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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4 thoughts on “Google Helpouts: AdWords is OK, SEO is Not

  1. More reasons the suspension of approved Helpouts – including one of mine – is that the following are NOT suspended, even though they clearly deal with Google Apps.

    Google Apps for Education
    Google Adwords and analytics specialist
    Google Apps for education and Business
    Design your [Google] Glassware
    Google Voice – help you set up Google Voice

    And then there are these, which clearly deal with business advice. And there are hundreds more that are similar and active:

    Blog & Social Media Consulting
    Fall in love with your business systems again
    Building dynamic websites
    Podcast coach
    Product management advice for startups
    15-minute website design and usability critique
    Startup technology coaching
    Technology Help & advice
    Wordpress Website Help

  2. I’ve been thinking about this since I saw you post it on Google+. To understand why they decided to take this action, I tried to look at it from Google’s perspective.

    Allowing AdWords Helpouts would be advantageous for Google because it promotes one of Google’s revenue streams.

    Again, thinking form Google’s perspective, how would they view an SEO Helpout? SEO helps business make money off Google – (generally) without paying Google. By allowing industry experts to use Helpouts to promote a philosophy that doesn’t result in revenue for Google probably doesn’t sit well with them.

    I don’t think they deliberately singled you out, or are attacking SEOs in general. I think they are making a strictly business decision, and completely leaving emotions out of it. They probably see it as a business decision as opposed to a double standard.

    I don’t agree with it, and it’s unfortunate that they are ostracizing one of their biggest evangelists.

    Keep at it Dan!

  3. The issue as I see it is the WAY Google has handled the takedowns.

    First of all, the one of mine that they labeled as SEO simply is not about SEO. I am not an SEO specialist. It was about how to maximize your G+ Profile, and so SEO is mentioned. But it’s not the topic or my expertise.

    The issue is that Google could have contacted us and said there is an issue and let’s work on making your Listing work so we can keep it up.

    Instead, they told us there is no way a suspended listing can be put back up, and there is no dialog we can have about it.

    That’s just not a very nice way to deal with people who have tried so hard to do the best for Google Helpouts. Especially since there seems to some mistake on Google’s part if they initially approved our listings and now are removing them.

    Wouldn’t you think they’d say something like “sorry this issue has come up and let’s fix it together?”