The Matt Cutts Q&A – SMX Advanced 2012, Seattle
Another big SEO event that was set for 2012 has now been and gone, this time it was SMX Advanced in Seattle where Matt Cutts, head of the Google webspam team, was the keynote speaker and was grilled by the host as well as the audience on the many changes that have happened recently with regards to their ranking algorithm and the thought processed behind them as well as the penalties that have been issued of late.
I thought it would be interesting to go over some of the key points from this talk – things that affect us every day both in the search engine optimisation industry as well as those that use Google every day.
Firstly, Google seem to want to refer to what we call a ‘penalty’ as ‘manual action’. I’m not really sure which sounds worse, but he made it clear that the two biggest updates over the last few months – Panda and Penguin – were both algorithm-based changes and not ‘manual action’ and not penalties.
Although we already knew this, it’s worth pointing out that there is a key difference between the two and this mindset needs to be maintained when dealing with issues on either side- a penalty or ‘manual action’ is a human action, and with this alerts are sent out through Google Webmaster Tools. He made it clear that the Penguin update wasn’t a penalty.
Sometimes it is commonly felt that Google is waging a war on SEOs he makes it clear that this is a war on spam. He says that common things found in black hat forums are people asking how to ‘fake’ things – questions such as “How do I fake sincerity?” and “How do I fake being awesome?”
His response: “Why not just be sincere and be awesome?” following up saying that they are trying to stop spam so people can “compete on a level playing field”.
He also added, following another question, that they do not use Google Analytics within the webspam team and, after asking the question again before the conference started, analytics information is not used in their ranking algorithm.
Matt was also asked questions by the audience, the answers I’ve bullet-pointed below:
- There are both positive and negative ranking factors so doing one thing can harm your rankings while another can benefit them.
- When asked about Google+ and SEO Matt Cutts stated “When we look at +1, we’ve found it’s not necessarily the best quality signal right now.” He also added that you don’t have to be on Google+ in order to rank well.
- Only sometimes is it possible to recover from a penalty… sorry, ‘manual action’. There are occasions where the better idea would be to ‘start over’.
So, even if you didn’t head off to Seattle for this year’s SMX Advanced maybe some of this information will help you in your campaigns or your awareness of what your SEO consultant is doing on your campaigns, should you have been hit or are concerned with the recent changes.