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July 31, 2006

Matt Cutts Goes Web 2.0

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Matt Cutts went all Ze Frank on us this weekend (though Matt blinks) and uploaded some great information videos over at Google Video. While the backdrop makes it look like Matt has either been kidnapped by some disgruntled spammers or he’s hiding out in a cave until Google’s SERPs equalize, the bite-size videos are chock full of expert information.

For his first time at bat, Matt uploaded three sessions, not including his disclaimer: Qualities of a Good Site, Some SEO Myths and Optimize for Search Engines or Users? Each session highlights three or four user-submitted questions. Below is our favorite question from each session.

Session One: Qualities Of A Good Site

What are some general guidelines and recommendations for people who want to increase visibility on Google?

While this is a massive question, Matt was able to focus his answer on three key points:

  • Site must be crawl-able — The number one mistake site designers make is that they create sites that are not crawl-able. Matt advises “go[ing] back to 1994″. Get those Google Time Machine thoughts out of your head, he’s talking about using a text browser to view your site. This will allow you to see your site the way the engines see it. If you get stuck, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll get stuck too. If you don’t, neither will the spiders.
  • Create excellent content – This shouldn’t come as any great surprise. Sites need to have excellent and unique content. You must give users a reason to link to you. Do that and you will be rewarded with equally great rankings and conversions.
  • Find your hook – This is the marketing/ optimizing phase. Matt advises thinking about the people really relevant to your niche and making sure they know about you. What sets you apart from you competition? Find out and capitalize on it. That’s your hook.

Session Two: Some SEO Myths

Can you put an end to some myths about having too many sites on the same server or having too many sites with IPs too similar or having them all include the same JavaScript off the different site?

  • Same Server/ Similar IP Issues — Average Webmasters shouldn’t be overly worried about this one. If you’re playing by the rules and hosting four or five differently themed sites on the same server, there’s no problem. Google understands that everyone does this. However, if you find yourself running thousands of sites on the same server or running two thousand sites on similar IPs, you should stop and ask yourself why. Is this really necessary? Do you have that much unique content for each of your thousand sites? Probably not. Most likely you know if you’re doing some wrong.
  • Including the same JavaScript – This is another case where you know if you should be worried. If you have an “entirely logical” reason for including the same JavaScript from different sites, you’re fine. If you don’t have a logical reason and you’re just hoping Google won’t discover it, worry a lot.

Session Three: Optimize For Search Engines or Users?

Which do you find more important in developing and maintaining a Web site – Search Engine Optimization or user end optimization?

Yes, it’s the old usability/spider-ability question. We’ve always judged these two as being equally important and Matt agrees. Matt told his viewers, if you don’t have both your site simply won’t do as well. Without SEO, it’s harder for your customers to find you, and without user end optimization, you won’t get the same amount of conversions you would otherwise. The most successful sites will have both.

The trick, according to Matt, is to see SEO and user end optimization as being the same thing. If you construct your site so that the interests of your users are aligned with the interests of the search engines, you’re going to succeed. Like Matt said, you’ll be left with compelling content, an easy-to-navigate site and you won’t be tempted to do any “weird tricks”. Very sage words from Matt.

As you can see, there’s lots of great information in the videos Matt gave us. Hopefully he’ll keep this up. Do we see a weekly series forming? It’s almost like the coming of Google TV. Personally, I think watching the first session where Matt discusses what makes a good site should be a prerequisite for anyone even thinking about creating or optimizing a site. It’s probably the best five and a half minutes you’ll ever spend.
We love the videos, Matt (though a transcript would be helpful…), and we agree that content is more important than appearance, but if your next video features you holding the day’s issue of the LA Times, we’re going to start getting really worried that your life may be in danger. Stay safe out there on the interwebs.

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