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Mihai Aperghis (@mihaiaperghis), an SEO we reference here from time to time, is also a Google Product Expert and attended the Google Product Expert Virtual Summit the other week. He has written this blog post and I am posting it here as a super rare guest post on this site. Why? (1) Mihai rocks and (2) this site is about community and Product Experts are the essence of the Google community. Note: Mihai did not ask for a link or a mention, but I added this so it is clear that he wrote this.

The Event

Last week marked the first virtual edition of the Google Product Expert Summit, an event that’s taken place for quite a few years now. As with previous occasions, this annual gathering was organized by Google for people participating in the Product Experts (formerly known as the Top Contributors) program.

For anyone not familiar with Product Experts (PEs), the program revolves around Google’s help community forums, where non-Google-affiliated people can volunteer their time, knowledge and experience to help out other users with whatever issues they might have regarding a specific Google product. In return, these PEs receive several perks, including an invitation to the annual summit (currently for Gold+ members).

Getting back to the summit, the event is basically a chance for experts from all product communities to participate in sessions held by Googlers around various topics, as well as offer lots of networking and Q&A opportunities.

This year, the summit was nicknamed PES@Home, as it was the first edition to be held completely online. The whole event spanned three days in order to give people all across the world a chance to participate live to a mix of general interest and product specific sessions. Some of the sessions were pre-recorded and scheduled to be shown at a specific time, while most others were held live using Google Meet.

As with previous summits, all of the content has been under a strict NDA, as there are details surrounding future product updates and behind the scenes stuff that are not publicly available. I’ll do my best not to break the NDA in the details that follow 🙂

The Experience

The whole event took place on a dedicated Google PWA website. The homepage featured a ‘house’ like environment, with each ‘room’ focused on a specific type of activity:

The Rooms were broken down as follows:

  • The YouTube Living Room included access to the general live-stream event, moderated by various Google community specialists, with general interest sessions regarding the PE community and platform, but also non-PE-related topics such as Google’s COVID-19 response and other recently announced updates. These sessions were mostly pre-recorded, though most presenters were available afterwards for Q&As.
  • The Office offered access to the product specific sessions, whether they were pre-recorded or held live via Google Meet. Additionally, all previous sessions were available for viewing here on-demand for all Product Experts, regardless of their status for each specific product (this means that I, a Webmaster PE, had complete access to other product sessions such as for Google News or Google My Business, which was totally awesome!)

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  • The Kitchen included several chat rooms dedicated to specific languages, products or interests, where both Product Experts and Googlers could participate and network together. Some of the Q&As which were not answered live were eventually answered in these rooms.

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  • The Rooftop was more for fun-related activities, such as a virtual photo booth and non-Google-related masterclasses on subjects such as drawing, yoga, knife skills and magic. This section also included access to Google-created online games and to a community-contributed music playlist.

The Sessions

The core of the event has been the access to Google-held sessions that focused on several topics. These were scheduled in advance, with PEs being able to set up an Agenda based on their product interests, with certain sessions being live-stream to everyone. The calendar looked something like this:

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Each day spanned 6 hours dedicated to the event.

Myself being in an EET timezone, Day 1 started Monday at 5 PM, lasting until 11 PM.

Day 2 was a bit tricky, since it was mostly focused on people in the APAC region. While all sessions were being recorded, I still set my clock to wake me up at around 3:30 AM so I can participate in the Webmaster-focused sessions, since I really wanted the opportunity to ask a few questions (which is harder to do afterwards).

Day 3 marked the last day of the event, with several other sessions and an awards ceremony at the end.

Since I am a Webmaster Product Expert, all of the sessions I chose to participate in were mostly related to SEO. These included things like updates around:

  • Google Search Console
  • JavaScript rendering
  • Crawling and sitemaps
  • Spam (the Web kind)
  • Page Experience
  • Web Stories
  • Google Images
  • Google Shopping free listings

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Think of the sessions as a mix between regular show and tells and a sort of mini office hours. Lots of information was shared, some which is also publically available, some of which is not. I particularly liked the Q&A discussions that followed each session, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn a couple of new things and interact with Googlers from various product teams.

The Swag

During the registration process, Product Experts were asked for an address to receive a ‘PES@Home surprise delivery’. This is a fairly usual practice with most Google events, but it doesn’t make it any less exciting.

The package arrived somewhere around Day 1 for people in the US, Day 2-3 or the day after for Europe and some of the other regions. Here’s mine:

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The UPS-delivered package included various Google and Product Experts branded items:

  • T-Shirt
  • Jacket
  • Slippers
  • Agenda & pen
  • Badge pins
  • White cards
  • DND sign

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Final Words

Having been a Gold PE for only a year and a half now, this has been the second summit I managed to attend (first one was last year in Berlin, though I did also attend the Google Dance Zürich event in 2018). Given the global situation we’re in, the fact that Google has managed to organize anything at all has been really nice, showing their interest in giving back to people who spend their free time helping other users.

Also, since this was the first fully online event gathering 800+ Product Experts and close to 150 sessions over three days, the near-perfect execution is highly commendable.

While there’s a whole year to wait until the next event, there’s always a bunch of other things for me PEs to look forward to, such as other hangouts with Googlers and beta testing opportunities.

If all of this sounds interesting, keep in mind that the Webmaster PE community is always looking to grow with people who enjoy troubleshooting and helping others with SEO and Search-related issues within the community forums.

To close, here’s the official PES@Home 2020 closing video:

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