Archives for October 2008

noindex test

Pay no attention this to page with a noindex tag. I just want to check on how Yahoo/Live/Ask treat pages with noindex meta tags.

Update: Just for the curious, here’s how other search engines treated the noindex meta tag in 2006. Also note that this page is fine for search engines to index; it’s the destination page linked to above with the noindex meta tag.

Join the webmaster chat today!

At 9 a.m. Pacific time (noon Eastern) today, we’re going to do our third Google webmaster chat. People will be able to ask questions via Google moderator and we’ll answer a bunch either in Google moderator or over the audio portion of the chat. There will also be several Googlers doing short presentations. I hope to chat with lots of people, so please thinking about signing up. Here’s how to do it.

Update: You can read some of the questions and written responses from the chat. Thanks to the 600+ people that showed up; it was great spending a couple hours with you. 🙂

Hidden text on a television

I was thinking of taking a few days and doing some photo blogging of various pictures I’ve collected in the last few months. For example, lots of people know what hidden text is on the web. What would hidden text look like on a television? I think it would look something like this:

Tiny text

That’s some tiny text. Can you even read what it says at the bottom of the TV screen?

Alerting webmasters to webserver vulnerabilities

I’m really happy about a new experiment that we’re trying that has the potential to help a ton of site owners. A new blog post on the Google webmaster blog (you are subscribed to the webmaster blog, right? You’ll find at least as much good SEO and search-related info on that blog as on my blog) mentions that we’re alerting webmasters to vulnerable webserver software.

There’s been a recent trend of spammers hacking websites, and most of the time that happens because the webmaster or site owner didn’t update a piece of software that runs their website. If you think you can install a piece of software on the web in 2008 and run it forever without upgrading, I’m sorry to say that your website will be at much higher risk of getting hacked.

If you log in to the webmaster console and we think your website is running WordPress 2.1.1, you’ll soon see a message that looks like this:

Hackable site warning

I just want to emphasize that I have absolutely nothing against WordPress (I run it myself, like it a lot, and newer WordPress versions are much more secure than previous versions). We had to start somewhere, and this was just a natural first step so that we could try the experiment and see how well it works.

Free links to your site

I can’t believe a new feature from Google isn’t getting more notice, because it converts already-existing links to your site into much higher quality links, for free. The Google webmaster blog just announced that you can find the pages that link to 404 pages on your site.

Let me back up and give you a little history. When someone comes to your site’s webserver and asks for a page that doesn’t exist, like , most web servers are configured to return an HTTP status code of 404, which means that the page was “Not Found.” If someone links to a page on your site that doesn’t exist, most webservers give a pretty sucky experience: visitors usually land on a pretty useless page, and search engines might not give you full credit for those 404 errors.

Now Google’s webmaster portal lets you see who is linking to your 404 pages. Once you register your site, click on Diagnostics, then Web crawl, and select “Not found”. You’ll see something like this:

My 404 errors

See that red oval? If I click on it, I’ll see all the urls that link to that 404 page:

My 404 errors

Why would you care about this? The simple reason is that if someone is linking to a non-existent page on your site, it can be a bad experience for users (not to mention that you might not be getting credit for that link with search engines unless you’re doing extra work). Some of the easiest links you’ll ever get are when people tried to link to you and just messed up.

It would be trivial to mail some of these people and say “Hey, I noticed you linked to my site (thank you!) but the link is broken, so users will get a 404 page. Would you mind changing your link on page A to point to the right page, which is url B?” When the other site fixes their link, their visitors find your site directly, plus all search engines can follow those links and give you credit for them. Converting 404 links to links to the right pages converts sucky links to free direct text links for all.

You can also download this data as a convenient CSV file. Just click on Diagnostics, then Web crawl, and then click on “Download all sources of errors on this site.”

P.S. Here’s a bonus tip: if your webserver does cruddy things on 404 pages, Google’s webmaster portal will help you create better 404 pages with about 14 lines of JavaScript that you can copy/paste into your 404 page template. Because it’s just some code to add to the HTML template for your 404 page, it works for Apache or IIS.