Posted by jenstar
There was definite confusion around these letters, supported by some of the reporting in Google Search Console. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s desire to see these resources unblocked and how you can easily unblock them to take advantage of the associated ranking boosts.
Why does Google care?
One of the biggest complaints about the warning emails lay in the fact that many felt there was no reason for Google to see these files. This was especially true because it was flagging files that, traditionally, webmasters blocked—such as files within the WordPress admin area and WordPress plugin folders.
Here’s the letter in question that many received from Google. It definitely raised plenty of questions and concerns:
Of course, whenever Google does anything that could devalue rankings, the SEO industry tends to freak out. And the confusing message in the warning didn’t help the situation.
Why Google needs it
However, there are other parts of the algorithm that rely on using it, as well. The page layout algorithm, the algorithm that looks at where content is placed on the page in relation to the advertisements, is one such example. If Google determines a webpage is mostly ads above the fold, with the actual content below the fold, it can devalue the rankings for those pages. But with the wizardry of CSS, webmasters can easily make it appear that the content is front and center, while the ads are the most visible part of the page above the fold.
Then, last year, Google made a significant change to their webmaster guidelines by adding it to their technical guidelines:
It still got very little attention at the time, especially since most people believed they weren’t blocking anything.
It also began showing up in a new “Blocked Resources” section of Google Search Console in the month preceding the mobile-friendly algo launch.
How many sites were affected?
In usual Google fashion, they didn’t give specific numbers about how many webmasters received these blocked resources warnings. But Gary Illyes from Google did confirm that they were sent out to 18.7% of those that were sent out for the mobile-friendly warnings earlier this year:
@jenstar about 18.7% of that sent for mobile issues a few months back
— Gary Illyes (@methode) July 29, 2015
Finding blocked resources
If you received one of the warning letters, the suggestion for how to find blocked resources was to use the Fetch tool in Google Search Console. While this might be fine for checking the homepage, for sites with more than a handful of pages, this can get tedious quite quickly. Luckily, there’s an easier way than Google’s suggested method.
You also should make sure that you check for blocked resources after any major redesign or when launching a new site, as it isn’t entirely clear if Google is still actively sending out these emails to alert webmasters of the problem.
It is also worth remembering to check both the www and the non-www for blocked resources in Google Search Console. This is something that is often overlooked by those webmasters that only to tend to look at the version they prefer to use for the site.
Also, because the blocked resources data shown in Search Console is based on when Googlebot last crawled each page, you could find additional blocked resources when checking them both. This is especially true for for sites that may be older or not updated as frequently, and not crawled daily (like a more popular site is).
Likewise, if you have both a mobile version and a desktop version, you’ll want to ensure that both are not blocking any resources. It’s especially important for the mobile version, since it impacts whether each page gets the mobile-friendly tag and ranking boost in the mobile search results.
And if you serve different pages based on language and location, you’ll want to check each of those as well. Don’t just check the “main” version and assume it’s all good across the entire site. It’s not uncommon to discover surprises in other variations of the same site. At the very least, check the homepage for each language and location.
User-Agent: Googlebot Allow: .js Allow: .css
If you have a more specialized robots.txt file, where you’re blocking entire directories, it can be a bit more complicated.
In these cases, you also need to allow the .js and.css for each of the directories you have blocked.
User-Agent: Googlebot Disallow: /deep/ Allow: /deep/*.js Allow: /deep/*.css
Repeat this for each directory you are blocking in robots.txt.
Yes, you can continue blocking Google bot from crawling either of them, but your rankings will suffer if you do so. And in a world where every position gained counts, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice rankings in order to keep those files private.
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