Probably at least once a day, we have users coming to the site and creating posts about forgotten Gmail passwords, trouble with logging in, etc.

Anecdotally, many of these posts seem to be written as though users think that they are communicating information directly to Google (they often include personal information and other details about the accounts).

I realize that we are here to help, and I'm very happy that we can give assistance to so many users through either the canonical Gmail post or via our expert users.

However, I would like to know how these users are finding us and what is leading them to believe that we are part of Google's internal support system? This is mainly out of curiosity, but I'm wondering how we can either be more explicit about where users are landing and whether we can warn them not to post personal information. Such a customized approach doesn't seem to have any precedent on Stack Exchange, so I'm attempting to understand the problem (if it is a problem) before recommending any action.

I looked around the Gmail help pages, and I didn't see any mention of our site. I also googled some common phrases like "gmail password help," "gmail help," "gmail recovery," etc. and we weren't even on the first page (!) of any of these searches.

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    Unfortunately, the analytics available to us don't show search terms or referrer URLs (only domains). One of the devs would have to look at the traffic to see where it's coming from. – ale May 23 at 13:04
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    It also seems that the number of questions about recovering a Facebook account has also ticked up. – ale May 23 at 16:59
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    I tried "ask gmail issue" and I got this question as the 2nd result just below Google's official Gmail support. Note that Google also optimized results based on my preferential browsing, so it might be biased. Considering that desperate user will more likely to do anything to fix their issue, I'd believe that also includes asking on here. – Andrew T. May 23 at 17:37
  • @AndrewT.Good point I had thought about whether my being logged in was biasing the results and didn't bother to try incognito. – jonsca May 23 at 22:01
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'm not an active user on this exchange, but I just noticed the question, so here goes my thought.

If you search I've lost my gmail account it's the #2 result (after ads)

enter image description here

Change lost to can't find and it's (still) the 3rd result, other variations will still leave it in top 5

When I click to that question the first thing that catches my eye is the Ask Question button.

From a some new users perspective, they will likely barely skim* through the post, then just immediately assume that this question will get asked directly to Google or that this site is for asking such questions.

*The actual answer is quite a lot of scrolling - I know I wouldn't want to read through the whole thing when I can just ask directly.

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    Great find! This is at least a head start. – jonsca May 23 at 22:40

I tried a couple of searches too, except for "lost my gmail", our canonical question about Google Account recovery is never in the first few results and, even so, it's our question with its answer, so I doubt most people go right for the "Ask Question" button from there. (Most of the results are keyword-optimized sites with a lot of advertising or Google's own pages.)

It's a mystery.

  • Does the SE platform track user activity in the form of: what the user is doing now, how he got here, how much time he spent here, what he clicked next etc? If so, it's possible to check if newcomers arrive to the canonical post, stay there for a very short time and click the Ask Question. – arieljannai May 26 at 19:54

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