Inside Google Sitemaps

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New name better reflects our commitment to communicate with you

We're surrounded by moving boxes and construction dust. To better reflect our goal to provide tools and information to keep you, the webmasters, informed and help you increase your crawl coverage and visibility on Google, we're renaming Google Sitemaps to Google webmaster tools. The Sitemaps protocol remains unchanged and Sitemaps submission mechanisms and reporting is still available from the Sitemaps tab. We're also renaming our blog and Google Group to be more broadly focused on webmaster topics.

You can find handy links to all the tools, the new blog, Google Group, help center and more from our newly launched Google webmaster central. Join us at the blog's new location at where you'll learn about all the exciting things we're planning. Oh, and please don't forget to update your bookmarks and feed!


BlogHer Tips

Yesterday's post was about how BlogHer attendees (and anyone else) can ensure that their web pages get indexed in Google. Here are more tips:
  • If you want to keep Google from indexing some pages of your site, you can use a robots.txt file, a simple text file that you place in the root of your site. We provide detailed information about creating a robots.txt file. You can also use the robots.txt analysis tool in Google Sitemaps to make sure that your file blocks and allows the pages you intend.
  • If Google has indexed content that you don't want to appear in search results, you have two options:
    • If you want to keep the content on your site, you can block that page with a robots.txt file and then request that we remove the page from our index;
    • If you remove the content from your site (for instance, you decide that you revealed information that is too personal and you edit your blog post), you can request a cache removal.
  • Good content keeps visitors coming back and compels other sites to link to you. In addition to blog posts, you can provide othe types of content, such as video. A number of video hosting sites are available including YouTube, Yahoo! Video, and our very own Google Video. At the conference, some attendees were asking about copyright, and to answer that question, you retain all rights to any content you upload to Google Video.
  • If you're interested in running ads on your site, take a look at AdSense. The ads are related to what you're talking about that day on your blog -- and you can control what ads display.


Time to verify

Very soon, we'll be doing one of our periodic checks of verified sites. As our documentation notes, we do this to make sure that the verification HTML file or meta tag still exists. If we don't find the file or tag during this check, the account will no longer show that site as verified, and you'll no longer have access to diagnostics and statistics. If you find that a site that previously verified no longer is, simply click the "Verify" link on the My Sites page and upload the file or meta tag again.


Back from BlogHer

I just got back from BlogHer, a conference primarily for women about the technical and community aspects of blogging. As a woman who blogs, I had a wonderful time. As a woman who blogs about topics of interest to site owners, I gained some new perspectives.

These bloggers tend to already put into practice a lot of the things we tell site owners who ask how to get more of their context indexed and make it easier to find through Google searches. As group, they:
  • Provide unique perspectives and content on topics
  • Think about their visitors, making sure the sites meet their visitors' needs
  • Give visitors reasons to come back, and other sites reasons to link to them (they update content regularly, and most offer in-depth information, such as tutorials, reviews, or in-depth explanations).
The panelists understood visitor awareness. They told the crowd to look closely at their sites to determine how unique they were from other sites out there. They talked about getting visitors to care. This thoughtfulness leads to great sites, which in turn can lead to great search results.

Given all of the dedication these bloggers put into their sites, they are of course interested in attracting visitors. Some want the joy of sharing; others are interested in making money from their writing. Here are a few tips to help make your site easier to find, whatever your motivation:

1) High-quality links from other sites help bring visitors to your site and can help your site get indexed and well-ranked in Google. The number one question asked at this conference was "What is your site?" People want to know so they can go read it, and if they like it, link to it. But the number one answer to this question was the name of the site, not the URL. Bloggers had T-shirts of their sites available, and many of those didn't have URLs. Tell people your URL so they can find you, read you, and link to you!

2) Make sure Google can crawl your site. We use an automated system (called "Googlebot") to visit pages on the web, determine their contents, and index them. Sometimes, Googlebot isn't able to view pages of a site, and therefore can't index those pages. There are two primary things you can do to check your site.

a. Read our webmaster guidelines to learn about how we crawl sites and what can make that easier.

b. Sign up for a Google Sitemaps account to see a list of errors we encountered when we tried to crawl your site. This way you can find out if we can't reach your site, and why. Once you sign up for a Google Sitemaps account and add your site URL, you need to verify site ownership before you can see diagnostic information. To do this, simply click the Verify link and follow the steps outlined on the Verify page.

You can verify site ownership in one of two ways:
  • Upload an HTML file with a specific name to your site
  • Add a <meta> tag to your site's home page
Once you verify site ownership, you can see other details about your site in addition to errors. For instance, you can see what visitors are searching for when they click in the Google search results. You can see this for visitors searching our web index as well as blogsearch. You can also see what searches visitors do to find your images.

You can also see what words other sites use to link to you (which helps explain why your site might show up for searches that you think are unrelated to your site).

3) Submit an RSS feed of your site to quickly tell us about all of your pages, so we know to crawl and index them.


Support for Polish

Google Sitemaps has added support for Polish. If you already use Google in Polish, you should see the Sitemaps user interface in Polish automatically. Otherwise, you can click the Preferences link from the Google home page and choose Polish from the interface list.

The webmaster help center is also now available in Polish. This includes all the content in the help center, including our webmaster guidelines. Simply choose "Polish" from the Change Language menu. We also have a Polish Google Group for discussing Sitemaps and other webmaster issues.


More control over titles too

Yesterday we told you that you can use a meta tag to ask us not to use descriptions of your site from the Open Directory Project (ODP) when we generate snippets. Some of you have asked if this meta tag prevents us from using the title from the ODP as well. Yes, this meta tag does apply to both the title and description from the ODP.

Also, as noted in our webmaster help center, you can combine parameters in the meta tag. So, for instance, you could use the following meta tag:
<meta="robots" content="noodp, noarchive">


More control over page snippets

The way we generate the descriptions (snippets) that appear under a page in the search results is completely automated. The process uses both the content on a page as well as references to it that appear on other sites.

One source we use to generate snippets is the Open Directory Project, or ODP. Some site owners want to be to able to request not using the ODP for generating snippets, and we're happy to let you all know we've added support for this. All you have to do is add a meta tag to your pages.

To direct all search engines that support the meta tag not to use ODP information for the page's description, use the following:


Note that not all search engines may support this meta tag, so check with each for more information.

To direct Google specifically from using this information to describe a page, use the following:


For more information, visit the webmaster help center.

Once you add this meta tag to your pages, it may take some time for changes to your snippets to appear. Once we've recrawled your pages and refreshed our index, you should see updated snippets.


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