February 15, 2010

India Site Clinic - Part 1

It is a pleasure to bring first installment of our Site Clinic series. We've had hundreds of you asking us a variety of questions & tips on improving the way your website is shown in our search results. We'd like to say a big thank you for an amazing response from our entire search quality team. Given the huge response, we thought it would be fair to address broader trends rather than to focus on individual websites. The trend we are going to focus on today, the most prominent of the lot, is called 'canonicalization.' This was an issue with about half of the Indian websites that were submitted.

Let's start with the basics.

What is canonicalization?
The term "canonicalization" may sound a bit technical, but it is simply the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices available.

For example:

When we crawl the web we can find a number of different addresses that sometimes show the same page. This can confuse our systems and result in taking longer to review your webpages and perhaps not showing the best URL in our search results.

Sounds good in theory? Do you want to see a real example?

Yes, freewaresnbeta.com is a nice looking blog about freewares and software. This website serves as a good example to explain the implications of the canonicalization effect. The live page http://www.freewaresnbeta.com/ loads well, but the the non-www version http://freewaresnbeta.com/ loads a page saying that the site is 'under construction.'

The 'non-www' version

The 'www' version

The above two pages look different : The non-www version is probably showing a webpage left from when the webmaster was building the site. As you notice the web addresses are so similar, users might accidentally link to the non-www one. This can lead to their visitors (and our crawlers) being sent to the wrong URL and being confused by the content shown there. When it's easy for other people to link to your proper webpages, more visitors will be able to view your pages and recommend them to their friends.

What's the solution?

There's a pretty neat facility in Webmaster Tools where you can set your preferred version (www or non-www) to be crawled by Google. Once you pick your preferred destination URL, use 301 redirects to send traffic from other URL variants to your preferred URL, so that the valuable ranking factors are carried along with the redirect. It is also advisable to use the preferred version for internal linking and advertising.

Let's talk about another important implication for canonicalization - Duplicate content.

Most web hosts consider 'www' as a default submain to the main domain and automatically configure it to have the same content as the non-www versions. This can lead us to access the website more than necessary, perhaps slowing down the website load time for normal users and also confusing users by showing the same content in the search results twice. While Google is very good at automatically detecting the best version, webmasters can help improve our accuracy by making use of the
rel=canonical link tag element as well as our URL parameter handling tool in Webmaster Tools.

In summary, here are some best practices to avoid having a canonicalization issue with your website:

  • Set your preferred version in Webmaster Tools (www or non-www).
  • Set a 301 redirect from the non-preferred version to the perferred version.
  • Have consistent internal linking (always use the preferred version to hyperlink).
  • Always make sure you advertise only the preferred version.
  • Make use of "rel=canonical" and the URL parameter handling tool in Webmaster Tools.
Check out this video of Matt Cutts, a Webspam Engineer from our team, talking about canonical link element.

If you have an opinion or any questions on the topic, please join our conversation in the Webmaster Help Group .

We hope this article and those that will follow are going to be useful, not only for the discussed websites, but also for all webmasters who read this blog.

That's all! Until our next post…!

P.S. Do keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive study, but a set of general recommendations for Google search .

Posted by Search Quality Team

February 10, 2010

Introducing Google Buzz

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

We've blogged before about our
thoughts on the social web, steps we've taken to add social features to our products, and efforts like OpenSocial that propose common tools for building social apps. With more and more communication happening online, the social web has exploded as the primary way to share interesting stuff, tell the world what you're up to in real-time and stay more connected to more people. In today's world of status messages, tweets and update streams, it's increasingly tough to sort through it all, much less engage in meaningful conversations.

Our belief is that organizing the social information on the web — finding relevance in the noise — has become a large-scale challenge, one that Google's experience in organizing information can help solve. We've recently launched innovations like
real-time search and Social Search, and today we're taking another big step with the introduction of a new product, Google Buzz.

Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It's
built right into Gmail, so you don't have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch — it just works. If you think about it, there's always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most. We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don't have to use different tools to share with different audiences). Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you're sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.

We're rolling out Buzz to all Gmail accounts over the next few days, so if you don't see it in your account yet, check back soon. We also plan to make Google Buzz available to businesses and schools using Google Apps, with added features for sharing within organizations.

On your phone, Google Buzz is much more than just a small screen version of the desktop experience. Mobile devices add an important component to sharing: location. Posts tagged with geographical information have an extra dimension of context — the answer to the question "where were you when you shared this?" can communicate so much. And when viewed in aggregate, the posts about a particular location can paint an extremely rich picture of that place. Check out the
Mobile Blog for more info about all of the ways to use Buzz on your phone, from a new mobile web app to a Buzz layer in Google Maps for mobile.

We've relied on other services' openness in order to build Buzz (you can connect Flickr and Twitter from Buzz in Gmail), and Buzz itself is not designed to be a closed system. Our goal is to make Buzz a fully open and distributed platform for conversations. We're building on a suite of open protocols to create a complete read/write developer API, and we invite developers to join us on
Google Code to see what is available today and to learn more about how to participate.

We really hope you enjoy the experiences we've built within Gmail and for mobile phones. If you want to learn more, visit
buzz.google.com. We look forward to continuing to evolve and improve Google Buzz based on your feedback.

Posted by Todd Jackson, Product Manager, Gmail and Google Buzz