Friday, January 25, 2008
Here's the scenario: you decide to try out a new Gmail feature and suddenly you have some questions. What do you do? Come on down to the Gmail Help Discussion Group.
The Gmail Help Discussion Group is an interactive user forum where Gmail users communicate with one another. You can get quick and easy access to information for troubleshooting technical problems, share your wealth of experience with other users, get a fellow user's perspective on something that is confusing you, or just stay up to date with Gmail -- all through this community forum.
Here are some tips to help you along:
Tip #1: Someone may have already posted about your topic or question, so search or browse for previous threads before posting a new one.
Tip #2: If you're troubleshooting, try to provide as many details as possible. Specific error messages and specific actions that you took can help others understand what you're experiencing and what you've already tried. For instance, if you're having problems sending messages, specify exactly what occurs, any error messages that you receive, and your computing specifications (such as browser type and operating system) to help the group identify if your problem can be easily remedied or if it will require direct assistance from the Gmail team.
Tip #3: Keep an eye out for the "Gmail Groupies," a particularly active and helpful bunch of Gmail users who really enjoy sharing their knowledge and expertise. You can recognize them by scanning previous posts and looking for frequent contributors.
Whether you want to provide other users with help or have a question of your own, you can join the growing community of more than 200,000 members.
Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel; and Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust and Safety
Last year, the Council of Europe had a great idea. Based on polling that showed that 70% of Europeans did not understand how their personal data was being protected, the Council decided to hold the first annual Data Protection Day on January 28, 2007. Privacy experts visited schools and universities, launched information campaigns, and held press conferences in locations throughout Europe, informing and educating consumers about their personal data rights and protections.
Lack of understanding about data protection on the Internet is not only a European issue, it's a global one. As more and more personal information comes online every day, it's increasingly important that users all over the world understand both the benefits and potential risks of online data sharing, and the tools at their disposal to control and manage the data they share online. In recognition of the global importance of data protection, the U.S. and Canada have joined 27 European countries to celebrate Data Privacy Day 2008 this Monday, January 28th.
As part of the day's events, we'll join legal scholars, privacy professionals, and government officials from Europe and the U.S. at an international data privacy conference being held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. We'll also contribute to efforts to raise awareness and promote understanding of data privacy issues by releasing the third video in our privacy series ("Google Privacy: A Look at Cookies") on our YouTube Privacy Channel. This video offers a closer look at how cookies work and how web sites and advertisers use them to personalize our online experiences. We've also developed a privacy booklet (pdf-web version coming soon!) that you can download to get an in-depth look at our privacy practices and approach, and have co-sponsored the creation of educational materials on teen online privacy for parents and educators. The goal of all these efforts is to help educate you about online data privacy so that you can make more informed choices about how you use online products and services.
We hope that you'll take a few minutes on Monday to learn something new, and that Data Privacy Day reinforces existing global efforts to educate consumers about online data collection, use, and protection.
Have you ever been traveling and needed to get directions from your hotel to another destination in town, like a restaurant you keep hearing about? You may have been a bit frustrated that Google Maps required you to look up the addresses of your starting and end points before ultimately getting your directions.
Well, we felt the same way. So we fixed it. Now you can type in any location where you want to go -- whether it's a specific street address, a business name like Fuzzy Buddy's Dog Daycare, or even something more general like "florist" -- and we'll help you get directions. We'll even automatically try to find the closest results for you.
We've found this particularly handy for pizza runs from our office; now we can just put in "651 N. 34th Street Seattle to pizza" and choose from our options. And if you're ever in town visiting us and want to go to dinner from your hotel, you might try "Andra Hotel Seattle to Wild Ginger" (make sure to try their seven-flavor beef).
Retailers can find tips for driving more conversions in the AdWords Retail Industry Newsletter. Advertisers selling consumer electronics, and telecommunications and technology products or services can check out the AdWords Tech B2C Industry Newsletter for advice on reaching more customers.
You can sign up to receive AdWords newsletters via email through your AdWords account.
Posted by Feng, Inside AdWords crew
Happy New Year! We're starting things off with a number of exciting updates.
With help from a team of USGS scientists, we reengineered the Earthquake layer to be more accurate and informative. And to top it all off, we gave it a fresh new look. This layer presents historic earthquake epicenters of magnitudes greater than 3 for the entire world over the last 40 years. It's very fun to look at if you're interested in geology. For instance, did you know that large earthquakes happen most frequently at tectonic plate boundaries? If you zoom far out and connect the large earthquake dots, you will get a rough graph of these areas. The information balloons that appear on the map tell you the magnitude, depth, and date of the earthquake. And if you're interested in tracking earthquakes happening in real time, you can download the USGS Real-Time Earthquake KML file from any of the earthquake bubbles. The KML file will be added to the "Temporary Places" panel on the left, and it will automatically refresh every 5 minutes, showing the latest earthquakes around the world. So if you're feeling a jolt under your feet but not sure if it's an earthquake or your neighbor playing Wii, now you have a way to find out.
We expanded one of our most popular layers -- National Geographic -- to three more continents: Europe, Asia, and South America. These new additions feature interesting stories about everything from China's fearsome Taklimakan Desert, where Marco Polo traveled, to the hyacinth macaws of Brazil.
And finally, we added and updated roads in 26 countries: Russia, Malaysia, Thailand, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Place names in Taiwan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Turkey will now be labeled in their local language, and bodies of water will be labeled in the language you have Google Earth set to.
As a software engineer, sharing and collaborating on Google Docs is something I do all the time. There's so much to keep track of that I often create documents describing how to do things, best practices, gotchas, and references to other documents or web pages with more information. When new people join the team, these are valuable references they can use to to get up and running quickly. By sharing documents across our team, people can all pitch in to keep the documents up to date, relevant, and useful.
In the past, sharing a slew of Google documents with new people was a time consuming process: open each document, select the share tab, and specify the people to share with. Now this can all be done from the documents list! Select one or more items in your Google Docs list, press the 'Share' button (or right-click and select 'Share'), enter the people to share with, add a custom message if you want, and voila -- all the documents will be shared with the new folks. And as always, you can decide if they can edit the items or just view them.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
At Google, we're encouraged to move to different groups and learn new skills. I recently transitioned to the Maps team -- specifically, to the group that empowers local experts like you to improve your virtual neighborhood on Google Maps. You may remember that not too long ago we launched a feature that enables people to correct marker locations.
I previously focused on behind-the-scenes kernel work, so switching to something as well-known as the Google Maps user interface was quite a refreshing change. Excited and inspired, I got to task by working on a Maps 'recent edits' viewer that provides a real-time view into a sampling of the user edits taking place across the globe. You can just sit back and watch the world's information improving bit by bit, edit by edit. I warn you, though, it's highly addictive (almost as addictive as helping make the improvements yourself!).
Now that it's complete, I'm excited to know that something I've worked on is actually a visible part of the Maps experience, and helps encourage people to improve the information about the world around them. And as a bonus, after all these years, when Mom and Dad ask "So what exactly do you do again at Google?", I can simply point to the 'recent edits' viewer and say, "That's what we do!"
We kicked off 2008 with a slew of new presentation features and your feedback is keeping us busy. Today's additions address some of the most requested features:
- Save as PDF, for when you really need to download your presentation as a file.
- PDF-based printing options (save trees and ink!). Go to File->Print, select how many slides you'd like on a page (up to 12), and preview your choice.
- Vector shapes, for your basic diagramming and drawing needs. Use block arrows to point out what's important, or say something in a call-out bubble.
On the search network, ads are shown to users who are specifically searching for results using one of your keywords. On the content network, ads are shown to users as they research interests and browse sites that are related to your keywords and ad text. Users on the content network are in a different mindset than users on search, so changes to your keywords, ad text and account structure may be necessary to make the most out of your content network advertising.
- Create separate search and content campaigns.
This will allow you to:
- Optimize your ad groups and ad text specifically for content pages.
- Target different audiences. If you sell flowers, you may want to create a content ad group to show your ads to couples by targeting pages relevant to them.
- Use general keywords to strengthen the theme of your ad group, without affecting your search performance.
- Think about the type of user browsing a web page and write ads to catch that user's attention.
- It's important for your ad text to relate to the webpage on which it appears. If your target user is going to be on pages related to flowers, mention flowers or closely related products in the ad text.
- Test multiple creatives and ad formats (text, image, video) in all available sizes to gain better insight into what sort of ads will perform the best for you.
- Include call-to-action phrases.
- Phrases like 'Register now," "Get a free quote," and "Call now" can can help set expectations for the person who is about to visit your site.
- Your call-to-action should be what you consider to be a conversion.
- Highlight special offers or features available on your site.
- We've found that advertisers often get higher ROI on the content network when they include product prices in their ads. Prices and special offers can help you stand out from competitors and showcase your best deals.
- Link your ad to customized landing pages that match the information in your ad text.
- If your ad highlights a special deal on cell phones, make sure that the ad directs users to the specific cell phone page of your site. And ensure that your landing pages are clear and easy to navigate.
- Track the performance of your contextually targeted ads using Placement Performance reports.
- The Placement Performance report (PPR) provides information on where your contextually targeted ads are showing up and how they are performing. You can use placement targeting (CPC or CPM) to further target the placements where your ads are performing particularly well and use site exclusion to exclude them from sites where they are not performing well. You can find more tips on how to use PPR effectively to boost campaign performance here.
- Let Google track and manage your campaign's performance for you.
Posted by Feng, Inside AdWords crew
The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are behind us, and Super Tuesday is just around the corner. So far in this presidential campaign season, candidates have used the web in new and creative ways - including social networks, maps mashups, geo-targeting online ads and even sending a Twitter or two. While none of these tools can take the place of voters sizing up a candidate up close (bringing to mind the New Hampshire voter who once said she hadn't made up her mind about a candidate because "I've only met him twice"), these new technologies have helped voters get more personally engaged in the political process.
The same is true of ads. TV and radio campaign ads, with their charges and counter-charges, have long been a staple of political campaigns. And increasingly, candidates of all political stripes are using keyword ads on Google and other search engines to help reach voters who care about particular issues. Political candidates used to have to go door-to-door or stand outside supermarkets to recruit potential supporters. Now they can build a base of support more efficiently online, in part by using Google's targeted advertising tools to reach prospective voters directly.
This is a good thing for the political process. We recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate, and we are committed to fairness and freedom of expression. Last year, we created an elections team to help political campaigns use our advertising tools. And we recently published new guidelines for political ads placed on Google. A few key parts of those policies:
Editorial Guidelines. Like all AdWords ads, political ads must follow our editorial and content policies (including our trademark policies). Google may refuse any ads or terminate ad campaigns at any time, for any reason, as noted in the advertising Terms and Conditions.
- Fairness. We permit political advertisements regardless of the political views they represent, and apply our policies equally. Just as the Net itself provides space for a thousand political opinions to bloom, Google is committed to being a neutral platform for people to advertise their political messages.
- No attacks on an individual's personal life. Stating disagreement with or campaigning against a candidate for public office, a political party, or public administration is generally permissible. However, political ads must not include accusations or attacks relating to an individual's personal life, nor can they advocate against a protected group. So, "Crime rates are up under Police Commissioner Gordon" is okay, but "Police Commissioner Gordon had an affair" is not.
- Donations. If you're soliciting political donations, your ad's landing page must clearly state that the donations are non-tax-deductible.
- No misleading ads. As with all AdWords advertisements, political ads should not mislead users (for example, using ad text that leads a user to believe that they're clicking on Dog Catcher Jones' ad when it's really his challenger's ad). Ad text must be clear, easy to read, and descriptive of a candidate or cause.
Since last week's seminar was so well attended, we've decided to offer three more seminars -- on January 31, February 6, and February 13. For each seminar, we'll give a product overview and explain how Conversion Optimizer can help you get a higher ROI and more conversions from Google search and content campaigns. We'll also have time to answer your questions. Keep in mind that the presentation and format for all three seminars will be the same, so please choose the date that works best for you. If you would like to attend, please register here.
If you'd like to learn more about using the Conversion Optimizer, you can also visit the Conversion Optimizer website.
Posted by Heather, Inside AdWords crew
Shawn has been an affiliate marketer since 1997, and joined AdSense in 2003 after he found it to be a natural extension for monetizing his websites. He wears a lot of different hats as an Internet marketer -- not only is Shawn the co-founder of the Affiliate Summit conference, but he also runs the Affiliate Buyer's Guide and is an affiliate himself.
Before AdSense, Shawn relied on running affiliate ads and selling space on a CPM basis. This could be hit or miss, as he would manually try to place ads that were the best fit. As his sites grew, he would sometimes forget about a time-sensitive ad, and that ad slot would become wasted space. "With the contextually served ads from AdSense," Shawn says, "my advertising is always fresh and spot on."
Shawn also blogs daily about affiliate marketing and maintains an affiliate manager resource site. His audience is savvy, since they're internet marketers as well, so he considers it essential that targeted, relevant advertising is served up to his visitors. According to Shawn, "AdSense is an ideal solution for my varied web properties, and I work with AdSense for content, AdSense for search, referrals, and video units."
As Shawn mentions in his video, one of the highlights of his day (sometimes many times a day) is when he logs in to his AdSense account. He likens it to holding a lottery ticket as he waits for his daily earnings to be revealed. "I try to guess the daily total, based on my past performance, which makes the whole process a little more fun. When I experiment with new placements or have a particularly good day with my traffic, it's always a thrill to see my milestones measured in AdSense commission spikes."
Posted by Ryan Hayward - AdSense Product Marketing
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Since launching Gmail in 2004, we've always supported the idea that email should be useful, fast, reliable, and fun. But instead of just hearing what we think about Gmail, we wanted to hear from you. So we recently invited Gmail fans to share stories about how you're using it in unique and productive ways. Turns out that you're a creative bunch, and we got the video submissions (and 1500+ emails) to prove it. With so many stories to choose from, we decided to put them all together and showcase a bit of everything you had to say. To check out the collaborative video and some of the email stories we received, head to gmail.com/yourstory. You might even discover a new way to use Gmail that you'd never considered.
We always love hearing from you, so if you still have a story to share give us a shout.
We're excited to introduce the new demographic bidding feature from AdWords. Demographic bidding helps you display your ads to specific gender and age group audiences on some sites in the Google content network, giving you more control over who your audience is and greater insight into how your ads perform with certain demographic groups.
We'll start testing this feature over the next few weeks with a selected group of advertisers in the U.S. and U.K. If you'd like to be part of that this group, read on.
Demographic bidding and reports are available to advertisers who run contextually targeted or placement-targeted campaigns (with CPC or CPM bidding) on certain sites in the Google content network. Here's how it works: Some publishers in our network, such as social networking sites, know the gender and age of their users because their users sign in with that information when they create a profile or fill out registration or subscription forms. Participating publishers anonymize this user reported demographic data and then send it to Google in aggregate form, allowing us to adjust which ads are shown to members of specific demographic groups. (To protect user privacy, AdWords receives this data only from publishers that have permission from users to share their data according to the site's terms and conditions. Users are never identified personally, but only as anonymous aggregated data in the demographic reports. And to protect the privacy of minors, users under 18 can't be targeted demographically.)
There are two ways you can use demographic bidding. First, you can modify your bids for a particular audience segment, such as increasing your bid for 25-34 year-old males by 230%. Second, you can ask that your ads not be shown to certain demographic groups if they aren't meeting your ROI goals.
If you're not sure which demographic converts best for you, you can run Demographic Reports (found in the Report Center) to guide your bids for certain groups. These reports can show you campaign performance metrics (including impressions, clicks, CTR, and conversion data) by the gender and age range of users who saw your ad. If there are demographic groups that convert well, you can increase your bids for those groups, increasing the frequency your ad will be shown to this audience. You can also choose to have your ad hidden from groups that don't respond well to your campaign.
If you're an AdWords advertiser located in the U.S. or the U.K., we'd like to invite you to try out demographic bidding. You can see which partner sites offer this feature and learn how to get started by visiting this site. We plan to add advertisers on a rolling basis. We'll let you know as soon as you've been added to the test.
Posted by Feng, Inside AdWords crew
A few weeks ago we invited you to share your Gmail stories with the world, and over 1,500 of you responded with emails and videos describing the creative and productive ways you use Gmail. Many of you were practical, lots were sweet, most were clever, several were talented, and some of you provided a good laugh. We can't keep these to ourselves any longer, so we created a collaborative video that combines many of the stories we received. We also want to share some of the great emails you sent, so head to gmail.com/yourstory to check them out. We hope that you'll enjoy the stories as much as we do, and maybe even find some new ways to use Gmail along the way.
P.S. It's never to late to share your story.
Inspired by the entertaining and informative Google Finance tab for iGoogle, I created a charting gadget that displays bigger charts with a light dose of technical analysis. I can't claim great knowledge of (or success with) said analysis, but I like to look at moving averages and occasionally other indicators computed from recent price and volume action.
The details: weekly price and volume data come from Google Finance; prices are plotted on a log scale, with 10- and 40-week moving averages; and a "hot/cold" indicator is presented at the bottom of the chart. A security is deemed "hot" if its price was up three straight weeks with increasing volume each week. (Alternately, a security is marked "cold" if it was down for the same interval.) Prices are plotted in blue, with green for the 10-week, and yellow for the 40-week moving averages. This gadget works only on iGoogle.
My gadget is not an official Google gadget -- it's more like a fun experiment. Comments are welcome! Or, if you'd like to write your own charting gadget, take a look at my source code and the Google Chart API documentation.
Many people have used the My Maps feature of Google Maps to store, organize, and share their geographic data. In fact, more than 7 million maps have been created, on topics ranging from skate parks and historic pubs to real-life superheroes. You can add local businesses, mark favorite spots, draw a few lines, and then label and color code everything to make it easier to read. But lately, a lot of users have told us that they want the ability to reorder the placemarks, lines and shapes in the left panel when they edit their maps.
Well, we're happy to let you know that now you can drag and drop items in the left panel to reorder them. If you have a large map, you can also move features to the previous or next page by dragging them to the special targets that appear before and after the list of features. After you're finished rearranging everything, just click save.
With this new feature, you can finally sort your placemarks the way you want. You can put the most important ones on top, or sort them by date or alphabetically. You can also arrange your markers into groups -- geographically, east to west, north to south, alphabetically by city, or any way you like. Now the choice is yours!
A week or so ago I was looking at doing some user interface testing. At the same time, I was playing with MacFUSE, wondering about things I could do with it. All of a sudden I had an epiphany: I had to write AccessibilityFS, an accessibility file system! Not just because it's gratuitously cool, but because it turns out such a thing has some very practical applications. You can use it for UI testing, UI scripting, and even as a command-line VNC of sorts. Of course, it's also a great demonstration of how to use MacFUSE, and it's completely open sourced.
The Accessibility APIs are how an assistive technology, such as a screen reader or head-tracking mouse, communicates with applications on Mac OS X. These APIs allow you to examine an application's UI and manipulate it in a variety of ways. AccessibilityFS creates a file system that uses the accessibility APIs to provide a directory representing your running applications. You can then explore the various UI elements--windows, menus, controls, and so on--as if they were folders and documents in your Finder. The attributes of the UI elements, such as value, position, title, etc., are stored as extended attributes on the files and folders. Shell commands such as xattr will let you see and, if possible, manipulate these attributes. (Please note that to get help on xattr, you must use xattr -h because Leopard is missing the man page.) You can even send actions to the elements by "writing" actions such as AXPress to the files. Please see the AccessibilityFS wiki page for more details, or check out this video of me demoing the AccessibilityFS at a recent Cocoaheads meeting.
You can download the AccessibilityFS here. Its source is in the MacFUSE svn repository. There's also a Google Group discussing AccessibilityFS and other MacFUSE topics. Have fun!
For those not familiar with the event, SMX is an educational conference series for search marketing professionals put on by Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman.
Posted by Laura Melahn, Google Analytics Team
With the ever-growing number of forums in a wide variety of languages, now's a great time to join the AdSense community in your language! Our forums are also available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
Posted by Arlene Lee - AdSense Publisher Support
Super Tuesday (February 5) is another important stage of the 2008 political season, as residents of 24 states help nominate each party's presidential candidates. Google Maps closely followed the caucus results from Iowa and primary results from New Hampshire, but we decided to do something a little bit different in honor of Super Tuesday: YouTube is implementing a Google Map to create the Super Tuesday YouTube Channel.
Anyone -- from candidates and voters to members of media -- can upload videos to YouTube and geotag them so they can be tracked and viewed on a Google Map that resides in the Super Tuesday channel. There will be unique markers for voters, Democratic campaigns, Republican campaigns, and news outlets so that viewers can easily determine the source of the video. The site will feature a wide range of content, from predictions and interviews to personal reflections. To check out the videos, head over to the channel, then zoom in on your state or hometown to see what's been uploaded in your area. We hope this will be your go-to spot for all videos leading up to this important day.
I'll be heading to the polls in my home state, California, so I definitely plan to follow this new YouTube channel closely to stay informed. And even if you're not in a Super Tuesday state, you can still tune in to catch all the action.
NASA turns 50 years old this year, and to help the space agency celebrate its past and look toward its future, our CEO Eric Schmidt spoke here in Washington last Thursday as part of the NASA 50th Anniversary Lecture Series. Here at Google we are particularly appreciative of NASA's work, as data and imagery gathered by the agency helps power tools for our users like Google Earth (and Google Moon). We also have have a long-running partnership with NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
In his talk last Thursday, Eric spoke about the importance of partnerships between NASA and the private sector, highlighted some of the geospatial data that NASA research has yielded, and challenged NASA to embrace open, collaborative platforms as the basis for future innovation. Check out the full video of Eric's talk below:
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Whenever you want to search the web or your computer, you can bring up the Quick Search Box almost instantly. On Windows or Linux, just press the Ctrl key twice. On the Mac, press the Cmd (⌘) key twice. For more keyboard shortcuts, see the help center page for Windows, for Linux, or for the Mac.
Не забудьте подписаться на рассылку, чтобы получать последние новости на ваш email!
Posted by Pavels Kilivniks - Russian AdSense blog team
Last month, several of us with Webmaster Central hit the "good times" jackpot at PubCon Vegas 2007. We realize not all of you could join us, so instead of returning home with fuzzy dice for everyone, we've got souvenir conference notes.
Listening to the Q&A, I was pleased to hear the major search engines agreeing on best practices for many webmaster issues. In fact, the presentations in the duplicate content session were mostly, well, duplicate. When I wasn't sitting in on one of the many valuable sessions, I was chatting with webmasters either at the Google booth, or at Google's "Meet the Engineers" event. It was exciting to hear from so many different webmasters, and to help them with Google-related issues. Here are a few things that were on the minds of webmasters, along with our responses:
Site Verification Files and Meta Tags
Several webmasters asked, "Is it necessary to keep the verification meta tag or HTML file in place to remain a verified owner in Webmaster Tools?" The answer is yes, you should keep your verification file or meta tag live to maintain your status as a verified owner. These verification codes are used to control who has access to the owner-specific tools for your site in Webmaster Tools. To ensure that only current owners of a site are verified, we periodically re-check to see if the verification code is in place, and if it is not, you will get unverified for that site. While we're on the topic:
Site Verification Best Practices
- If you have multiple people working on your site with Webmaster Tools, it's a good idea to have each person verify the site with his or her own account, rather than using a shared login. That way, as people come and go, you can control the access appropriately by adding or removing verification files or meta tags for each account.
- You may want to keep a list of these verification codes and which owner they are connected to, so you can easily control access later. If you lose track, you can always use the "Manage site verification" option in Webmaster Tools, which allows you to force all site owners to reverify their accounts.
What's the difference between using subdomains and subdirectories? When it comes to Google, there aren't major differences between the two, so when you're making that decision, do what works for you and your visitors. Following PubCon, our very own Matt Cutts outlined many of the key issues in a post on his personal blog. In addition to those considerations, if you use Webmaster Tools (which we hope you do!), keep in mind that you'll automatically be verified for deeper subdirectories of any sites you've verified, but subdomains need to be verified separately.
Underscores vs. Dashes
Webmasters asked about the difference between how Google interprets underscores and dashes in URLs. In general, we break words on punctuation, so if you use punctuation as separators, you're providing Google a useful signal for parsing your URLs. Currently, dashes in URLs are consistently treated as separators while underscores are not. Keep in mind our technology is constantly improving, so this distinction between underscores and dashes may decrease over time. Even without punctuation, there's a good chance we'll be able to figure out that bigleopard.html is about a "big leopard" and not a "bigle opard." While using separators is a good practice, it's likely unnecessary to place a high priority on changing your existing URLs just to convert underscores to dashes.
Keywords in URLs
We were also asked if it is useful to have relevant keywords in URLs. It's always a good idea to be descriptive across your site, with titles, ALT attributes, and yes, even URLs, as they can be useful signals for users and search engines. This can be especially true with image files, which otherwise may not have any text for a search engine to consider. Imagine you've taken a picture of your cat asleep on the sofa. Your digital camera will likely name it something like IMG_2937.jpg. Not exactly the most descriptive name. So unless your cat really looks like an IMG_2937, consider changing the filename to something more relevant, like adorable-kitten.jpg. And, if you have a post about your favorite cat names, it's much easier to guess that a URL ending in my-favorite-cat-names would be the relevant page, rather than a URL ending in postid=8652. For more information regarding issues with how Google understands your content, check out our new content analysis feature in Webmaster Tools, as well as our post on the URL suggestions feature of the new Google Toolbar.
Moving to a new IP address
We got a question about changing a site's IP address, and provided a few steps you can take as a webmaster to make sure things go smoothly. Here's what you can do:
- Change the TTL (Time To Live) value of your DNS configuration to something short, like five minutes (300 seconds). This will tell web browsers to re-check the IP address for your site every five minutes.
- Copy your content to the new hosting environment, and make sure it is live on the new IP address.
- Change your DNS settings so your hostname points to the new IP address.
- Check your logs to see when Googlebot starts crawling your site on the new IP address. To make sure it's really Googlebot who's visiting, you can verify Googlebot by following these instructions. You can then log into Webmaster Tools and monitor any crawl errors. Once Googlebot is happily crawling on the new IP address, you should be all set as far as Google is concerned.
- To make sure everyone got the message of your move, you may want to keep an eye out for visits to your old IP address before shutting it down.
A few webmasters were concerned that proxy services are being indexed with copies of their content. While it's often possible to find duplicate copies of your content in our results if you look hard enough, the original source is most likely going to be ranked higher than a proxy copy. However, if you find this not to be the case, please drop us some URLs in the Webmaster Help Group. There are many Googlers including myself who monitor this group and escalate issues appropriately.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Privacy is a global issue which knows no borders. And as policymakers around the world grapple with how best to protect consumers' privacy online, I'm joining other privacy stakeholders at a European Parliament seminar today looking at what online companies like Google are doing to protect privacy and the need to take an industry-wide approach to these challenges.
At the heart of the privacy debate is a concern around how companies use consumers' data. There is nothing new about companies using consumer data to offer and improve their services. Think about the mobile phone and supermarket loyalty card in your pocket. The speed in which we are sharing data is unparalleled in our history.
During my remarks today I plan to underscore to the European Parliament our commitment to privacy. We put great effort into building privacy protections into our products and systems. We also have clear privacy policies based on the principles of transparency and choice. You – our users – deserve to know what information is being collected and why, so that you can make informed decisions about the Google services you use. That's why we created a Google privacy channel on YouTube and why we published a booklet that provides an overview of all our privacy policies.
Privacy is an industry-wide issue. Every internet company is taking a different approach to collecting and using user data and so a serious look at privacy requires an industry-wide approach. The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) published its guidelines in 2000, serving as the benchmarks for the online advertising industry. As technology and practices continues to evolve, it is necessary to reevaluate best practices. For example, in which context should data be considered anonymous and when should it be considered personally identifiable?
The United States Federal Trade Commission published a set of draft principles in December 2007 stressing the need for clear and effective notice to consumers, choice, security and the need for extra protection for individuals' sensitive personal information, such as their sexual orientation or their religious views.
Privacy is a global issue that knows no borders. We need all stakeholders -- governments, businesses, political parties, privacy groups industry associations, and others -- to work together to ensure a global solution.