Google published a new episode of the Search Off the Record podcast that reveals the reasons behind the Search Status Dashboard, what kinds of incidents it will cover and why they don’t plan on translating updates to other languages.
Google Search Status Dashboard
Google recently announced a new Search Status Dashboard that communicates when there’s an outage.
Service status pages are common to services like web hosts because it’s a convenient way to communicate for both the users and the service provider.
Why Google is Publishing a Search Status Dashboard
Notices of outages at Google were previously done on an ad-hoc basis via Twitter, which according to the Googlers came with downsides that made it a less than ideal solution.
The podcast noted that Google promised a dashboard back in 2019, after the major search outages of 2019 where it seemed like the entire index went belly up.
Gay Illyes explained:
“Well, one of the reasons is that we promised it in 2019, so… we said that we would have a more structured and better communication channel for Search incidents.
So that was one of the motivations for the dashboard.
…there was a perception that we are not doing enough.
So we kind of both internally and externally, and then we kind of wanted to fix that because, you know, I was told that
we have to be nice.”
Posting on Twitter Has a Lot of Overhead
The podcast segued to discuss the difficulties of choosing which outages are big enough to merit a tweet and how multiple parties had to be consulted before writing a tweet.
There were no templates for the tweets, which added an additional layer of complexity to the process of communicating an outage.
Lizzi Sassman explained:
“Well, but the actual posting is not that long. It’s actually coming up with the wording. Like, that seemed to trip everyone up.
In previous times we’ve talked about this, it’s like, ‘What should we say and how to say it and when to say it?’
Gary Illyes: Yeah, that’s the other thing that on Twitter, we were not using templates.
So basically, every time on the spot, we came up with something, and then, if someone was around, like John, or you or someone, as in John Mueller–
Then we would double check, basically a peer review, and then we would post if it looks good.
I mean, but this, it wasn’t just like a peer review thing. There were way more people involved for these big messages.”
The Dashboard May Eventually Show More
The current Search Status Dashboard only covers three kinds of outages to search:
Gary Illyes explained what the three outage types cover:
“So we map the dashboard to the major search systems, which is crawling, indexing, serving. And the incidents would go into those buckets.
- So, for example, if for whatever reason Googlebot cannot crawl the whole internet, that would end up in the crawling bucket.
- If there is some canonicalization problem that’s affecting lots of sites, then that would end up in the indexing bucket.
- And then if Google.com is not accessible to lots of users, then that would end up in the serving bucket.
Those three outage types are for version 1 of the dashboard.”
The podcast revealed that they’re going to see how this version of the Search Status Dashboard works out and then later on they might add other types of outages to the dashboard.
And what if there’s just one specific feature in Search that is kind of broken? I don’t know, let’s say the Featured Snippets are not showing anymore.
Is that something that we would show here?
That was a good question. In this version, we are only focusing on major incidents affecting the systems that we mentioned, like crawling, indexing, serving.
In the next iteration, we are thinking about exposing Search features.
So, for example, Top Stories or Feature Snippets or whatever, if they would go down for whatever reason, then we might communicate something about those incidents.
But in the current iteration, I don’t think that we would externalize those issues.
Would that be if Top Stories just stops appearing altogether, like a serving issue?
Or like certain sites saying like, “I’m not appearing as a top story. Like there’s a problem.”
I mean either, depending on how many sites are affected.
John Mueller: And like, I don’t know, related services to Search, like maybe Discover or Google News…
If those went down, would that also be listed here or is this really focused on web search?
No, that would be yet another version.
We know that some services want to appear on the dashboard, but we have to think about how to present other, basically, services.
And I just didn’t have either time or nerves to think about that just yet.
Plus, I think it would be valuable to just launch V1 and then see how it goes, whether we can learn something from it.
And then see if we can improve it by including other services.”
No Plans for Translations
The podcast noted that there are no plans for a translated version of the new status page.
According to the Googlers, translating the dashboard announcements is too complex for the CMS they use.
They feel that using a service like Google Translate should be adequate for users who don’t read English.
John Mueller started off this part of the conversation:
Are there plans for translations or is that already happening?
Gary Illyes: No.
Like in the current setup, it’s practically impossible to have translations, and they are not even thinking about it.
Mostly because they, as in the developers of the dashboard, because the dashboard is kind of like a CMS that we share with other Google products or Alphabet products.
And it is developed to be as simple as it needs to be to serve the dashboard, itself. And no complexity to it whatsoever.
And translations would be a major complexity because then you have to load the different translations from different rows in the database that are serving the content.
…Basically, if you are using Google Translate, for example, or any other translation, online translation software, then that will give you enough clue about what’s happening.
Lizzi Sassman: I think with this, it’s also particularly time-sensitive.
So if there was a delay to translate the thing, then that language would be behind or not having the same timeline of events, which could be an issue.
And then people might think like, “Oh, is this not affecting Search in French or something because it’s not been translated in French?
Or it didn’t happen for like three days, does that mean anything?” When like, no, it just means that the translation is behind.”
Search Status Dashboard
The Search Status Dashboard is a good way to receive alerts about outages at Google.
There’s an RSS feed (located here) for those who use them that makes receiving notifications easy.
The usefulness of the dashboard is to help diagnose if a change in ranking is due to something wrong with the site or if it’s happening across Google search.
There are many ways to listen to the Search Off the Record Podcast that are listed here.
It’s also available on YouTube:
Featured image by Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov