All posts tagged ‘Google’

File Under: search, Web Basics

Pull Your Site Out of the PageRank Gutter With Google’s ‘Disavow Links’

If your site has ever been, as Google’s Jonathan Simon charitably puts it on the Google Webmaster Tools blog, “caught up” in linkspam, Google has a new tool you can use to disavow those inbound links and clear your site’s name.

Google cautions that its new Disavow Links tool should be thought of as a last resort. It’s far better to get any spammy links actually removed from the web. In fact “the vast, vast majority of sites do not need to use this tool in any way,” writes Simon. But for situations where you can’t make the offending links go away — for example, with a client who might have made some bad SEO decisions in the past — Disavow Links offers a solution.

It’s worth noting though that Simon says that any links you disavow will be seen as “a strong suggestion rather than a directive — Google reserves the right to trust our own judgment for corner cases.”

Inbound links are perhaps the best known thing that Google uses to calculate PageRank and order search results. While PageRank is just one of more than 200 “signals” Google looks at to determine where your site will be in search results there’s no question that better inbound links mean your pages end up higher in search results.

There’s a flip side to inbound links though. If the wrong sort of sites point at your site it hurts your PageRank. If you’ve got inbound links from known paid link or other shady link-swapping schemes that violate Google’s guidelines, you can quickly find your site has disappeared from Google’s search index.

For more info on how the Disavow Links tool works, check out the video below from Google’s Matt Cutts. Also be sure to read through the FAQ over on the Google Webmaster Tools blog.

File Under: search, Web Services

Experiment Puts Gmail, Documents in Google Search Results

Everything in its right place. Image: Google.

If you’ve ever wished you could search all your mail and documents from the main Google.com search box, your day has arrived. Google is expanding its experimental integrated search features to make your mail and documents part of the Google.com search results.

Sign up for the trial and when you’re logged into your Google account you’ll be able to search Gmail and your Google Drive documents directly from the Google search page. Your mail and documents appear in a sidebar next to the usual results from around the web.

Google kicked off the Gmail search results on Google.com earlier this year with a limited “field trial.” Now, after what Google Software Engineer Bram Moolenaar (perhaps best known as the creator of Vim), calls “very positive feedback from those of you testing it out,” the company is expanding the universal search feature to a wider audience.

As Moolenaar writes, “when you search on Google.com, your results will include relevant information and messages from Gmail … and now — new in this field trial — also files, documents, spreadsheets and more from Google Drive.”

The updated trial also brings Google’s instant search results to Gmail. When you search in Gmail links to relevant email will pop up in the search bar as soon as you start typing — just like Google.com.

The new integrated search still isn’t the default behavior by any means, but it certainly looks like Google is moving in that direction. For now you’ll still need to sign up for the trial if you’d like to experiment with it. Note that the trial is only available in English and to those with @gmail.com addresses. (Google Apps accounts are out of luck for now.) If you opt in and decide you hate it, you can always go back to the sign up page and turn universal search off.

File Under: Humor

Google Easter Egg: The ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ Button Branches Out

“I’m Feeling Puzzled” will take you to Google’s puzzle a day project. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Google Instant Search eliminates not just the need for, but the opportunity to even press the venerable “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. With Instant Search, results appear the minute you start typing, without pressing any buttons. That might help explain why Google appears to be phasing out “I’m Feeling Lucky” with some whimsical Easter Eggs instead.

Head to the Google homepage and hover your mouse over “I’m Feeling Lucky” and you’ll see it spin like a slot machine, landing on things like “I’m Feeling Stellar,” which searches for various nebula and other stellar objects, or “I’m Feeling Wonderful,” which takes you to random pages on the World Wonders Project.

Alex Chitu over at Google Operating System points out that there are currently eight different options that the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button will morph into, which is at least somewhat in keeping with the random spirit of the original.

File Under: Web Basics, Web Services

Google’s New Page Speed Tool Speeds Up Your Website

Page Speed’s rewriter is done before the unoptimized version even starts loading images. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Google has added yet another trick to the company’s Page Speed web optimization service — a page rewriter that turbocharges your site by making sure that your visible, above-the-fold content loads before anything else.

Google started on its web optimization quest with the Page Speed browser extension, then it moved the Page Speed tool online with an API and then created the Page Speed Service to handle some of the tricky bits of web optimization for you. Now the Page Speed service has another trick for users.

Page Speed’s new rewriter, which Google refers to as “Cache and Prioritize Visible Content,” works by optimizing three main things on your site — all of which are standard best practices for speeding up a website, but are often hard for smaller sites to pull off. First off the Page Speed rewriter isolates those parts of the page that can’t be cached (logged in user info for example) and caches the rest of the page.

The next step is, as the name implies, to “prioritize visible content rendering.” The Google blog is a little unclear on how this works, saying only that the rewriter “automatically determines and prioritizes the content that is above the fold of the browser, so that it doesn’t have to compete with the rest of the page.”

The third part of Page Speed’s optimization is to defer the loading of any JavaScript until the visible content is loaded.

At the moment the Page Speed Service is invite-only, but if you’d like to request access, head on over to the sign-up page and drop your e-mail and URL in the form.

While you’re waiting for access, if you want to see what Page Speed’s rewriter might be able to do for your site, you can head over to Web Page Test, which now has a profile for the Page Speed rewriter. I ran my personal site (a very simple, static HTML site served by Nginx) through it and found that, as you can see in the image above, the rewriter considerably improved the first load time of images (pretty much the only thing that takes any time to load on my site).

File Under: Web Services

Google to Shut Down iGoogle

Image: THOR/Flickr

Google is cleaning house again. This time the company is shutting down five services.

Google has a long history of unceremoniously killing off its less-used services, having previously axed once-high-profile efforts like Wave, Buzz, Knol and Gears, among others.

The most notable Google service on the chopping block this time is iGoogle, the company’s customizable homepage. Similar to Netvibes, MyYahoo or the now defunct PageFlakes, iGoogle was a dashboard for the web, allowing users to embed gadgets like weather, email and news.

When iGoogle first launched in 2005 it was something of a me-too effort, duplicating features found in other services, but adding numerous Google-centric gadgets. Eventually iGoogle’s gadget selection grew to encompass everything from feed readers to web-based games.

Citing the growth of mobile and web apps that “put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips,” Google says “the need for iGoogle has eroded over time.”

Fans of iGoogle don’t need to panic just yet, Google doesn’t plan to completely shut the service down until November 1, 2013. Presumably Google sees Google+ as a replacement. Other alternatives include Netvibes and PageFlakes, which both offer similar widget-based dashboard home pages. [Update: PageFlakes ceased operation in January 2012. Other possible replacements for iGoogle include UStart and ProtoPage.]

The other four services on Google’s spring cleaning shortlist include a Symbian search app, Google Talk Chatback (an embeddable Google Talk widget), Google Video, which long ago stopped taking new uploads, and Google Mini, part of Google’s enterprise search service.