Category Archives: Google Webmaster Central Blog

Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index

New reports for video results in Search Console

Video is an important and growing medium used to consume information online, and we want to make it as easy as possible for people to find useful and interesting videos on Google. Today, we’re introducing two new tools to help you understand your videos’ performance in Search and identify opportunities to improve your video markup.

There are three main ways people can see videos on Google Search today: on the main Search page; on the videos Search tab; and in Discover:

Left to right: Videos on the main search page; video search; and Discover.


Video Enhancement Report

Structured data can help search engines understand when videos appear on a page, so they can be displayed with a rich visual treatment, including accurate information on a video’s duration, upload date, and other metadata, as well as previews. This in turn helps users better understand what they’ll find in your video before they click.

A new report for “Videos” is now available in Search Console for sites that use structured data to annotate videos. The report allows you to see any errors and warnings for markup implemented on your site. When you fix an issue, you can use the report to validate if it was resolved by re-crawling your affected pages. Learn more about the rich result status reports.


Video Appearances in Performance Report

The Search Console performance report already includes an option to see the performance of your video tab search results (type = video). We are excited to share that we’ve extended our support for videos, so you can now also see the performance of your videos in the main Search results tab (type = web) and in Discover using the new “Videos” appearance. Content can appear with the video appearance if your page uses VideoObject structured data, or if Google uses other signals to detect that there is a video on the page.



These new tools should make it easier to understand how your videos perform on Search and to identify and fix video issues. We also recommend you follow these video best practices. If you have any questions, be sure to post in our forum.

Posted by Danielle Marshak, Product Manager

Updating the user agent of Googlebot

Googlebot uses a Chrome-based browser to render webpages, as we announced at Google I/O earlier this year. As part of this, in December 2019 we'll update Googlebot's user agent strings to reflect the new browser version, and periodically update the version numbers to match Chrome updates in Googlebot.

See Google crawlers (user agents) and Make sure Google can index JavaScript for background reading about user agent strings and rendering.

Googlebot user agents today


Mobile:
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2272.96 Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

Desktop:
Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

OR

Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html) Safari/537.36

The new evergreen Googlebot and its user agent


In December we'll start periodically updating the above user agent strings to reflect the version of Chrome used in Googlebot. In the following user agent strings, "W.X.Y.Z" will be substituted with the Chrome version we're using. For example, instead of W.X.Y.Z you'll see something similar to "76.0.3809.100". This version number will update on a regular basis.

Mobile:
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

Desktop:
Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

OR

Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Safari/537.36

How to test your site


We've run an evaluation, so are confident that most websites will not be affected by the change.
Sites that follow our recommendations to use feature detection and progressive enhancement instead of user agent sniffing should continue to work without any changes.

If your site looks for a specific user agent, it may be affected. You should use feature detection instead of user agent sniffing. If you cannot use feature detection and need to detect Googlebot via the user agent, then look for "Googlebot" within the user agent.

Some common issues we saw while evaluating this change include:

  • Pages that present an error message instead of normal page contents. For example, a page may assume Googlebot is a user with an ad-blocker, and accidentally prevent it from accessing page contents.
  • Pages that redirect to a roboted or noindex document.

If you're not sure if your site is affected or not, you can try loading your webpage in your browser using the new Googlebot user agent. These instructions show how to override your user agent in Chrome.

If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to our webmaster help community, join our webmaster office hours on YouTube or follow us on Twitter.

Join us at a Webmaster Conference in Mountain View, California

Earlier this year we announced a series of Webmaster Conferences being held around the world to help website creators understand how to optimize their sites for Search. We’ve already held 22 of these events, with more planned through the end of the year. Building on the success of these events so far, we’re hosting a product summit version of this event at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View on Monday November 4th.


Photos from the Webmaster Conference in Kuala Lumpur, earlier this year.

This event is designed to facilitate an open dialog between the webmaster and SEO community and Search product teams. This one-day event will include talks from Search product managers, Q&A sessions, and a product fair giving attendees the opportunity to have direct conversations with product managers. Attendees will learn from the people building Search about how they think about the evolution of the platform, and have the opportunity to share feedback about the needs of the community.

We also realize that not everyone will be able to make this event in person, so we plan to share out much of the content and feedback after the event.

If you’re interested and able to make it, we encourage you to apply today as space is limited. Complete details about the event and the application process can be found on the event registration site. And as always, you can check out our other upcoming events on the general Webmaster Conference site, the Google Webmasters event calendar, or follow our blogs and @googlewmc on Twitter!

Posted by John Mueller, Google Switzerland

Google Search News: coming soon to a screen near you

The world of search is constantly evolving. New tools, opportunities, and features are regularly arriving, sometimes existing things change, and sometimes we say goodbye to some things to make way for the new. To help you stay on top of things, we've started a new YouTube series called Google Search News.

With Google Search News, we want to give you a regular & short summary of what's been happening around Google Search, specifically for SEOs, publishers, developers, and webmasters. The first episode is out now, so check it out. 

(The first episode, now on your screen)

In this first episode, we cover:

We plan to make these updates regularly, and adjust the format over time as needed. Let us know what you think in the video comments!

More options to help websites preview their content on Google Search

Google uses content previews, including text snippets and other media, to help people decide whether a result is relevant to their query. The type of preview shown depends on many factors, including the type of content a person is looking for and the kind of device they're viewing it on.

For instance, if you look for recipe results on Google, you may see thumbnail images and user ratings--things that may be more helpful than text snippets when it comes to deciding what you want to eat. Alternately, or perhaps you're looking for a concert nearby, and are able to check out the events directly in the search results. These are made possible by publishers marking up their pages with structured data.

Google automatically generates previews in a way intended to help a user understand why the results shown are relevant to their search and why the user would want to visit the linked pages. However, we recognize that site owners may wish to independently adjust the extent of their preview content in search results. To make it easier for individual websites to define how much or which text should be available for snippeting and the extent to which other media should be included in their previews, we're now introducing several new settings for webmasters. 

Letting Google know about your snippet and content preview preferences

Previously, it was only possible to allow a textual snippet or to not allow one. We're now introducing a set of methods that allow more fine-grained configuration of the preview content shown for your pages. This is done through two types of new settings: a set of robots meta tags and an HTML attribute. 

Using robots meta tags

The robots meta tag is added to an HTML page's <head>, or specified via the x-robots-tag HTTP header. The robots meta tags addressing the preview content for a page are:

  • "nosnippet"
    This is an existing option to specify that you don't want any textual snippet shown for this page. 
  • "max-snippet:[number]"
    New! Specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page.
  • "max-video-preview:[number]"
    New! Specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • "max-image-preview:[setting]"
    New! Specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either "none", "standard", or "large".

They can be combined, for example:

<meta name="robots" content="max-snippet:50, max-image-preview:large">

Preview settings from these meta tags will become effective in mid-to-late October 2019 and may take about a week for the global rollout to complete.

Using the new data-nosnippet HTML attribute

A new way to help limit which part of a page is eligible to be shown as a snippet is the "data-nosnippet" HTML attribute on span, div, and section elements. With this, you can prevent that part of an HTML page from being shown within the textual snippet on the page.

For example:

<p><span data-nosnippet>Harry Houdini</span> is undoubtedly the most famous magician ever to live.</p>

The data-nosnippet HTML attribute will be start affecting presentation on Google products later this year. Learn more in our developer documentation for the robots meta tag, x-robots-tag, and data-nosnippet.

A note about rich results and featured snippets

Content in structured data is eligible for display as rich results in search. These kinds of results do not conform to limits declared in the above meta robots settings, but rather, can be addressed with much greater specificity by limiting or modifying the content provided in the structured data itself. For example, if a recipe is included in structured data, the contents of that structured data may be presented in a recipe carousel in the search results. Similarly, if an event is marked up with structured data, it may be presented as such in the search results. To limit that presentation, a publisher can limit the amount and type of content in the structured data. 

Some special features on Search depend on the availability of preview content, so limiting your previews may prevent your content from appearing in these areas. Featured snippets, for example, requires a certain minimum number of characters to be displayed. This can vary by language, which is why there is no exact max-snippets length we can provide to ensure appearing in this feature. Those who do not wish to have content appear as featured snippets can experiment with lower max-snippet lengths. Those who want a guaranteed way to opt-out of featured snippets should use nosnippet.

The AMP Format

The AMP format comes with certain benefits, including eligibility for more prominent presentation of thumbnail images in search results and in the Google Discover feed. These characteristics have been shown to drive more traffic to publishers’ articles. However, publishers who do not want Google to use larger thumbnail images when their AMP pages are presented in search and Discover can use the above meta robots settings to specify max-image-preview of “standard” or “none.”

These new options are available to content owners worldwide and will operate the same for results we display globally. We hope they make it easier for you to optimize the value you get from Search and achieve your business goals. For more information, check out our developer documentation on meta tags. Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us, or drop by our webmaster help forums.


Fresher data in your site’s Search Performance report

We analyzed our user feedback, and today would like to announce a new improvement to the report based on users' #1 feature request - improved data freshness!

The Performance report helps webmasters and site owners better understand how their site performs on Google search, and answer questions such as:
  • General stats: How much traffic did my site get from Search and Discover?
  • Search queries: What are my site’s top and trending search queries?
  • Top content: What are my site’s most successful pages on Google search? 
  • Site’s audiences: From which countries? From which devices - is it mostly mobile?
  • Formats: What search formats does my site get (AMP, recipes, etc.) ?

With the new fresh data, users can now see data as recent as less than a day old - a significant improvement compared to the previous few days.

We hope this improved data freshness allows you to better monitor and track your site’s performance and addresses some important needs such as:
  • Seeing your weekend performance on Monday morning - no need to wait until Wednesday.
  • Checking on your site’s stats first thing in the morning after, or even during, important days such as holidays, global events, and shopping days.
  • Checking if your site's traffic rebounds soon after fixing an important technical issue.

Fresh Data in Search Performance report

In addition, we updated the report to clearly communicate the data timezone (Pacific time zone). This is useful when you’d like to interpret the data compared to your local time zone or integrate it with other sources such as Google Analytics.

Performance report date picker

Each fresh data point will be replaced with the final data point after a few days. It is expected that from time to time the fresh data might change a bit before being finalized.

The Search Analytics API does not support fresh data yet. In addition, fresh data is not available on the Discover performance report. As a result, properties that are eligible for Discover performance report will not see fresh data in their Overview report. We hope to address these items in the future.

Exporting performance data over time

We also heard your feedback about wanting a simple way to explore and export your performance over time. Starting today, this is possible. Simply choose ‘dates’ in the table below the graph, select the desired time frame, and explore the data in Search Console or export the chart. We hope that this new feature will help you further explore your performance trends and changes over time.

Performance report now with ‘dates’ table

In conclusion

We hope that this new fresh data will help you better monitor your site’s performance and identify trends, patterns and interesting changes much closer to when they happen. In addition, we hope that the new date table dimension will assist you in exploring performance trends and changes over time. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out on the Webmaster Help Forum or on Twitter

Posted by Ziv Hodak, Search Console product manager

Making Review Rich Results more helpful

Search results that are enhanced by review rich results can be extremely helpful when searching for products or services (the scores and/or “stars” you sometimes see alongside search results).
Review stars example in search results

To make them more helpful and meaningful, we are now introducing algorithmic updates to reviews in rich results. This also addresses some of the invalid or misleading implementations webmasters have flagged to us.

Focus on schema types that lend themselves to reviews

While, technically, you can attach review markup to any schema type, for many types displaying star reviews does not add much value for the user. With this change, we’re limiting the pool of schema types that can potentially trigger review rich results in search. Specifically, we’ll only display reviews with those types (and their respective subtypes):

Self-serving reviews aren't allowed

Reviews that can be perceived as “self-serving” aren't in the best interest of users. We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A - either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. That’s why, with this change, we’re not going to display review rich results anymore for the schema types localBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.

Add the name of the item that's being reviewed

With this update, the name property is now required, so you'll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that's being reviewed.
This update will help deliver a much more meaningful review experience for users, while requiring little to no changes on the part of most webmasters. You can find all those updates documented in our developer documentation. If you have any questions, feel free to come to our webmaster forums!

Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links

Nearly 15 years ago, the nofollow attribute was introduced as a means to help fight comment spam. It also quickly became one of Google’s recommended methods for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links. The web has evolved since nofollow was introduced in 2005 and it’s time for nofollow to evolve as well.
Today, we’re announcing two new link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways to identify to Google Search the nature of particular links. These, along with nofollow, are summarized below:

rel="sponsored": Use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

rel="ugc": UGC stands for User Generated Content, and the ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts.

rel="nofollow": Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.

When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes -- sponsored, UGC and nofollow -- are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints -- along with other signals -- as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.
Why not completely ignore such links, as had been the case with nofollow? Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.
We know these new attributes will generate questions, so here’s a FAQ that we hope covers most of those.

Do I need to change my existing nofollows?
No. If you use nofollow now as a way to block sponsored links, or to signify that you don’t vouch for a page you link to, that will continue to be supported. There’s absolutely no need to change any nofollow links that you already have.

Can I use more than one rel value on a link?
Yes, you can use more than one rel value on a link. For example, rel="ugc sponsored" is a perfectly valid attribute which hints that the link came from user-generated content and is sponsored. It’s also valid to use nofollow with the new attributes -- such as rel="nofollow ugc" -- if you wish to be backwards-compatible with services that don’t support the new attributes.

If I use nofollow for ads or sponsored links, do I need to change those?
No. You can keep using nofollow as a method for flagging such links to avoid possible link scheme penalties. You don't need to change any existing markup. If you have systems that append this to new links, they can continue to do so. However, we recommend switching over to rel=”sponsored” if or when it is convenient.

Do I still need to flag ad or sponsored links?
Yes. If you want to avoid a possible link scheme action, use rel=“sponsored” or rel=“nofollow” to flag these links. We prefer the use of “sponsored,” but either is fine and will be treated the same, for this purpose.

What happens if I use the wrong attribute on a link?
There’s no wrong attribute except in the case of sponsored links. If you flag a UGC link or a non-ad link as “sponsored,” we’ll see that hint but the impact -- if any at all -- would be at most that we might not count the link as a credit for another page. In this regard, it’s no different than the status quo of many UGC and non-ad links already marked as nofollow.
It is an issue going the opposite way. Any link that is clearly an ad or sponsored should use “sponsored” or “nofollow,” as described above. Using “sponsored” is preferred, but “nofollow” is acceptable.

Why should I bother using any of these new attributes?
Using the new attributes allows us to better process links for analysis of the web. That can include your own content, if people who link to you make use of these attributes.

Won’t changing to a “hint” approach encourage link spam in comments and UGC content?
Many sites that allow third-parties to contribute to content already deter link spam in a variety of ways, including moderation tools that can be integrated into many blogging platforms and human review. The link attributes of “ugc” and “nofollow” will continue to be a further deterrent. In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links. We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes. We will still continue to carefully assess how to use links within Search, just as we always have and as we’ve had to do for situations where no attributions were provided.

When do these attributes and changes go into effect?
All the link attributes, sponsored, ugc and nofollow, now work today as hints for us to incorporate for ranking purposes. For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020. Those depending on nofollow solely to block a page from being indexed (which was never recommended) should use one of the much more robust mechanisms listed on our Learn how to block URLs from Google help page.

Posted by Danny Sullivan and Gary

Saying goodbye to the old Search Console

Today we are reaching another important milestone in our graduation journey, we are saying goodbye to many old Search Console reports, including the home and dashboard pages 👋. Those pages are part of the history of the web, they were viewed over a billion times by webmasters from millions of websites. These pages helped site owners and webmasters to monitor and improve their performance on Google Search for over a decade.

From now on, if you try to access the old homepage or dashboard you’ll be redirected to the relevant Search Console pages. There are only a few reports that will still be available on the old interface for now - check the Legacy tools and reports in the Help Center. We're continuing to work on making the insights from these reports available in the new Search Console, so stay tuned!

Below is our last tribute to them, a picture of the team with the old Search Console in the background 😍. But we thought you might also have something to share, maybe some beautiful memories you have with the home and dashboard pages below (or any old Search Console page) - so we’ll be monitoring #SCmemories if you want to share your stories with us on Twitter.

Image: the team saying goodbye to the old Search Console

Image: old Search Console dashboard

Thank you for working together with us on making the web better - and see you at the new Search Console! If you have any feedback, let us know through the Webmasters community.

Posted by Hillel Maoz on behalf of the Search Console team.

Introducing Auto-DNS verification in the new Search Console

Back in February, we announced domain-wide data in Search Console, to give site owners a comprehensive view of their site, removing the need to switch between different properties to get the full picture of your data.

We’ve seen lots of positive reactions from users who verified domain properties. A common feedback we heard from users is that before moving to domain properties they were underestimating their traffic, and the new method helped them understand their clicks and impressions aggregated data more effectively. When we asked Domain property users about their satisfaction with the feature, almost all of them seem to be satisfied. Furthermore, most of these users reported that they find domain properties more useful than the traditional URL prefix properties.

However, changing a DNS record is not always trivial, especially for small and medium businesses. We heard that the main challenge preventing site owners from switching to Domain properties is getting their domain verified. To help with this challenge, we collaborated with various domain name registrars to automate part of the verification flow. The flow will guide you through the necessary steps needed to update your registrar configuration so that your DNS record includes the verification token we provide. This will make the verification process a lot easier.

How to use Auto-DNS verification

To verify your domain using the new flow, click ‘add property’ from the property selector (drop down on top of Search Console sidebar). Then, choose the ‘Domain’ option. The system will guide you through a series of steps, including a visit to the registrar site where you need to apply changes - there will be fewer and easier steps than before for you to go through. You can learn more about verifying your site at the Help Center.


Image: Auto-DNS verification flow 

We hope you can use this new capability and gain ownership of your Domain property today. As always, please let us know if there is anything we can do to improve via the product feedback button, the Webmasters community or mention us on Twitter.

Posted by Ruty Mundel, Search Console engineering team