Welcome to the latest article in our series following Google Webmaster Office Hours Hangouts. We’ve just attended the hangout held on Friday 23rd September at 09:00 hours, and this summary comes immediately after that.

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

For this weeks hangout, John was joined by another Google employee who looks after the Google Webmasters Forum, working on manual penalty recovery. We didn’t quite catch the guys name, but his job at Google is to help businesses recover from penalties that have been imposed due to either incorrect or unethical SEO practises.

Google Webmasters

So, here is our summary of this weeks hangout, and our brief thoughts on the main topics for discussion in the world of search engine optimisation…

What should you “noindex, nofollow?”

One of the topics for discussion was which pages should you stop Google from indexing in search results? What we are talking about here is using a ‘tag’ in your web pages that tells Google’s search ‘spiders’ not to ‘crawl’ your page and not to ‘index’ it in Google search results.

The key message coming from John and his Google guest was quite simple really – don’t allow Google to index URLs that have thin, low quality or useless content.  For example, maybe pages that are used as confirmation pages, that a user is redirected to after filling out a contact form, because these pages might just contain a line of text simply saying “thank you, we will be in contact soon.” That information is only of use to that one particular user, at that specific moment in time, so why index it on Google? Other examples include:

  • Paginated stuff
  • Internal search results pages
  • Pages that are only useful to logged in users
  • Filtered pages, such as on shopping sites where a user filters by attribute/category/product type

If a Webmaster leaves a company, how does their replacement gain access to Google Search Console?

Simple one. The new Webmaster simply verifies themselves as the owner of the website using a different GSC account. The historic data will be available also. It’s not like analytics, where the data is specifically tied to one particular account number.


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).

What is the best link strategy? What should you disavow?

We all know that having good quality links directing users towards your website is not only useful for your traffic, but for SEO. But linking can be a minefield, and bad links can have the opposite effect and you could actually be penalised by Google.

This topic requires longer discussion, but the key message from Google is to EARN NATURAL LINKS. When they say EARN, they mean providing something on your website that others WANT to link to, rather than you approaching a company to ASK them to link to you.

Disavowing is the process of telling Google that you don’t want to be associated with certain websites. For example, if an adult site linked to you for some reason (usually spam), or a website that might be deemed unethical, then you can’t STOP them doing that. What you can do, is send Google a list of domains that you want to ‘disavow,’ which means you become disassociated with them and they don’t harm your search performance.

Google provides instructions on how to disavow, but if you need help get in touch because we do this for companies on a weekly basis.

Can you have ‘low quality’ links from a ‘high quality’ website?

One user asked this interesting question and the answer was YES. You may win a great backlink from a great quality, reputable website with lots of ‘link juice’ to offer, but if your link is buried away in a page that was created years ago, and nobody visits that page any more, then it won’t have as much value as a link from, lets say, their home page. John’s guest described a poor quality link from a good website like being shoved in a “dusty old basement.”

Are there different ways to rank well?

Yes. Google uses “over 200 factors for crawling, indexing and ranking websites.” Those words come directly from John.

One website may have loads of great backlinks, which helps it’s ranking, whereas another might not have a great number of links, but instead has great quality, useful content and a large user base.

For a website to rank well, it doesn’t have to hit all 200 factors, and actually to do that would have to be achieved unnaturally.

What is the ‘Possum Update?’

One guest asked about the latest RUMOURED change to Google’s algorithm, nicknamed the Possum Update (in the same vein as Panda, Penguin etc). The guest hinted that the Possum update affected local search results, and maps. John wasn’t able to comment on this.

Other SEO hints and tips that came out of this session…

  • Keep track of 404 pages in Google Search Console, and keep things tidy on your site
  • Remove any pages of your site that have ‘thin content’
  • “Work on being a resource, instead of just another billboard amongst a million other billboards.” – great advice from John’s Google Guest
  • And another one – “Look at your site through your visitors eyes. Take an objective view. Can’t afford to have a ‘my baby is the prettiest’ attitude.”
  • Use AMP pages on your site (Accelerated Mobile Pages). We will write a separate article on AMP soon
  • Cut down on pagination and instead use a ‘Read More’ or ‘View More’ button that reveals more content on the same URL.
  • Create fewer pages, with better content

We hope you found that useful. If you want to know how you can apply this advice to your website, contact us.