Category Archives: Google Webmaster Central Blog

Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index

You #AskGoogleWebmasters, we answer

We love to help folks make awesome websites. For a while now, we've been answering questions from developers, site-owners, webmasters, and of course SEOs in our office hours hangouts, in the help forums, and at events. Recently, we've (re-)started answering your questions in a video series called #AskGoogleWebmasters on our YouTube channel


(At Google, behind the scenes, during the recording of one of the episodes.)

When we started with the webmaster office-hours back in 2012, we thought we'd be able to get through all questions within a few months, or perhaps a year. Well ... the questions still haven't stopped -- it's great to see such engagement when it comes to making great websites! 

To help make it a bit easier to find answers, we've started producing shorter videos answering individual questions. Some of the questions may seem fairly trivial to you, others don't always have simple answers, but all of them are worth answering.

Curious about the first episodes? Check out the videos below and the playlist for all episodes!

To ask a question, just use the hashtag #AskGoogleWebmasters on Twitter. While we can't get to all submissions, we regularly pick up the questions there to use in future episodes. We pick questions primarily about websites & websearch, which are relevant to many sites. Want to stay in the loop? Make sure to subscribe to our channel. If you'd like to discuss the questions or other important webmaster topics, feel free to drop by our webmaster help forums and chat with the awesome experts there. 


When indexing goes wrong: how Google Search recovered from indexing issues & lessons learned since.

Most of the time, our search engine runs properly. Our teams work hard to prevent technical issues that could affect our users who are searching the web, or webmasters whose sites we index and serve to users. Similarly, the underlying systems that we use to power the search engine also run as intended most of the time. When small disruptions happen, they are largely not visible to anyone except our teams who ensure that our products are up and running. However, like all complex systems, sometimes larger outages can occur, which may lead to disruptions for both users and website creators.

In the last few months, such a situation occurred with our indexing systems, which had a ripple effect on some other parts of our infrastructure. While we worked as quickly as possible to remedy the situation, we apologize for the disruption, as our goal is to continuously provide high-quality products to our users and to the web ecosystem.

Since then, we took a closer, careful look into the situation. In the process, we learned a few lessons that we'd like to share with you today. In this blog post, we will go into more details about what happened, clarify how we plan to communicate better if such things happen in the future, and remind website owners of the channels they can use to communicate with us.

So, what happened a few months ago?

In April, we had several issues related to our index. The Search index is the database that holds the hundreds of billions of web pages that we crawled on the web and that we think could answer some of our users’ queries. When a user enters a query in the Google search engine, our ranking algorithms sort through those pages in our Search index to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second. Here is more information on what happened.

1. The indexing issue

To start it off, we temporarily lost part of the Search index.
Wait... What? What do you mean “lost part of the index?” Is that even possible?

Basically, when serving search results to users, to accelerate the speed of the service, the query of the user only “travels” as far as the closest of our data centers supporting the Google Search product, from which the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is generated. So when there are modifications to the composition of the index (some pages added and removed, documents are merged, or other types of data modification), those modifications need to be reflected in all of those data centers. The consequence is that users all over the world are consistently served pages from the most recent version of the index.


Google owns and operates data centers (like the one pictured above) around the world, to keep our products running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - source

Keeping the index unified across all those data centers is a non trivial task. For large user-facing services, we may deploy updates by starting in one data center and expand until all relevant data centers are updated. For sensitive pieces of infrastructure, we may extend a rollout over several days, interleaving them across instances in different geographic regions. source

So, as we pushed some planned changes to the Search index, on April 5th parts of the deployment system broke, on a Friday no-less! More specifically: as we were updating the index over some of our data centers, a small number of documents ended up being dropped from the index accidentally. Hence: “we lost part of the index.”

Luckily, our on-call engineers caught the issue pretty quickly, at the same time as we started picking up chatter on social media (thanks to everyone who notified us over that weekend!). As a result, we were able to start reverting the Search index to its previous stable state in all data centers only a few hours after the issue was uncovered (we keep back-ups of our indexes just in case such events happen).

We communicated on Sunday, April 7th that we were aware of the issue, and that things were starting to get back to normal. As data centers were progressively reverting back to a stable index, we continued updating on Twitter (on April 8th, on April 9th), until we were confident that all data centers were fully back to a complete version of the index on April 11th.

2. The Search Console issue

Search Console is the set of tools and reports any webmaster can use to access data about their website’s performance in Search. For example, it shows how many impressions and clicks a website gets in the organic search results every day, or information on what pages of a website are included and excluded from the Search index.

As a consequence of the Search index having the issues we described above, Search Console started to also show inconsistencies. This is because some of the data that surfaces in Search Console originates from the Search index itself:

  • the Index Coverage report depends on the Search index being consistent across data centers.
  • when we store a page in the Search index, we can annotate the entry with key signals about the page, like the fact that the page contains rich results markup for example. Therefore, an issue with the Search index can have an impact on the Rich Results reports in Search Console.

Basically, many Search Console individual reports read data from a dedicated database. That database is partially built by using information that comes from the Search index. As we had to revert back to a previous version of the Search index, we also had to pause the updating of the Search Console database. This resulted in plateau-ing data for some reports (and flakiness in others, like the URL inspection tool).


Index coverage report for indexed pages, which shows an example of the data freshness issues in Search Console in April 2019, with a longer time between 2 updates than what is usually observed.

Because the whole Search index issue took several days to roll back (see explanation above), we were delayed focusing on fixing the Search Console database until a few days later, only after the indexing issues were fixed. We communicated on April 15th - tweet - that the Search Console was having troubles and that we were working on fixing it, and we completed our fixes on April 28th (day on which the reports started gathering fresh data again, see graph above). We communicated on Twitter on April 30th that the issue was resolved- tweet.

3. Other issues unrelated to the main indexing bug

Google Search relies on a number of systems that work together. While some of those systems can be tightly linked to one another, in some cases different parts of the system experience unrelated problems around the same time.

In the present case for example, around the same time as the main indexing bug explained above, we also had brief problems gathering fresh Google News content. Additionally, while rendering pages, certain URLs started to redirect Googlebot to other unrelated pages. These issues were entirely unrelated to the indexing bug, and were quickly resolved (tweet 1 & tweet 2).

Our communication and how we intend on doing better

In addition to communicating on social media (as highlighted above) during those few weeks, we also gave webmasters more details in 2 other channels: Search Console, as well as the Search Console Help Center.

In the Search Console Help Center

We updated our “Data anomalies in Search Console” help page after the issue was fully identified. This page is used to communicate information about data disruptions to our Search Console service when the impact affects a large number of website owners.

In Search Console

Because we know that not all our users read social media or the external Help Center page, we also added annotations on Search Console reports, to notify users that the data might not be accurate (see image below). We added this information after the resolution of the bugs. Clicking on “see here for more details” sends users to the “Data Anomalies” page in the Help Center.


Index coverage report for indexed pages, which shows an example of the data annotations that we can include to notify users of specific issues.

Communications going forward

When things break at Google, we have a strong “postmortem” culture: creating a document to debrief on the breakage, and try to avoid it happening next time. The whole process is described in more detail at the Google Site Reliability Engineering website.

In the wake of the April indexing issues, we included in the postmortem how to better communicate with webmasters in case of large system failures. Our key decisions were:

  1. Explore ways to more quickly share information within Search Console itself about widespread bugs, and have that information serve as the main point of reference for webmasters to check, in case they are suspecting outages.
  2. More promptly post to the Search Console data anomalies page, when relevant (if the disturbance is going to be seen over the long term in Search Console data).
  3. Continue tweeting as quickly as we can about such issues to quickly reassure webmasters we’re aware and that the issue is on our end.

Those commitments should make potential future similar situations more transparent for webmasters as a whole.

Putting our resolutions into action: the “new URLs not indexed” case study

On May 22nd, we tested our new communications strategy, as we experienced another issue. Here’s what happened: while processing certain URLs, our duplicate management system ran out of memory after a planned infrastructure upgrade, which caused all incoming URLs to stop processing.

Here is a timeline of how we thought about communications, following the 3 points highlighted just above:

  1. We noticed the issue (around 5.30am California time, May 22nd)
    We tweeted about the ongoing issue (around 6.40am California time, May 22nd)
    We tweeted about the resolution (around 10pm California time, May 22nd)
  2. We evaluated updating the “Data Anomalies” page in the Help Center, but decided against it since we did not expect any long-term impact for the majority of webmasters' Search Console data in the long run.
  3. The confusion that this issue created for many confirmed our earlier conclusions that we need a way to signal more clearly in the Search Console itself that there might be a disruption to one of our systems which could impact webmasters. Such a solution might take longer to implement. We will communicate on this topic in the future, as we have more news.

Last week, we also had another indexing issue. As with May 22, we tweeted to let people know there was an issue, that we were working to fix it and when the issue was resolved.

How to debug and communicate with us

We hope that this post will bring more clarity to how our systems are complex and can sometimes break, and will also help you understand how we communicate about these matters. But while this post focuses on a widespread breakage of our systems, it’s important to keep in mind that most website indexing issues are caused by an individual website’s configuration, which can create difficulties for Google Search to index that website properly. For those cases, all webmasters can debug issues using Search Console and our Help center. After doing so, if you still think that an issue is not coming from your site or don’t know how to resolve it, come talk to us and our community, we always want to take feedback from our users. Here is how to signal an issue to us:

  • Check our Webmaster Community, sometimes other webmasters have highlighted an issue that also impacts your site.
  • In person! We love contact, come and talk to us at events. Calendar.
  • Within our products! The Search Console feedback tool is very useful to our teams.
  • Twitter and YouTube!

Googlebot evergreen rendering in our testing tools

Today we updated most of our testing tools so they are using the evergreen Chromium renderer. This affects our testing tools like the mobile-friendly test or the URL inspection tool in Search Console. In this post we look into what this means and what went into making this update happen.

The evergreen Chromium renderer

At Google I/O this year we were happy to announce the new evergreen Googlebot.

At its core the update is a switch from Chrome 41 as the rendering engine to the latest stable Chromium. Googlebot is now using the latest stable Chromium to run JavaScript and render pages. We will continue to update Googlebot along with the stable Chromium, hence we call it "evergreen".

Comparison between the rendering of a JS-powered website in the old and new Googlebot
A JavaScript-powered demo website staying blank in the old Googlebot but working fine in the new Googlebot.

What this means for your websites

We are very happy to bring the latest features of the web platform not only to Googlebot but to the tools that let you see what Googlebot sees as well. This means websites using ES6+, Web Components and 1000+ new web platform features are now rendered with the latest stable Chromium, both in Googlebot and our testing tools.
A comparison showing the old and the new mobile-friendly test. The old mobile-friendly test rendered a blank page and the new one renders the page correctly
While the previous version of the mobile-friendly test doesn't show the page content, the new version does.

What the update changes in our testing tools

Our testing tools reflect how Googlebot processes your pages as closely as possible. With the update to the new Googlebot, we had to update them to use the same renderer as Googlebot.

The change will affect the rendering within the following tools:
We tested these updates and based on the feedback we have switched the tools listed previously to the new evergreen Googlebot. A lot of the feedback came from Googlers and the community. Product Experts and Google Developer Experts helped us make sure the update works well.

Note: The new Googlebot still uses the same user agent as before the update. There will be more information about an update to the user agent in the near future. For now, Googlebot's user agent and the user agent used in the testing tools does not change.

We are excited about this update and are looking forward to your feedback and questions on Twitter, the webmaster forum or in our webmaster office hours.

What webmasters should know about Google’s “core updates”

Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our search results. Most aren’t noticeable but help us incrementally continue to improve.

Sometimes, an update may be more noticeable. We aim to confirm such updates when we feel there is actionable information that webmasters, content producers or others might take in relation to them. For example, when our “Speed Update” happened, we gave months of advanced notice and advice.

Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as “core updates.” They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers. These core updates may also affect Google Discover.

We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.

Core updates & reassessing content

There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those guidelines. In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.

One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.

The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.

Focus on content

As explained, pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix. This said, we understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.

A starting point is to revisit the advice we’ve offered in the past on how to self-assess if you believe you’re offering quality content. We’ve updated that advice with a fresh set of questions to ask yourself about your content:

Content and quality questions
  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Expertise questions
  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
Presentation and production questions
  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
Comparative questions
  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Beyond asking yourself these questions, consider having others you trust but who are unaffiliated with your site provide an honest assessment.

Also consider an audit of the drops you may have experienced. What pages were most impacted and for what types of searches? Look closely at these to understand how they’re assessed against some of the questions above.

Get to know the quality rater guidelines & E-A-T 

Another resource for advice on great content is to review our search quality rater guidelines. Raters are people who give us insights on if our algorithms seem to be providing good results, a way to help confirm our changes are working well.

It’s important to understand that search raters have no control over how pages rank. Rater data is not used directly in our ranking algorithms. Rather, we use them as a restaurant might get feedback cards from diners. The feedback helps us know if our systems seem to be working.

If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content. In turn, you might perhaps do better in Search.

In particular, raters are trained to understand if content has what we call strong E-A-T. That stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.

Here are a few articles written by third-parties who share how they’ve used the guidelines as advice to follow:

Recovering and more advice

A common question after a core update is how long does it take for a site to recover, if it improves content?

Broad core updates tend to happen every few months. Content that was impacted by one might not recover - assuming improvements have been made - until the next broad core update is released.

However, we’re constantly making updates to our search algorithms, including smaller core updates. We don’t announce all of these because they’re generally not widely noticeable. Still, when released, they can cause content to recover if improvements warrant.

Do keep in mind that improvements made by site owners aren’t a guarantee of recovery, nor do pages have any static or guaranteed position in our search results. If there’s more deserving content, that will continue to rank well with our systems.

It’s also important to understand that search engines like Google do not understand content the way human beings do. Instead, we look for signals we can gather about content and understand how those correlate with how humans assess relevance. How pages link to each other is one well-known signal that we use. But we use many more, which we don’t disclose to help protect the integrity of our results.

We test any broad core update before it goes live, including gathering feedback from the aforementioned search quality raters, to see if how we’re weighing signals seems beneficial.

Of course, no improvement we make to Search is perfect. This is why we keep updating. We take in more feedback, do more testing and keep working to improve our ranking systems. This work on our end can mean that content might recover in the future, even if a content owner makes no changes. In such situations, our continued improvements might assess such content more favorably.

We hope the guidance offered here is helpful. You’ll also find plenty of advice about good content with the resources we offer from Google Webmasters, including tools, help pages and our forums. Learn more here.

Posted by Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Search

Helping publishers and users get more out of visual searches on Google Images with AMP

Google Images has made a series of changes to help people explore, learn and do more through visual search. An important element of visual search is the ability for users to scan many ideas before coming to a decision, whether it’s purchasing a product, learning more about a stylish room, or finding instructions for a DIY project. Often this involves loading many web pages, which can slow down a search considerably and prevent users from completing a task. 

As previewed at Google I/O, we’re launching a new AMP-powered feature in Google Images on the mobile web, Swipe to Visit, which makes it faster and easier for users to browse and visit web pages. After a Google Images user selects an image to view on a mobile device, they will get a preview of the website header, which can be easily swiped up to load the web page instantly. 

Swipe to Visit uses AMP's prerender capability to show a preview of the page displayed at the bottom of the screen. When a user swipes up on the preview, the web page is displayed instantly and the publisher receives a pageview. The speed and ease of this experience makes it more likely for users to visit a publisher's site, while still allowing users to continue their browsing session.

Publishers who support AMP don’t need to take any additional action for their sites to appear in Swipe to Visit on Google Images. Publishers who don’t support AMP can learn more about getting started with AMP here. In the coming weeks, publishers can also view their traffic data from AMP in Google Images in a Search Console’s performance report for Google Images in a new search area named “AMP on Image result”.

We look forward to continuing to support the Google Images ecosystem with features that help users and publishers alike.


Helping publishers and users get more out of visual searches on Google Images with AMP

Google Images has made a series of changes to help people explore, learn and do more through visual search. An important element of visual search is the ability for users to scan many ideas before coming to a decision, whether it’s purchasing a product, learning more about a stylish room, or finding instructions for a DIY project. Often this involves loading many web pages, which can slow down a search considerably and prevent users from completing a task. 

As previewed at Google I/O, we’re launching a new AMP-powered feature in Google Images on the mobile web, Swipe to Visit, which makes it faster and easier for users to browse and visit web pages. After a Google Images user selects an image to view on a mobile device, they will get a preview of the website header, which can be easily swiped up to load the web page instantly. 

Swipe to Visit uses AMP's prerender capability to show a preview of the page displayed at the bottom of the screen. When a user swipes up on the preview, the web page is displayed instantly and the publisher receives a pageview. The speed and ease of this experience makes it more likely for users to visit a publisher's site, while still allowing users to continue their browsing session.

Publishers who support AMP don’t need to take any additional action for their sites to appear in Swipe to Visit on Google Images. Publishers who don’t support AMP can learn more about getting started with AMP here. In the coming weeks, publishers can also view their traffic data from AMP in Google Images in a Search Console’s performance report for Google Images in a new search area named “AMP on Image result”.

We look forward to continuing to support the Google Images ecosystem with features that help users and publishers alike.


A note on unsupported rules in robots.txt

Yesterday we announced that we're open-sourcing Google's production robots.txt parser. It was an exciting moment that paves the road for potential Search open sourcing projects in the future! Feedback is helpful, and we're eagerly collecting questions from developers and webmasters alike. One question stood out, which we'll address in this post:
Why isn't a code handler for other rules like crawl-delay included in the code?
The internet draft we published yesterday provides an extensible architecture for rules that are not part of the standard. This means that if a crawler wanted to support their own line like "unicorns: allowed", they could. To demonstrate how this would look in a parser, we included a very common line, sitemap, in our open-source robots.txt parser.
While open-sourcing our parser library, we analyzed the usage of robots.txt rules. In particular, we focused on rules unsupported by the internet draft, such as crawl-delay, nofollow, and noindex. Since these rules were never documented by Google, naturally, their usage in relation to Googlebot is very low. Digging further, we saw their usage was contradicted by other rules in all but 0.001% of all robots.txt files on the internet. These mistakes hurt websites' presence in Google's search results in ways we don’t think webmasters intended.
In the interest of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and preparing for potential future open source releases, we're retiring all code that handles unsupported and unpublished rules (such as noindex) on September 1, 2019. For those of you who relied on the noindex indexing directive in the robots.txt file, which controls crawling, there are a number of alternative options:
  • Noindex in robots meta tags: Supported both in the HTTP response headers and in HTML, the noindex directive is the most effective way to remove URLs from the index when crawling is allowed.
  • 404 and 410 HTTP status codes: Both status codes mean that the page does not exist, which will drop such URLs from Google's index once they're crawled and processed.
  • Password protection: Unless markup is used to indicate subscription or paywalled content, hiding a page behind a login will generally remove it from Google's index.
  • Disallow in robots.txt: Search engines can only index pages that they know about, so blocking the page from being crawled usually means its content won’t be indexed.  While the search engine may also index a URL based on links from other pages, without seeing the content itself, we aim to make such pages less visible in the future.
  • Search Console Remove URL tool: The tool is a quick and easy method to remove a URL temporarily from Google's search results.
For more guidance about how to remove information from Google's search results, visit our Help Center. If you have questions, you can find us on Twitter and in our Webmaster Community, both offline and online.

Posted by Gary

Google’s robots.txt parser is now open source

For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) was only a de-facto standard. This had frustrating implications sometimes. On one hand, for webmasters, it meant uncertainty in corner cases, like when their text editor included BOM characters in their robots.txt files. On the other hand, for crawler and tool developers, it also brought uncertainty; for example, how should they deal with robots.txt files that are hundreds of megabytes large?



Today, we announced that we're spearheading the effort to make the REP an internet standard. While this is an important step, it means extra work for developers who parse robots.txt files.
We're here to help: we open sourced the C++ library that our production systems use for parsing and matching rules in robots.txt files. This library has been around for 20 years and it contains pieces of code that were written in the 90's. Since then, the library evolved; we learned a lot about how webmasters write robots.txt files and corner cases that we had to cover for, and added what we learned over the years also to the internet draft when it made sense.
We also included a testing tool in the open source package to help you test a few rules. Once built, the usage is very straightforward:
robots_main <robots.txt content> <user_agent> <url>
If you want to check out the library, head over to our GitHub repository for the robots.txt parser. We'd love to see what you can build using it! If you built something using the library, drop us a comment on Twitter, and if you have comments or questions about the library, find us on GitHub.
Posted by Edu Pereda, Lode Vandevenne, and Gary, Search Open Sourcing team

Formalizing the Robots Exclusion Protocol Specification

For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) has been one of the most basic and critical components of the web. It allows website owners to exclude automated clients, for example web crawlers, from accessing their sites - either partially or completely.
In 1994, Martijn Koster (a webmaster himself) created the initial standard after crawlers were overwhelming his site. With more input from other webmasters, the REP was born, and it was adopted by search engines to help website owners manage their server resources easier.
However, the REP was never turned into an official Internet standard, which means that developers have interpreted the protocol somewhat differently over the years. And since its inception, the REP hasn't been updated to cover today's corner cases. This is a challenging problem for website owners because the ambiguous de-facto standard made it difficult to write the rules correctly.
We wanted to help website owners and developers create amazing experiences on the internet instead of worrying about how to control crawlers. Together with the original author of the protocol, webmasters, and other search engines, we've documented how the REP is used on the modern web, and submitted it to the IETF.
The proposed REP draft reflects over 20 years of real world experience of relying on robots.txt rules, used both by Googlebot and other major crawlers, as well as about half a billion websites that rely on REP. These fine grained controls give the publisher the power to decide what they'd like to be crawled on their site and potentially shown to interested users. It doesn't change the rules created in 1994, but rather defines essentially all undefined scenarios for robots.txt parsing and matching, and extends it for the modern web. Notably:
  1. Any URI based transfer protocol can use robots.txt. For example, it's not limited to HTTP anymore and can be used for FTP or CoAP as well.
  2. Developers must parse at least the first 500 kibibytes of a robots.txt. Defining a maximum file size ensures that connections are not open for too long, alleviating unnecessary strain on servers.
  3. A new maximum caching time of 24 hours or cache directive value if available, gives website owners the flexibility to update their robots.txt whenever they want, and crawlers aren't overloading websites with robots.txt requests. For example, in the case of HTTP, Cache-Control headers could be used for determining caching time.
  4. The specification now provisions that when a previously accessible robots.txt file becomes inaccessible due to server failures, known disallowed pages are not crawled for a reasonably long period of time.
Additionally, we've updated the augmented Backus–Naur form in the internet draft to better define the syntax of robots.txt, which is critical for developers to parse the lines.
RFC stands for Request for Comments, and we mean it: we uploaded the draft to IETF to get feedback from developers who care about the basic building blocks of the internet. As we work to give web creators the controls they need to tell us how much information they want to make available to Googlebot, and by extension, eligible to appear in Search, we have to make sure we get this right.
If you'd like to drop us a comment, ask us questions, or just say hi, you can find us on Twitter and in our Webmaster Community, both offline and online.

Posted by Henner Zeller, Lizzi Harvey, and Gary

Bye Bye Preferred Domain setting

As we progress with the migration to the new Search Console experience, we will be saying farewell to one of our settings: preferred domain.



It's common for a website to have the same content on multiple URLs. For example, it might have the same content on http://example.com/ as on https://www.example.com/index.html. To make things easier, when our systems recognize that, we'll pick one URL as the "canonical" for Search. You can still tell us your preference in multiple ways if there's something specific you want us to pick (see paragraph below). But if you don't have a preference, we'll choose the best option we find. Note that with the deprecation we will no longer use any existing Search Console preferred domain configuration.

You can find detailed explanations on how to tell us your preference in the Consolidate duplicate URLs help center article. Here are some of the options available to you:
  1. Use rel=”canonical” link tag on HTML pages
  2. Use rel=”canonical” HTTP header
  3. Use a sitemap
  4. Use 301 redirects for retired URLs
Send us any feedback either through Twitter or our forum.

Posted by Daniel Waisberg, Search Advocate