WMT: Google Gets Personal With SEOs?

Christmas morning, I got something I never expected: a personal email from Google. And it truly felt like a gift!wmt

Right out of bed, I had my 3 cans of Red Bull and checked my messages, as usual. Initially, I wasn’t surprised to see that I had an email from Google. I figured it was an automated message about profile linking or something like that. But I was wrong.

The email was actually from one of Google’s Webmaster Trends analysts. He was contacting me about a rankings situation — in smartphone rankings — for one of my brand’s domains! But don’t confuse this with Google’s recent announcement about the addition of smartphone specific crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools. That has an automated approach and is something else entirely.

What I’m talking about is a personal email I received from Google telling me I had a redirect issue that was hurting my mobile rankings. Take a look at the actual email below.

Google Webmaster Tools Analyst's Email

Google Webmaster Tools Analyst’s Email (click for larger image)

Have you received an email similar to this from Google? Perhaps it is part of a new initiative or process, but I haven’t heard anything about it.

In general, the email seems to be more manual than automated, or at least semi-manual. How so? First off, the email contains a personal signature. What’s more, notice that the message includes an actual “reply-to” email address rather than the usual wmt-noreply@google.com. These factors lead me to believe that this email was the result of someone at Google having an alert triggered and then personally reaching out.

With that said, I think it is important to note that the domain mentioned in the original email gets a considerable amount of traffic (~25K unique visitors a day). In other words, that kind of volume may have helped to trigger the email.

If this is part of a bigger initiative, I doubt that smaller players will get the same level of service. That’s a shame, because when I got Google’s note, I immediately thought of my good friend, Todd.

Last year, Todd had a problem with the indexing of his product details pages after a redesign. It caused his sales to nosedive, and he almost had to shut down his e-retail business as it relies heavily on organic traffic. If Google had informed him about the issue, it could have saved him a lot of trouble.

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

While I’m both happy and thankful for Google’s personal outreach to me, I’m hoping that it is part of a larger initiative, as I think it could greatly benefit the SEO community. After all, one of the biggest challenges SEO professionals grapple with is the implementation of our recommendations!

When we tell brands and their development agency that they need to change their coding and the way they handle mobile redirects to avoid a rankings loss, they rarely say, “Sure thing!” Instead, they usually come back with some quote that counteracts or challenges our recommendations.

But if Google sends out personal emails alerting webmasters to problem areas/situations, SEOs will have actual documentation from Google that will back up their recommendations. How awesome would that be?!

Getting clear and direct guidance from Google in the form of these Webmaster Trends emails will be even more important as technology continues to evolve, because the complexity of organic recommendations will only increase. This additional complexity has led to a lot of guesswork by SEOs, especially in regard to the impact of one variable on another.

But the guidance Google sent in the above email eliminated the need for guessing and spelled out the problem: a broken redirect will hurt your mobile rankings. As tech continues to evolve, SEOs and brands would greatly benefit from such direct and clear guidance from Google.

Overall, I hope the email I received from Google wasn’t an isolated event. I’d love to see Google’s Webmaster Trends analysts reach out to SEOs more and provide clarity into the complex technical issues that have large-scale impact like the one above. In the end, such outreach efforts could truly be the gift for SEOs that keeps on giving.

Have you received similar personal emails from Google’s Webmaster Trends analysts? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Google | Google: SEO | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is the Sr. Partner, Managing Director of Strategy at GroupM. He is a digital veteran with over 14 years of experience in advertising. For the past three years, he has led the search practice across the GroupM Network; today, he leads the agency’s search and social engagement strategy group.

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  • Mark Rhode

    How do you get Google to email you? Can you subscribe to this service or is it a pay for play?

  • Adam Heaton

    Oh this is very interesting, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for any personal emails that come through, hopefully this is the start of something beautiful.

  • http://cm.org.uk/ Colin

    Google Webmaster Tools. Sign up and verify your website.

  • Mark Rhode

    Sorry, i know that much… How do you get them to email you when you have issues like this?

  • jeypandian

    I’ve actually received personalized emails too but unfortunately for me, G never signs it like you.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh Zehtabchi

    The more you spend on PPC, the more personalized the message is :3

  • http://www.brand.com/blog James R. Halloran

    Well, a true personal touch can go a long way.

    That would be nice if Google is upping its game in the customer service department. Perhaps they’re doing that before Microsoft realizes that’s what they’re lacking?

  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    If one needs “clear and direct guidance from Google” to understand that “broken redirect will hurt”, then one is hopeless.

  • http://www.benspiegel.com/ Benjamin Spiegel


    Unfortunately SEO is not always the top digital marketing priority. And when it comes to deciding how to spend your digital implement/development budget, SEOs are often struggling to “proof” the importance of technical recommendations. Especially given the case above, where it’s not a broken redirect, but instead a Homepage redirect. In this case the development agency might say that this is not a high priority as it is not directly impacting the user experience and the SEO implications are not clear/obvious. In this case it would be great to have an email from Google to highlight the importance of fixing this. not a high priority as it is not directly impacting the user experience and the SEO implications are not clear/obvious. In this case it would be great to have an email from Google to highlight the importance of fixing this.

  • rich_falconer

    I’ve received a few over the years for things like clients adding “noindex” across their site, to their homepage or major indexing problems that Googlebot is having with the site. The first times it happened on major international websites but I got one recently which was a smaller UK specific site.

  • http://www.benspiegel.com/ Benjamin Spiegel

    Interesting, did they come from actual people or no-reply ?

  • Mark

    This “feels” somehow automated, like a system pulled info into a personalized mail merge. I wonder what metrics you have to be pulling in to get one of these, I doubt Google cares whatsoever about small potato webmasters.

  • Mark

    This “feels” somehow automated, like a system pulled info into a personalized mail merge. I wonder what metrics you have to be pulling in to get one of these, I doubt Google cares whatsoever about small potato webmasters.

  • http://www.benspiegel.com/ Benjamin Spiegel

    Quick update, I actually received a similar eMail for another brand a few days ago, I replied to it, and actually received a reply back, so there seems to be some kind of human component

  • rich_falconer

    John Mueller in each case. Great guy and must be a contender for hardest worker in Google. He’s active on the webmaster forum too and always happy to provide honest answers to good questions about Googlebot, indexing etc.

  • http://www.elite-strategies.com/blog Patrick Coombe

    Insane! I hope this sort of personal attention becomes a trend.

  • http://www.elite-strategies.com/blog Patrick Coombe

    Insane! I hope this sort of personal attention becomes a trend.

  • http://www.windycityparrot.com WindyCityParrot

    I’ve gotten code calls from adwords specialists who did screen shares – I also use Google enterprise apps and every time I email support. They call me back and talk me through the problem – I think Google clearly understands Facebook customer service is non existent which is becoming Facebook’s soft underbelly. An Armada of human customer service agents cost Google relatively pennies to keep your interest in their pay to play platforms

  • http://WWW.atdny.com/ James Martinez

    I feel it is an automated tactic, but I also feel it is with good intentions. As a side note, am I the only one who wishes Google services were a bit less disjointed? I feel like a ping pong ball bouncing around their tools all day!

  • https://www.k9Fetch.com/ Bradley Taylor

    While not about WMT, I have had a similar personal touch from the big G. Someone on the Chrome team was kind enough to proactively drop my site a personal note about a CSS change that affected us. Personal email address, and it was definitely a handwritten note as it came through a support form on the site. Nice chap and engaged in a bit of back-and-forth to help us.

  • http://www.DesignA.ws/ Design A

    It’s great that Google is joining the SEO conversation more than ever before. I think this brings a ton of validity and shines light on the companies and consultants doing work with integrity, honesty and accountability. That’s just how SEO should be!

  • http://www.otriadmarketing.com/ Christopher Skyi

    While direct and personal communication is unusual now, I don’t think it will stay that way:

    “Google Continues to Divest The SEO Industry By Empowering You!”

    By now it is old news that over the last couple of years Google has been involved in a massive campaign to take back control of their index from the more manipulative part of the SEO industry (excluding companies like Catalyst).

    This campaign has two major fronts: they have successfully denied a good part of the SEO industry its traditional use of “gray & blank hat” ranking techniques (see Panda & Penguin) and at the same time they have become more transparent about how they rank sites, they have evolved (and continue to evolve) increasingly powerful SEO insight tools (Google Webmaster & Analytics tools) and have (so far) given them away FREE directly to website owners, and finally they have produced (and continue to produce) valuable guidance about how to do SEO.

    In short, they want to set the terms for how website owners “do” SEO and they want to provide guidance and tools, for free (so far) to help website owners get more traffic and convert more of their traffic.

  • http://www.windycityparrot.com WindyCityParrot

    G+ is tying all that together now

  • JosephDeer

    Do more PPC, like @joshzehtabchi:disqus said.


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