Happy Friday and thank you for reading our summary of the latest Google Webmasters Office Hours Hangouts. We’ve attended two Google Webmasters Hangouts this week, the first of which was on Tuesday 4th October and then the latest one on Friday 7th October. To save you time and energy, we’ve combined our summary into this one article.

Google Webmasters Hangouts are a live session on Google’s YouTube channel featuring a weekly question and answer session, hosted by Google’s John Mueller.

This weeks hangouts again brought up load of different topics, but were expectedly dominated by the Google Penguin algorithm update, with many questions coming off the back of that.

Just to explain, Penguin is a part of Google’s core algorithm (remember to look at the jargon buster if this is alien to you). The big things to come out of the recent Penguin are to do with realtime changes to rankings, and devaluing rather than delisting URLs following manual penalties. Here is an article about the updates to Google Penguin which took effect on Friday 23rd September.

Google Webmasters

This week I’ve formatted the Google Webmasters summary a little differently. It’s done more like a questions and answer session, and I’ve tried to keep it brief yet concise!

Here you go, hope it helps…

Q – AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) – Is it affecting the rankings?
A – No.

Q – AMP – Can you check if AMP pages have been indexed?
A – Yes, in Google Search Console > Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Q – Google Penguin now realtime – How long does it take for updates to rankings?
A – Almost immediate.

Q – What is the penguin algorithm update?
A – See this article.

Q – 301 Redirects – If I have a redirect from non-WWW to www, and one from http to https, is there a problem with that?
A – No.

Q – On a site with no deliberate ‘bad’ SEO, do you need to disavow links or can Google detect that you haven’t got them deliberately.
A – Large majority of websites don’t need to do anything with disavow (although Google think it’s good practise and cuts out the risk).


These are weekly YouTube broadcasts held by Google, to field questions about Search Engine Optimisation and related topics
This is where you tell Google not to list a page in it’s search results.
Spider is the name for the tool Google users to look at your website pages and content
The Spider mentioned above ‘crawls’ your site, which is the process of finding all the info on your sites pages.
Indexing is simply the listing of your web pages by Google in their search results.
Ranking is where Google decides on which page/position it should index your website page.
A webmaster is someone who maintains/looks after/manages a website.
Google Search Console is the dashboard a webmaster can log into to find information about how Google sees your site, and it’s health, performance and rankings. It is a free tool provided by Google.
A backlink is a link from another website to yours.
Disavowing is telling Google to not associate you with a particular website that has linked to your site.
Google’s algorithm is the mathematical, very technical calculation it uses to decide where to rank websites in it’s search results pages (SERPs).

Q – We did some A-B testing with our content and noticed changes in traffic when content is moved from right/left column, to the main content. Does Google treat the right or left columns different to the main content?
A – There is some truth in this, but not to do with columns. Google would see things in the ‘boilerplate’ ie. header and footer (things that are repeated throughout the site) as less important than the main content, but the column/row/structural layout provides no indication as to the importance of content.

Q – Now that Penguin runs in realtime, if we find bad links on our site and disavow them, would Penguin pick that up immediately?
A – Penguin isn’t just targeted at spammy links, it is targeting spam overall, but yes it could be picked up immediately.

Q – Does Pengiin now DEVALUE low quality links, rather than PUNISHING you for them. Is manual action still happening?
A – Google tries to work out for itself how much bad practise is going on. Use disavow and good practise as normal.

Q – How fast can we see the influence from a new link (a good one) now that Penguin is real-time?
A – Really fast!

Q – When we type our company name into Google, our Google+ doesn’t appear on the right, but our competitors do. Why?
A – Add the social profiles you have, on your websites home page. Don’t guarantee that we always show these social profiles though.

Q – My pages open really fast, but sometimes over 10 seconds when it has to load external JS files.
A – It might be a problem when Google tries to render the page. If it can’t render it within a certain amount of time, it will just revert to the HTML. So, ensure that important content doesn’t require JS to load it! Widgets, for example Twitter feeds, might get ignored if not loaded quickly enough.

Q – If country setting is enabled in Search Console, how does it affect searches around the world?
A – Google uses the country targeting setting to promote pages (slightly) in that particular country. If you have different language versions of your site, use your href lang tag to tell Google (although this doesn’t affect rankings).

Q – Should I add structured data markup to LISTS of products ie category pages, as well as individual product pages?
A – Structured data markup should be attributed to the main product on the page, so don’t use it on lists of products.

Q – What’s the best way to migrate from http to https?
A – Just make sure all the links are changed and set up any redirects that are needed.

Q – Why doesn’t Google always identify the LOCALLY targeted page in search results?
A – Google has a primary set of your content which it uses for indexing. If you want specific pages indexed locally, make sure it has it’s own URL (didn’t understand this). Make sure a rel=canonical isn’t pointing Google to a more generic page, and make sure you don’t repeat the same content on all your individual city pages for example, because Google can identify this and will just rank the primary version of that content.

Q – If a user clicks through to my site from search results, then quickly clicks back to the search results and visits another site, is this a direct indication of poor quality in Google’s eyes (and therefore affect ranking signals) or is it just affecting the user?
A – More of an indirect signal, because sometimes users don’t need to spend long on there. Look at your bounce rate, should your users be staying longer? If it’s abnormal, deal with it.

Q – How can Google detect the ‘usefulness’ of a piece of content?
A – Doesn’t answer clearly, just says to do your own user studies. Probably part of the ‘secret.’

Q – How do I get a page to rank well?
A – Don’t necessarily need to rewrite existing content. Doesn’t make it unique, compelling or high quality. If you just put a slightly different spin on an old page, it won’t necessarily rank better.

Q – Can you rank for colour variations of products? How without creating unique content for every product?
A – Don’t. Just try to rank well for the main product by making the content for that product as good as possible.

Q – How long does it take for all 200+ ranking signals to be refreshed?
A – No specific timeframe. All run in different cycles, some quick ie. Penguin realtime, others take longer. Several minutes to a couple of months.

Q – We’re struggling to make some pages rank. Apart from usual on page tags (title, h1 etc) is there anything else we can do? Where should we put out effort?
A – Depends on the website itself. Are the pages useful for users?

Q – How do customer reviews (internal or external) affect rankings?
A – It adds content, that can be found and indexed. Could be good, because users describe the product or service in their own words. With regards linking to external review sites, as long as it’s relevant content, point your users to it. Reviews are also used as rich-snippets (not testimonials though).

Q – We have a search box our website. I have set search results pages as noindex, follow pages. Is that correct?
A – Search pages are really useful for Google, as the spider can use it to discover pages/products/services. Noindex – yes. Follow/nofollow – not too important.

Q – I have a page with great external links but I want to noindex it because it is low quality.
A – Weird situation, don’t noindex it, improve it so you are happy with it.

Q – How does broken HTML affect rankings?
A – It doesn’t. There are so many bad websites out there that we don’t penalise HTML mistakes. We only penalise if the problem affects the end user (broken links etc).

Q – Can updating from HTML4 to HTML5 affect rankings?
A – No

Q – We recovered from a manual penalty (unnatural links) two years ago, but the site rankings haven’t improved?
A – If Google has removed a manual penalty, it won’t be affecting your ranking. So it must be something else in the algorithm.

Q – Does Google use user data to rank sites?
A – No. In general, Google doesn’t know what users do on your website. It doesn’t user Google Analytics to rank sites. It uses indirect factors, such as if people recommend your website and naturally link to it.

Q – In search console, you can see keywords frequency etc…
A – This tool is misleading, we want to remove it.

Q – Like Penguin (devaluing rather than penalising) are there plans to do similar with Panda?
A – With keyword stuffing etc, Google tries to do that already.