10 Highlights from the Matt Cutts You&A at SMX Advanced 2013

matt cutts (not provided)
Matt doing his best PRISM impression on my (not provided) t-shirt.

I was able to hear Matt Cutts talk about the future of Google search this week at SMX Advanced in beautiful Seattle. The hour-plus long interview was very informal and funny, including a number of interesting nuggets about what Google has in the pipeline for webmasters.

You get a sense from the interview that Matt is feeling more relaxed than ever…his team has put out a number of major updates the past few years, and all the things he’s been telling webmaster to do for years are bearing fruit through algorithm enforcement.

You can watch the entire You&A on Youtube here.

Here’s 10 highlights from my notes and thoughts on the interview…

1. There is at least one more ‘animal’ update in the pipeline.

Matt mentioned ‘animal inflation’ and that they will stop naming updates after one more animal name that has a white Color. I vote “Polar Bear”. Also seemed to allude that he felt like they are winning on quality (Panda) & webspam (Penguin) and that major structural updates like those may be declining.

2. A hacked sites update will be out in the next few weeks.

Matt has mentioned hacked sites for years. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to roll out an update targeting that. I’m assuming they have had smaller updates targeting this, and this is just a larger one.

3. Google would like to offer a more complete back-link product

Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs ears perked up hearing this for sure. Matt’s quote was, “We don’t want people to have to spend $100/mo to get backlink data”. He also said they would never show all backlinks that google knows about. My guess is a similar tool to what Yahoo used to offer that showed a good majority of backlinks. This would be awesome. He did say it was a ways off if at all.

4. Severe manual penalties last until domain expiration

There is no permanent penalty? Interesting that Matt mentioned the longest penalty is usually just the expiration of a domain. I’d love to see any data on sites penalized that see their penalty lifted after expiration.

5. Likes/Shares don’t influence rankings. It’s still about links.

Matt said, “Facebook and Google usually don’t get along that well…They usually block us.” Nothing shocking there, but Matt was adamant about how social signals are notoriously bad. He poo-pooh’ed Google+ data like it was from Bing or something. Matt is not high on social signals at the moment. Links from social sites sure, but other data points not so much.

This point is of course counter to a number claims by SEOs. (including a funny appearance by Eric Enge at the 49 minute mark)

To do any sort of Google index test Matt suggested using a deep URL, don’t tell anyone, don’t include snippets of javascript.

6. Google wants to know who wrote everything.

Authorship signals make defeating spam easier. It’s harder to manipulate social signals, and if your real name is attached to a piece of content, just social norms mean it’s less likely to be spam. Matt mentioned that they like to see an Author’s area of expertise (say, an Architecture professor) match the content. So you may see more of a bump in rankings if that Archetcture prof writes for a architecture trade blog, than if he writes a piece on the Miami Heat for Bleacher Report.

7. Buying ads will never increase organic rankings

Matt is adamant that buying ads will never be a signal in organic search rankings. He said that is the only signal he is 100% will never be a ranking signal.

8. Googlers will monitor for manipulation

Thoughts: Anywhere you can register, so can a Googler. So if you think you’re being clever trying to hire cheap links/tweets/suggestions from fivvr or Mechanical Turk, that’s something that Google may look into to monitor for abuse.

9. Matt pushed for more SSL, which lead to the (not provided) rise

matt cutts (not provided) tshirt
(not provided) is frustrating, but Matt is too darn like-able.

After reading ‘Little Brother’ Matt said he felt that Google needed to push SSL more often. This lead of course to huge rise in (not provided) as queries coming from SSL version of Google are hidden. No comment on why Adwords still gets this data : (

10. Design matters more than ever

When asked about the most underrated part of SEO he sees Matt said “Design, user experience.” This was great for me to hear as that’s probably the #1 thing we think about here at SERPs. How can we make this process of digesting data simple to understand, and visually insightful?

As the web grows, and consumers have more choices than ever….better design and UX can be a huge advantage.

SMX Advanced is my new favorite conference.

It easily had the highest quality of attendees I’ve seen at a larger (500+) conference. The parties are casual and varied, you don’t need to be a extrovert to have a good time. If you can make it to Seattle next summer, I would highly recommend it.

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