You & A with Matt Cutts – SMX Advanced

We are here now with Matt Cutts for a question-and-answer session and boy, it’s packed! Moderator is Danny Sullivan on this one.

Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan

Danny is singing a tune to Mr. Rogers about Matt — I think you had to be here to get the full experience. He and Danny are putting on custom Google Vans shoes now a la Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Danny just unveiled the third guest in the other chair — a giant stuffed panda. And now panda foot stools. Wow, this is a whole skit. Danny just said “Panda does what panda wants” — a honeybadger reference (if you haven’t seen that video on YouTube, go there).

Danny is asking about who is affected by Panda. Saying some people that scraped panda are making it and the original authors are hit by Panda. And Matt says there are people who are working to make the scraper update more refined.

Matt is talking about search quality and Web spam. Web spam was easy to ID for a long time. There’s a mass perception that there is too much low quality stuff in the results. That’s what Panda aims to take care of.

Matt said they just approved another iteration of Panda. There will be several more.

Danny asks if the next update will be called “honeybadger.”

Matt is debunking the myth that they make manual exceptions for Panda.

Danny wants to know if the algorithm has changed enough for those to recover. How to you get redeemed?

Matt references the Florida update in 2003. Push stuff out, find signals to differentiate that spectrum. He hears the pain from the search industry, but he also hears complaints about sites polluting the search results. For the time being, they are looking for more ways to find low-quality sites.

Matt says people look their approach to Panda as a checklist, for example, high-quality content and authority — but users have different feedback on why a site may not be great.

Panda questions from the audience:


Site usability a key factor for ranking and what are the top metrics?

Matt: Panda is trying to encode whether a user will find it helpful or not. It’s not targeted directly at usability. That’s good to do anyway. It’s the same as site speed. It’s a good thing to optimize for anyway, it’s a good practice. Don’t chase after Google’s algo, chase after what you feel users are going to love, because that’s what Google is after.

Google announced a thing called rel=author to show authorship of articles. This can help the original content creators potentially rank higher. That was announced today. He is saying to look at the +1 button and in addition to the new announcement as something you might want to revamp you site with. Rel=author can help the authorship from one site to another site by cross-linking.

Danny is talking — the controversy of three search engines coming together. Matt thinks people want to see the development out in the open. Matt says start with rel=author there.

More audience Qs:

Talking about the site-blocking feature. How do publishers know the affect of site blocking and +1?

Matt: The opposite of +1 is the site-blocking functionality. Google will show stats on +1, but is leaning away from showing stats on blogs with the +1. But you won’t be able to expect to see that a site has been blocked an X amount of times.

Matt says it’s not spam if you get to the bottom of the page and the article asks you, “Do you want to see more?” for example, and you utilize Ajax to make more content appear. But if you’re keyword stuffing or doing anything spammy in that content, then yes.

Matt just said there might be Google spies in the audience that will come to your booth at the conference and ask how to buy links — everyone is cracking up.

Missed the question, but Matt said if Google thinks your page is really good — even if you’re affected by Panda you can still rank if no one else has good content.

“Debunking Corner”

SEOmoz said Facebook shares in an earlier session helps ranking. Matt says Google doesn’t get Facebook shares. If someone blocks them from crawling, they can’t call that content. Google can see Fan pages but that’s it. The most correlated thing (Facebook shares) is not a signal Facebook uses. If you have great content, it may get a lot of links and that’s no surprise.

Also the data about JC Penney and .edu links from another session. Matt says what helped them was correcting the fundamental issues, not the .edu links. Matt does not give a boost for .edu or .gov links directly.

Danny is asking if Matt is going to go back on Facebook (personal question) — he has been off it for a year and a half and he doesn’t see a need to go back on it.

Lightning Round

Q: Companies that do rank-checking reports — what’s your feeling?

Matt: It’s the wrong thing to concentrate on; look at conversions and ROI and other things.

Q:How do you handle multivariate testing?

Matt: Everyone should do A/B testing — there are ways to do it without cloaking. If you treat Google as any others desktop browser, we’re happy.

Missed a question; but here’s an answer:

Matt: The healthiest thing for the long-term health of the Internet is helping great businesses thrive. If you’re bored writing it, people are going to be bored reading it. Don’t just write 101 articles.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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