Matt Cutts & Duane Forrester’s Excellent Adventure: The Search Police at SMX West

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Matt Cutts & Duane Forrester at SMX West

Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester at SMX West, March 11 2013

Matt Cutts: Examples of Totally Bogus Spam

Matt started off by showing some examples of glaringly obvious spam sites. He asked us not to blog about them to protect privacy. But he let us know that Google’s new “How Search Works” site includes real time examples of spam sites that are being removed from Google’s index.

Some of Matt’s other examples:

  1. Cloaking: Reverse cloaking: when you try to cloak and you do it wrong: you get your site removed.
  2. Doorway Pages: a lot of pages generated to all target the same phrase.
  3. Autogenerated Content. Showed example of a Facebook ad offering paid links, with Matt’s photo in it!
  4. Keyword stuffing
  5. Gibberish (tons of nonsense words to fill content space.
  6. Hacking: A waste management company got hacked, and now they spell jewelry. A major band got hacked and was selling Photoshop. Use Fetch as Googlebot tool to see a web page as Google sees it to detect hacking.
  7. Paid links
  8. Blog Comment Spam: Sad to see amateur bloggers engaging bot comments.

Conclusion? Do it right the first time. Take advantage of Google resources to learn more. Make great sites that people want to come to. “Be excellent to each other” (and to search engines).

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Photo courtesy of Third Door Media https://plus.google.com/u/0/103218677032751327334/posts/ZaYsYhyJrGq

“Do this stuff, Dude….” Tips from both Matt and Duane:

  1. DO move from queries to sessions: Take a wholistic approach to figuring out how people find you and engage with your content.
  2. The search engines all agree: If people love you, they want a piece of you.
  3. DO mark up your content.  Help the engines to understand your content and what you’re about. Schema.org!
  4. DO prepare for mobile. You need to move within the next 12 months; it’s moving that fast. Won’t build your rankings huge today, but will make you ready for tomorrow.
  5. DO evolve as search evolves. New devices demand different search experiences other than links. Anything could be a search: voice, a picture tapped, a gesture, a sound–anything.
  6. DO avoid shortcuts. Link farms, syndicated content on your site. Go for Quality, Trust, Popularity, Timeliness. In a natural pattern things spread through a natural network.
  7. DO pay attention to the details. The technical SEO is a baseline.
  8. DO stay focused on the big picture. Content is #1, then social engagement, user experience, then link building and SEO. These are relative importances; they are ALL important. (Duane wanted to emphasize that if you are doing the others well, you shouldn’t need to link build.)
  9. DO Target your optimization. Be able to identify the high value areas, the changes that are going to increase revenue.
  10. DO encourage more sharing. Create the content that people love and want to re-share. Create lists, use hooks, appeal to ego of authorities.
  11. DO build efficiencies. Use automation to maximize your time (feeding trusted sources to Hootsuite). Identify a customer need. Feed from Hootsuite via IFTTT to Evernote, and then use in a newsletter.
  12. DO invest in new skills. All content creators need to know enough about other areas (SEO, marketing, social, influence building, marketing) to let them help them. Read The Power of Habit to learn how to influence other humans.

From the Q&A

Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester both affirmed that their disavow links tool is not used to “out” spammers. Matt: you’re doing it wrong if you disavow individual links when the whole domain is crap. Also, keep the upload as a simple text file, one URL per line. Duane: one of their first users had disavowed all of his own URLs!

Is anything going to be done to clean up the short term loan results? Matt: The algorithm updates work on a certain segment of sites and then they see how it went, and then reiterate for more, so it can take time.  Duane: New spam categories appear daily; can’t get them all right away. Have to prioritize.

How do Google and Bing understand responsive mobile design? Duane: Yes. Working on updating SEO rules in their webmaster tools to allow for HTML 5 changes such as multiple H1 tags. Websites need to be sure the searcher can get right to the content they want on their mobile device. Matt: Responsive design is great when done well.

How does Google rank social media among other signals for ranking? Duane: I wasn’t giving an order for our algo! Just how your business should be operating. Matt: I would wrap content and user experience into one; it’s about how useful is your site. Once you have that then social and linkbuilding gets easier. Long term, over the next ten years, social and identity will get more important. Both agree that social is crucial to personalized search. Asked directly if Google+ influences results for logged out search, Matt said he didn’t know (!!). He said that he doesn’t look at incognito search much and hasn’t interacted with the people at Google who would determine that.

Matt on updates: We’re working on the next Penguin update. Next Panda might be Thursday or Friday. Duane: Bing doesn’t have a menagerie of animals.

Why can sites like Expedia get away with millions of doorway pages? Matt: We look in terms of value added. If you do it faster or better, it may be OK. Actually, they do take action on big sites, but they often don’t talk about it, of course.]

What about a large company with many international top level domains all in English? Duplicate content issues? Matt: Spammers are lazy and don’t do that right; they can tell if it’s in the same organization. Use an XML site map to tell that all of these are same content in different languages. Duane: same for Bing. But it’s not hard to understand that these are localized versions.

Why is there still a Google Toolbar PR meter? Matt: real people still use it. But it’s coming to a natural end of life. Doesn’t work for Chrome and Firefox, and IE 10 doesn’t allow toolbars. Duane: would anyone want Bing to expose their “PageRank” (StaticRank). They don’t expose it because of the abuse it inspires. Danny suggest calling it GatesRank ;-)

Lightning Round:

Posting on article spinners shows the engines that you aren’t really that popular. Why send bad signals?

If you’re ever concerned that you are a victim of negative SEO, use the Disavow Tool. Don’t be afraid to dump entire domains. You don’t need a ton of good, quality links for a page to rank.

Don’t rely on the search engines to figure out what the good and crap are on you site. Get rid of the crap!

Matt and Duane ended with a hug!

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Matt Cutts & Duane Forrester's Excellent Adventure: The Search Police at SMX West by

Mark is Director of Digital Outreach for Virante Inc. Mark helps businesses build strategies to increase brand influence and attract natural links and social signals. He has a special reputation as an expert on Google+ and Google Authorship. A former teacher, Mark has worked directly in Internet marketing since 2005, but has been involved in social media and online community formation since the mid 1990s. When not helping Virante clients improve their online presence, Mark participates in competitive storytelling, plays with a Dixieland street band, and (surprise) spends more time on the web.

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