When In Doubt, Ask Google!

Darren Franks - March 30, 2011

Back in December, I discussed Google’s blog for Webmasters, “Have you Checked out Google Webmaster Central Lately?”. As I said at that time, the Webmaster Central blog is a great SEO resource as you are getting answers from Google directly to common SEO problems, as opposed to sifting through the glut of information (some of it bad) about SEO on the Internet.

Today, I’d like to turn your attention to the Google webmaster support forum, http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters:

SEO: Google Webmaster Central Help Forum

As you can see from the screenshot of the page above, the discussions are categorized, making it simple to navigate to the particular area that you want to look at. To me, and to other SEOs, webmasters and developers, the Google Webmaster Help Forum is an invaluable place to get answers, straight from Google employees, about issues that are so perplexing, that you can’t find or trust answers anywhere else. A great SEO mantra is, “if you are on the fence about any issue and the answers aren’t anywhere else, ask Google!”

From an SEO perspective, the most useful categories are, “Crawling, indexing & ranking”, “Webmaster Tools” and “Sitemaps”:
When you look at the list of questions in any category, say the The Crawling, indexing & ranking category, you will see questions posed from any number of people in the SEO field. When you first see the list, some of the forum topics will show the word “Answered” underneath the link to the topic:

When In Doubt, Ask Google

When you see a topic/question tagged with that word, the question has received an answer that Google feels is the most accurate. The “Best Answers” can be from well respected forum posters, dubbed “Bionic Posters” and Google feels that these posters contribute the most prolific and accurate answers to many questions on the forum. There are also questions, topics and answers posted by Google employees:

When In Doubt, Ask Google!

As you can see, a poster’s status will be underneath their user handle next to the post, making it easy to ascertain the validity of any kind of answers you observe. Posters will either receive a designation of “Level 1” for the beginners up to “Top Contributor”. Top Contributor status is based on how much you participate (questions & replies), actual helpfulness (best answers) and how frequently you receive a manual thumbs up from Google’ employees.

In February, there was a major algorithmic change at Google affecting over 10% of websites that were deemed to have content that wasn’t of good quality. Many websites feared that they had dropped positions and PageRank for that very reason, so Google went and created a forum topic that if you feel your website was unfairly penalized, you were able to reach out to them:
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=76830633df82fd8e&hl=en&start=160. While Google said that they were collecting this information to see how they could improve the algorithm and not make “manual exceptions”, it was still a useful way to alert Google to any concerns pertaining to the ranking status of your site.

Posting to the forum is easy as all you need to do is sign in to Webmaster Central with a Google account and create a user name. Have you signed up yet?

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