Google’s Matt Cutts on SEO : From SMX Seattle

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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.

FOR SEMs WITH ONLY 60 SECONDS TO SPARE!

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 Feedthebot.com: 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

– RSS

– 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
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