Google’s Search Relations team explains why they cannot answer direct messages from SEOs and site owners, according to company policy.
This topic came up during the September 21 episode of Google’s Search Off the Record podcast.
Google’s John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt discuss how they deal with being asked SEO questions in private messages.
They all agree they’re prohibited from answering such questions as per a company policy designed to maintain a “level playing field.”
With that being the case, they all have a similar way of dealing with questions sent privately via email or Twitter.
Here’s more about Google’s “honest results” policy, and how each Googler manages their DMs.
Google’s Honest Results Policy
There exists within Google a policy called honest results that helps keep the playing field equal for everyone on the web.
A way Google’s Search Relations team abides by this policy is to not give preferential treatment to anyone.
That means not providing assistance to site owners via private channels.
If a Googler responds to a question in private they could potentially provide information that others don’t have access to, which would make the playing field unequal.
Illyes explains how he flat out doesn’t respond to DM’s, regardless of who is sending them:
“So, basically, it doesn’t matter if you are a small publisher or a big publisher, or you spend 1 dollar or you spend nothing with Google, or you spend millions of dollars with Google Ads… it doesn’t matter.
We have to keep the playing field equal for everyone. Based on that policy, I usually opt for not answering.”
Mueller takes a slightly different approach. Rather than not answering DMs, he tries to funnel them through public channels.
Asking Googlers questions publicly is an acceptable alternative to sending private messages, and much more likely to get a response.
Need Help From Google? Ask in Public Channels
Googlers can’t answer DMs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t answer questions at all.
In fact, Google’s Search Relations team is quite active on Twitter answering questions that are asked publicly.
Providing answers that everyone can see helps keep the playing field equal for all SEOs and site owners.
In addition to sending public questions on Twitter, other appropriate channels include:
- Google Webmaster Help Forums
- John Mueller’s Webmaster Hangouts
- Martin Splitt’s Webmaster Hangouts
- Conferences & public appearances
Those are just a few examples, as any public platform should be acceptable. Mueller is even known to answer questions on Reddit sometimes.
While Mueller doesn’t answer questions privately, he does check his DMs saying they’re helpful for identifying systemic issues.
At times, Mueller even escalates issues via DM although he doesn’t respond directly.
Illyes does this as well, noting that DMs and emails have helped Google catch outages in the past.
The team adds it’s not uncommon for businesses to quote how much they spend on Google Ads trying to get one-on-one assistance with organic search issues.
To them the answer is the same: go through the public channels.
Googlers cannot even help their own friends and family privately with search-related issues.
For more insights from this discussion, listen to the full podcast below: