Matt Cutts on What’s Needed for SEO Success in 2013 and Beyond – Live Blogging

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SMX West is in its final day and it’s been a great three days of sessions.  Today’s panel, What’s Needed for SEO Success in 2013 and Beyond is filled with industry experts including Greg Boser (@GregBoser), Annie Cushing (@AnnieCushing), Janet Driscoll Miller (@janetmiller), Duane Forrester (@duaneforrester), Rae Hoffman (@sugarrae) and Matt Cutts (@mattcutts).

Session is getting started with Danny making light of the fact that we had to walk close to a mile to get lunch.  Danny’s introducing the panel (see above) with various jokes taken at Matt Cutts’ and Greg Boser’s expense.

Danny is opening with a general question about authorship.  Is authorship the new page rank?

Matt’s response: Reputation will matter more and more as we move forward.  Over time, we (Google) will be caring more about identity and social.  He’s also saying it would be great to see commenters on blogs who have authority to get credit for that also.  Matt is recommending implementing authorship on your site.

Greg: Believes it’s a natural progression as human page rank is harder to game.  He raises a good point about authority for authors needing to be adjusted such that a post by Danny Sullivan gets its due credit on Search Engine Land, but something on his personal blog about a topic he isn’t as authoritative about, shouldn’t be given the same credit.

Rae: Asks a question about individuals “selling” their authorship in ghost posting and how that will be monitored.

Matt: mentions that there are FTC legislation against “sock puppet” accounts and that there are checks and balances to make sure ghost postings aren’t allowed under an authority account.

Annie: Seeing posts in the SERPs with authorship photos getting higher traffic.

Danny asks a follow up question:  Will brands have some version of authorship

The question is shifted slightly to if brand and authoritative domains will pass some of their weight and authority to the authors that post on them?

Greg: Believes that some of that value will be passed to a blogger or writer.

Matt: We saw this in Danny’s move from SES to starting Search Engine Land.  It took a bit of time but his authority was built quickly.

Greg: Believes that if you start a new site as a blogger, your authority will help give trust to that new site or domain.  Additionally, larger brands and sites are struggling with how to implement authorship due to legal questions and who owns content etc.  Thus, for the “small guys” there is an advantage to move quickly with authorship

Janet: Asks Matt a question about authorship for videos, pictures etc.

Matt: He believes that some form of authorship will come to more rich media.  He has no timeline for that.

Rae: Asking if authorship value will flow both ways.  Will her “value” give credit to a blog and visa versa.

Greg: Notices that Google has been wanting people to use one identity, your name, across accounts.  He believes this is a signal that Google is paving the way to have a much more transparent approach to who is behind content an assigning value accordingly.

New discussion topic from Danny:  Shifting to links… Now that we’ve gone through penalty linking through advertorials.  Is the world of linking going to break down?  Shouldn’t we all just shift to social?

Matt: Links in his opinion have many many many more years ahead of us as valuable.  Black hat tactics that were used in the past are getting less and less successful.  Google’s put a lot of time and energy into shutting down link networks etc. Thus, good links that are built naturally will still provide value for a long time.

Matt: Its easier to be real than to fake being real.  Thus, come up with a really great idea, make a fantastic user experience and content and great linking will follow.

New discussion topic from Danny: Where is social going? If links are the democracy of the web, there is so much more social sharing.  Will social indicators and sharing ever eclipse links?

Duane: Not sure they will ever eclipse links but there will come to a natural equilibrium.  Social is a great way to understand what people are talking about and find interesting and can form hypothesis from that to determine what is relevant in search.  They give us great intent. Social will continue to play a big roll but its not determined how it will be fully used just quite yet.

Danny: Out of the box, links had issues and the algo’s have refined over and over and over again.  How are they refining social indicators.

Duane: There is SO MUCH DATA to deal with and they provides their own challenges.

Matt: Processing the social data won’t be the limitation.  The challenges and limitations come down to noise or intent.

Greg: Likes the point about links and social coming to an equilibrium.  We (SEO’s) are all looking for the date when we all “switch” from linking to social.  He doesn’t believe that’s the correct mindset and that we need to keep focusing on both and how they work hand in hand.  It’s never going to be one or the other.

New discussion topic: What’s going on with mobile as it relates to mobile?

Matt: Mobile is going to surprise a lot of people.  Be sure you look at how your site looks and performs on mobile.

Duane: Mobile usage will go from 9 billion to 25 billion devices.  Look into responsive design and how your site renders on a phone.  Think about how people are looking for content based on their situation/location etc.  Though we are talking a lot about social, you can do mobile NOW.

Danny: But what about concerete SEO things to do on mobile?

Matt: It’s important to make sure your site is lean and loads fast as that’s important on mobile.

Danny: Will Google mobile bot look at sites and penalize sites if they’re not mobile friendly or responsive?

Matt: He wouldn’t go that far to say there are penalties that would be applied.  He saw a stat that only 4% of sites are optimized for mobile.  It’s something you can do now.  Google can crawl as both a desktop robot as well as Google mobile.  Thus a WordPress site (like Danny’s search engine land) that has mobile optimized themes can be seen across devices.

Duane: As more and more people move in the direction as mobile, is your business moving with them to mobile?

Annie: Look at your data and isolate mobile to see how many people are hitting your site from mobile devices and look at how the site performs against your goals.  Use advanced segments in Google Analytics to evaluate your traffic.

Matt: Look at your server logs and break out mobile vs. desktop.  What you will see is an exponential curve and you ALWAYS want to pay attention to exponential curves.

QUESTION: What do you suggest for someone starting in SEO?

Danny: Check out search engine land and check out the SEO section.  Also go to Google or Bing and look for SEO guide.

Greg: Stop using the word SEO… it’s no longer about “tactics” its about “strategy.”

Matt: What Google wants is what users want.

Duane: There are best practices that you need to understand.  You need more than just tactics.  You need to have good negotiating skills, know basics about psychology, how to work with other teams, you need to know usability, you need to know paid search, you need to know ROI.  If you’re still an SEO saying “my job is just to get traffic” then you’re not long for this world.

Janet: Clients still want “ranking” but they don’t exist anymore.  You need to educate and shift the discussion away from rankings and educate about how “ranking” is really about getting traffic and traffic is about getting sales/leads/conversions etc.

Duane: Keep your company focused on what is actually important to your business goals.  Forget about rankings.

QUESTIONS: A client/company doesn’t want one author associated with their brand, what do you suggest?

Matt: That is something we’ll look at in time.  It’s fair feedback.

Rae: You could use the rel publisher tag.

Greg: Believes that Google will still know where you’ve moved to if you leave one company or blog and go to the next.  Google will be treating your authorship like your career.

Matt: Google tries to compensate and accommodate if people don’t install their markup correctly.

Danny: What’s up with Bing?  (as it relates to authorship)

Duane: We’re watching what’s happening with Google and authorship.  They may have their own version in the future but that’s not confirmed.  In the meantime, is open to anyone.  Make sure you are testing your markup language using tools.  Be very careful about it as so many people get it wrong.

Danny: Will  you every provide a tool to show who the top authors?

Matt: Doubt it… anytime there is a leader board people want to spam it.


Greg: Blames the sound on Google censorship.

Duane: “Matt… is this sound (not provided)” ?

Danny: “The sounds working just fine in the PPC room!”


QUESTION: Do we used company branded profiles for authorship (“Verison_Bob”) or their own personal accounts when blogging for a company?

Matt: Finds it annoying when he sees “Verison_bob” and would prefer the personal side.  One way to compromise is, as a business, let a person be their personal brand.  But don’t leave it just to one person so all of your eggs aren’t in one basket.

Duane: Consider as a company having social tasks and blogging etc as part of “what you do” as employees

Greg: Likes what Raventools does.  Both personal and business twitter accounts are made known.

New discussion topic: What do you consider to be the most important SEO “think” for 2013

Duane: Usability. Pay for testing, invest in usability. Your customers are happy with you when they can use your site effectively.  That makes people want to talk about you and that makes Bing happy

Annie: Shift your focus from keywords to landing pages and how they perform.  You’re not seeing keyword data in your analytics reports from organic anyway.  Focus on whats making you money

Matt: Global view… its going to be the same in 2013 as previous years.  Think about what a user wants and then give it to them in a compelling and interesting way.  Tactical … annotate your web forms so that when a Chrome user gets an auto complete form field.  When their ready to give you money and buy, autocomplete will help that.  When you’re using the disavow tool, remember one URL per line and its a text file, not excel etc.  Lastly, “when will the next Panda update be” – he’s updating that it is coming relatively soon, not a specific day as reported.  Panda updates are going to be changing.  In the past, updates caused a fair amount of ranking data to change in one day. In the future, you’ll see more gradual ranking changes.  Expect more gradual shifts.

Rae: Authorship.  Be creative… SEO is harder now.  It’s not as easy as it used to be so step up your game.  The sooner you accept that you need to put some serious effort into this, the better off you’ll be.

Greg: Embrace the big data thing!  Mine your data, look at internal data to help guide your strategies.

Janet: It’s not about the rankings.  You’re a marketer first and an SEO second.  Thing broadly beyond the classic “SEO”.  Its about usability.  Use more rich snippets as you can to get the visibility and traffic.

Aaaannnnnd we’re done.

Adam Green
Adam Green is the founder of Maple North, a full service internet marketing agency. When Adam isn’t glued to his computer he can be found... Read Full Bio
Adam Green
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  • Chirag

    It feels like I was also a part of the session after reading the excerpts from all the members in this post. So clearly the year 2013 is maintaining a balance between SEO and Social media. Get them rolling together and try to go for the targeted traffic/sales/leads/conversions rather than going for the rankings. Although its a tough task to convince clients as they all are interested in getting rankings…but I would say lets start with a new beginning so that they can understand the fact with time.

    • Adam Green

      Thanks for the comment Chirag. Your assessment is in line with mine too. Focus on authorship, work the social channels and make sure you’re still spending time building quality links.

  • Korey Kashmer

    Excellent SES review on authorship. It felt like i was sitting in the room. I do like how authorship will become the new norm as part of an SEO campaign. I also agree that they need to sort out how a business defines that. I see this already. A huge corporation struggles with allowing one person to have authorship over certain pieces of content within the business site or blog. Allowing a business to represent content is definitely an option.

    • Adam Green

      Thanks Korey. The issue with business’ authorship was something Matt acknowledged Google is looking into but had no timeline for when it will be figured out.

  • Mike Charalambous

    Still isn’t enough information on what websites are to do regarding being static. Many websites don’t need constant updating, they don’t need blogs, etc. What are they to do?

  • Jeremy Vest


    This is a great article. It’s like I was at the conference. Thanks,

    • Adam Green

      Thanks Jeremy!

  • Alexander Miklin

    Great SEO article!

  • Durant Imboden

    A couple of thoughts:

    Links aren’t dead. At our travel-planning site, we get many more links than we got Facebook “Likes” or Google “+1s” when we had social buttons throughout the site. For example, a traveler might go to a TripAdvisor or CruiseCritic forum to ask how to get to Rome by train from Rome’s cruise port of Civitavecchia. A TripAdvisor “Destination Expert” or a Cruise Critic forum member will often link to the relevant article on our site. So, while the context of the Q&A may be social (Google Analytics regards TripAdvisor traffic as “social”traffic, by the way), the mechanism used to cite our article is an old-fashioned link.

    Another problem with “social” (in the Facebook/Google+ meaning of the term) is that users aren’t always in a social frame of mind when they’re looking for or assigning value to information. We get a lot of “thank you” e-mails from readers. They’d rather write us than click on a Facebook or Google+ button, and why not? There’s no reason for them to tell their friends how helpful we were with an article about using the vaporetto in Venice or buying a Metro ticket in Paris. Similarly, if I had a stomach pain and looked up an article on “stomach pain” in Google, I probably wouldn’t be giving a +1 or a “Like” to the information that I found: I’d be too focused on identifying and dealing with the source of my stomach pain.

    Finally, a comment about AuthorRank: Conceptually, it isn’t all that different from PageRank. It’s a kind of “PageRank for people,” and I believe that links will play as much of a role with AuthorRank as with earlier incarnations of the Google Search algorithm.

  • keyword removed

    Extremely informative and definitely rings true from the progress that is being made by our clients. I’m glad that it’s finally coming to a time where cheap SEO companies that user and cheap directory submissions without doing the leg work are going to be stopped in their tracks.

  • Joe Restivo

    I like seeing articles like this. A lot of SEO-folk freak out when they hear about changes coming from Google. However, for true SEO-folks who have good relationships with their clients, and are able to utilize authorship, this is a big leap forward!

  • Neil

    This is an informative discussion. After reading all this insights, I can safely conclude that I should stop getting so worked-up on SEO and start thinking user. Happy visitors = Good SEO

  • George

    About the “come up with a really great idea, make a fantastic user experience and content and great linking will follow” I think someone needs to tell Matt Cutts that is not going to happen; the very opposite: great ideas fall apart under those who managed to copy them and make them more popular… or they really think Pinterest was a miracle of creativity and high web technology? It was a copy!

  • angel cruz

    This article out lines so many ideas people can take and run with for 2013. Tweaking the user experience of your site and finding unique was to deliver what the user wants is a solid seo strategy. I think we get so attached to link building and rankings that we sometimes ignore what really matters. “Google wants what users want”

    Thanks for the post adam

    Angel Cruz

  • Erika Barbosa

    Thanks for this post Adam. Regarding Authorship, have you heard any feedback as to whether or not a business can be negatively affected by an author’s AuthorRank? For example, if the person has a low AuthorRank, can it actually penalize the website?

    • Geoff Jackson

      It’s highly unlikely to see negative effects come from authorship unless the author had been flagged for spamming or publishing low quality content across the web, in which case, the usual web spam measures would kick into play from Google.

      It’s all about developing an authoritative persona on the web and receiving more weight to your content as a result of being ‘real’ and natural.

  • Mike Stewart

    Thank you for the write up!

    The joke by Duane about (not provided) and the sound was hilarious! It is nice that we can all enjoy the humor about big data.

    I also appreciate the comments from Rae about the challenges of the future of SEO and stepping up our game!

  • Devin

    Killer post Adam and great job laying this all out the way you did. This is exactly the post I needed to help me step up my game in 2013.

  • Jenny Green

    Great blog post Adam. Wish I could have been at the event but it’s a fair way to go from England! But your post was the next best thing and contained great insights that I will be passing on to our clients / networks. Thanks!

  • Darshan Modi

    2013 i think it is all about Authorship, Branding and User Friendly fresh content. The post itself suggests us the same and steps all conversation here define is just perfect to learn about 2013 SEO strategies where it stands and how it will make difficult for spammers with its negative techniques.

  • Susan Collini

    Many of the businesses I work with are bemused and confused by SEO, many having been sold services in the past which have not brought the results they hoped for. Google’s new SEO playing field is becoming a much more level one, allowing the small businesses with low budget to potentially compete with the bigger players, which has got to better benefit users.

  • Derek Fischer

    The real take away from this is that only 4% of websites are configured to be mobile friendly and that Google is looking for reactive sites that provide a quality mobile experience for users. This should be a wakeup call to any business that isn’t already catering to the mobile user and with the trend for mobile web use predicted to continue to grow at a fast pace it is important to be ready now if you want to stay in front of the game.

  • John Kline

    When Matt states “Think about what a user wants and then give it to them in a compelling and interesting way.” is the core of SEO today! Google has been stressing this in many ways throughout the past year.