Google’s John Mueller, a Search Advocate on the Google webmaster relations team based out of Switzerland, regularly holds Google Search Central Office Hours Hangouts. During these hangouts, he delivers exceptional insights into how SEO works at Google. They last around an hour, and you can catch them approximately every other Friday.
For this one hour long hangout, we cover everything from minute one to minute 60.
So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy this post. First, we talk about SEO insights from the hangout, then you will find the actual hangout transcript.
We hope you enjoy it and leave with some insights of your own.
Is it Important for Googlebot to See Cookie Consent Messages?
One webmaster asked if user-interaction-based cookie consent messages are okay. These types of cookie consent messages pop up and the user would need to click on them to accept them or not.
John’s answer: They do not matter. Googlebot does not need to see a cookie banner. Also, Googlebot doesn’t keep cookies. The most important thing, though, is that Googlebot is not blocked from being crawled or blocked from crawling the website.
How Many Times Do You Need to Use a Keyword On the Page?
Another webmaster explained an issue they are having with keyword targeting. They have a directive to use keywords a certain number of times in the body, and a certain number of times in meta tags. Their question is whether or not this makes sense.
John’s answer: He does not think it matters, nor does it make sense. His belief is that writing naturally will help resolve that automatically. However, he would not disregard using individual keywords completely. Just don’t over-focus on exact keywords—using singular or plural does not matter. Instead, mention the topic that your site is about.
He also provides examples like news articles, where it may read more like literature than a website. Also, where most of the words they would use don’t exactly map to the site’s topic. He still explains that mentioning the actual topic on the page is important, not less important is the number of mentions—don’t go overboard with all the different synonyms and ways of writing it.
Does the URL Removal Tool Only Affect the Canonical Version of Said URL?
Another webmaster asked whether or not using the URL removal tool only affects the canonical version of the URL, or if it works on the entire duplicate content cluster the canonical is a part of.
John’s answer: The URL removal tool will actually match the URL exactly as it was submitted. They will also consider the http://, https://, www., and non-www. versions of the URL. The indexing side and crawling sides both stay the same. The solution to the URL indexation problems? Just submit the one you want to see in the SERPs, and then Google will simply hide that URL from the search results.
Does Mobile-First Content Above the Fold Matter?
Webmaster #3 got pretty detailed in this question. But, the part he’s concerned with is the fact that the initial designs of their landing pages include the same hero banner, header, and approximately two sentences or so. They want to know exactly what priority above the fold content has in terms of search.
John’s answer: The main priority is that there is at least some amount of unique content in the above the fold area. Banners and generic hero images are fine. At the minimum, a unique heading should be visible above the fold. And some of the text content should be above the fold as well.
Does Domain Age/Expiration Matter?
A relatively brief question. But webmaster 4 asks whether or not domain age and expiration date matter?
John’s answer was a relatively short one, saying that no, they don’t use that. Also, that they don’t check the whois information.
Does the Skyscraper Technique Really Work: Does Google Consider Word Count? Does Wrong Information Count?
Webmaster #5 got really detailed with their question. But they’re essentially asking 1. Whether or not you can rank using much longer content than your competitor, and 2. What does Google do about incorrect information being spread by others in their posts?
John’s answer: There may be a correlation between the fact that you wrote improved quality content above the competitor. But, there isn’t a correlation between the higher word count and the new rankings. It’s absolutely not something they consider.
Will the DOM Size Matter in the Next Page Experience Release?
Webmaster #5 also wondered whether or not DOM size (due to including much more HTML as a result of increasing word count) will be a consideration in the next page experience algorithm release when it drops in mid-June. (editor note: DOM refers to the document object model).
John’s answer: He believes that the loading time of your page is partially related to the size of the HTML file that you send. But, many other factors exist. Such as images on the page, as well as the use of CSS and JS on a page. It’s not just about the HTML that’s on the page.
How do Discrepancies in GSC Affect Data Interpretation?
Webmaster #6 asked about the sampling of data and how it could be interpreted. He asked why the main property in GSC is different when compared to sub properties, and how to ensure that the data they pull from GSC remains consistent every time, because of the differences between main property and sub property data. They are also concerned about the sub properties telling a different story than the main property numbers.
John’s answer: The size of your site matters in this regard, as well as how the traffic arrives on site. It’s likely due to the limit of data points that they collect per site, per day. It’s likely that this is what they are seeing here. Most larger sites shouldn’t need to pull numbers from the sub properties, though. In this case, it’s likely that pulling these numbers makes the most sense for the site owner.
John also explained that there are different databases involved when processing main properties and sub properties. However for more detailed information, it may make more sense to look at it from that perspective.
He also said that for most sites, they chose numbers that would make data sufficient and useful, and those for which the totals almost line up, although that may not happen every time. In some cases, digging into deeper detail is recommended.
Will We See a Premium Paid Version of GSC with More Data?
Webmaster #6’s last question of the day was about whether or not Google will release a premium paid version of GSC with more data.
John’s answer: He has no idea. They don’t tend to talk about the future all that much publicly. He did say it feels weird to have a premium version of GSC, though. He does explain that seeing what people are doing with Search Console and seeing how they’re running into limitations is useful to gauge.
GSC Has Discrepancies Compared to Lighthouse
Webmaster #7 explained that they’re in a situation where there is different page speed data for URLs in Google Search Console when compared to Lighthouse. They have noticed that if something is entirely green in a Lighthouse report, Google Search Console doesn’t say the same thing.
John explains: There is different data, referred to as lab data and field data. Lab data is the data that’s presented in Lighthouse or Google Search Console. The field data is the data that users see. Google Search Console presents the field data, not the lab data. But there are differences in terms of how each type of data is seen in practice. This is likely the type of data that this webmaster is seeing.
In search, Google uses the field data from real users, and it takes 28 days to update in Search Console. Depending on what you’re doing, using Search Console is not likely to have much benefit. Ideally, you should be optimizing for the field data over the lab data.
Can You Use Google Products When Doing A/B Testing?
This is the question Webmaster #8 posed during this hangout—whether or not it’s a good idea to use Google products like Google Analytics when optimizing something for SEO.
John’s answer: When it comes to A/B testing, so long as the page’s purpose doesn’t change, and it is essentially the same page with a different design, it’s fine. You shouldn’t change the page from one product to another, for example. Also, A/B testing is temporary, so it’s not like Google will take into account the A/B test version as a permanent thing.
Does Google Treat Pages More Favorably Than Posts in WordPress?
Webmaster #10 wondered if, in the case of a WordPress site, does Googlebot recognize the difference between pages and posts?
John’s answer: Google does not recognize there’s a difference. This is something that is strictly internal and specific to WordPress. Google would see the final, rendered HTML page.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
Where Can You Watch the Google Search Central SEO Office Hours Hangouts with John Mueller?
You can find them on YouTube over at the Google Search Central YouTube Channel. While it’s usually every other week, recently John has been holding them more frequently.
Keep updated on their appointment times by following this page over on YouTube.
For this hangout from June 4, 2021, you can watch the video here: