Author Archives: Pierre Far

Surfacing your business’s contact and local info in Google

Webmaster level: All

Every day, searchers use Google to find information about businesses. Common queries include finding the phone number for customer service, the location of a business, and opening hours.

This information is typically found in a business’s location page or a “contact us” section of a company’s website. When Google correctly identifies these pages and is able to extract the relevant information from them, it is more likely to surface that information to searchers looking for the business.

Today we would like to share our recommendations for helping Google identify and surface this information.

Corporate phone numbers

National phone numbers for many companies are displayed prominently in Google Search results. For example, a searcher looking for Nest Labs’ customer service number will see:

Today, we are launching support for schema.org markup to help you specify your preferred phone numbers using structured data markup embedded on your website. Four types of phone numbers are currently supported:

  • Customer service
  • Technical support
  • Billing support
  • Bill payment

For each phone number, you can also indicate if it is toll-free, suitable for the hearing-impaired, and whether the number is global or serves specific countries. Learn how to specify your national customer service numbers.

Recommendations for local business sites

Many people also turn to Google to find and discover local businesses, and the best information is often on a website’s contact us or branch locator page. These location pages typically include the address of the business, the phone number, opening hours, and other information.

Today we’re also introducing recommendations about the best way to build these location pages to make them easily accessible and understandable to Googlebot, and more importantly, Google’s users. Our recommendations cover both crawling, indexing and visual layout suggestions, as well as new structured data markup guidelines to help Google index pages more accurately.

In addition to building great location pages, businesses are encouraged to continue using Places for Business, which is a fast and easy way to update your information across Google’s service such as Google Maps, the Knowledge Graph and AdWords campaigns.

This blog post is only a brief summary of our recommendations for building location pages or branch locators. Please read the guidelines and, as always, please ask on our Webmaster Help forums if you have more questions.

Posted by Justin Boyan, Product Manager, Jonathan Sidi, Product Manager, , Webmaster Trends Analyst

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A new Googlebot user-agent for crawling smartphone content

Webmaster level: Advanced

Over the years, Google has used different crawlers to crawl and index content for feature phones and smartphones. These mobile-specific crawlers have all been referred to as Googlebot-Mobile. However, feature phones and smartphones have considerably different device capabilities, and we’ve seen cases where a webmaster inadvertently blocked smartphone crawling or indexing when they really meant to block just feature phone crawling or indexing. This ambiguity made it impossible for Google to index smartphone content of some sites, or for Google to recognize that these sites are smartphone-optimized.

A new Googlebot for smartphones

To clarify the situation and to give webmasters greater control, we’ll be retiring “Googlebot-Mobile” for smartphones as a user agent starting in 3-4 weeks’ time. From then on, the user-agent for smartphones will identify itself simply as “Googlebot” but will still list “mobile” elsewhere in the user-agent string. Here are the new and old user-agents:

The new Googlebot for smartphones user-agent:
Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 6_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/536.26 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/6.0 Mobile/10A5376e Safari/8536.25 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

The Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones user-agent we will be retiring soon:
Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 6_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/536.26 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/6.0 Mobile/10A5376e Safari/8536.25 (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

This change affects only Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones. The user-agent of the regular Googlebot does not change, and the remaining two Googlebot-Mobile crawlers will continue to refer to feature phone devices in their user-agent strings; for reference, these are:

Regular Googlebot user-agent:
Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

The two Googlebot-Mobile user-agents for feature phones:

  • SAMSUNG-SGH-E250/1.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 UP.Browser/6.2.3.3.c.1.101 (GUI) MMP/2.0 (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
  • DoCoMo/2.0 N905i(c100;TB;W24H16) (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

You can test your site using the Fetch as Google feature in Webmaster Tools, and you can see a full list of our existing crawlers in the Help Center.

Crawling and indexing

Please note this important implication of the user-agent update: The new Googlebot for smartphones crawler will follow robots.txt, robots meta tag, and HTTP header directives for Googlebot instead of Googlebot-Mobile. For example, when the new crawler is deployed, this robots.txt directive will block all crawling by the new Googlebot for smartphones user-agent, and also the regular Googlebot:


User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /

This robots.txt directive will block crawling by Google’s feature phone crawlers:


User-agent: Googlebot-Mobile
Disallow: /

Based on our internal analyses, this update affects less than 0.001% of URLs while giving webmasters greater control over the crawling and indexing of their content. As always, if you have any questions, you can:

Posted by Zhijian He, Smartphone search engineer

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Smartphone crawl errors in Webmaster Tools

Webmaster level: all

Some smartphone-optimized websites are misconfigured in that they don’t show searchers the information they were seeking. For example, smartphone users are shown an error page or get redirected to an irrelevant page, but desktop users are shown the content they wanted. Some of these problems, detected by Googlebot as crawl errors, significantly hurt your website’s user experience and are the basis of some of our recently-announced ranking changes for smartphone search results.

Starting today, you can use the expanded Crawl Errors feature in Webmaster Tools to help identify pages on your sites that show these types of problems. We’re introducing a new Smartphone errors tab where we share pages we’ve identified with errors only found with Googlebot for smartphones.

Some of the errors we share include:

  • Server errors: A server error is when Googlebot got an HTTP error status code when it crawled the page.

  • Not found errors and soft 404s: A page can show a “not found” message to Googlebot, either by returning an HTTP 404 status code or when the page is detected as a soft error page.

  • Faulty redirects: A faulty redirect is a smartphone-specific error that occurs when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to a page that is not relevant to their query. A typical example is when all pages on the desktop site redirect smartphone users to the homepage of the smartphone-optimized site.

  • Blocked URLs: A blocked URL is when the site’s robots.txt explicitly disallows crawling by Googlebot for smartphones. Typically, such smartphone-specific robots.txt disallow directives are erroneous. You should investigate your server configuration if you see blocked URLs reported in Webmaster Tools.

Fixing any issues shown in Webmaster Tools can make your site better for users and help our algorithms better index your content. You can learn more about how to build smartphone websites and how to fix common errors. As always, please ask in our forums if you have any questions.

Posted by , Webmaster Trends Analyst

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A new opt-out tool

Webmasters have several ways to keep their sites’ content out of Google’s search results. Today, as promised, we’re providing a way for websites to opt out of having their content that Google has crawled appear on Google Shopping, Advisor, Flights, Ho… Continue reading

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Easier management of website verifications

Webmaster level: All

To help webmasters manage the verified owners for their websites in Webmaster Tools, we’ve recently introduced three new features:

  • Verification details view: You can now see the methods used to verify an owner for your site. In the Manage owners page for your site, you can now find the new Verification details link. This screenshot shows the verification details of a user who is verified using both an HTML file uploaded to the site and a meta tag:

    Where appropriate, the Verification details will have links to the correct URL on your site where the verification can be found to help you find it faster.

  • Requiring the verification method be removed from the site before unverifying an owner: You now need to remove the verification method from your site before unverifying an owner from Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools now checks the method that the owner used to verify ownership of the site, and will show an error message if the verification is still found. For example, this is the error message shown when an unverification was attempted while the DNS CNAME verification method was still found on the DNS records of the domain:

  • Shorter CNAME verification string: We’ve slightly modified the CNAME verification string to make it shorter to support a larger number of DNS providers. Some systems limit the number of characters that can be used in DNS records, which meant that some users were not able to use the CNAME verification method. We’ve now made the CNAME verification method have a fewer number of characters. Existing CNAME verifications will continue to be valid.

We hope this changes make it easier for you to use Webmaster Tools. As always, please post in our Verification forum if you have any questions or feedback.

Posted by Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst

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