Ross Dunn and John Carcutt had the opportunity to speak with John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trend Analyst from Google Switzerland, on their popular radio show, SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM. In their exclusive 60 minute interview they covered topics including Google Webmaster Tools, the Plus One button,and Google+. Below are just some of the interview highlights.
To hear the entire show (it is well worth the listen) download it on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/seo-101/id280183060.
Important note: These interview highlights have been paraphrased unless quotes are used.
Dunn: John, you are a Google Switzerland Senior Webmaster Trend Analyst. What exactly does that entail?
Mueller: My primary role is to connect Webmasters with engineers at Google. I try to make sure everyone is speaking the same language and all the feedback we get from Webmasters is communicated effectively to our engineers.
Dunn: How did you start working at Google?
Mueller: I had a small software company before joining Google. One of the software products we made was a site map generator called GSiteCrawler, which is one of the more popular windows based generators around. From there, I got in touch with the Google team and started working there almost 4 years ago.
Carcutt: How are you involved with Google Webmaster Tools?
Mueller: I work closely with the Webmaster Tools team and Sitemap team. We work together on goals that will help webmasters as well.
Carcutt: When I tell people they should be on Google Webmaster Tools, I tell them that it is the only place that Google will communicate with them directly. What are the most common things Google will tell people and what will they receive?
Mueller: There are a lot of things Google Webmaster Tools would send out. If we run into errors when we are crawling your site’s pages, you would receive a notification. Administration messages are also common, for example if there is a new owner for the website or there has been a transfer of Webmasters. All these messages will be shown in Webmaster Tools or you can get them directly forwarded to your e-mail account. Forwarding messages to your e-mail is beneficial, especially if we run into malware on your site and need to notify you immediately.
Carcutt: Now you have to subscribe to this option is that correct-If you want to receive these notifications via email?
Mueller: Yes, you need to opt in to this feature.
Dunn: Why is this an opt in feature?
Mueller: I think that’s a more or less a historical thing. We didn’t have the ability to have this as an automatic feature at the beginning and didn’t want to add the new option after the fact.
Dunn: What is your favorite part of Google Webmaster Tools?
Mueller: This is hard to say. I love crawl error information and top search queries. The notifications we send out are a great help, especially if you have malware on your website and need help figuring out where the malware is coming from.
Dunn: Kudos on notification. I know someone who was notified because their WordPress site was out of date and needed to be updated.
Mueller: A lot of websites are being hacked because they are outdated so that’s why we try and notify people as soon as possible.
Dunn: It is nice that they’ve added the ability to have multiple users on one account, but there is no administration option allowing one person the ability to add or delete people; one person who controls it all.
Mueller: If one account is verified and all the other accounts are added from this then that one person is the administrator. Right now we don’t have a “view only” feature so people can strictly view for analysis and not have the ability to change anything.
Dunn: User roles will be nice.
Mueller: We are looking at this but we don’t make promises of features before they are ready.
Comparisons with Bing
Dunn: I’ve been kind of impressed with Bing’s changes to their Webmaster Tools. I thought there would be some interesting contrasts here. One of the things I’m not sure I like a lot, but I know they do is they attribute one of the elements of a site to a particular geographic area by using their meta language tag on top of the source page. For example, if it is says “en.ca” then Bing would assume you would want to be found more often in English Canada. Does Google listen to this as well?
Mueller: We have found this information to be unreliable. Our algorithms don’t really know what to do with this information. If a site has non English content and uses a template with English html attributes then it is difficult for our algorithms to know what to do. We focus on the settings in Google Webmaster Tools and determine the language ourselves.
Dunn: Bing allows you to set a specific time for your website to be crawled. Have you guys considered adding this to yours?
Mueller: I think we’ve looked into it, but it would be worth reviewing to see how it has changed over time. We try to find these times automatically and crawl when the server is more active and less when it is slower.
Dunn: How do you figure that out?
Mueller: We notice it automatically when we crawl the website. We see how long it takes the server to return the information we request. If we notice that crawling the site is slowing things down, we will crawl less and if the site is responding quickly, we try and get all the information we need at that time
Mueller: If a Webmaster has a +1 button on their pages with the counter showing, then that’s something that is visible, but all the clicks that happen directly in the search results are clicks that the Webmaster basically doesn’t have any information on. We wanted to double that up to give the webmaster information on how many clicks are happening over time and show how useful it is . We want to see if there is a click through rate change when the +1 is visible versus not visible on specific pages. Webmaster Tools allows you to compare this directly. You can see if there is a specific click through rate change depending on the amount of +1′s.
Dunn: In the +1 Google Webmaster Tools report, what is the value of the impressions? Can you explain how the sorting may benefit someone?
Mueller: The impressions are the number of times that we show the +1 information in the search results. When someone within your social graph has “+1’d” a URL , you will see their small profile picture and the text that says this person has +1′d this information. Usually, if you recognize these people, or if you see the 5th or 6th result has a +1 then that’s the information you use to pick out which search result you are going to select rather than just selecting the first result.
Dunn: This has nothing to do with your network? Just general +1?
Mueller: Yes but we show a little more in regards to your own network.
Mueller: These +1s are separate from the ones you see in the search results. Google+ is really new and there are still a lot of changes happening over time. Eventually this will be reflected appropriately.
Dunn: The data is different with +1 in Webmaster Tools than the social metrics that are shown in Google Analytics for Google+. Is there some sort of difference on how these are tracked?
Mueller: The +1 in the search results is based on the page directly. The one within Google + is from within the post.
(Update by Ross: here is an article from Google Webmaster Tools explaining the differences a lot better)
Want More Information?
To listen the entire show, you can download it for free on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/seo-101/id280183060
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