Tuesday, 1 October 2013

September 21-22-23, 2103 - Search Queries Not Updated in Google Webmaster Tools

This week-end, many people have started reporting the same issue in Google's Webmaster Forum: no more daily search queries information updates. For most, the data reporting stopped on September 23, 2013, but I have observed this since September 22, 2013.

Yesterday, a top contributor has announced that this issue had been "escalated to the appropriate Google engineers". He mentions this issue started on September 21st. Therefore, it has been 9 days before someone could confirm that Google is aware of it. Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is known to lag 2 or 3 days behind when it comes to search query data, which explains why most webmasters only started to ask questions at the end of last week. This issue made the headline of Search Engine Roundtable too.

In the confirmation post, a link to a 2010 video has been posted. Matt Cutts discusses which types of webmaster tools errors should be reported to Google. He mentions that Google engineers are a bit touchy when they are asked whether they monitor their systems. So did Google knew about this issue since September 21st and deliberately decided not to answer posts in the Webmaster Tools forum for 9 days or did they just miss it, because it was not monitored?

Many people have been hit by the recent Panda updates. August 21st, September 4th and more recent dates have triggered a lot comments in forums. Many websites lost all their traffic without any explanation. No message in GWT, no manual penalty, nothing. Some of these sites were using plain white hat SEO. Webmasters working hard to produce quality content need GWT search query data feedback, especially when they believe some of their sites have been hit by recent updates. It helps them find out whether they have implemented the proper corrections or not.

On September 11th, a new Matt Cutts video was posted about finding out whether one has been hit or not by Panda, and whether one has recovered from it or not. Unfortunately, it does not contain clear cut information answering the question. This video only confirms that Panda is now integrated into indexing and that one should focus on creating quality content. Google's interpretation of quality content is still vague, yet they have implemented algorithms to sort web pages.

If there is a bug impacting customers using their service, why isn't Google officially open and communicative about it? This has been an ongoing complaining from webmasters. I can understand that Google does not want to give too much information about their systems. They don't want hackers too exploit these against them. However, it clearly seems that the focus is more on not communicating with hackers than communicating openly with regular webmasters. Is Google on the defensive mode?

Google is capable of algorithmically detecting when a website (or some part of a website) has quality issues. It does not hesitate to penalize such websites. Then, why doesn't Google communicate automatically about these issues to regular webmasters in GWT? It is algorithmically possible and scalable too. Google is not the only party interested in creating quality websites. It is in the interest of regular webmasters too. Of course, hackers would try to exploit this information, but overall, if regular webmasters had this information too, they would create better content than hackers too. Users would still sort between good and bad websites, not only Panda.

Sometimes, it really seems like Google does not truly want to collaborate with regular webmasters. I notice selective listening followed by monologues. Ask me questions and I'll answer them. I won't acknowledge any flaws, but I'll secretly work on these so you can't poke me again. This is not a collaborative dialogue, it is a defensive attitude. I believe that acting with excessive caution directly hampers the achievement of one's own objectives.

My strong opinion is that if Google solved this communication issue, it would bring much more return than any other stream of tweaks to their Panda algorithm. Give people the information they need to do a good job, empower them, trust them. Right now, the level of frustration is pretty high in the webmaster community. Frustration leads to lack of motivation. Lack of motivation decreases productivity. No productivity means not a chance to see new quality content or improvements.

There is a needless vicious circle and Google can do something about it, for its own good too.