Note: This post is specific to Google's organic web-search. For Google's other services, please check with the appropriate help center (e.g., for Google Shopping) or help forum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
With so many users on mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly web is important to us all. The Mobile-Friendly Test is a great way to check individual pages manually. We're happy to announce that this test is now available via API as well.
The Mobile-Friendly Test API lets you test URLs using automated tools. For example, you could use it to monitor important pages in your website in order to prevent accidental regressions in templates that you use. The API method runs all tests, and returns the same information - including a list of the blocked URLs - as the manual test. The documentation includes simple samples to help get you started quickly.
We hope this API makes it easier to check your pages for mobile-friendliness and to get any such issues resolved faster. We'd love to hear how you use the API -- leave us a comment here, and feel free to link to any code or implementation that you've set up! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop by our webmaster help forum.
As a website owner, you might have come across some auto-generated content in comments sections or forum threads. When such content is created on your pages, not only does it disrupt those visiting your site, but it also shows some content that you may not want to be associated with your site to Google and other search engines.
In this blog post, we will give you tips to help you deal with this type of spam in your site and forum.
Some spammers abuse sites owned by others by posting deceiving content and links, in an attempt to get more traffic to their sites. Here are a few examples:
Comments and forum threads can be a really good source of information and an efficient way of engaging a site's users in discussions. This valuable content should not be buried by auto-generated keywords and links placed there by spammers.
There are many ways of securing your site’s forums and comment threads and making them unattractive to spammers:
For detailed information about these topics, check out our Help Center document on User Generated Spam and comment spam. You can also visit our Webmaster Central Help Forum if you need any help.
Since initially announcing property sets earlier this year, one of the most popular requests has been to expand this functionality to more sections of Search Console. Thanks to your feedback, we're now expanding property sets to more features!
Property sets help to show how your business is seen by Google across separate websites or apps. For example, if you have multiple international or brand-specific websites, and perhaps even an Android app, it can be useful to see changes of the whole set over time: are things headed in the expected direction? are there any outliers that you'd want to drill down into? Similarly, you could monitor your site's hreflang setup across different versions of the same website during a planned transition, such as when you move from HTTP to HTTPS, or change domains.
With Search Console's property sets, you can now just add any verified properties to a set, let the data collect, and then check out features like the mobile usability report, review your AMP implementation, double-check rich cards, or hreflang / internationalization markup, and more.
We hope these changes make it easier to understand your properties in Search Console. Should you have any questions - or if you just want to help others, feel free to drop by our Webmaster Help Forums.
Limited mobile devices, "feature-phones", require a special form of markup or a transcoder for web content. Most websites don't provide feature-phone-compatible content in WAP/WML any more. Given these developments, we've made changes in how we crawl feature-phone content (note: these changes don't affect smartphone content):
1. We've retired the feature-phone Googlebot
We won't be using the feature-phone user-agents for crawling for search going forward.
2. Use "handheld" link annotations for dynamic serving of feature-phone content.
Some sites provide content for feature-phones through dynamic serving, based on the user's user-agent. To understand this configuration, make sure your desktop and smartphone pages have a self-referential alternate URL link for handheld (feature-phone) devices:
<link rel="alternate" media="handheld" href="[current page URL]" />
This is a change from our previous guidance of only using the "vary: user-agent" HTTP header. We've updated our documentation on making feature-phone pages accordingly. We hope adding this link element is possible on your side, and thank you for your help in this regard. We'll continue to show feature-phone URLs in search when we can recognize them, and when they're appropriate for users.
3. We're retiring feature-phone tools in Search Console
Without the feature-phone Googlebot, special sitemaps extensions for feature-phone, the Fetch as Google feature-phone options, and feature-phone crawl errors are no longer needed. We continue to support sitemaps and other sitemaps extensions (such as for videos or Google News), as well as the other Fetch as Google options in Search Console.
We've worked to make these changes as minimal as possible. Most websites don't serve feature-phone content, and wouldn't be affected. If your site has been providing feature-phone content, we thank you for your help in bringing the Internet to feature-phone users worldwide!
For any questions, feel free to drop by our Webmaster Help Forums!
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