Monday, October 27, 2014

Google Webmaster Guidelines Change on October 27, 2014 at 09:28AM

Today we saw the biggest change to Google's Webmaster Guidelines in quite a while. Today's update is about helping Google understand and read the page's content.

Under "Technical guidelines", Google now tells us:
  • To help Google fully understand your site's contents, allow all of your site's assets, such as CSS and JavaScript files, to be crawled. The Google indexing system renders webpages using the HTML of a page as well as its assets such as images, CSS, and Javascript files. To see the page assets that Googlebot cannot crawl and to debug directives in your robots.txt file, use the Fetch as Google and the robots.txt Tester tools in Webmaster Tools
This replaced the following bullet:
  • Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.
First of all, this reflects an update of modern web technology. Who uses Flash any more (since Apple killed it)? I'm probably the last person to claim to use DHML technology (an old-school way to describe using Javascript and CSS to render HTML, if you don't know). Besides, why should Google promote the Lynx browser when they really want webmasters to use their "Fetch as Google" tool in Google Webmaster Tools?

This also seems to be a response to Google's increased ability to read Javascript. While their old recommendation cautioned webmasters from rendering content using Javascript (among other "fancy features"), now they're asking us to allow Google to access those Javascript files. What interesting to me is the lumping-in of images with this. Is Google starting to be able to read text in images as well? If not, why mention this in a paragraph about helping "Google fully understand your site's contents"?

I noticed something like this, recently, when looking at one of my websites in Webmaster Tools. When I attempted to "Fetch (my homepage, in this case) as Google" my logo was not appearing. Huh? Oh yeah, I had added my image directory to my robots.txt file so Google wasn't able to see my logo.

Perhaps I should change this.

What do you think? Tell me about it in the comments, below.

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