s will reach not only the 40 million users of Google+, but all the people who come to Google every day. You can link your site to your Page either using the Google+ badge or with a  piece of code. To set this up, visit our Google+ badge configuration tool.

Bringing Google+ to the rest of Google

Our ultimate vision for Google+ is to transform the overall Google experience -- weaving identity and sharing into all of our products. Beginning today, we’re rolling out a new experimental feature to a small group of eligible publishers, Google+ Direct Connect -- an easy way for your audience to find your Google+ Page on Google search.  If you’ve linked your Page to your site and you qualify, when someone searches for your website’s name with the ‘+’ sign before it Direct Connect will send them directly to your Page. For example, try searching for ‘+YouTube’ on Google. Users will also be prompted to automatically add Pages they find through Direct Connect to their circles. 

Direct Connect suggestions start populating as you type on

Just the beginning

We want to help you get your site on Google+ as soon as possible, so we’re opening the field trial for Google+ Pages to everyone today. Creating a Google+ Page only takes a few minutes. To get started, you’ll need a personal Google+ profile. If you don’t have a Google account, it’s very quick and easy to join. And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of the sites that are already starting to set up their Pages:

Partner LogosBurberryHMMacysPepsiABC NewsAmazonAssassins_CreedATTBreaking_NewsOrangeDC_ComicsDellNBC_NewsGol_Linhas_aerasKiaLOrealMarvelNYTimesPiagetShadyTmobileToyotaUniqloVirgin

To learn more about how Google+ works for your site, check out the Google+ Your Business site. We’re just getting started, and have many more features planned for the coming weeks and months. To keep up to date on the latest news and tips, add the Google+ Your Business page to your circles. If you have ideas on how we can improve Google+ for your site, we’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

GET, POST, and safely surfacing more of the web

Webmaster Level: Intermediate to Advanced

As the web evolves, Google’s crawling and indexing capabilities also need to progress. We improved our indexing of Flash, built a more robust infrastructure called Caffeine, and we even started crawling forms where it makes sense. Now, especially with the growing popularity of JavaScript and, with it, AJAX, we’re finding more web pages requiring POST requests -- either for the entire content of the page or because the pages are missing information and/or look completely broken without the resources returned from POST. For Google Search this is less than ideal, because when we’re not properly discovering and indexing content, searchers may not have access to the most comprehensive and relevant results.

We generally advise to use GET for fetching resources a page needs, and this is by far our preferred method of crawling. We’ve started experiments to rewrite POST requests to GET, and while this remains a valid strategy in some cases, often the contents returned by a web server for GET vs. POST are completely different. Additionally, there are legitimate reasons to use POST (e.g., you can attach more data to a POST request than a GET). So, while GET requests remain far more common, to surface more content on the web, Googlebot may now perform POST requests when we believe it’s safe and appropriate.

We take precautions to avoid performing any task on a site that could result in executing an unintended user action. Our POSTs are primarily for crawling resources that a page requests automatically, mimicking what a typical user would see when they open the URL in their browser. This will evolve over time as we find better heuristics, but that’s our current approach.

Let’s run through a few POSTs request scenarios that demonstrate how we’re improving our crawling and indexing to evolve with the web.

Examples of Googlebot’s POST requests
  • Crawling a page via a POST redirect
      <body onload=";">
        <form name="foo" action="request.php" method="post">       <input type="hidden" name="bar" value="234"/>
  • Crawling a resource via a POST XMLHttpRequest
    In this step-by-step example, we improve both the indexing of a page and its Instant Preview by following the automatic XMLHttpRequest generated as the page renders.

    1. Google crawls the URL, yummy-sundae.html.
    2. Google begins indexing yummy-sundae.html and, as a part of this process, decides to attempt to render the page to better understand its content and/or generate the Instant Preview.
    3. During the render, yummy-sundae.html automatically sends an XMLHttpRequest for a resource, hot-fudge-info.html, using the POST method.
          <title>Yummy Sundae</title>
          <script src="jquery.js"></script>
          This page is about a yummy sundae.
          <div id="content"></div>
          <script type="text/javascript">
            $(document).ready(function() {
              $.post('hot-fudge-info.html', function(data)
    4. The URL requested through POST, hot-fudge-info.html, along with its data payload, is added to Googlebot’s crawl queue.
    5. Googlebot performs a POST request to crawl hot-fudge-info.html.
    6. Google now has an accurate representation of yummy-sundae.html for Instant Previews. In certain cases, we may also incorporate the contents of hot-fudge-info.html into yummy-sundae.html.
    7. Google completes the indexing of yummy-sundae.html.
    8. User searches for [hot fudge sundae].
    9. Google’s algorithms can now better determine how yummy-sundae.html is relevant for this query, and we can properly display a snapshot of the page for Instant Previews.
Improving your site’s crawlability and indexability

General advice for creating crawlable sites is found in our Help Center. For webmasters who want to help Google crawl and index their content and/or generate the Instant Preview, here are a few simple reminders:
  • Prefer GET for fetching resources, unless there’s a specific reason to use POST.
  • Verify that we're allowed to crawl the resources needed to render your page. In the example above, if hot-fudge-info.html is disallowed by robots.txt, Googlebot won't fetch it. More subtly, if the JavaScript code that issues the XMLHttpRequest is located in an external .js file disallowed by robots.txt, we won't see the connection between yummy-sundae.html and hot-fudge-info.html, so even if the latter is not disallowed itself, that may not help us much. We've seen even more complicated chains of dependencies in the wild. To help Google better understand your site it's almost always better to allow Googlebot to crawl all resources.

    You can test whether resources are blocked through Webmaster Tools “Labs -> Instant Previews.”
  • Make sure to return the same content to Googlebot as is returned to users’ web browsers. Cloaking (sending different content to Googlebot than to users) is a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines because, among other things, it may cause us to provide a searcher with an irrelevant result -- the content the user views in their browser may be a complete mismatch from what we crawled and indexed. We’ve seen numerous POST-request examples where a webmaster non-maliciously cloaked (which is still a violation), and their cloaking -- on even the smallest of changes -- then caused JavaScript errors that prevented accurate indexing and completely defeated their reason for cloaking in the first place. Summarizing, if you want your site to be search-friendly, cloaking is an all-around sticky situation that’s best to avoid.

    To verify that you're not accidentally cloaking, you can use Instant Previews within Webmaster Tools, or try setting the User-Agent string in your browser to something like:

    Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1;

    Your site shouldn't look any different after such a change. If you see a blank page, a JavaScript error, or if parts of the page are missing or different, that means that something's wrong.
  • Remember to include important content (i.e., the content you’d like indexed) as text, visible directly on the page and without requiring user-action to display. Most search engines are text-based and generally work best with text-based content. We’re always improving our ability to crawl and index content published in a variety of ways, but it remains a good practice to use text for important information.
Controlling your content

If you’d like to prevent content from being crawled or indexed for Google Web Search, traditional robots.txt directives remain the best method. To prevent the Instant Preview for your page(s), please see our Instant Previews FAQ which describes the “Google Web Preview” User-Agent and the nosnippet meta tag.

Moving forward

We’ll continue striving to increase the comprehensiveness of our index so searchers can find more relevant information. And we expect our crawling and indexing capability to improve and evolve over time, just like the web itself. Please let us know if you have questions or concerns.