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Google’s Matt Cutts On SEO Industry Misconceptions: Updates, Revenue Goals & Link Building Obsession

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cutts-google-seo-misconceptionsGoogle’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, released another video named 

What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry?

 In short, Matt outlined three topics in this five-minute video.

(1) SEOs confuse algorithm updates with data refreshes.

(2) Panda & Penguin algorithms are not about making Google more money in the short term.

(3) SEOs spend too much energy and time focused on link building and only thinking about search engines.

Algorithm Updates Versus Data Refreshes:

Matt explained that one of the biggest misconceptions he sees in the industry is that SEOs often confuse data refreshes and algorithmic updates. This is a topic we covered before at least once, but in short, here is the difference. An algorithm update is when Google changes the algorithm on how the search results are ranked, indexed or filtered. A data refresh is when Google updates the data where the algorithm runs. For example, we had a Penguin updaterecently; and, that last update was an algorithm update. There was a change to how the algorithm worked. Prior to that, Penguin 3 and 2 were mostly just data refreshes.

Panda & Penguin Updates Are Not About Revenue Gains For Google:

There are many people in the industry that feel Google releases algorithm updates, such as thePanda and Penguin updates with short-term goals of increasing their revenues. Matt said that is absolutely false and the algorithm and organic search results are completely separated from revenue goals.

Matt added that in one of the older earnings report, Panda was listed as a reason why Google’s revenues may not be as high in future quarters. Simply because Panda may have short-term negative impact on Google’s revenues. Why? Because Panda’s goal was to eliminate low-quality content sites that monetized mostly over AdSense revenue.

Then, Matt goes into explaining how Google looks at long-term goals, making the searcher happy, so they come back and search more. Google has methods for letting users take their data and leave. Google is rarely interested in short-term revenue goals, Matt added a few times.

Clearly, this is the PR side of Matt talking; but in my opinion, he 100% believes it.

SEOs Focus Too Much On Link Building & Search Engines:

Matt’s final point in the video is discussing what SEOs spend too much energy focusing on. They include link building and search engines, as opposed to their users. Matt said they can spend more time on social media and other areas to help build awareness of their sites.

He then discusses how the history of great sites, those sites generally focus on design and user experience first. This way the user is happy and recommends it to others. Matt added that Craigslist is a great site; but, their user experience is not great. So, there are many startups that come in and beat them on user experience to take over in some niches.

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Keeping Up With Google: Bing Launches New “Search Quality Insights” Series

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Want to understand better how Bing creates its search results? Bing has announced a new “Search Quality Insights” series to provide a more behind-the-scenes look at its search engine. You know, like “Search Quality Highlights” series that Google launched last December. What’s going on with these? And how does Bing’s latest post help Google on anti-trust grounds?

Google Seeks Transparency

In Google’s case, I view the Search Quality Highlights series as Google trying to deal with accusations, especially by those on the anti-trust front but even from places like the New York Times, that Google Search is some type of black box that’s all designed simply to favor Google’s own properties.

Of course, Google said nothing so explicit when it launched its series last December. Rather, it spoke generally about being transparent:

 For years now we’ve been blogging about significant algorithmicupdates like Panda and our recent freshness update. So, why do we need yet another blog series? 

We’ve been wracking our brains trying to think about how to make search even more transparent. The good news is that we make roughly 500 improvements in a given year, so there’s always more to share.

With this blog series, we’ll be highlighting many of the subtler algorithmic and visible feature changes we make. These are changes that aren’t necessarily big enough to warrant entire blog posts on their own.

The series actually had a soft-launch last November, before being formalized in December. Since then, we’ve been getting a monthly laundry-list of changes that Google’s made to its search algorithms, changes that weren’t deemed big enough to warrant their own blog posts by Google, though some might disagree.

For example, in Google’s latest post at the end of February, Google announced the latest of itsPanda Updates (anything Panda is generally big news), that it had dropped a method of link analysis (sparking all types of discussions among SEO folks about what was dropped) and added that its SafeSearch algorithm had been changed to make “irrelevant adult content” less likely to appear.

That SafeSearch change was directly responsible for causing searches on “santorum” at Google to no longer show a long-standing site defining “santorum” as a by-product of anal sex. It was a big change, worth of its own blog post I’d say, but instead it was relegated to being a bulletpoint.

Still, at least we did know some of the things going on, which is welcomed. And now we’re going to know more from Bing.

Bing Goes After Visiblity

Over at Bing, we’re told:

Today we are launching a new blog series we’re calling “Bing Search Quality Insights” aimed at giving you deeper insight into the algorithms, trends and people behind Bing. 

This blog is the first in a series that will take you behind the search box for an up close view into the core of the Bing search engine.

Quality improvements in Bing are often subtle but often those little changes are the result of years of research. In the coming weeks and months, you will hear from members of my team on a range of topics, from the complexities of social search and disambiguating spelling errors to whole page relevance and making search more personal.

We will also highlight the ideas and projects we have collaborated with colleagues from Microsoft Research and academia to advance the state of the art for our industry. We hope this will not only be useful information for our blog readers, but that they will spark conversations that help us all move the search industry forward.

Unlike Google, Bing doesn’t really have an anti-trust transparency issue to deal with. Rather, Bing has an invisibility issue. Bing seems largely invisible to those who are wanting to search the web. Bing can (and does) have some of the same problems that will launch a million blog posts about Google. But no one cares, if they happen on Bing.

As for consumers in general, while Bing has grown its market share, that’s come mainly by pulling people away from Bing’s partner Yahoo, not from Google. Perhaps the new series will help focus more attention from consumers on Bing, which would be good. Bing’s an excellent search engine that should be considered.

Bing’s First Post Helps Google

Ironically, the first post in Bing’s series — about “Whole Page Relevance” — will also help Google on the anti-trust front. It explains how Bing “blends” results from its vertical search engines like Bing Video, Bing News, Bing Maps and Bing Images along with web listings and direct answers through a system called “Answer Ranking.”

Google does exactly the same thing, though a system it calls “Universal Search.” Google’s system has come under intense pressure over the past two years as somehow “favoring” Google over its competitors, including attacks by Microsoft-backed FairSearch.

Now we’ve got a blog post from Microsoft explaining how it does exactly what Google does, something both Google and third-parties such as myself have pointed already. That makes it harder for some to attack Google over Universal Search, especially when Microsoft finally puts a name to what its own system is called.

 

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