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!

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: 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+.

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.

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 PageRank. One specific signal of the algorithms is called Penguin, which was first launched in 2012 and today has an update.

After a period of development and testing, we are now rolling out an update to the Penguin algorithm in all languages. Here are the key changes you’ll see, which were also among webmasters’ top requests to us:

  • Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
  • Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site. 

The web has significantly changed over the years, but as we said in our original post, webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites. It’s also important to remember that updates like Penguin are just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine rank.

As always, if you have feedback, you can reach us on our forums, Twitter and Google+.

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.

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.

How can Google Search Console help you AMPlify your site?

If you have recently implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages on your site, it’s a great time to check which of your AMP pages Google has found and indexed by using Search Console.

Search Console is a free service that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search, including any Accelerated Mobile Pages. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your AMP pages to be included in Google Search results, but doing so can help you understand which of your AMP pages are eligible to show in search results.

To get started with Search Console, create a free account or sign in here and validate the ownership of your sites.

Once you have your site set up on Search Console, open the Accelerated Mobile Pages report under Search Appearance > Accelerated Mobile Pages to see which AMP pages Google has found and indexed on your site, as shown here:

The report lists AMP-related issues for AMP pages that are not indexed, so that you can identify and address them.

Search Console also lets you monitor the performance of your AMP pages on Google Search in the Search Analytics report. This report tells you which queries show your AMP pages in Search results, lets you compare how their metrics stack against your other results and see how the visibility of your AMP pages has changed over time.

To view your AMP page metrics, such as clicks or impressions, select Search Appearance > Search Analytics > Filter by AMP.

(Note: if you’ve only just created your Search Console account or set up your AMP pages and they have not been detected yet, remember that Google crawls pages only periodically. You can wait for the scheduled regular recrawl, or you can request a recrawl.)

Have you been using Search Console to monitor your AMP pages? Give us 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.

UPDATE: To help ensure that your AMP implementation is working as expected, Search Console now has an enhanced AMP testing tool.