Friday, May 11, 2007
Earlier this year, a bunch of Googlers (Maile, Peeyush, Dan, Adam and I) bunged ourselves across the equator and headed to Sydney, so we could show our users and webmasters that just because you're "down under" doesn't mean you're under our radar. We had a great time getting to know folks at our Sydney office, and an even greater time meeting and chatting with all the people attending Search Summit and Search Engine Room. What makes those 12-hour flights worthwhile is getting the chance to inform and be informed about the issues important to the webmaster community.
One of the questions we heard quite frequently: Should we as webmasters/SEOs/SEMs/users be worried about personalized search?
Our answer: a resounding NO! Personalized search takes each user's search behavior, and subtly tunes the search results to better match their interests over time. For a user, this means that even if you're a lone entomologist in a sea of sports fans, you'll always get the results most relevant to you for the query "cricket". For the webmaster, it allows niche markets that collide on the same search terms to disambiguate themselves based on individual user preferences, and this really presents a tremendous opportunity for visibility. Also, to put things in perspective, search engines have been moving towards some degree of personalization for years; for example, providing country/language specific results is already a form of personalization, just at a coarser granularity. Making it more fine-grained is the logical next step, and helps level the playing field for smaller niche websites which now have a chance to rank well for users that want their content the most.
Another question that popped up a lot: I'm moving my site from domain X to Y. How do I make sure all my hard-earned reputation carries over?
Here are the important bits to think about:
- For each page on domain X, have it 301-redirect to the corresponding page on Y. (How? Typically through .htaccess, but check with your hosting provider).
- You might want to stagger the move, and redirect sub-sections of your site over time. This gives you the chance to keep an eye on the effects, and also gives search engines' crawl/indexing pipelines time to cover the space of redirected URLs.
- http://www.google.com/webmasters is your friend. Keep an eye on it during the transition to make sure that the redirects are having the effect you want.
- Give it time. How quickly the transition is reflected in the results depends on how quickly we recrawl your site and see those redirects, which depends on a lot of factors including the current reputation of your site's pages.
- Don't forget to update your Sitemap. (You are using Sitemaps, aren't you?)
- If possible, don't substantially change the content of your pages at the same time you make the move. Otherwise, it will be difficult to tell if ranking changes are due to the change of content or incorrectly implemented redirects.
But we wanted to highlight some of the webmaster-specific metrics within Google Analytics for our regular readers, since it offers a lot of easily-accessible information that will enrich the work you're doing.
For instance, do you know how many visitors to your site are using IE versus Firefox? And even further, how many of those IE or Firefox users are converting on a goal you have set up? Google Analytics can tell you information like this so you can prepare and tailor your website for your audience. Then, when you are designing, you can prioritize your testing to make sure that the site works on the most popular browsers and operating systems first.
Are your visitors using Java-enabled browsers? What version of Flash are the majority of your visitors using? What connection speed do they have? If you find that lots of visitors are using a dial-up service, you're going to want to put in some more effort to streamline the load time of images on your site, for example.
Plus, Google Analytics will make your company's marketing division very happy. It reports on the most effective search keywords, the most popular referring sources and the geographic location of visitors, as well as the performance of banner ads, PPC keyword campaigns, and email newsletters. If you haven't tried Google Analytics, watch the Flash tour of the product or set up a free account now and see statistics on your visitors and the traffic to your site within three hours.
Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team
Thursday, May 10, 2007
On April 4th, we announced Google Updater. It uses several pieces of software that run in the background, but we knew early on it was important for the one user-visible application to be able to show you what those background pieces were up to.
We looked briefly at using Apple's Distributed Objects technology, but it can take a fair amount of work to make DO work well. We also need multiple copies of the user interface to listen to a single background process, so the logical way to implement it was NSNotificationCenter, a class in Apple's Foundation framework that broadcasts notifications across processes. It can even broadcast to applications run by other users logged into the same computer.
We did have one worry, though. Apple's doc warns that "Posting a distributed notification is an expensive operation. The notification gets sent to a system-wide server that distributes it to all the tasks that have objects registered for distributed notifications…". This left me wondering two things:
(1) Just how expensive is it? How many notifications can you broadcast per second? As with all Google client products, we want to be good citizens and not bog down the client machine.
(2) Does subscribing to any distributed notification really mean that the server sends you every notification, and not just the ones you asked to receive? Could we assume that the server keeps track of the "names" you ask to hear about, and filters before distributing?
One of my favorite riddles is "How many empiricists does it take to change a light bulb?". So I wrote a command-line tool that broadcasts NSDistributedNotifications and another that listens. I ran ten copies of the listener and one broadcaster on a 2GHz Intel Core Duo.
The first interesting result was that the broadcaster can consistently push out a notification about every 2.64 milliseconds, no matter whether the listening processes are listening for the same name-and-object.
The second finding was that nothing burns much CPU except Apple's distnoted process, which is the bottleneck through which all notifications get sent. When the listeners did listen for the name the broadcaster was sending, distnoted used about 30% of the CPU. Shark showed distnoted was spending time in memory management involving simple data structures.
So we can conclude two things:
• We can easily send several messages per second to a dozen or so listeners without impairing a client machine.
• Registering to get only the name/object you want can help performance.
We designed our background processes to limit the number of notifications they broadcast, and distributed notifications have been a great base on which to build this part of the Updater system.
P.S. The answer to the riddle: "I don't know, either. Want to find out?" ;-)
We are aware that a number of German webmasters have received fake penalty notification emails that allegedly came from Google Search Quality. These spam emails have created some confusion about their authenticity, since we send very similar email notifications, which you can read more about here. Therefore, we clearly want to state that these emails are not related to any of Google's efforts concerning webmaster notification.
Updated: Because these emails are easy to mistake for authentic ones from Google, we've temporarily discontinued sending them as we work on ways to provide more secure communication mechanisms. We hope this will reduce confusion.
In the original post, we had listed the ways to tell if the email you received was not from Google. However, as we've temporarily stopped sending emails about guidelines violations, you can safely assume that any email you receive isn't from us. Note that the emails we sent did not include attachments. In addition, some of the emails mentioned 301 redirects as being the violation in question. Rest assured that 301 redirects are not a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines. Note that we do provide information about some violations in webmaster tools. If your site previously violated the guidelines and you've made changes to fix it, you can let us know by filing a reinclusion request.
This post has been updated to indicate that we've temporarily stopped sending emails to webmasters about guidelines violations to reduce confusion.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Earlier this year, I acquired a Nintendo Wii. As I was recovering from Wii elbow, I began to explore the capabilities of the Opera-based Internet Channel. It occurred that Reader may be a lot of fun on the Wii, especially with many photo and video feeds.
Some weekend hacking confirmed my suspicions, and the rest of the team also seemed to think it'd be a neat side project. As some have discovered, we recently flipped the switch on this feature. If you'd like to try it out, simply visit reader.google.com on your Wii (you may find it even easier to just do a Google search for "reader"). Keep in mind that this is something very experimental, the labs of Google Labs if you will.
If you're curious to see what it looks like, here's a recording:
You'll also notice that Reader on the Wii takes advantage of the famous Wiimote:
- up/down: scroll up/down
- right/left: next/previous item
- 1 button: show subscriptions
- 2 button: show links
When showing subscriptions:
- up/down: previous/next subscription
- right: select current subscription
- left: close
- -/+: collapse/expand folder
If you'd like to try the Reader interface in a regular browser, visit www.google.com/reader/wii to go into Wii mode. The Wiimote buttons all have keyboard equivalents (e.g. the "1" key for the 1 button).
Now that this is done, I've heard that the Commodore 64 has a web browser...
After it has been made active, you will still have access to the old version for at least one month.
We've redesigned the reporting interface for greater customization and collaboration. This should make it easier for businesses and website owners to find and share the data you need to make informed decisions. The new version presents data more clearly and in context, so you can look at a single report to gain insights rather than having to pull up several reports to understand what action to take.
The admin settings and the actual data collected are not changing except for a few improvements detailed on this FAQ page, so it shouldn't take you long to get used to the new interface. We hope that you'll find Google Analytics more accessible and useful for your business or site. Here are some of the improvements:
- Email and export reports: Schedule or send ad-hoc personalized report emails and export reports in PDF format.
- Custom Dashboard: No more digging through reports. Put all the information you need on a custom dashboard that you can email to others.
- Trend and Over-time Graph: Compare time periods and select date ranges without losing sight of long term trends.
- Contextual help tips: Context sensitive Help and Conversion University tips are available from every report.
Since Google Analytics launched in November 2005, the demand for website analytics has increased significantly. Today there are hundreds of thousands of Google Analytics customers, and web analytics has moved from being a niche function to becoming a mainstream aspect of the business for companies of all sizes. You've asked that we focus our engineering efforts around maintaining the sophistication and features that experienced users want, while also making it easy for both experts and non-experts to quickly and easily find the answers you want.
For a smooth transition, here are a few helpful resources specific to the new version:
- Take a tour of the new version
- Report Finder Tool: will help you see where data from the previous interface is located within the new version (it is also linked to from within your reports on the left navigation menu)
- FAQs for more details about the new version
- New version features page
The new version of Google Analytics is easy enough for a layperson to understand, but also offers the sophistication experienced users need.
Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team