Google recently published a developer page to encourage publishers to participate in their online hangouts. The move follows a Google Search Central rebranding as well as a recent Office Hours hangout that was attended by only two people.
Google Search Central Office Hours Hangout
Google rebranded their “Webmaster” outreach as Google Search Central. The video hangout is now known as Google Search Central Office Hours Hangout.
As Google Search Advocate John Mueller said in a recent Hangout:
“…part of what we do are these Office Hour Hangouts where people can jump in and ask questions about their website and web search.
This is the first (kind of) Google Search Central Hangout… but essentially it’s the same as the previous Hangouts that we’ve been doing.
The name has changed slightly because we kind of rebranded everything.”
New Hangout Developer Page
Google’s new developer page is called, How to Join Google Search Central Office Hours. It gives instructions on how to join the hangouts.
The hangout is called Office Hours but the hangout itself happens during hours are that are not particularly convenient to publishers, merchants, webmasters and SEOs who live in the United States and the UK.
For that reason Google’s hangouts tend to be attended by people in India and the Middle East.
Publishers in the USA and the UK have the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time, there is an events calendar that lists all events and links to the YouTube Community web page where questions can be asked.
The developers page has instructions on finding the
Google Meet call for participating in the Google Search Central Hangout, and a disclaimer that joining the Hangout constitutes agreement with being a part of the public recording that anyone can view.
Google Discourages Certain SEO Questions
Google discourages specific kinds of questions about why a site isn’t ranking, asking for advance notice for the next core update and asking for specific information about Google’s algorithm.
As a moderator at an SEO forum since around 2004, I agree with not asking about why a site is not ranking. That’s asking for information that is specific to Google’s algorithm.
Those kinds of questions must be suppressed because the answers are specific to one website. Continuing to answer those questions turns the community into a long line of people asking for free site audits, which is unhelpful for everyone except that one person.
So rather than asking, “Why is my site not ranking?” a better approach could be to take your best guess about what might be wrong and then formulate a question that is general enough to be helpful to many people.
Google’s definition of SEO has differed from the SEO community’s definition. Google generally defines SEO as good content that is discoverable and easily crawled.
Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide says so in the first paragraph:
“This guide won’t provide any secrets that’ll automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), following the best practices outlined below will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.”
The SEO and publisher community defines SEO within the context of making a site able to rank better.
Google says to not ask these ranking related questions:
- “Why is my website not ranking?
- When will the next core update happen?
- Will Google start to do X in the future?”
Google recommends asking crawling and discovery related questions:
- When should a website owner optimize their site for crawl budget?
- What does X from the recent announcement mean?
Comparing the questions Google wants to discourage versus what they want to encourage reveals a difference between how the publisher community defines SEO and how Google defines it.
Google Hangouts are Helpful
Despite the difference in how Google approaches SEO, Mueller’s a good sport about answering tough SEO questions, which makes the Hangouts worth watching.
The opening paragraph of the office hours developers page encourages publishers to ask questions about Google search and about their website, which is the right approach:
“This is your chance to ask Googlers questions about Google Search and your website.”
The rest of Google’s new Hangout page contains links that are useful for understanding how to get involved.
It may be further helpful if Google considered scheduling at least some of these hangouts during hours that are more convenient to publishers in the United States and Europe.