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You&A With Google’s Matt Cutts

This was the final panel that I attended on the first day of SMX Advanced, and it was moderated by Danny Sullivan. I had never seen Matt Cutts in person, but he’s pretty much the same bubbly figure that he comes across as in his webmaster videos. Let’s take a look at some of the main talking points:

Penguin – The panel began right away with questions about Penguin, which was completely expected. Essentially, Penguin is seen within Google as trying to find a calibration level to help tackle the spam that Panda missed. It’s just one of the over 200 signals that Google uses to help determine the quality and authoritativeness of a website. Some are seeing it as a penalty because it does indeed devalue some websites, but Penguin is not a penalty, just one more algorithm change. Since algorithm changes are done monthly, we can also expect to see more updates moving forward.

Webmaster Tools Messages/Penalties – According to Mr. Cutts, if you received a message through Webmaster Tools regarding webmaster quality guidelines or unnatural links, it was likely the result of what Google internally calls a “manual action”. These manual actions are part of Google’s intent toward more transparency, as well as working toward stronger enforcement and actions regarding violations to their guidelines.

Reacting To A Manual Action – They discussed many ways to react to one of these manual actions. The main crux is that Google wants to see an honest, good faith effort to take care of the problem they alerted you to. For example, if you received an unnatural link alert, you should work to remove as many of the unnatural links in your link profile as you can.

If you send Google a reconsideration request, and they see that you’ve removed 10% of the offending links, they’ll see that as progress, and act accordingly. According to Mr. Cutts, if nothing is done after receiving a message in Webmaster Tools, your rankings will definitely drop as a result. The good news is that the week after the conference, Google launched the new ‘Disavow Link Tool,’ allowing users to “disavow” certain links, to help fight against negative SEO or links they have no control over.

Not A War On SEO – It seems as if Mr. Cutts dealt with this issue before, but certain questions regarding Google being at war with SEOs came up during the panel. Mr. Cutts reiterated that Google isn’t at war with SEO, but IS at war with spam. While Google sees value in SEO, they have problems with actions like buying and selling links. Mr. Cutts recognizes that SEO is more challenging than it was several years ago, and said it’s only going to get tougher as the search engines get more refined.

Some of the more random tidbits of information from Mr. Cutts included the following:
•    Google is going to become stricter regarding rich snippets in the future, to fight their abuse and overuse.
•    While Google is going to work to build stronger enforcement against buying and selling links, don’t write the epitaph for links just yet.
•    Google doesn’t rely on Google Analytics for any ranking factors at all.
•    “Not Provided” in Google Analytics is their way of putting “users first” and protecting their data so it isn’t abused.

My Personal Highlight – In the entirety of the discussion, my favorite words uttered by Mr. Cutts were as follows, in regards to their war on spam, “If you look at black hat sites, you’ll see stuff like, how do you fake sincerity? How do you fake being awesome? Don’t fake it! Just be genuine! We do what we do so people can compete on a level playing field.” This, I feel, is one of the best pieces of advice that could be given to anyone trying to optimize their website and make it valuable and authoritative. Be real, be genuine, be sincere, be awesome.

This concludes my posts covering day one of SMX Advanced 2012. On the second day of the conference, we’ll look at schema, authorship, pagination, canonicalization and much more. Thanks for reading!


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