Matt Cutts You&A SMX Advanced Day 1 roundup

Sitting right at the front of the auditorium in the same row as Michael Grey and Lisa Barone, I can’t help feeling I’m outgunned by some pretty amazing bloggers. that said I’ll do my best to get the main points of discussion down in the final session of SMX Advanced, day 1.

Danny introduces Matt with a brief background and introduction “spam police” :-) and we begin… Matt begins by taking off his t-shirt to reveal a Matt Cutts / Not Matt cuts pair of t-shirts. Cool.


Image credit: Daryl Quenet (thanks Daryl!)

You&A starts out with Matt mentioning the linkbuilding panel and Hamlet’s comments on looking for Google crawl rate as an indicator of the value of a page.

1) How can you tell if you have a Google Penalty

We have different kinds of penalty which you can be informed about on Google Webmaster Tools. If you see a sustained drop in rankings or your site drops out completely, there are lots of forums to get involved with (inc Google Webmaster Central) where you can find out more about how to solve your problem.

Sometimes Google will tell you a little more about a penalty if you reach out to them via the forums in WM central. It’s tough to educate the people who are breaking the rules by accident without helping the spammers, but Google do try.

2) Pagerank sculpting

Why does Google not support this? What Matt / Maile tried to communicate earlier is that you can use the rel=”nofollow” attribute, but you can spend far better time working in other areas of your site. if you have 5 nofollowed links on a page with 10, the old theory that the 5 followed links get the value is less effective thesedays, but you won’t get a penalty. If you’re using nofollow, it’s almost like a band aid. Think about how to link within your site more effectively.

Why is it less effective now? (Danny). Youtube was mentioned because a lot of internal links in Youtube were / are nofollowed. We didn’t want videos featured on the homepage to receive the incredible levels of pagerank from the Youtube homepage and that was a deliberate choice by Google.

What was the change? Initially if you had the 5/10 links scenario, the spread of pagerank was easy to predict. That’s not the case now because of feedback from the “crawl / index” team.

3) How does Google look at buying suspect links and sending them to competitors?

The algorithm is designed so that as much as possible, one person can’t Googlebowl another webmaster by buying bad links and sending them to competitors.

4) The SEOmoz page penalty (CSS penalty) was cited as an example of a penalty – how do you use display;none and ajax

When you write mouseover code, try to avoid custom solutions so the algorithm can recognise and handle common CSS / Javascript text elements that are perfectly white hat. If you want to be safe, look at what other sites are doing and follow those types of solution. Use code libraries and a common approach to your code and you shouldn’t accidentally trip any penalties.

5) Back to PR sculpting – where is the lost pagerank going?

Think of pagerank “evaporating” when you nofollow a link. Think about your architecture and use nofollow sparingly. If you’re a power user then do nofollow register links because the URL isn’t wanted in the Google index. The ways we determine our opinion of pagerank are definitely more sophisticated now compared to the past.

6) Is there any harm in receiving a penalty from an old domain when you 301 it to a new one?

They wouldn’t necessarily pass the old pagerank / authority when something like this happens. When Google detect an effort to clean up dirty old links that can really help in a reconsideration request.You could even tell Google about this by sending in hyperlinks to files showing what you’re trying to do.

7) You want to theme your site in different ways. Does it make sense to link internally with nofollowed links when the themes are unrelated?

No. There’s no reason to add a nofollow in this situation. It’s better to nofollow UGC or content you can’t editorially vouch for.

8) Duplicate content eg a jobs site. If they syndicate the content out to 10 other sites, do Google penalise that kind of activity?

Within a site, don’t worry about a duplicate content penalty. externally is a different situation. With co-branding, the front end content is essentially the same, you’d be amazed at how many users complain about this when they find the same sites duplicated. Ask yourself why and how you’re adding value to the users. When a user searches and find “cookie cutter” sites, users don’t like it. Typically Google will try to display one good result and then introduce diversity. If the duplicate content issue is bad enough, Google will act accordingly.

9) Paid links – if you have paid links, you should nofollow or use javascript onclicks.

As Googlebot got smarter, javascript started indexing Javascript so Google stopped advising people to use javascript to block paid links. You can use a rel=”nofollow” attribute inside the javascript which is a good way to prevent any paid links penalties. You could redirect via a domain blocked in robots.txt too.

10) Danny examined some of the issues with paid links such as sponsored web cams (Techcrunch) and mentions from authoritative sites to enhance rankings. At this point, my PC ran out of juice so I missed the answer. :-(

Matt did mention this quote from the FTC Guidelines concerning Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising:

§255.5 Disclosure of material connections.

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience) such connection must be fully disclosed.

So the jist of this message was, that a link should be disclosed if there’s a value in the exchange of a link. His advise was (on a widget / contest example) was don’t make it mandatory to link or receive a link to take part. People choose to link to you because they link your content. do your work so people want to link to you rather than designing content for links.

11) Michael raised a website where he was asked to nofollow links because of the nature of exchange of the products on the site. The Android issue was raised too.

There are lots of people who want their products to be reviewed, the difference is doing it for links rather than just giving a product away because (in this case) Google wanted developers to use their development kit on the Android phone.

12) (What’s up)

Matt wanted to try out a new web host because of traffic / hosting problems. It was a Digg test. Matt 302 redirected his site while he was testing that the new host stood up to Digg’s front page. Matt expected his traffic to plummet but what happened was the rankings went down a little and the traffic dropped by about 25%. Matt was amazed that the site ranked well regardless and promises a blog post on this very soon. The whole re-index to the new domain took only a few days!

And that’s day 1 covered :-)

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3 thoughts on “Matt Cutts You&A SMX Advanced Day 1 roundup

  1. Matt’s reference to the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines is inappropriate and misleading. He is trying to imply there is some legal authority behind Google’s stance on paid links.

    The United States Government formally disclaims links as endorsements, so the FTC policy on endorsements does NOT apply to paid links.

    Matt should discontinue these deceptive practices immediately and permanently, as he is not doing Google any favors by trying to trick Webmasters into thinking that Google has the weight of law on its side.

  2. Man I think the nofollows, link sculpting, and page rank is lame-o. All three concepts should be weeded out of the SEO industry.

    All three seem like they are temporary considerations of this industry

  3. I was right in the middle of the whole thing when eating lunch w both Matt & Danny as well MG Siegler of TechCrunch at Google IO.

    At that point Michael Gray tweeted me to show Matt with MG there to get to the bottom of the whole TechCrunch sponsored links issue – then he went on the free Android phone rant :)

    ,Michael Martin

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