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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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SEO DOs And DONT’S According To Google: Mixed Signals?

Google: Don’t over-optimize, but here’s all the algorithm changes we’re making

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SEO DOs And DONT’S According To Google: Mixed Signals?

Google is talking a lot about SEO these days. In a recent webmaster discussion at SXSW, Google’s Matt Cutts spoke about some changes Google is working on that would seem to make SEO matter less, in that sites with good, quality content that don’t do a lot of SEO could potentially rank just as well, or better than a bigger site with a bigger SEO budget and a lot of SEO tactics implemented. The whole thing appears to be more about Google getting better at not helping sites just because they employ a lot of grey hat/borderline black hat tactics. Google has always tried to do this, but based on what Cutts said, it sounds like they’re about to get better at it.

Changes to Google’s algorithm have the ability to make or break businesses. Google is sending out the signal that you should worry less about the current SEO trends, and more about producing great content, and that they’re “leveling the playing field” for sites that don’t pay as much attention to SEO. Obviously great content is a positive, but at the same time, Google is showing us each month all of the changes it is making, and all the while, providing tips about how to do certain SEO things better. Is Google sending mixed signals? Just how much should webmasters worry about optimization?Share your thoughts in the comments.

Google Changes To Come

WebProNews spoke with former Googler and Google Webmaster Central creator Vanessa Fox about it, after she wrote her own blog post, sharing her thoughts about Google’s approach to SEO. In her post, she wrote, “Some are worried that Google will begin to penalize sites that have implemented search engine optimization techniques. My thoughts? I think that some site ownersshould worry. But whether or not you should depends on what you mean by search engine optimization.”

“Matt talked about finding ways to surface smaller sites that may be poorly optimized, if, in fact, those sites have the very best content,” she said in the post. “This is not anything new from Google. They’ve always had a goal to rank the very best content, regardless of how well optimized or not it may be. And I think that’s the key. If a page is the very best result for a searcher, Google wants to rank it even if the site owner has never heard of title tags. And Google wants to rank it if the site owner has crafted the very best title tag possible. The importance there is that it’s the very best result.”

There has been a lot of discussion about it in the SEO community, and there will no doubt be plenty around SES New York this week. Some of the talk has been blown out of proportion, and Cutts appears to feel that the press has contributed to this. For the record, when we first reported on it, we linked to the full audio from the panel, as Cutts provided, and since then, he’s linked to the full transcript for those who don’t have time to listen to an hour’s worth of audio. We’ve also pointed to this in previous coverage. Cutts seems to have given his seal of approval to Fox’s take on the whole thing:

@mattcutts
Matt CuttsRob Snell did a full transcript of the recent #sxsw session with Danny Sullivan, Duane Forrester, & me: http://t.co/RCGR99Ff 21 hours ago via Tweet Button ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto

@yoast
Joost de Valk@mattcutts ah thanks! That might come in useful against the press who are taking some quotes WAY out of context. 21 hours ago via Osfoora for Mac ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto

@mattcutts
Matt Cutts@yoast yup, totally agree. Vanessa did a good write up too. 16 hours ago via Twitter for Android ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by@socialditto

Following is a snippet from our previous article, discussing the Google changes with Fox, because it’s highly relevant to the larger story:

If you’ve listened to or read what was said, you’ll notice that the whole thing was in response to a question about mom and pops, which might make you wonder if brand is a significant part of what’s at play.

“I don’t think it’s about just mom and pop vs. big brands,” Fox tells WebProNews. “Lots of big brands don’t know the first thing about SEO. I think (total guess on my part) the sites that will be negatively impacted are those that focus on algorithms and build content/sites based on the things what they think the algorithms are looking for. The kind of sites where someone didn’t say ‘I want this page to rank for query X. How can this page best answer what the searcher is asking about X’ but instead said ‘I want this page to rank for query X. How many times should I repeat X in my title, heading, content on the page, internal links…”

Vanessa Fox Talks to WebProNews“I think it’s still useful (and not negative) to make sure the words that searchers are using are on the page, but some sites go well beyond this and get so caught up in what they think the algorithms are doing that they forget to make sure the content is useful,” she adds.

“As far as sites that will see a positive from this, I think it will likely be both small sites (B&B in Napa that titles their home page ‘home’ vs. an affiliate site that sells wine gift baskets) and large brands (sites that use a lot of Flash),” says Fox. “I think foundational SEO practices (like those I describe in my article) will continue to be beneficial for sites.”

When she talks about SEO in her article, by the way, she says she’s talking about “using search data to better understand your audience and solve their problems (by creating compelling, high-quality content about relevant topics to your business)” and “understanding how search engine crawl and index sites and ensuring that your site’s technical infrastructure can be comprehensively crawled and indexed.”

Interestingly, though Google always puts out webmaster tips and videos, there seem to have been quite a few nuggets making their way out of the company’s blogs and YouTube channels over the past week or so – the time since the SXSW session took place.

Last week, for example, Google’s Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye talked aboutPagination and SEO, complete with a 37-page slideshow:

In fact, it looks that this might be part of a new series of SEO tips from Ohye, as another one has come out about SEO mistakes and “good ideas”:

SEO DOs And DON’TS, According To Google

According to Google, these are some things you should not do in your SEO efforts:

1. Having no value proposition: Try not to assume that a site should rank #1 without knowing why it’s helpful to searchers (and better than the competition :)

2. Segmented approach: Be wary of setting SEO-related goals without making sure they’re aligned with your company’s overall objectives and the goals of other departments. For example, in tandem with your work optimizing product pages (and the full user experience once they come to your site), also contribute your expertise to your Marketing team’s upcoming campaign. So if Marketing is launching new videos or a more interactive site, be sure that searchers can find their content, too.

3. Time-consuming workarounds: Avoid implementing a hack rather than researching new features or best practices that could simplify development (e.g., changing the timestamp on an updated URL so it’s crawled more quickly instead of easily submitting the URL through Fetch as Googlebot).

4. Caught in SEO trends: Consider spending less time obsessing about the latest “trick” to boost your rankings and instead focus on the fundamental tasks/efforts that will bring lasting visitors.

5. Slow iteration: Aim to be agile rather than promote an environment where the infrastructure and/or processes make improving your site, or even testing possible improvements, difficult.

On the flipside, this is what Google says you should do:

1. Do something cool: Make sure your site stands out from the competition — in a good way!

2. Include relevant words in your copy: Try to put yourself in the shoes of searchers. What would they query to find you? Your name/business name, location, products, etc., are important. It’s also helpful to use the same terms in your site that your users might type (e.g., you might be a trained “flower designer” but most searchers might type [florist]), and to answer the questions they might have (e.g., store hours, product specs, reviews). It helps to know your customers.

3. Be smart about your tags and site architecture: Create unique title tags and meta descriptions; include Rich Snippets markup from schema.org where appropriate. Have intuitive navigation and good internal links.

4. Sign up for email forwarding in Webmaster Tools: Help us communicate with you, especially when we notice something awry with your site.

5. Attract buzz: Natural links, +1s, likes, follows… In every business there’s something compelling, interesting, entertaining, or surprising that you can offer or share with your users. Provide a helpful service, tell fun stories, paint a vivid picture and users will share and reshare your content.

6. Stay fresh and relevant: Keep content up-to-date and consider options such as building a social media presence (if that’s where a potential audience exists) or creating an ideal mobile experience if your users are often on-the-go.

Of course, Google has continued to put out the usual Webmaster videos from Matt Cutts. He did one, or example, on meta tags, talking about how “you shouldn’t spend any time on the meta keywords tag,” but how Google does use the meta description tag.

In that video, Cutts says, “So if you’re a good SEO, someone who is paying attention to conversion and not just rankings on trophy phrases, then you might want to pay some attention to testing different meta descriptions that might result in more clickthrough and possibly more conversions.” Emphasis added.

“So don’t do anything deceptive, like you say you’re about apples when you’re really about redwidgets that are completely unrelated to apples,” he adds. “But if you have a good and a compelling meta description, that can be handy.”

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

This advice is basically in line with the position Google has had for years, which is also inline with what Fox had to say. It doesn’t sound like much has changed, but Google is getting better at distinguishing the good from the bad. Or at least that’s what they want SEOs to believe.

I’m not saying they don’t have things in the works that are improvements, but Google has a broader issue with relevancy in results, and it would certainly be inaccurate to say that nothinghas changed. Google makes changes to its algorithm every single day, and these days they are even going so far as to list at least some of the changes publicly each month. These lists are invaluable to webmasters looking to boost their Google presence, because while Google may say to not chase specific changes, they also show webmasters the areas where Google actually is changing how it does things. Ignoring them is foolish. That doesn’t mean you have to exploit them in a black hat kind of way, but you can certainly be aware of them, and look for tweaks that may have a direct effect on your current strategy.

For example, if Google says it is putting fresher image results in image searches, perhaps you should consider how visual your content is.

It will be interesting to see what this month’s changes are, as well as the changes Cutts discussed at SXSW. Will they make Google’s results more relevant? If enough sites follow the advice Google is giving, will the results get better? On the other hand, how much will it matter if you’re following all of Google’s advice if Google’s getting better at “leveling the playing field’ for those who aren’t paying attention to SEO at all? Those who aren’t paying attention to SEO probably aren’t reading articles like this or following Google’s webmaster blogs and videos. All of that said, doing the things Google says to do probably won’t hurt.

 

 

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This is why I never felt comfortable putting all my eggs in the Google basket …

Keyword “Not Provided” By Google Spikes, Now 7-14% In Cases

by Daniel Waisberg

 

Google’s new encrypted search for logged in users now appears to be blocking a much higher percentage of search terms than when it initially rolled out two weeks ago. In some cases, it might even be higher than the 10% or less figure that the company initially predicted might be impacted.

Blocking Search Queries

Two weeks ago Google announced that it would start encrypting search sessions of anyone signed in to Google.com. In practice, this means that Google stopped passing the organic keywords that referred traffic to websites whenever users are logged in Google and conducting searches.

This change caused strong reactions, both in the web analytics industry (as this means that organic search becomes less trackable) and also in terms of whether Google was protecting privacy fully (since advertisers still receive this information).

Single Digit Impact Predicted

Google predicted that the change would impact 10% or less of searches:

Google software engineer Matt Cutts, who’s been involved with the privacy changes, wouldn’t give an exact figure but told me he estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com.

In fact, the week the changes started rolling out, various reports put the “Not Provided” percentage — which is what those using Google Analytics see if terms are blocked — at around 2% to 3%.

High Single Digit To Above 10% Now Happening

However, as of October 31, we have seen a very significant increase on the Not Provided figure here on Search Engine Land. It’s not just us, either. Looking at data from several websites across industries, we see a range of 7% to 14% of total organic keywords now being blocked.

Below you see how the “Not Provided” figure has suddenly spiked for Search Engine Land:

 

Below you can see how the percentage of Not Provided for the total organic keywords for November 1st to the site is above 10%, 12.87% in all:

 

The figure is even more dramatic, however, when you consider it as a percentage of Google-driven keywords. In other words, the 12.87% figure above means that for ALL keywords from ANY search engine to Search Engine Land, 12.87% of them were blocked.

As this blocking is only happening by Google, what’s the percentage of only keyword traffic from Google? That works out to 14.2%.

Of course, one might expect Search Engine Land to have a higher percentage of search-driven traffic than other sites. But as said, we’ve also looked at sites beyond Search Engine Land.

Danny Sullivan’s personal blog, Daggle, had 13.65% of its Google-driven keywords blocked. One non-tech site had 7.1% of its Google-driven queries reporting “Not Provided.” Another non-tech site we know of had 8.83% of all its keywords reporting as “Not Provided.”

We’d love to hear what others are finding — please comment below, if you’d like to share your figures.

Rollout Still Happening; Percentage Could Get Higher

The rollout was supposed to take place over the course of several weeks. The process is still happening, and it seems as if it was suddenly enabled for more users on October 31.

Google wouldn’t confirm that, nor say how complete the rollout is at this point. In general, the company said:

As we noted, this change will occur over the next few weeks. Traffic figures will naturally vary depending on a website’s audience. What we provided was an estimate.

If there are significantly more people not yet being included in encrypted search, the percentage of Not Provided queries would likely grow over the coming weeks.

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Watch out for repetitive web-words that you should watch out for while watching out for…

Google Says Search Quality Improved With New Spam Detection

Jan 21, 2011 at 12:00pm ET by Barry Schwartz

SpamMatt Cutts, a Google engineer working on search quality, wrote at the Google Blog that Google has recently released a new spam detection classifier to help prevent “spammy on-page content” from ranking highly in the Google search index. None of this comes as a surprise, Matt told us Google would be stepping up their search quality efforts in 2011.

The new classifier was introduced based on Google seeing a “slight uptick of spam in recent months,” said Cutts. Matt Cutts did say that spam compared to five-years ago is at rates “less than half” as of now, but in the recent months, there has been a slight increase in spam impacting Google’s results.

The redesigned document-level classifier will specifically make it harder for on-page spam to impact Google’s search index. Matt Cutts explained, “the new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.”

In addition, Google also has “radically improved” their methods of detecting hacked sites and they are “evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content,” said Cutts.

In addition, Matt said Google will pay even more attention to “content farms,” which are sites that have low-quality content. Google introduced, what SEOs named, May Day update, which was Google’s first stab at low-quality content sites. So be prepared, if you are a site that aggregates content and repurposes it, you might be hit by whatever Google releases in 2011. Matt Cutts and Google vows to take “even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.”

For more information, see the Google Blog and related stories on Techmeme.

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