Added: Looks like HN has been blocking Googlebot, so our automated systems started to think that HN was dead. I dropped an email to PG to ask what he'd like us to do.
(A couple weeks ago I banned all Google crawler IPs except one. Crawlers are disproportionately bad for HN's performance because HN is optimized to serve recent stuff, which is usually in memory.)
A site can be crawled from any number of Googlebot IP addresses, and so blocking all except one doesn't help in throttling crawling.
If you verify the site in Webmaster Tools, we have a tool you can use to set a slower crawl rate for Googlebot, regardless of which specific IP address ends up crawling the site.
Let me know if you need more help.
Edit Detailed instructions to set a custom crawl rate:
1. Verify the site in Webmaster Tools.
2. On the site's dashboard, the left hand side menu has an entry
called Site Settings. Expand that and choose the Settings submenu.
3. The page there has a crawl rate setting (last one). It defaults to
" Let Google determine my crawl rate (recommended)". Select
"Set custom crawl rate" instead.
4. That opens up a form and choose his desired crawl rate in crawls per second.
If there is a specific problem with Googlebot, you can reach the team as follows:
1. To the right hand side of the Crawl Rate setting is a link called
"Learn More". Click that to open a yellow box.
2. In the box is a link called Report a problem with Googlebot which
will take you to form you can fill out with full details.
Crawl-Delay is (in my opinion) not the best measure. We tend to talk about "hostload," which is the inverse: the number of simultaneous connections that are allowed.
A few years ago, I did pretty much the same thing myself. Thankfully the late summer was our slow season and the site recovered pretty quickly from my bone-headed move, but the split second after I realized what I've done was bone-chilling.
I think just about everyone has thought at some point that they understood how something worked, only to have had things go pear-shaped on them.
The lesson: people are not fully knowledgeable about everything, even the smart and talented ones.
"You would not believe the sort of weird, random, ill-formed stuff that some people put up on the web: everything from tables nested to infinity and beyond, to web documents with a filetype of exe, to executables returned as text documents. In a 1996 paper titled "An Investigation of Documents from the World Wide Web," Inktomi Eric Brewer and colleagues discovered that over 40% of web pages had at least one syntax error".
We can often figure out the intent of the site owner, but mistakes do happen.
If you're writing HTML, you should be validating it: http://validator.w3.org/
Is there any real downside to having syntax errors?
Obviously, that's not a problem if you already know exactly how different browsers will treat your code, or you're using parsing errors so elemental that they must be patched up identically for the page to work. For example, on the Google homepage, they don't escape ampersands that appear in URLs (like href="http://example.com/?foo=bar&baz=qux — the & should be &). That's a syntax error, but one that maybe 80% of the web commits, so any browser that couldn't handle it wouldn't be very useful.
Anyhow, one downside to having syntax errors might be that parsers which aren't as clever as those in web browsers, and which haven't caught up with the HTML5 parser standard, might choke on your page. This means that crawlers and other software that might try to extract semantic information (like microformat/microdata parsers) might not be able to parse your page. Google probably doesn't need to worry about this too much; there's no real benefit they get from having anyone crawl or extract information from their home page, and there is significant benefit from reducing the number of bytes as much as possible while still remaining compatible with all common web browsers.
I really wish that HTML5 would stop calling many of these problems "errors." They are really more like warnings in any other compiler. There is well-defined, sensible behavior for them specified in the standard. There is no real guesswork being made on the part of the parser, in which the user's intentions are unclear and the parser just needs to make an arbitrary choice and keep going (except for the unclosed center tag, because unclosed tags for anything but the few valid ones can indicate that someone made a mistake in authoring). Many of the "errors" are stylistic warnings, saying that you should use CSS instead of the older presentational attributes, but all of the presentational attributes are still defined and still will be indefinitely, as no one can remove support for them without breaking the web.
There is no reason to allow most of these errors other than coding sloppiness.
The web would have died in stillbirth and it would never have grown to where it is now.
"Be generous in what you accept" (part of Postel's Law) is a cornerstone of what made the internet great.
XHTML had a "die upon failure" mode, and it has died, why do you think XHTML was abandoned and lots of people are using HTML5 now.
The irony of that statement on hacker news is pretty amazing. Have you looked at how the threads are rendered on this page. It is tables all the way down.
Maybe instead that hostload could be parsed from robots.txt? It sure seems like the better mechanic to tweak for load issues (while traffic/bandwidth issues are still unresolved).
Another thing that might help google is for them to announce and support some meta tag that would allow site owners (or web app devs) to declare how likely a page is to change in the future. Google could store that with the page metadata and when crawling a site for updates, particularly when rate limited via webmaster tools, it could first crawl those pages most likely to have changed. Forum/discussion sites could add the meta tags to older threads (particularly once they're no longer open for comments) announcing to google that those thread pages are unlikely to change in the future. For sites with lots of old threads (or lots of pages generated from data stored in a DB and not all of which can be cached), that sort of feature would help the site during google crawls and would help google keep more recent pages up to date without crawling entire sites.
I believe you can do that using a sitemap.xml
There's an example of doing such with nginx here:
With that you'd just have to send out the HTTP header from the arc app saying that current articles expire immediately, and old ones don't.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
(I used to telnet to port 80 for testing, and type GET / HTTP/1.0 <enter> <enter>, and that should be LF on Linux & Mac)
Do you ignore whether your HTML is valid just because the browser rendered it correctly?
I've got real work to do. Making a validator happy is fake work.
So, do you want to pay the price upfront when you can plan for it or afterwards when the fix must be done immediately because customers are complaining?
I'd much rather pay the exact price later, than an inflated price now.
Then, working at a startup taught me that it's not black and white. Several quotes come to mind, but Voltaire's is my favorite:
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
Cowboys may get things "done" quickly, but that doesn't help when things are subtly broken, have interoperability problems, or are nearly impossible to extend without breaking.
If the cache has a copy of an article that is a few hours old it will just give that version to Googlebot while if it thinks a human is requesting the page then it will go to the backend and fetch the latest version.
 15k reqs/sec on a moderate box
If you have an audience, you have PR power.
In the lower-right corner of Google Maps there is a tiny link that says, "Edit in Google Map Maker". Click this link and you can edit Google Maps. Your edits get sent to Google and they'll approve/deny it in typically a few days.
the listing only shows up if you type the exact name of the hospital into the search bar, which is useless.
I don't mean the ranking but other aspects - like you guys blacklisted some domains which produce low quality content in wholesale. (I don't know if the algorithm was tweaked to detect and filter such sources or if it was a manual thing.)
Webmaster Tools has a crawl rate slider which operate on a site-by-site basis, and that's existed for quite a while now.
If you're asking if they can manually boost a site's ranking, hopefully that isn't what's being suggested.
Just realized that this could be a problem for lots of sites, and I'm curious as to what the best solution is, since not everyone has Matt Cutts reading their site and helping out.
Seriously, one thing about Google is that they seem to really like ensuring people are logged on, preferably at all times. Fortunately recent changes to Google Apps (promoting apps user accounts to full Google accounts) has made this more complex on my side and probably degraded the level of actionable info they can get out of it.
It's good to see this stuff sometimes. Thanks, Matt!
And then reading some of the other threads on this topic is a bit...something.
Guys, can you calm the conspiracy theory nonsense a bit? Please?
If you're not on this site very much, you might not realize that Matt pops into almost every thread where google is doing something strange regardless of who they're doing it to, and tries to help figure out what is happening. This isn't HN getting some sort of preferential treatment, this is just the effect of having a userbase full of hackers.
You'd see the same type of thing on /. years ago if you frequented it enough.
This is nothing new. This is what a good community looks like. Everybody relax.
Honestly if you read the things that Matt and Pierre have said, they just looked at "freshness" (I believe that is what it is called), and inferred that PG had blocked their crawlers.
This is all stuff you can get from within google webmaster tools (which isn't some secret whoooo insider google thing. It's something they offer to everybody, and it's just like analytics.)
OH! Wait! I mean (hold on, let me spin up my google conspiracy theory generator): thehackernews.com has more ads on it so google is intentionally tweaking their algo to serve that page at a higher point than the real HN because of ads!
C'mon, guys, look at their user pages. They're both just active users of the site trying to help out.
Of course it's preferential treatment. And if you scan the last month or two of Matt's comments they are general in nature and not specific as in:
"I think I know what the problem is; we're detecting HN as a dead page. It's unclear whether this happened on the HN side or on Google's side, but I'm pinging the right people to ask whether we can get this fixed pretty quickly."
You don't think "pinging the right people" and "get this fixed pretty quickly" is preferential treatment?
Answering people's individual questions doesn't scale to the entire Internet, so Google really has no choice but to address problems on a case-by-case basis. In this case, Matt reads HN and personally wants to solve the problem. That's the only way Google could possibly work, so that's how they do it.
Yet here, a website owner is purposely blocking the crawler and they jump with solutions to try to fix the problem. Sigh.
I remember when I first started visiting HN I saw all these smart people and the tight community and I was amazed that something that felt so close-knit and exclusive yet was still open could still exist these days.
I was a lurker for a long time before I actually signed up and participated because I honestly felt like I swasnt entitled to be part of "the group" and I should somehow earn my wings. Then in late 2010 I signed up but didn't submit for a bit and didn't join discussions. I still felt like I didn't have enough to offer. I now feel like I've somehow earned the right to be part of this community though in hindsight I'm quite embarrassed of my first few submissions.
So this story does have a point that I'm about to get to. I first heard of HN through an article in GQ and then forgot the link. I couldn't find the site again after searching Google for "Hacker News" as easily as I thought. This frustrated me slightly back then but now I think it's a good thing.
As the size of a community gets larger the quality of comments and submissions usually decreases. Letting people join HN freely and openly is a great thing but I fear that if it became a huge sensation then we'd be inundated by garbage submissions and comments way more frequently. I know about the post on how newbies often say HN is becoming Reddit and all that so I do try to remember that.
So the point is that not everyone respects communities like this and are thoughtful about joining and how they choose to interact on communities like HN the same way I was and I feel like maybe it's okay if Google isn't giving us the best ranking for certain terms. I mean, HN is easy to find still, just not that easy to stumble over.
( http://www.webmasterworld.com/profilev4.cgi?action=view&member=GoogleGuy )
I'm aware of webmaster tools, but it seems not all webmasters are.
But people do choose to remove their sites, so we can't always tell between a mistake vs. someone who genuinely prefers not to be in Google's index.
i am sure here are many folks here as well who had similar problems, why not help us all out ))
So which part is laughable? The part where they're able to crawl the vast expanses of the web and return relevant results for the majority of their users? Or is it the part where they came out of nowhere to dominate search because they did it better than the rest?
Come on now, you can't be all things to all people. Google is far from perfect but for a lot of us it's much closer to perfect than the competition and they're constantly trying to improve it. Why don't you go ask Matt Cutts to fix whichever parts of it you think are laughable to your liking? He's been hanging around here and he doesn't seem shy about answering people's questions and concerns. I do doubt he'd give the time of day to a one sentence remark that adds nothing of value whatsoever to the larger discussion or any of it's offshoots.
It now only consists of ads, a twitter feed, and a "Abba-da-dabba-da-dabba-dabba Dat’s all folks!" line.
So what if Googlebot thought HN was dead? Why would it opt to show a "more dead" page in place of it?
I think you're fibbing.
and it didnt turn out quite well ...
Its pg's fault not googles, and I dont see why they should care. Maybe from their standpoint it would be more beneficial to google users who are used to typing in 'hacker news' to visit this site, but since when did that matter to google?
Also don't get me wrong I love both google and hackernews. I just find whats going on in this thread interesting..
Another important point about this thread: this is a very common issue that regularly comes up, and no site is immune from it. I regularly see major sites have a firewall that auto-configures itself to block Googlebot, and the webmaster doesn't know what's going on. Raising awareness about this problem and how to fix it adds to the importance of replying.
Of course, there are people who want to take advantage of people like Matt to give themselves an economic advantage, and I have no sympathy for those people if they can't get someone in Google to help them as easily.
It comes down to karma.
That's exactly the problem. Google is notorious for providing horrible customer support, so why some people get personalized help, while the rest of us are stuck with the uncaring robots?
Giving occasional personalized help is a great way to avoid a total black hole while still creating an escalation path. It's like having EXPLAIN QUERY stack traces on NewRelic. You don't need a deep trace of every transaction; you need a deep trace from a few representative squeaky wheels, and you use that information to improve the underlying self-serve process. This is something Google, with their "1/3 of the company parses logs", excels at.
You'll note neither Matt nor Pierre offered to do anything special for PG. They didn't say "Oh! I love HN, and we want it to succeed; I'll go push out a manual override that makes sure we use only the one crawler you unblocked." They gave him exactly the info he'd get from Webmaster Tools plus general knowledge, and told him how to use Webmaster Tools to fix it. Maybe they'll go figure out how to implement that "you're blocked!" hover-over in SERPs, but again, that would benefit everyone, not just HN. There's no special treatment here.
The point is if you can build relationships with Google employees rather than with Google itself then you too can get this sort of amazing help.
There's nothing sinister or crazy about this. Rather than being one in a million, become one in a circle of friends or acquaintances.
PG knows his shit. He knows how to block crawlers, he knows how get SEO done, he's no dummy. "So what?" you say. Well I work in web development and I meet with people all the time and explain to them how to run a site and get rankings up, etc. I tell them I'll give them the tools, show them how to use them and even leave detailed manuals on how to work everything. These people are so into it at our first meeting and they're excited to get into it and work this stuff.
Then the job is done, the tools are handed over, and the lessons are learned. What do they do? Nothing. Then they do nothing. Then even more nothing. The site is never updated and they do no maintenance whatsoever and eventually it becomes outdated and dead for all intents and purposes. A year later they want to know why they're not ranking in Google. I ask if they've checked or even once used any of the tools I gave them and the answer is always no. Then they demand I fix it. I kindly remind them they're the ones who wanted to have Larry in accounting run the site because he's "good at computers" and to save money by not hiring an IT guy.
So the point I'm making is that I'm sure there are a ton of people out there who are trying to get customer service without trying to help themselves or using the resources readily available. I think it's great that Google is showing they're willing to help those who help themselves.
I think google isn't treating everyone equally but they are treating people fairly. There's a difference. I'd prefer fairness. Not all "customers" are created equal so you compensate by treating them with fairness instead.
Apparently he doesn't use Google Webmaster Tools, though.
With regard to this issue doing the above is not evidence of knowing your shit in the area in question.
Being bold is an important aspect of getting to know your shit.
Also, besides this, this action has gotten us talking about how Google throttles crawling, and this discussion has further reduced my opinion of the World's Largest Adware Vendor.
Now if I were to ban Google searchbots based on what PG is saying I would simply limit them to the first page or two of listing. I think this can be done in a robots.txt?
I think it's particularly good that this is being done publicly, too. There's billions of sites out there and Google can't provide this for all of them, but since they're doing it publicly others can learn from it and know how to address it.
If Matt was artificially boosting HN's ranking that would be disturbing, but they're fixing an indexing issue.
Lots of folks here like to give Matt Cutts this aura of an angel, or some sort of saint. Those who have known his actions over the past 5-10 years know better. Just ask guys like Aaron Wall and Rand. Matt Cutts is just a pawn that is there to do damage control for Google. That's all he is.
P.S. Just curious--is this the same AznHisoka from BlackHat World, the "Blackhat SEO forum"? http://www.blackhatworld.com/blackhat-seo/members/137345-azn...
I understand why you have to do this, but I wish there was at least some transparency regarding confirmation that an issue has at least been looked at, as opposed to just filed as a spam report.
I've only reported one issue to Google before, and the site in question, though incredibly obviously bad, is still the top link on the SERP for the business.
Specifically, there's a pizza place here in Halifax, NS that looks like it didn't renew it's domain in time, and some people are squatting it with an old copy of the site plus their own spammy links. The site displays a copy of the site from 2008 or so, with a banner on the top which reads:
> To previous domain owner: We bought this domain after expiration so it's not our fault that you lost it. We put old content for this domain only to avoid losing good quality of it from SEO point of view. If it's a problem for you contact us ASAP!
I reported it to Google months ago and never heard a word about it, but today when I search for the business name - which I'd imagine a lot of people do when looking for menus, phone numbers, etc. - the "compromised" site still ranks first on the SERP. I wonder how many people even notice the banner telling customers that <jedi>this is not the page you're looking for</jedi>.
Clearly that's not the case, as advertising makes 99% of their revenues.
Remember, organic doesn't have to mean non-commercial. In fact, if I search for best buy, the first organic result is bestbuy.com
I'm not disagreeing with the fact that ads are subject to a whole different objective function. I'm saying that if the best results were already in the organic, then the ads would either be redundant (for the user) or otherwise less useful than the organic (by definition, really).
All the people in this thread, including Google-related users, are trying to do is figure out what changed. That could just as easily have been at Google or HN's! It could also just as easily been a correct change.
If it turns out it was something HN changed and they did not use or even aware of the proper Google tools available for everyone to optimize their site, then I hardly think any reasonable person could object if it is pointed out to them - even if it's by Google personnel.
Umm...no. They're not tweaking the algo, they're explaining to PG that he should stop blocking the crawlers, or that he should verify the site in google webmaster tools, then change the crawl rate.
Seems like "bending over" to me:
"but I'm pinging the right people to ask whether we can get this fixed pretty quickly"
I can usually get the hacker news by just googling for "hn"
Secondly, HN is one of the most popular sources of tech news. By responding to this issue, Google is helping bring out possible solutions to a common problem - that crawlers are too frequent and affect the performance of a site. People like you and me can read the responses and learn what can be done to control this.
Third, popular websites like HN deserve attention like this because of the following they have garnered over the years. If,say "hahla blog" doesn't show as a top result in Google - it will take time for Google to verify whether it should even be shown as a top site. But, if something like HN or Amazon.com doesn't show as top result when users explicitly searches for it - that is a darn good use case for Google to fix the issue. It is an indication of something is definitely wrong somewhere that needs to be fixed.
from google's point of view, a user who types "hacker news" into google is almost certainly looking for news.ycombinator. therefore, it is highly desirable for the site to be the #1 result.
I think your best bet is to realize that, regardless of size, companies are always made up of people. And people are opinionated, subjective, and prone to making decisions that fall outside of some standard set of rules.
If fairness is treating people based on merit then it's totally fine. Matt isn't in here saying he's going to manually manipulate the result or change anything on Google's end (save for maybe correcting a flaw that would benefit everyone who's in a similar situation as HN). All he's doing is suggesting possible causes, trying to make a diagnosis, and just troubleshooting.
Most people who want this attention don't deserve it. They're the type of people who won't use the resources available like the google help documents or even learning how to administrate a site for best results in search engines. Plus, most people's website just aren't worthy of this attention.
I could go on but lets look at the reality here. We're all knowledgeable of how the web works here so let's just admit that HN is a damn popular site and it definitely seems like a fluke to have it rank as it was when this was submitted.
Does <title> make any difference?
I don't think of this site as "Hacker News". I think of it as ycombinator, and the subdomain, news.
Should users of hackernews.com think of that site as something else, e.g. whatever is between the title tags?
A searchable list of domain names, ranked by popularity. Or even a searchable list of main page titles. Is that how some users are using Google? If so, Google does not need a full, current cached copy of the crawlable web to provide that.
I suppose it is because the top hits below HN are perhaps even less about "hacker news" ?
I work at Google helping webmasters.
It seems something has been blocking Googlebot from crawling HN, and so our algorithms think the site is dead. A very common cause is a firewall.
I realize that pg has been cracking down on crawlers recently. Maybe there was an unexpected configuration change? If Googlebot is crawling too fast, you can slow it down in Webmaster Tools.
I'm happy to answer any questions. This is a common issue.
It's also tricky because you don't want a single transient glitch to cause a site to be removed from Google, so normally our systems try to give a little wiggle room in case individual sites are just under unusual load or the site is down only temporarily.
Also, we do send notifications in Webmaster Tools, and you can confgure those to be delivered by email too. I'm not sure if we send messages for these kinds of serious crawl errors, so I'll need to check. If not, that's an interesting idea I can ask the team to think about.
Thanks for the feedback :)
HN has roughly 1.3 million pages indexed by google.
1.3M pages at 43k per page is 53 gigs to cache static versions of all pages on the site. Quadruple that for a worst case scenario and it'll still easily fit on a single drive.
When your site gets this popular you tend to have to re-architect your application to solve perf issues. You could serve googlebot UA's 1 week old cached pages for example.
I'd encourage you to start thinking of yourself as a utility providing a valuable and necessary resource to the Net and take the time and energy to solve this properly.
EDIT: Looks like the change to HN's ranking is related to a change that pg made, so my comment is now less relevant to the parent post. I still stand by it, though. :-)
The best reports look like "I did a search for [Bavarian red widgets] and the results weren't good because e.g. you were missing a specific page X that you used to return or should return, or you returned Austrian red widgets" or whatever.
Lots of Googlers are clearly hanging out on HN over Thanksgiving while they're stuck at relatives' houses. :)
I'm in Houston, TX. When I searched for 'windshield repair houston', the 1st result - wwwDOThoustonwindshieldrepairDOTnet - looked promising so I made an appointment with them to get my windshield repaired. When I went to their place of business, it was just a guy in a pickup truck in the parking lot of a strip mall, with a 'windshield repair' sign on the back of the truck.
Turns out he's running a scam where he gets ppl to file claims with their insurance, and when they pay him, he would kickback 50% to the customer. Having insurance pay for damages is common enough, plenty of businesses do it. But this guy was trying to get me to file claims for damages that I didn't even have. When I asked for a cash price just to repair the damage I did have, he refused saying that 'it wasn't enough money'.
I was pissed. Not only is this illegal, I couldn't believe he was ranked #1. When I did some digging, it turns out the guy is gaming google with a ton of paid backlinks. For example, http://www.searchpicks.com/business/automotive/patsco-windsh... (click 'suggest listing' for the price).
I'm sure plenty of other searchers ended up wasting their time with this SERP just like I did.
If you have a whole bunch queries that are somehow related, like say we do a bad job at Python function names, then you can collect them and post them on our forums in one go.
And please give us details as Matt said. In particular, If your refer to a specific result, please say its URL not "5th result" because rankings fluctuate.
And I'd LOVE to see some of the reports (but I know that'll never happen) because it'd be amazing to see some of the worst reports.
The most common other reason would be that some people use Google as their URL bar - instead of typing "hackerne.ws" or "news.ycombinator.com" into the URL bar, they type "Hacker News" into Google and click on the first result. However, I would've thought that the types of people using HN would have the tech savvy to use a keyword bookmark, or at least the URL.
So I'd only need to type "hacke" in google and click "I'm feeling lucky" in the drop down rather than type "http://news.ycombinator.com/ into an address bar.
Didn't know about the hackerne.ws domain name however.
At that point that friend asks the OP: "by Hacker News, you mean <this other site>, right?". Then the OP goes looking...
There was one little issue though.
The poor guy didn't know what hackernews was, so found that site (hackernews.com). He then scanned the Twitter stream over that site several times to find those links and started visiting the site for several days to find those other helpful links.
When I saw him again a few days later, he told me: "What a silly site HackerNews is! And I couldn't find the links to those classes over there."
He also told me that he was disappointed of me for visiting such a silly site.
Now, can you guess the look on his face when I told him that he was visiting the wrong site for the last few days?
FWIW I've raised this issue.
It's personalized - everyone sees different results. Even if you don't have a Google account.
For me http://news.ycombinator.com is the top page. But when I use TOR, http://www.hackernews.com and http://thehackernews.com/ are on top.
I don't think it's possible to get a real "invariant" result page. It all depends on which computer you use (cookies, language setting, ip address).
My experience with the Crawl Rate feature via GWT is that they do honour it pretty strictly, but for large sites Gbot can cause a lot of extra load even if pages are static.
A good CDN and stateless cache server will help but for sites as large as HN every request adds up!
1) Matt browses HN.
2) HN is a high-volume site and whatever suggestions that were discussed and implemented here can be noted and learned by everyone else.
Google is now officially useless.
A subtle attack may be by making bots stop indexing it or using SEO practices to lower it enough so it would become unsearchable, and therefore, non-existent.
Or just crack into Google...