Session Intro: What's a You&A? That's where you, the audience, put
your questions directly to the head of Google's web spam team,
Matt Cutts. As an engineer in
search quality, Matt's been dealing with webmaster issues for Google since 2000
and is well known to many advanced search marketers from his blog and public
Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief at Search Engine Land is moderating this session along with Alex Bennert, Director of Client Services at Beyond Ink doing the Q&A moderating.
Danny starts of the questioning which will be followed by questions taken by the audience. Danny asks about the Lyndon Antcliff incident where he got a lot of exposure for a fake story. Was this link bait that went to far? Matt says they don't want to be the "truth" police. Matt says it was different than a prank like April Fools. It was more deceptive than that as it had no disclosure that it was fake. Matt looks at it then as more intentional than accidental.
Matt says to not take any action on a story that is fake like that one was would be irresponsible. He sees it as an attempt to get links even if you have to "lie" about it and feels that is just wrong. In reality, it was a move to protect Google users from lies and deception.
Moving on, regarding paid links, Matt asks how many people are willing to burn sites or entire networks over paid links. Michael Gray raised his hand but not many others did. He points out that it is best to do what is good for your company long term, not just today. Don't be the Mily Vanily of search. trust and credibility is very valuable.
Matt refers to a blog post he just put out where Google just made some documentation updates. You can check it out here.
Now we move on to the audience.
- First question is related to widget bait.
First of all, link bait can be good as it is stuff that just makes people link to you. As far as widget bait, some of Google's first encounters with widget bait was with web counters that hide links to off-topic sites. They of course took algorithmic action against that. So, links in widgets, are they hidden and are they off topic? Those are not going to fly with Google.
Furthermore, when people place widgets on their site, do they really know what they are getting in to? Links that are editorial are going to stand the test of time.
- Next question related to search results showing up in search results...
Matt says that typically engines can't fill out forms but in some cases the spider may do so because they are trying to move on to another site. They are willing to take these out if they show up in the SERPs.
- Danny brings up the fact that Jason Calacanis allows his search results at
Mahalo to be indexed. Should this happen?
Matt points out that their result are more content than raw search results.
- What about cloaking? Amazon was used as an example.
Matt says cloaking is cloaking and points out that they have taken out big sites that cloak. Don't cloak because it puts you at high risk.
- On the minus 60 penalty and other 'minus' penalties, what's the deal?
Matt sidesteps question and says they are not going to go into great detail on penalties but rather that they want to deliver most relevant results. He does say that sometimes people are looking a bit too hard.
- Danny follows up by asking are there differing degrees of penalties?
Matt says, "Absolutely!" He does not elaborate though.
- On bot herding, is it cloaking, IP delivery or something else? Danny uses
Wall Street Journal as example.
Matt hasn't looked at that issue. He mentions the "first click free" policy meaning that the first page the user sees is the same as Googlebot. In other words don't deliver one page to user and another to Google.
- How does Google differentiate paid links from natural?
They try to do so algorithmically. Matt says there are stupid ways to buy links. You can leave footprints that makes it easy for Google to spot. They are willing to take manual action as well to deal to them.
- Do all links pointing to a particular domain enhance the value of site as
Won't go into it even though Danny asked him three different ways.
- Can you hurt other sites by pointing dirty links to them?
Matt says they have worked very hard so that it will not happen. That tells me that it can happen -- it is just difficult. He does say that efforts will be better spent building your own site rather than throwing mud at your competitors.
- Page sculpting, do you need to bother with it?
Matt says in most cases you do not, so long as your architecture is set up correctly. It is a better use of time to work to get good links than trying to control flow of internal PageRank. It does not create a red flag if you do.
- What is it like being a moral compass for SEO?
Matt does not feel that way. He says the vast majority of time, people know the right answer. They do not need him as a compass for what is right.
As typical, Matt did not reveal any grand secrets. Surprised? It is always
neat to see Danny try to get stuff out of him however.
Session coverage by David Wallace - CEO and Founder SearchRank.