Google Helpouts: AdWords is OK, SEO is Not

After submitting my application to join Google Helpouts I had a video interview with a Google Helpouts team member and my listing was approved. I embraced the platform with great enthusiasm, as it allowed me to give back to the community and provide free support to webmasters in need of guidance and ideas for their website. I did not charge for my time and did essentially what I do on Hangouts on Air.

The private Helpouts community allowed me to submit ideas and feedback on how to improve the platform. Google even emailed me with ideas on how to promote my listing. After a bunch of helpouts I realised that running and managing the sessions isn’t that easy, but was determined to keep going after seeing that people appreciated my guidance:

Helpout Reviews

I was just in the process of designing a promotional campaign when my listing got shut down.

Alcohol, legal, dating, business, real estate, finances, religion, contests and SEO. These are the categories Google Helpouts consider “restricted content”. I had a misfortune of first being accepted into Google Helpouts for SEO and then abruptly shut down after much time and energy invested in my Helpout sessions.

Oops. Sorry. You weren’t mean to be approved in the first place, we apologise for the inconvenience and are willing to work with you on modifying your listing so it’s not in breach of our guidelines.

This made me cranky, but I decided to follow advice given to me by a Helpouts team member to go and fix my listing only to find that suspended helpout listings cannot be adjusted.

I reached out to the community to see if there is anything that can be done about this and found something that really upset me.

Double Standards?

Search engine optimisation and business advice categories are banned until further notice but Google Adwords and Analytics related listings were still active.


So how is what I did so different than paid search?

In my sessions I talked about:

  1. Website Accessibility & Design
  2. Language and Region Targeting (hreflang)
  3. Google Webmaster Tools (links, keywords, structured data, site issues)
  4. Google Analytics
  5. Interpreting Data
  6. Keyword Research
  7. Balancing Your Resources
  8. Content Quality (referencing Google’s own blog)
  9. Social engagement tactics (promoting Google+ and the value of authorship)
  10. I pointed people to Google’s official SEO guide

If you dive into AdWords campaign management, keyword selection… money, are you not providing business advice? Is this not optimisation?

I understand that none of this was deliberate, Helpouts is a young product, not everyone on the team is up to scratch with the policies, but still, experiences like that make me hesitant with adoption of  new Google services in fear that somehow and at some point, my digital assets will be rendered useless or be lost due to some product merge or arbitrary guideline violation.

Google keep anyone? No thanks. I’d rather use my notepad.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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