Friday, July 18, 2014

Google Webmaster Tools Adds International Targeting Report For Geographic Targeting and hreflang Errors

Many websites serve users from around the world with content translated or targeted to users in a certain region. Google uses the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" attributes to serve the correct language or regional URL in Search results.

This annotation enables Google and other search engines to serve the correct language or regional version of pages to searchers, which can lead to increased user satisfaction.

The Language Targeting section in the International Targeting in Google Webmaster Tools feature enables you to identify two of the most common issues with hreflang annotations:

  • Missing return links: annotations must be confirmed from the pages they are pointing to. If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A, otherwise the annotations may not be interpreted correctly.

  • Incorrect hreflang values: The value of the hreflang attribute must either be a language code in ISO 639-1 format such as "es", or a combination of language and country code such as "es-AR", where the country code is in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format.

Google has also moved the geographic targeting setting to this part of Webmaster Tools, so that all information relevant to international and multilingual targeting can be found in the same place.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robots.txt Launched In Google Webmaster Tools - To crawl, or not to crawl, that is the robots.txt question

The robots.txt file is the file which directly affects the crawling and indexing of the URLs on the site. It is the first file the bots like to read while crawling any site.

Google WMT had a Block URLs section which showed the robots.txt file but now If Google isn't crawling a page , the robots.txt tester (Known as Blocked URLs earlier) , located under the Crawl section of Google Webmaster Tools, will let you test whether there's an issue in your file that's blocking Google.

robot.txt tester - Google webmaster tools

According to an update on :

In the robots.txt testing tool in Webmaster Tools you'll see
  •  The current robots.txt tester, and can test new URLs to see whether they're being crawled or disallowed. 
  • Guide your way through complicated directives, it will highlight the specific one that led to the final decision.
  • You can make changes in the file and test those too.
  • Be able to review older versions of your robots.txt file, and see when access issues block crawling. For example, if Googlebot sees a 500 server error for the robots.txt file, we'll generally pause further crawling of the website.
  • Since there may be some errors or warnings shown for your existing sites, we recommend double-checking their robots.txt files. 
  • You can also combine it with other parts of Webmaster Tools: for example, you might use the updated Fetch as Google tool in WMT to render and submit important pages on your website. 
  • If any blocked URLs are reported, you can use this robots.txt tester to find the directive that's blocking them, and, of course, then improve that.
  • A common problem we've seen comes from old robots.txt files that block CSS, JavaScript, or mobile content — fixing that is often trivial once you've seen it. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why We Should Still Setup Authorship Markup Though Google Has Removed The Profile Photo From Search Results?

Last month John Mueller announced that Google will be removing the profile photo and circle count from search results.

He posted on Google+ that:

We've been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we're simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)

Does that mean that you should stop claiming authorship?

Some Of The Benefits Of Authorship Markup:

1. Authorship Markup establishes the identity of the author and correlates the content with that identity.

2. It builds trust as the reader has information about the author which is verified by the authorship markup process setup by Google.

3. It helps establish an authority and establishes thought leadership for the author online.

4. Helps combat plagiarism.

Identity conceptual view
Identity conceptual view (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Google the benefits of claiming authorship and the method of linking your content are as follows:

Two simple steps:

1. Create a Google+ Profile

 Remember to upload a high quality headshot and fill out some profile information such as hometown, etc.

2. Go to, sign up with your email and click on the verification link we send you.

If you don’t want to verify your email address, you can also link your content to your Google profile.
Why link your content?

Good for authors like you

· New! See analytics for your content in search.

· Distinguish and validate your content in search results.

· Get more followers on Google+.

· Help readers discover your other content on the web.

Good for the web
· Help users find high quality content on the web.

· Empower them to engage with content authors through Google+.

Why You Should Still Setup Authorship Markup Though Google Has Removed The Profile Photo And Circle Count From Search Results ?

LOLCat and My Identity Crisis
 Identity Crisis (Photo credit: DBarefoot)

  • Google has just stopped displaying the head shot of the author in search results but the benefits and correlation of the authorship markup remains the same. Hence it still makes sense to continue claiming authorship.
  • I think Google just wants to play it safe and curb any spam related to the misuse of the authorship markup. They have burnt their fingers in the past with all the link spam which got rampant on the web due to the PageRank Technology. After the link building and other kinds of spam Google needs to update the algorithms for this kind of misuse of the Authorship Markup before it becomes difficult to handle and needs a major upgrade like the Panda or the Penguin update.
  • Authorship Markup is about correlating content with the author and giving the due credit to the author to establish his/her authority and thought leadership and not about displaying pics. of business owners and people who want to just get their headshots displayed in SERPs.This kind of misuse totally beats the purpose of the Authorship markup and has a potential of again polluting the SERPs more than ever.
  • The structured markup testing tool shows the detailed results about publisher markup and authorship markup . The only thing missing is the author pic. Hence all the reason to continue claiming authorship.
  • The Author stats. also continues to be displayed in WMT and Google is working on the Author Stats data under Labs so no one knows how this will be used by Google in future. Hence all the reason to continue claiming authorship.
Hence setup authorship and establish your identity in front of the reader and the search engine robots.