Google’s Matt Cutts on SEO : From SMX Seattle

SMS Text

Rhea here! If you don’t know who I am, it’s probably because I’m the least published SEJ contributor and well-known IT girl of SEO blogging. To correct this I decided to cover all of the organic sessions for Search Engine Journal at SMX Advanced in Seattle.

The truth be told, I just wanted to get on the VIP Google party list and receive prank calls from the industry’s most respected SMM princess. Alas, Loren Baker informed me that networking at the bar and injecting coffee into my veins with Lisa Barone didn’t merit a press pass. So, stay tuned for session coverage, interviews and incriminating photos.


I will include a 60 second summary for each session at the top of every post. If you only have 60 seconds, please review those points.

And now, without further ado, I bring you (drum roll please), You and A with Matt Cutts!

SEO in 60 seconds:

– If your site is in the supplemental grab more links to show up in the main.

– Supplemental results do not mean you’re penalized.

– Google does a good job of geo-targeting search results.

– Webmaster guidelines are short, so users can make educated inferences based on their unique situation.

– Webmaster console may soon include a paid link report, similar to the spam report.

– Linking out from your site, if the links are useful to your users, isn’t a bad thing. Google’s philosophy – what’s good for the users is good for Google.

– Search result pages on your site are not penalized, but Google does reserve the right to trim them from the SERPs.

– SRPs can still rank well if they provide unique content or strong categories.

– Whether click-throughs affect rankings can neither be confirmed nor denied, but if the algorithm did count them, it would cause a lot of noise.

– Google loves Wikipedia because more often than not the information is a well-presented, fairly accurate summary of what a “regular” user is searching on.

– Google didn’t manually stop the Stephen Colbet google bomb.

– Google will manually edit the image search results as images are still difficult to deliver with accuracy.

– Matt’s Phrase of the Day: “Scalable and robust”

‘You & A’ Session with Matt Cutts

The You and A session started on the awkward side with Matt Cutts urging the audience to get Danny undressed or “casual.” After removing the jacket, tie and shirt, Matt still wasn’t comfortable and Danny had to disrobe the pants! I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to imagine the audience naked, not get nude yourself. Fortunately, the striptease broke the ice and made SMX Advanced as a conference to remember.

Michael Martinez started off the You and A with a ballsy question about Matt dodging his concerns on the supplemental index.

Matt: If in a site is in the supplemental index, try to grab more links and you should show up in the main index. Supplemental doesn’t equal penalty.

Quick mental lapse on my part – Mikkel deMib Svendsen just walked into the room.

Back to the session. The next question touched on local search and how confident Google is with knowing where a user is located. Matt emphasized that this is out of his field, but Google does a good job of geo-targeting search results.

Pat from Why are Google guidelines so brief and what does the future hold? Matt quickly lost the audience in his reponse by referencing piano’s axioms and group theory in mathematics. The bottom line, Google’s philosophy is to only provide a minimal set of information to enable users to make their educated inferences based on their unique situation. Concise guidelines also provides greater flexibility for Google as they do not have to micro-manage each item.

Next question, what’s up with link buying? Are paid links the death of the algorithm? Do borderline grayhat SEOs have to buy links to stay ahead?

Matt: Would like to see the Webmaster console provide a paid link report, similar to the spam report. Yes, buying links is outside of the guidelines and users can make the choice to pursue it or not understanding the manual and algorithmic consequences.

What about linking out from your site?

Matt : What’s good for the users is good for the search engines and links out of the site are often useful.

How can webmasters make on-site search result pages user and search engine friendly?

Matt: It’s important to note that the topic of search result pages is addressed in technical guidelines, not the webmaster guidelines. So, there’s no penalty for having the SRPs, but Google reserves the right to trim them from their results. Category pages and pages with unique user generated content are considered a value to the user, so those have a greater potential of being indexed and ranked well.

What’s the impact of click-throughs on general web search?

Matt: We can neither confirm nor deny whether this is a factor! However, if click-throughs were used as an algorithmic metric the results would be very “noisy.”

Why does Google love Wikipedia? And, when will you break up with them?

Danny: “I think Matt wanted to tell Wikipedia first.”

Matt: Almost no one in this room is a regular user. Regular users like Wikipedia because more often than not it’s more accurate than even the official site.

At the Pubcon Super Session Matt looked up every domain mentioned, what business is it to Google?

Matt: I want to know what kind of webmaster the individual is that’s requesting a site review. It’s my way of assessing their level of “web-savvyness.” But that doesn’t mean the type of sites you own will harm your ranking. However, addressing a follow-up question, a spam flag could be thrown if sister sites are doing anything fishy, which could negatively affect the ranking of other sites.

Jonathan Hochman: What does Google think about Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo?

Matt: Mahalo is still in its infancy, so it’s difficult to comment. However, page rank is fundamentally links done by people and engineers write the algorithms, so Google doesn’t ignore the human side of search.

Then a question on categorization.

Matt: Try to allocate your products or services to the most relevant topic and direct links to the category you consider most important to the user. Even if products are duplicated in other categories, that should force higher rank for the most relevant area.

Really cool metaphor from Matt: Think of page rank as Playdoh – You can split your categories, but there’s a limited offering, so it’s very important to consider where you place your dough.

Quick question on the Stephen Colbert Google bomb dispersal, what happened? Was the removal human or algorithmic?

Matt: The algorithm didn’t change while Colbert was ranking for “giant brass balls” and “greatest living American” so any results were automatic.

Danny: What about Bush and failure?

Matt: By putting any word on your site it sends a signal to Google that there’s a match to the site and will return results.

Question on image results in SERPs, “When I search George Bush, Jimmy Carter shows up.”

Matt: Onebox philosophy – we return best results. Universal search – we consider what’s the best result for your need? Image search is still difficult to manage accurately, but is getting better. Google will manually edit image search if a user has a significant issue.

Finally, a question on theming, LSI and similar words, how has the technology progressed?

Matt: Google doesn’t talk about which keyword grouping they use. Themes can be a good practice for synonyms as Google doesn’t have to determine them. Semantic matching is used, but if naturally targeted doesn’t hurt your rankings.

The last question was reserved for Matt to the audience, “What do you want to see from webmaster console?”

– Penalty reports

– Accurate information

– Real time reports

– Google sauce revealed

– Errors displayed without having to click the domain

– Spider traps

– Shared login


– 404 reports

– More query data

And now onto Duplicate Content…

Rhea Drysdale
Rhea Drysdale is Co-founder and CEO of Outspoken Media, which specializes in SEO consulting, link building, reputation management and social media. With more than seven... Read Full Bio
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Thank you for the summary, best I’ve read.

  • Thanks Rhea.

    “If in a site is in the supplemental index, try to grab more links and you should show up in the main index.”

    That’s what I been saying for the last few months 🙂

    I think the key though is to get trustworthy links, even though link exchanges and paid links can help too, as long as they’re either under the radar or not excessive. Link trust is less about domain age, DMOZ listings, and .edu TLD. It’s more about authority of the linking site (link weight/PageRank), relevance, and the intent of the link (exchanged/paid/organic).

  • Gemme

    Good to see you’re writing:) Great overview.

    Looking forward to more.

  • She missed the most important points Matt made about the Supplemental Results index. I wrote about them on SEO Theory.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Michael, thanks for covering those points at SEO Theory. I suppose my take is it’s best to not even have supplemental results. Control the release of content to the engines and page rank should increase for the site as a whole. If certain pages tend to fall into the supplemental index, find a way to lift them out or block access. That’s my personal approach though.

  • Great overview Rhea. I read the transcripts and missed some of the points you covered. Really looking forward to some webmaster central updates.

    And you are doing a lot less than some people to get the pass 😉

  • I think Supplemental Results are here to stay and that people will have to learn to optimize for them.

    But I also think we each take away what we feel is most important from these conference Q & A sessions and you did do a superb job of recapping a session that bounced all over the map.

  • KOB

    Did anyone ask Matt about the -950 “penalty?”

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Dave – Curious about what you meant about me doing less than others for the press pass. I have about a dozen posts I’ll be making across SEJ and my personal site today. Didn’t upload everything live because I had a Play-Doh prop emergency! Stay tuned. 🙂

    KOB – I’ll have the penalty session up soon, but -950 wasn’t discussed.

    Michael – Thanks again for the feedback and great point about each person making their own inferences from the Q&A. I love the discussion and look forward to seeing what the future holds!

  • 🙂 I meant some couldn’t get passes or to go even by selling their own grandmother.

    KOB – I too am disappointed that this was not brought up. It is the only penalty I am having issues with and the WMW thread, as long as it is does not give any definitive answers.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Thanks for the clarification, I’m a little sensitive right now, but it’s probably from severe sleep deprivation. I’m sitting in the Detroit airport waiting another three hours before I can fly home. Blah… need sleep. Instead will work on duplicate content and penalties. =)

  • Now I feel like I was actually in the session. Thanks Rhea

  • “Google does a good job of geo-targeting search results.”

    They are perfectly good at geo-targeting and it is tested and proven.

  • Google does a Best job of geo-targeting search results, We can set in Google webmaster account and its a really very good function.

    but i’d one problem of Broken links, if we remove Any Urls from Google webmaster account so it can remove from our account But I’ve noticed, google will show after long time those Urls in unreachable URLS ?

    Rhea , what do you Say about this problem of google ?


  • Jay Paul, it takes time for Google to remove unreachable urls from their indexes and it really depends how frequent the robots crawl your site.

  • I still don’t get the understanding of how you wrote the article. I’m not trying to be mean, rather, trying to learn about session ids.


  • I also like Matt Cutts Word Camp Presentation. Thank you for this resource