Category Archives: search results

Enabling more high quality content for users

In Google’s mission to organize the world’s information, we want to guide Google users to the highest quality content, the principle exemplified in our quality rater guidelines. Professional publishers provide the lion’s share of quality content that benefits users and we want to encourage their success.

The ecosystem is sustained via two main sources of revenue: ads and subscriptions, with the latter requiring a delicate balance to be effective in Search. Typically subscription content is hidden behind paywalls, so that users who don’t have a subscription don’t have access. Our evaluations have shown that users who are not familiar with the high quality content behind a paywall often turn to other sites offering free content. It is difficult to justify a subscription if one doesn’t already know how valuable the content is, and in fact, our experiments have shown that a portion of users shy away from subscription sites. Therefore, it is essential that sites provide some amount of free sampling of their content so that users can learn how valuable their content is.

The First Click Free (FCF) policy for both Google web search and News was designed to address this issue. It offers promotion and discovery opportunities for publishers with subscription content, while giving Google users an opportunity to discover that content. Over the past year, we have worked with publishers to investigate the effects of FCF on user satisfaction and on the sustainability of the publishing ecosystem. We found that while FCF is a reasonable sampling model, publishers are in a better position to determine what specific sampling strategy works best for them. Therefore, we are removing FCF as a requirement for Search, and we encourage publishers to experiment with different free sampling schemes, as long as they stay within the updated webmaster guidelines. We call this Flexible Sampling.

One of the original motivations for FCF is to address the issues surrounding cloaking, where the content served to Googlebot is different from the content served to users. Spammers often seek to game search engines by showing interesting content to the search engine, say healthy food recipes, but then showing users an offer for diet pills. This “bait and switch” scheme creates a bad user experience since users do not get the content they expected. Sites with paywalls are strongly encouraged to apply the new structured data to their pages, because without it, the paywall may be interpreted as a form of cloaking, and the pages would then be removed from search results.

Based on our investigations, we have created detailed best practices for implementing flexible sampling. There are two types of sampling we advise: metering, which provides users with a quota of free articles to consume, after which paywalls will start appearing; and lead-in, which offers a portion of an article’s content without it being shown in full.

For metering, we think that monthly (rather than daily) metering provides more flexibility and a safer environment for testing. The user impact of changing from one integer value to the next is less significant at, say, 10 monthly samples than at 3 daily samples. All publishers and their audiences are different, so there is no single value for optimal free sampling across publishers. However, we recommend that publishers start by providing 10 free clicks per month to Google search users in order to preserve a good user experience for new potential subscribers. Publishers should then experiment to optimize the tradeoff between discovery and conversion that works best for their businesses.

Lead-in is generally implemented as truncated content, such as the first few sentences or 50-100 words of the article. Lead-in allows users a taste of how valuable the content may be. Compared to a page with completely blocked content, lead-in clearly provides more utility and added value to users.

We are excited by this change as it allows the growth of the premium content ecosystem, which ultimately benefits users. We look forward to the prospect of serving users more high quality content!

Posted by Cody Kwok, Principal Engineer

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Posted in search results, structured data | Comments Off

Connect to job seekers with Google Search

At Google I/O this year, we announced Google for Jobs, a new company-wide initiative focused on helping both job seekers and employers, through collaboration with the job matching industry. One major part of this effort is launching an improved experience for job seekers on Google Search. We’re happy to announce this new experience is now open for all developers and site owners.

For queries with clear intent like [head of catering jobs in nyc] or [entry level jobs in DC], we’ll show a job listings preview, and each job can expand to display comprehensive details about the listing:

For employers or site owners with job content, this feature brings many benefits:

  • Prominent place in Search results: your postings are eligible to be displayed in the in the new job search feature on Google, featuring your logo, reviews, ratings, and job details.
  • More, motivated applicants: job seekers can filter by various criteria like location or job title, meaning you’re more likely to get applicants who are looking exactly for that job.
  • Increased chances of discovery and conversion: job seekers will have a new avenue to interact with your postings and click through to your site.

Get your job listings on Google

Implementation involves two steps:

  1. Mark up your job listings with Job Posting structured data.
  2. Submit a sitemap (or an RSS or Atom feed) with a <lastmod> date for each listing.

If you have more than 100,000 job postings or more than 10,000 changes per day, you can express interest to use the High Change Rate feature.

If you already publish your job openings on another site like LinkedIn, Monster, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, and Facebook, they are eligible to appear in the feature as well.

Job search is an enriched search experience. We’ve created a dedicated guide to help you understand how Google ranking works for enriched search and practices for improving your presence

Keep track of how you’re doing and fix issues

There’s a suite of tools to help you with the implementation:

In the coming weeks, we’ll add new job listings filters in the Search Analytics report in Search Console, so you can track clicks and impressions for your listings.

As always, if you have questions, ask in the forums or find us on Twitter!

Posted by Nick Zakrasek, Product Manager

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Posted in search console, search results, structured data | Comments Off

Better Snippets for your Users

Before buying a book, people like to get a snapshot of how they’re about to spend a few hours reading. They’ll take a look at the synopsis, the preface, or even the prologue just to get a sense about whether they’ll like the book.
Search result snippets are much the same; they help people decide whether or not it makes sense to invest the time reading the page the snippet belongs to.  
The more descriptive and relevant a search result snippet is, the more likely that people will click through and be satisfied with the page they land on. Historically, snippets came from 3 places:
  1. The content of the page
  2. The meta description
  3. DMOZ listings
The content of the page is an obvious choice for result snippets, and  the content that can be extracted is often the most relevant to people’s queries. However, there are times when the content itself isn’t the best source for a snippet. For instance, when someone searches for a publishing company for their book, the relevant homepages in the result set may contain only a few images describing the businesses and a logo, and maybe some links, none of which are particularly useful for a snippet.
The logical fallback in cases when the content of a page doesn’t have much textual content for a search result snippet is the meta description. This should be short blurbs that describe accurately and precisely the content in a few words.
Finally, when a page doesn’t have much textual content for snippet generation and the meta description is missing, unrelated to the page, or low quality, our fallback was DMOZ, also known as The Open Directory Project. For over 10 years, we relied on DMOZ for snippets because the quality of the DMOZ snippets were often much higher quality than those  provided by webmasters in their meta description, or were more descriptive than what the page provided.
With DMOZ now closed, we’ve stopped using its listings for snippeting, so it’s a lot more important that webmasters provide good meta descriptions, if adding more content to the page is not an option.
What makes a good meta description?
Good meta descriptions are short blurbs that describe accurately the content of the page. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for. For more tips, we have a handy help center article on the topic. Remember to make sure that both your desktop and your mobile pages include both a title and a meta description.
What are the most common problems with meta descriptions?
Because meta descriptions are usually visible only to search engines and other software, webmasters sometimes forget about them, leaving them completely empty. It’s also common, for the same reason, that the same meta description is used across multiple (and sometimes many) pages. On the flip side, it’s also relatively common that the description is completely off-topic, low quality, or outright spammy. These issues tarnish our users’ search experience, so we prefer to ignore such meta descriptions.
Is there a character limit for meta descriptions?
There’s no limit on how long a meta description can be, but the search result snippets are truncated as needed, typically to fit the device width.
What will happen with the “NOODP” robots directive?
With DMOZ (ODP) closed, we stopped relying on its data and thus the NOODP directive is already no-op.
Can I prevent Google from using the page contents as snippet?
You can prevent Google from generating snippets altogether by specifying the “nosnippet” robots directive. There’s no way to prevent using page contents as snippet while allowing other sources.
As always, if you have questions, ask in the forums or find us on Twitter!

Posted by Gary, Search Team

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Similar items: Rich products feature on Google Image Search

Image Search recently launched “Similar items” on mobile web and the Android Search app. The “Similar items” feature is designed to help users find products they love in photos that inspire them on Google Image Search. Using machine vision technology, the Similar items feature identifies products in lifestyle images and displays matching products to the user. Similar items supports handbags, sunglasses, and shoes and will cover other apparel and home & garden categories in the next few months.

The Similar items feature enables users to browse and shop inspirational fashion photography and find product info about items they’re interested in. Try it out by opening results from queries like [designer handbags].

Finding price and availability information was one of the top Image Search feature request from our users. The Similar items carousel gets millions of impressions and clicks daily from all over the world.

To make your products eligible for Similar items, make sure to add and maintain schema.org product metadata on your pages. The schema.org/Product markup helps Google find product offerings on the web and give users an at-a-glance summary of product info.

To ensure that your products are eligible to appear in Similar items:

  • Ensure that the product offerings on your pages have schema.org product markup, including an image reference. Products with name, image, price & currency, and availability meta-data on their host page are eligible for Similar items
  • Test your pages with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that the product markup is formatted correctly
  • See your images on image search by issuing the query “site:yourdomain.com.” For results with valid product markup, you may see product information appear once you tap on the images from your site. It can take up to a week for Googlebot to recrawl your website.

Right now, Similar items is available on mobile browsers and the Android Google Search App globally, and we plan to expand to more platforms in 2017.

If you have questions, find us in the dedicated Structured data section of our forum, on Twitter, or on Google+. To prevent your images from showing in Similar items, webmasters can opt-out of Google Image Search.

We’re excited to help users find your products on the web by showcasing buyable items. Thanks for partnering with us to make the web more shoppable!

Posted by Julia E, Product Manager on Image Search

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Closing down for a day

Even in today’s “always-on” world, sometimes businesses want to take a break. There are times when even their online presence needs to be paused. This blog post covers some of the available options so that a site’s search presence isn’t affected.

Option: Block cart functionality

If a site only needs to block users from buying things, the simplest approach is to disable that specific functionality. In most cases, shopping cart pages can either be blocked from crawling through the robots.txt file, or blocked from indexing with a robots meta tag. Since search engines either won’t see or index that content, you can communicate this to users in an appropriate way. For example, you may disable the link to the cart, add a relevant message, or display an informational page instead of the cart.

Option: Always show interstitial or pop-up

If you need to block the whole site from users, be it with a “temporarily unavailable” message, informational page, or popup, the server should return a 503 HTTP result code (“Service Unavailable”). The 503 result code makes sure that Google doesn’t index the temporary content that’s shown to users. Without the 503 result code, the interstitial would be indexed as your website’s content.

Googlebot will retry pages that return 503 for up to about a week, before treating it as a permanent error that can result in those pages being dropped from the search results. You can also include a “Retry after” header to indicate how long the site will be unavailable. Blocking a site for longer than a week can have negative effects on the site’s search results regardless of the method that you use.

Option: Switch whole website off

Turning the server off completely is another option. You might also do this if you’re physically moving your server to a different data center. For this, have a temporary server available to serve a 503 HTTP result code for all URLs (with an appropriate informational page for users), and switch your DNS to point to that server during that time.

  1. Set your DNS TTL to a low time (such as 5 minutes) a few days in advance.
  2. Change the DNS to the temporary server’s IP address.
  3. Take your main server offline once all requests go to the temporary server.
  4. … your server is now offline …
  5. When ready, bring your main server online again.
  6. Switch DNS back to the main server’s IP address.
  7. Change the DNS TTL back to normal.

We hope these options cover the common situations where you’d need to disable your website temporarily. If you have any questions, feel free to drop by our webmaster help forums!

PS If your business is active locally, make sure to reflect these closures in the opening hours for your local listings too!

Posted by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Switzerland

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Posted in crawling and indexing, search results, UX | Comments Off

Rich Cards expands to more verticals

At Google I/O in May, we launched Rich Cards for Movies and Recipes, creating a new way for site owners to present previews of their content on the Search results page. Today, we’re expanding to two new verticals for US-based sites: Local restaurants and Online courses.

Evolution of search results for queries like [best New Orleans restaurants] and [leadership courses]: with rich cards, results are presented in new UIs, like carousels that are easy to browse by scrolling left and right, or a vertical three-pack that displays more individual courses

By building Rich Cards, you have a new opportunity to attract more engaged users to your page. Users can swipe through restaurant recommendations from sites like TripAdvisor, Thrillist, Time Out, Eater, and 10Best. In addition to food, users can browse through courses from sites like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, EdX, Harvard, Udacity, FutureLearn, Edureka, Open University, Udemy, Canvas Network, and NPTEL.

If you have a site that contains local restaurant information or offers online courses, check out our developer docs to start building Rich Cards in the Local restaurant and Online courses verticals.

While AMP HTML is not required for Local restaurant pages and Online Courses rich cards, AMP provides Google Search users with a consistently fast experience, so we recommend that you create AMP pages to further engage users. Users consuming AMP’d content will be able to swipe near instantly from restaurant to restaurant or from recipe to recipe within your site.

Users who tap on your Rich Card will be taken near instantly to your AMP page, and be able to swipe between pages within your site.

Check out our developer site for implementation details.

To make it easier for you to create Rich Cards, we made some changes in our tools:

  • The Structured Data Testing Tool displays markup errors and a preview card for Local restaurant content as it might appear on Search.
  • The Rich Cards report in Search Console shows which cards across verticals contain errors, and which ones could be enhanced with more markup.
  • The AMP Test helps validate AMP pages as well as mark up on the page.

What’s next?

We are actively experimenting with new verticals globally to provide more opportunities for you to display richer previews of your content.

If you have questions, find us in the dedicated Structured data section of our forum, on Twitter or on Google+.

Post by Stacie Chan, Global Product Partnerships

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Posted in AMP, mobile, rich cards, search results, structured data | Comments Off

Webmaster Forums Top AMP Questions

It has been busy here at Google Webmaster Central over the last few weeks, covering a lot of details about Accelerated Mobile Pages that we hope you have found useful. The topics have included:

We’ve also been seeing a few AMP questions coming to the Webmaster forums about getting started using AMP on Google Search. To help, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions we’ve seen:

Q: I’m considering creating AMP pages for my website. What is the benefit? What types of sites and pages is AMP for?

Users love content that loads fast and without any fuss – using the AMP format may make it more compelling for people to consume and engage with your content on mobile devices. Research has shown that 40% of users abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. The Washington Post observed an 88% decrease in article loading time and a 23% increase in returning users from mobile search from adopting AMP.

The AMP format is great for all types of static web content such as news, recipes, movie listings, product pages, reviews, videos, blogs and more.

Q: We are getting errors logged in Search Console for AMP pages; however, we already fixed these issues. Why are we still seeing errors?

The short answer is that changes to your AMP pages take about a week to be updated in Search Console. For a more in-depth answer on why, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller shared a detailed post on Search Console latency challenges.

Q: Our AMP pages are not showing up on Google Search. What should we do?

Only valid AMP pages will be eligible to show on Google Search. Check the validity of your  AMP pages by using the AMP HTML Web Validator, the Chrome or Opera Extension or through a more automated process such as a cron job to make sure all new content is valid.

While it’s good practise overall to include schema.org structured data in your AMP pages (we recommend JSON-LD), it’s especially important for news publishers. News content that includes valid markup properties are eligible to be shown within the Top Stories section in Google Search results. To test your structured data, try using the structured data testing tool.

If you have more questions that are not answered here, share your feedback in the comments below or on our Google Webmasters Google+ page. Or as usual, feel free to post in our Webmasters Help Forum.

Posted by Tomo Taylor, AMP Community Manager

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Posted in AMP, feedback and communication, search results, webmaster community | Comments Off

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm

Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to surface what you might be looking for. These signals include things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and … Continue reading Continue reading

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8 tips to AMPlify your clients

Here is our list of the top 8 things to consider when helping your clients AMPlify their websites (and staying ahead of their curiosity!) after our announcement to expand support for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

  1. Getting started can be simple

If a site uses a popular Content Management System (CMS), getting AMP pages up and running is as straightforward as installing a plug-in. Sites that use custom HTML or that are built from scratch will require additional development resources.

  1. Not all types of sites are suitable

AMP is great for all types of static web content such as news, recipes, movie listings, product pages, reviews, videos, blogs and more. AMP is less useful for single-page apps that are heavy on dynamic or interactive features, such as route mapping, email or social networks.

  1. You don’t have to #AMPlify the whole site

Add AMP to a client’s existing site progressively by starting with simple, static content pages like articles, products, or blog posts. These are the “leaf” pages that users access through platforms and search results, and could be simple changes that also bring the benefits of AMP to the website. This approach allows you to keep the homepage and other “browser” pages that might require advanced, non-AMP dynamic functionality.

If you’re creating a new, content-heavy website from scratch, consider building the whole site with AMP from the start. To begin with, check out the getting started guidelines.

  1. The AMP Project is open source and still evolving

If a site’s use case is not supported in the AMP format yet, consider filing a feature request on GitHub, or you could even design a component yourself.

  1. AMP pages might need to meet additional requirements to show up in certain places

In order to appear in Google’s search results, AMP pages need only be valid AMP HTML. Some products integrating AMP might have further requirements than the AMP validation. For example, you’ll need to mark up your AMP pages as Article markup with Structured Data to make them eligible for the Google Top Stories section.

  1. There is no ranking change on Search

Whether a page or site has valid and eligible AMP pages has no bearing on the site’s ranking on the Search results page. The difference is that web results that have AMP versions will be labeled with an icon.

  1. AMP on Google is expanding globally

AMP search results on Google will be rolling out worldwide when it launches in the coming weeks. The Top Stories carousel which shows newsy and fresh AMP content is already available in a number of countries and languages.

  1. Help is on hand

There’s a whole host of useful resources that will help if you have any questions:

Webmasters Help Forum: Ask questions about AMP and Google’s implementation of AMP
Stack Overflow: Ask technical questions about AMP
GitHub: Submit a feature request or contribute

What are your top tips to #AMPlify pages? Let us know in the comments below or on our Google Webmasters Google+ page. Or as usual, if you have any questions or need help, feel free to post in our Webmasters Help Forum.

Posted by Tomo Taylor, AMP Community Manager

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Posted in AMP, mobile, mobile-friendly, search results | Comments Off

How to best evaluate issues with your Accelerated Mobile Pages

As you #AMPlify your site with Accelerated Mobile Pages, it’s important to keep an eye periodically on the validation status of your pages, as only valid AMP pages are eligible to show on Google Search.

When implementing AMP, sometimes pages will contain errors causing them to not be indexed by Google Search. Pages may also contain warnings that are elements that are not best practice or are going to become errors in the future.

Google Search Console is a free service that lets you check which of your AMP pages Google has identified as having errors. Once you know which URLs are running into issues, there are a few handy tools that can make checking the validation error details easier.

1. Browser Developer Tools

To use Developer Tools for validation:

  1. Open your AMP page in your browser
  2. Append “#development=1″ to the URL, for example, http://localhost:8000/released.amp.html#development=1.
  3. Open the Chrome DevTools console and check for validation errors.

Developer Console errors will look similar to this:


2. AMP Browser Extensions

With the AMP Browser Extensions (available for Chrome and Opera), you can quickly identify and debug invalid AMP pages. As you browse your site, the extension will evaluate each AMP page visited and give an indication of the validity of the page.

Red AMP icon indicating invalid AMP document.

When there are errors within an AMP page, the extension’s icon shows in a red color and displays the number of errors encountered.

Green AMP icon indicating valid AMP document.

When there are no errors within an AMP page, the icon shows in a green color and displays the number of warnings, if any exist.

Blue AMP icon indicating AMP HTML variant if clicked.

When the page isn’t AMP but the page indicates that an AMP version is available, the icon shows in a blue color with a link icon, and clicking on the extension will redirect the browser to the AMP version.

Using the extensions means you can see what errors or warnings the page has by clicking on the extension icon. Every issue will list the source line, source column, and a message indicating what is wrong. When a more detailed description of the issue exists, a “Learn more” link will take you to the relevant page on ampproject.org.


3. AMP Web Validator

The AMP Web Validator, available at validator.ampproject.org, provides a simple web UI to test the validity of your AMP pages.

To use the tool, you enter an AMP URL, or copy/paste your source code, and the web validator displays error messages between the lines. You can make edits directly in the web validator which will trigger revalidation, letting you know if your proposed tweaks will fix the problem.

What’s your favourite way to check the status of your AMP Pages? Share your feedback in the comments below or on our Google Webmasters Google+ page. Or as usual, if you have any questions or need help, feel free to post in our Webmasters Help Forum.

Posted by Tomo Taylor, AMP Community Manager

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