Keynote Coffee Chat With Matt Cutts of Google On the Hot Seat Location: Salon A
Bring a pile of questions with you. This is a pure question and answer session with the master Google company guy, Matt Cutts.
Moderator: Brett Tabke Speakers: Matt Cutts, Software Engineer, Google Inc.
This is the last session day of Pubcon and I am leaving tonight. I am already sad. It isn't sunny out for the first time this week and I feel that Vegas is already starting to miss my presence. Or maybe my sadness is contgious.
Brett asks: What's a typical day at Google? Matt: I was in grad school in computer graphics and you have to take a couple of classes related to Computer Science as part of the requirements. I ended up taking a library science class that was related to search engines. This was in '99 and I had an interest in jobs in the area. Matt sent an email asking how much these companies pay and they weren't initially doing active negotiations. But 4 days later, they revisited the question, flew him out to California, and Matt's been there since 2000.
As far as a typical day, it's hard to answer that since things happen everyday. It depends on what kind of issues are in the news (like malware on .CN domains). Matt loves his colleagues and webmasters and he loves trying to fix problems and tackling problems before competition gets to Google.
Q: What's your employee number? There's a rumor that it's 69. Matt: No, it's not 69. It's in the first hundred but it's not 69.
Q: People are all about links but then there's a concern about linking to bad neighborhoods. How do you identify bad neighborhoods? Should you nofollow them or stay away totally? Matt: Use your gut. Trading links is natural and it's natural to have reciprocal links. At some level, natural reciprocal links happen, but if you do it way too often, it looks artificial. My advice is to go with your gut and if you're worried, you can use nofollow. [Matt notices that there are birds in the conference hall. This is a really big conference hall.] Using nofollow disassociates you with that neighborhood.
Q: What's the deal with paid links? Matt: A few years ago, there was another search engine called Overture that you'd search and the results weren't sorted by relevance, it was sorted by money. So you'd type "harvard" and not get the university - you'd get test prep. I learned that you don't want a search engine that wasn't by pocketbook. We see a lot of differnet stuff. We capped out our policy recently on our blog about paid links. I put up some screenshots on my personal blog. There was a recent paid post where someone tried to buy the anchor text "alzheimers." The anchor text went to a site that wanted to take money from you. But what if you search for Alzheimers and you get that result first? Obviously it's not a good user experience. We've come out against it as it hurts the relevancy of the results. One misconception is that it's a "Google only issue" but that's not true. All search engines have agreed when we go on record. A user who does that search should not have to find an irrelevant result.
Q: Google recently bought g.cn in China. Can you elaborate? Matt: If you're in China and you speak Chinese, even remembering the word "Google" is really hard. One of our efforts is to make it really easy to remember. We have google.cn and g.cn and google.com. You can go to either one. Google.com gives main search results but we can restrict g.cn and google.cn to requirements of the country.
Q: Back to the China affair and the backlinks, we see that they buy a lot of links, we see that they come from specific regions of the world. Have you thought of properly investigating these countries or the companies that do this? Matt: It's a good question. A lot of the spam is not in Chinese. It's in English -- but it's on a .cn domain. If you look at the backlinks and they're all from Japan, that starts to look suspicious. Some spammers have links from every TLD. There's always more we could do. We're always trying to work on it.
Q: Google makes a lot of money on the content networks from parked domains but a lot of these are typosquatted domains. What is Google's stance on taking these down since they're not legitimate? Matt: First, this isn't my area of expertise so I'm going to give you my opinion only. Suppose you're going to stop all typosquatters. It used to be the case that you tried to get something and maybe you got it right or maybe you didn't get it right and you'd hit some really malicious websites instead. To some extent, Google legitimized domain-related advertising. Search Engine Roundtable (that's us! Matt said my name!) covered some articles where you can opt out of these kinds of domain related advertising. Google is moving in that direction. Having that alertnative is a really good step but we're still listening to feedback to make it even better. I personally think that whenever you advertise, you should have as many options as possible.
Q: Let's say if I have a VPS and I have a neighbor on the same class C doing shady stuff. Can that poision my entire class C? Matt: VPS = virtual private server. (I have one too, just FYI.) Spammers are really smart. They will drop an IP address when it's poisoned and then some innocent person will take it. It can't hurt you anymore - the data gets outdated very quickly so we don't worry about this as much anymore. The only concern is when there's a lot of IPs in the same subnet doing some shady stuff and then we may take action.
Q: There's this A-CAP protocol for newspapers that they put content behind a paid wall after a certain time. What are the ramifications? Matt: It came out a week ago so we need to study it to see what kind of value it provides. I can't say in its incarnation will be supported by all search engines but it may become more mainstream.
Q: If I have a site and I redirect a certain amount of files, are there any set of rules on how many 301 redirects you can set up in a chain? Matt: To the best of my knowledge, there's no real limit. You can do a 301 and change it 2 weeks later and you'll be totally fine. I don't recommend a chain of redirects that is so long that tires out the Googlebot. It's easier for things to get lost in the queue at the time, so maybe you should point it to the final destination.
Q: On paid links, what's the drawn at when it comes to paid links vs. advertising? Matt: Those links don't pass PageRank. I want a clean index and accurate search results. I don't want things to hurt Google's revenue. MFA sites are not good for users.
Q: When you're changing servers (on IP addresses), is there a certain period of time that you should leave the old server up? Matt: There are 3 or 4 steps that I can do. First: lower your DNS TTL to like 5 minutes. Bring up the site on the new IP address, switch the site on the new IP address, keep the old and the new live, and as soon as you see Googlebot crawling the new IP address, you're totally fine. Normally a day or two is all you need.
Q: We're seeing our blog content being stolen and being put on other websites (even with changed words). How do I report that? (Oh yes, that happens to Search Engine Roundtable a lot.) Matt: Come up and catch me afterwards and we'll talk about it. But that's not entirely scalable. The general way to do it is through a spam report. I need to do a blog post about this but Barry Schwartz (actually, that was me. After I raised my hand and corrected him, he corrected himself also!) wrote an awesome post with screenshots about how to report spam results. See? Look. My name is on it.
Q: What do you think about other directories that charge money to review your site. Is it worthwhile to do this? What do you see for the future? Will Google stop passing link juice to these directories? Matt: Check the directories and see who is behind it. If you can't figure out who that is or if the directory has the wrong neighborhoods listed, you don't want to be on it. You shouldn't pay all the time to get added. If you pay and get added anyway, that site doesn't use great editorial discretion. Use that criteria and we can determine if it's worthwhile or not.
Michael Gray asked a question and Matt answered and I didn't get it. Sorry. Someone can ask Michael at wolf-howl.com to blog about it.
Q: Are there times when a 302 is interpreted as a 301? Matt: It's pretty rare because it dilutes things. We try to make it hard for people to hijack listings.
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