Posted:
Webmaster level: All

Do you have an Android app in addition to your website? You can now connect the two so that users searching from their smartphones and tablets can easily find and reach your app content.

App deep links in search results help your users find your content more easily and re-engage with your app after they’ve installed it. As a site owner, you can show your users the right content at the right time — by connecting pages of your website to the relevant parts of your app you control when your users are directed to your app and when they go to your website.


Hundreds of apps have already implemented app indexing. This week at Google I/O, we’re announcing a set of new features that will make it even easier to set up deep links in your app, connect your site to your app, and keep track of performance and potential errors.

Getting started is easy

We’ve greatly simplified the process to get your app deep links indexed. If your app supports HTTP deep linking schemes, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Add deep link support to your app
  2. Connect your site and your app
  3. There is no step 3 (:

As we index your URLs, we’ll discover and index the app / site connections and may begin to surface app deep links in search results.

We can discover and index your app deep links on our own, but we recommend you publish the deep links. This is also the case if your app only supports a custom deep link scheme. You can publish them in one of the following ways:

There’s one more thing: we’ve added a new feature in Webmaster Tools to help you debug any issues that might arise during app indexing. It will show you what type of errors we’ve detected for the app page-web page pairs, together with example app URIs so you can debug:



We’ll also give you detailed instructions on how to debug each issue, including a QR code for the app deep links, so you can easily open them on your phone or tablet. We’ll send you Webmaster Tools error notifications as well, so you can keep up to date.



Give app indexing a spin, and as always, if you need more help ask questions on the Webmaster help forum.

Posted:
Webmaster level: intermediate-advanced
Few topics confuse and scare webmasters more than site moves. To help you avoid surprises, we've created an in-depth guide on how to handle site moves in a Googlebot-friendly way. So what, exactly, is a site move and how do you go about moving a site correctly?

Basics of site moves

A site move is, broadly, one of two types of content migrations:
  • Site moves without URL changes. Only the underlying infrastructure serving the website is changed without any visible changes to the URL structure. For example, you might move www.example.com to a different hosting provider while keeping the same URLs and site structure on www.example.com.
  • Site moves with URL changes. Here, the URLs on the website change in any number of ways:
    • The protocol: http://www.example.com to https://www.example.com
    • The domain name: example.com to example.net
    • The URL paths: http://example.com/page.php?id=1 to http://example.com/widget
We've seen cases where webmasters implemented site moves incorrectly, or missed out steps that would have greatly increased the chances of the site move completing successfully. To help webmasters design and implement site moves correctly, we've updated the site move guidelines in our Help Center. In parallel, we continue to improve our crawling and indexing systems to detect and handle site moves if you follow our guidelines.

Moving to responsive web design

A related increasingly-common question we're seeing is how can a website move from having separate mobile URLs or dynamic serving to using responsive web design. To help you implement this configuration change, please see this new page on our smartphones recommendations site.
And, as always, please ask on our Webmaster Help forums if you have more questions.

Posted:
Webmaster level: all

Have you ever used Google Search on your smartphone and clicked on a promising-looking result, only to end up on the mobile site’s homepage, with no idea why the page you were hoping to see vanished? This is such a common annoyance that we’ve even seen comics about it. Usually this happens because the website is not properly set up to handle requests from smartphones and sends you to its smartphone homepage—we call this a “faulty redirect”.

We’d like to spare users the frustration of landing on irrelevant pages and help webmasters fix the faulty redirects. Starting today in our English search results in the US, whenever we detect that smartphone users are redirected to a homepage instead of the the page they asked for, we may note it below the result. If you still wish to proceed to the page, you can click “Try anyway”:


And we’re providing advice and resources to help you direct your audience to the pages they want. Here’s a quick rundown:

1. Do a few searches on your own phone (or with a browser set up to act like a smartphone) and see how your site behaves. Simple but effective. :)

2. Check out Webmaster Tools—we’ll send you a message if we detect that any of your site’s pages are redirecting smartphone users to the homepage. We’ll also show you any faulty redirects we detect in the Smartphone Crawl Errors section of Webmaster Tools:


3. Investigate any faulty redirects and fix them. Here’s what you can do:
  • Use the example URLs we provide in Webmaster Tools as a starting point to debug exactly where the problem is with your server configuration.
  • Set up your server so that it redirects smartphone users to the equivalent URL on your smartphone site.
  • If a page on your site doesn’t have a smartphone equivalent, keep users on the desktop page, rather than redirecting them to the smartphone site’s homepage. Doing nothing is better than doing something wrong in this case.
  • Try using responsive web design, which serves the same content for desktop and smartphone users.
If you’d like to know more about building smartphone-friendly sites, read our full recommendations. And, as always, if you need more help you can ask a question in our webmaster forum.

Posted:
Webmaster level: all

In April, we launched App Indexing in English globally so deep links to your mobile apps could appear in Google Search results on Android everywhere. Today, we’re adding the first publishers with content in other languages: Fairfax Domain, MercadoLibre, Letras.Mus.br, Vagalume, Idealo, L'Equipe, Player.fm, Upcoming, Au Feminin, Marmiton, and chip.de. In the U.S., we now also support some more apps -- Walmart, Tapatalk, and Fancy.

We’ve also translated our developer guidelines into eight additional languages: Chinese (Traditional), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.



If you’re interested in participating in App Indexing, and your content and implementation are ready, please let us know by filling out this form. As always, you can ask questions on the mobile section of our webmaster forum.

Finally, if you’re headed to Google I/O in June, be sure to check out the session on the “Future of Apps and Search”, where we’ll share some more updates on App Indexing.

Posted:
Webmaster level: all

The Fetch as Google feature in Webmaster Tools provides webmasters with the results of Googlebot attempting to fetch their pages. The server headers and HTML shown are useful to diagnose technical problems and hacking side-effects, but sometimes make double-checking the response hard: Help! What do all of these codes mean? Is this really the same page as I see it in my browser? Where shall we have lunch? We can't help with that last one, but for the rest, we've recently expanded this tool to also show how Googlebot would be able to render the page.

Viewing the rendered page

In order to render the page, Googlebot will try to find all the external files involved, and fetch them as well. Those files frequently include images, CSS and JavaScript files, as well as other files that might be indirectly embedded through the CSS or JavaScript. These are then used to render a preview image that shows Googlebot's view of the page.

You can find the Fetch as Google feature in the Crawl section of Google Webmaster Tools. After submitting a URL with "Fetch and render," wait for it to be processed (this might take a moment for some pages). Once it's ready, just click on the response row to see the results.

Fetch as Google

Handling resources blocked by robots.txt

Googlebot follows the robots.txt directives for all files that it fetches. If you are disallowing crawling of some of these files (or if they are embedded from a third-party server that's disallowing Googlebot's crawling of them), we won't be able to show them to you in the rendered view. Similarly, if the server fails to respond or returns errors, then we won't be able to use those either (you can find similar issues in the Crawl Errors section of Webmaster Tools). If we run across either of these issues, we'll show them below the preview image.

We recommend making sure Googlebot can access any embedded resource that meaningfully contributes to your site's visible content, or to its layout. That will make Fetch as Google easier for you to use, and will make it possible for Googlebot to find and index that content as well. Some types of content – such as social media buttons, fonts or website-analytics scripts – tend not to meaningfully contribute to the visible content or layout, and can be left disallowed from crawling. For more information, please see our previous blog post on how Google is working to understand the web better.

We hope this update makes it easier for you to diagnose these kinds of issues, and to discover content that's accidentally blocked from crawling. If you have any comments or questions, let us know here or drop by in the webmaster help forum.

Posted:

In 1998 when our servers were running in Susan Wojcicki’s garage, we didn't really have to worry about JavaScript or CSS. They weren't used much, or, JavaScript was used to make page elements... blink! A lot has changed since then. The web is full of rich, dynamic, amazing websites that make heavy use of JavaScript. Today, we'll talk about our capability to render richer websites — meaning we see your content more like modern Web browsers, include the external resources, execute JavaScript and apply CSS.

Traditionally, we were only looking at the raw textual content that we’d get in the HTTP response body and didn't really interpret what a typical browser running JavaScript would see. When pages that have valuable content rendered by JavaScript started showing up, we weren’t able to let searchers know about it, which is a sad outcome for both searchers and webmasters.

In order to solve this problem, we decided to try to understand pages by executing JavaScript. It’s hard to do that at the scale of the current web, but we decided that it’s worth it. We have been gradually improving how we do this for some time. In the past few months, our indexing system has been rendering a substantial number of web pages more like an average user’s browser with JavaScript turned on.

Sometimes things don't go perfectly during rendering, which may negatively impact search results for your site. Here are a few potential issues, and – where possible, – how you can help prevent them from occurring:
  • If resources like JavaScript or CSS in separate files are blocked (say, with robots.txt) so that Googlebot can’t retrieve them, our indexing systems won’t be able to see your site like an average user. We recommend allowing Googlebot to retrieve JavaScript and CSS so that  your content can be indexed better. This is especially important for mobile websites, where external resources like CSS and JavaScript help our algorithms understand that the pages are optimized for mobile.
  • If your web server is unable to handle the volume of crawl requests for resources, it may have a negative impact on our capability to render your pages. If you’d like to ensure that your pages can be rendered by Google, make sure your servers are able to handle crawl requests for resources.
  • It's always a good idea to have your site degrade gracefully. This will help users enjoy your content even if their browser doesn't have compatible JavaScript implementations. It will also help visitors with JavaScript disabled or off, as well as search engines that can't execute JavaScript yet.
  • Sometimes the JavaScript may be too complex or arcane for us to execute, in which case we can’t render the page fully and accurately.
  • Some JavaScript removes content from the page rather than adding, which prevents us from indexing the content.

To make things easier to debug, we're currently working on a tool for helping webmasters better understand how Google renders their site. We look forward to making it to available for you in the coming days in Webmaster Tools.

If you have any questions, please feel free to visit our help forum.

Posted:
Webmaster level: all


To help developers and webmasters make their pages mobile-friendly, we recently updated PageSpeed Insights with additional recommendations on mobile usability.




Poor usability can diminish the benefits of a fast page load. We know the average mobile page takes more than 7 seconds to load, and by using the PageSpeed Insights tool and following its speed recommendations, you can make your page load much faster. But suppose your fast mobile site loads in just 2 seconds instead of 7 seconds. If mobile users still have to spend another 5 seconds once the page loads to pinch-zoom and scroll the screen before they can start reading the text and interacting with the page, then that site isn’t really fast to use after all. PageSpeed Insights’ new User Experience rules can help you find and fix these usability issues.

These new recommendations currently cover the following areas:
  • Configure the viewport: Without a meta-viewport tag, modern mobile browsers will assume your page is not mobile-friendly, and will fall back to a desktop viewport and possibly apply font-boosting, interfering with your intended page layout. Configuring the viewport to width=device-width should be your first step in mobilizing your site.

  • Size content to the viewport: Users expect mobile sites to scroll vertically, not horizontally. Once you’ve configured your viewport, make sure your page content fits the width of that viewport, keeping in mind that not all mobile devices are the same width.

  • Use legible font sizes: If users have to zoom in just to be able read your article text on their smartphone screen, then your site isn’t mobile-friendly. PageSpeed Insights checks that your site’s text is large enough for most users to read comfortably.
  • Size tap targets appropriately: Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to tap a button or link on a phone or tablet touchscreen, and accidentally hitting the wrong one because your finger pad is much bigger than a desktop mouse cursor. Make sure that your mobile site’s touchscreen tap targets are large enough to press easily.
  • Avoid plugins: Most smartphones don’t support Flash or other browser plugins, so make sure your mobile site doesn't rely on plugins.
These rules are described in more detail in our help pages. When you’re ready, you can test your pages and the improvements you make using the PageSpeed Insights tool. We’ve also updated PageSpeed Insights to use a mobile friendly design, and we’ve translated our documents into additional languages.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please post in our discussion group.