• Google is fiddling about with mobile search results, using ‘AMP’. Not sinister, bit annoying though

tl;dr
You might have noticed ‘amp’ appearing in mobile search engine results on Google. This began in Oct 2015 and makes mobile pages load much faster (effectively loaded from Google’s cached copy), but the page looks like it’s from Google, quite a few users who’ve noticed it have found it puzzling and it’s a bit fiddly to share the ‘real’ address. Your device hasn’t been hacked and it’s not particularly sinister but lots of web publishers are a bit ‘hmm’ about it and feel Google’s put its metaphoric bag on the seat next to it and taken up a bit more space.

Recently I was mildly alarmed / irritated to notice that a page I’d failed to open on iPhone Safari (that had nothing to do with Google) somehow had ‘Google’ at the top of the page, instead of ‘The Guardian’, and the URL had ‘amp’ in it – I briefly wondered if I’d been hacked or something exciting like that, but it turns out – no, nothing quite that sinister but this new amp thing is annoying plenty of people, though when it does work it can actually make pages load ridiculously fast (which is great). AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Before I discovered that, and while trying to open the Guardian article I retraced my steps which showed me that ‘AMP’ was appearing in a few of my search results, next to a lightning bolt, and I found that it wasn’t always that straightforward to remove it from the address, to get the right link*, because it seemed pretty well embedded into the address.

I’ve just recreated the experience, with an example that turned out to be fairly straightforward to edit (I was hoping to find the one that wasn’t but couldn’t remember what I’d originally searched in November).

A more recent mobile search was for the frequency of the chiltern radio beacon╚ and the search results included the following amp-containing URL https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/media/2008/jun/26/gcapmedia.radio, after deleting the bits in bold gave https://theguardian.com/media/2008/jun/26/gcapmedia.radio  which worked fine. Note that if the website doesn’t support https then you might have to delete that bit too to make it work. Or use a different search engine! I’m reluctant though, on principle 😉

In the replies to Deb’s tweet above someone has highlighted an applet that will return ‘canonical’ (for purposes of argument this just means correct^) URLs though I’m afraid it’s github which is beyond my technical skill.

Ardan (according to their bio) works for Google search.

Further reading
Google Helping Mobile Publishing? Some Publishers Are Not So Sure New York Times (1 January 2017)

Google will change AMP display to make it easier to find & share publishers’ direct URLs Change will be to the header in AMP content, expected in early 2017  Search Engine Land (21 December 2016)

Footnotes

╚ If you are not far from the Chiltern radio beacon (a non-directional radio beacon / aviation navigation aid) you can hear it emitting its Morse callsign (C -.-. H …. T – for Chiltern) on 277MHz. I once found it by accident and was intrigued, wanted to find it again. It also features in a song.

*Related to this – if you’re sharing a link to Wikipedia from your phone please remember to delete the m otherwise you send readers on PCs to the mobile version (they can select the desktop version by scrolling to the end of the page, which is a bit of a faff). If you share the non-mobile version then people on mobile devices will be shown the mobile version anyway, and people on PCs will see the desktop version. I’ve no idea why computers can’t ‘de-resolve’ a mobile link to show the desktop version but… not yet it seems.

Compare and contrast these links below (if you’re reading on a mobile both will take you to the mobile site but you can select the desktop version at the bottom of the Wikipedia page).
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia

^for a more technical definition of canonical url see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonical_link_element

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• Google cache (& other search engines): finding deleted pages or seeing your words on the page in colour

Search engines crawl and index webpages and save copies of them. This can be useful if a page has been deleted and you want to see what was last on it or if you need to take screenshots as evidence etc. Some search engines will also show you your search terms highlighted in different colours – this is useful in showing you the relevance of the page, ie whether or not your words are closely located in a paragraph or randomly scattered on the page.

When working at Diabetes UK I used Google’s cached pages for almost every search I ran until Google stopped providing this service to logged in users (!), though it’s still available if you log out, and on other search engines (see below). “If the page has the word diabetes in some side-bar or mentioned in passing (not useful to me, I want stuff about my search terms) this is immediately cued to me in a delightful display of colours.” (Source, my main blog).

1. Finding a deleted page on Google

Search for the page* but instead of clicking on the blue linked title in your search results click instead on the small green arrow next to the address (URL) and then choose the Cached option. If there’s no green arrow there might not be a cached version, but have a look at other cache options including the Wayback Machine.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 09.42.22

If the page has since been deleted then the Cached version will give you the last-saved-by-Google option. Other search engines do similar things.

2. Seeing your search terms helpfully highlighted

Google no longer offers this to logged-in users (if you’re happy to try out browser add-ons and scripts there’s some advice in the link above) but other search engines do – Bing is one example. Here’s what a search result looks like and then what the highlighted page looks like.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 09.50.42

Cached page below showing highlighted search terms –

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 09.55.44.png

3. Finding words onscreen on any page

Even without the useful highlighting of cached copies you can still find your search terms on any page (website, Word document, PDF, spreadsheet) by using the Find option.

  • On a PC it’s Ctrl+F (or Edit menu, Find)
  • On Macs it’s cmd+F
  • On iPhones you can find a word on Safari by clicking the URL to highlight it and type your word. Although this deletes the URL (it will return if you press Cancel, or you can copy it to paste back later) it will show you a range of options including, if you scroll down, any evidence that your word appears on that page. I’d agree that it’s not a very intuitive system.

*Search tips – obviously “words appearing on the page” is always a good search strategy but you can also restrict your search to a particular site, eg site:www.diabetes.org.uk or inurl:diabetes, you can even search for the web address itself, in the example given in (1) you would type http://www.diabetes.org.uk/kidneys into Google’s search bar.