It has been a year since Google turned the old Google Webmasters blog – and all related channels – into a new moniker, namely Google Search Central: an attempt to gather all the original content in one easy-to-find location, to provide clearer and more immediate information for all types of users. The operation actually turned out to be more complicated than expected, and the Googlers tell all the critical issues encountered and the changes made in these 12 months.
Google Search Central celebrates its first birthday
The article signed by Lizzy Harvey and Gary Illyes of the Search Relations team explains in rather detail what were the interventions on the Google Search Central site in the last year, what was added or changed in terms of tools and content, but also what were the most difficult operations to carry out.
In summary, thanks to the collaboration with Google’s internal SEO team, the work focused on improving content, producing a lot of new documentation, on the migration of 13 local language blogs and on the development of a new checklist that now appears on the home page.
The new interactive checklist
In addition to the rebranding (and the official baptism for the new partner of Googlebot, which is now called Crawley), the main news is the interactive checklist that now appears on the home page of the site, a widget that recommends articles based on the role selected by users and allows you to explore documents faster to improve your presence in Search.
Basically, each user can select their own profession or their own interest in digital between entrepreneur, marketing professional, developer or SEO and the checklist will change based on this, offering more targeted information and a more streamlined and structured way to explore content on Google Search Central. Also, since SEO often also search for non-SEO content, is it possible to share a specific learning path or checklist designed for website owners by setting it as the default parameter in the URL ? card=owner.
To build learning paths, Google has analyzed the audience and noticed that users arriving on the home page try to gain an advantage or learn more in general (as opposed to users arriving on deep Urls with specific questions)And so he devised a solution to best suit all needs.
The work on the widget is still ongoing, so we may see further changes and improvements in the coming months, but Google’s intention is to introduce search features more in a more visual way, facilitating the recognition of the feature thanks to a simplified graphics.
Other interventions on Google’s blog
Google has adopted a very SEO approach to managing this activity: first, to improve the content of Google Search Central contacted the internal SEOs, which helped to “monitor site migration of thousands of Urls, identify interrupted redirects and ensure that traffic moved properly to the new site”, but also optimize title items and descriptions on over 200 pages.
As the post explains, initially the work started “from priority documents that were displayed more by our readers, or documents that we thought should have received more traffic“, while in some cases it was necessary to “de-optimize the traffic“such as for the page dedicated specifically to content removals on proprietary sites, which received feedback “from users who wanted to remove pages” on third-party sites.
The SEO work on the Google site
Jason Stevens of the Growth Lab SEO (Google’s internal SEO team) gave more specific guidance on these interventions, writing that it was a “strange task to help optimize the SEO of authoritatively SEO content on the same SEO guidelines as Google”, clarifying however that “doing SEO on Google is a real thing, even when it means doing it right for Search Central among all sites”.
The approach to work has been the same as for all the other projects “we do in many other Google marketing websites, content and products”, which is generally the same as “anyone else working in the industry, supported by guidelines, best practices and experience” because the company’s internal team is “limited in the tools, data and information we can use to maintain a strict separation between Google Search and SEO people in Google”, an element that “helps to ensure that we do not have an unfair advantage”.
However, Search Central migration followed the same pattern as other similar cases: “we completed the keyword research and metadata optimization for key pages, assisted with redirect mapping and QA-ing redirects and set up a Google Data Studio dashboard to track progress and complete post-migration analysis.”, a process that Stevens calls “the typical checklist of SEO migration“.
What else has changed in Google Search Central
In addition to the complete migration, in the last year the site has also experienced other improvements, and in particular the indexing and scanning documentation has been restructured, affecting the grouping by topic, the publication of new documentation and the renewal of guides on the following topics:
- Simplifying the introduction to the robots.txt page to make it clearer what robots.txt is and what its intended use is, and extending the instructions on creating and updating robots.txt files.
- Added new guidance on how HTTP status codes and network and DNS errors affect Google Search.
- Significantly expanding the guide to redirects with the different types of redirects and their effects on Google Search.
- Publication of a new documentation on Google Search operators.
- Publication of a new set of guides for e-commerce in Google Search.
In addition, the migration and redirection of the 13 Google blogs in the local language, including content dating back to 2005, were completed: it was necessary to match thousands of posts to their counterparts in English, making it easier to switch from one language to another for a certain content. The synchronization of content in this way now allows you to “expand the evergreen posts in multiple languages, preserve and preserve the translation work done by others before us and make it easier for people to discover the content we already had”.
What the improvements have been (and what did not work)
The article also presents some of the concrete results obtained by this intervention: in particular, comparing the period between January 2021 and October 2021 with the previous year, the Urls migrated to Google Search Central recorded a 240% increase in clicks on an annual basis. Articles that have been migrated from the Search Console Help Center have also increased in clicks: for example, performance has improved for sitemap topics (+99% clicks), robots.txt (+27% clicks) and HTTPS (+66% clicks).
Among the things that “worked” the article also mentions feedbacks from users, who started using the new name Google Search Central within just a month of the announcement of the change: specifically, the monitoring in Keyword Planner on the search interest for the name change revealed that “Google Search Central” has passed “Google Webmaster Center” in search interest (+250%) shortly after the launch and promotion of the new brand.
Another thing that works well is that “it has become much easier to publish things on our new site”, thanks to an increasing number of contributors for the production or translation of contributions, which automatically leads to the publication of more content in all supported languages, seamlessly. While in the past it may take months to translate blog posts, the article says, “on the new site the translated content can be available in a few days”.
However, as it happens with any major launch, there have been things that have not worked as expected even for Google, and Harvey and Illyes cite in particular two critical elements:
- The migration of blogs in local language, because it took much longer “than we had planned to map Urls and we found other hiccups along the way, such as broken Python scripts”.
- The failure to complete “everything we wanted for the day of launch a year ago”, such as the checklist on the home page, the migration of blogs and other items in the wish list.
Ultimately, the entire site’s migration and rebranding project was “an enlightening experience for the team”, from which the Googlers drew a series of lessons (more or less serious):
- RSS is still quite popular that it was necessary to add it to the new blog.
- De-SEOing “is as strange as it seems, but you really have to catch good traffic”.
- Working “with SEO on a site about SEO can hurt your brain: you’re optimizing the thing that talks about optimizing the thing”.