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Detailed notes from Matt Cutts' keynote presentation at #Pubcon  Vegas 2013.
 
Detailed notes from +Matt Cutts' keynote presentation at #Pubcon  Vegas 2013.

What is Google Doing Now

"Moonshot" changes
They've doubled down on doing more of these.  Larry Paige says, "Think big".  Examples of this:
 - Knowledge graph - things, not strings.  Understand the meaning behind searches
 - Voice search - you can say "Will it rain tomorrow"? and it will reply.  Then you can simply continue the conversation by saying "What about in Mountain View?" and it will reply, knowing that you are still asking about rain.
 - Conversational search - think pronouns
 - Google Now - Sometimes you don't think to do a search… like Now reminding you to leave for an appointment
 - Deep Learning - Mathematically determining the relationship between things


Core Quality Changes

Hummingbird - the idea behind it is to remove conversational words that don't impact the intent of the search.  It was rolled out for a month before it was announced, and nobody noticed.

Panda Softening - Sites in the 'gray zone' were more likely to be moved to "good" rather than "bad"

Detecting/boosting Authorities - If you are a topical authority, you will rank better for queries in your area.  

Smartphone Ranking - If you have a smartphone that doesn't use flash, they are less likely to display a site that uses Flash.  Likewise, if you forward all mobile to home page, less likely to rank the site for mobile.

Webspam Changes

Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 - With 2.0, tried for a "soft landing".  Didn't want to freak people out. Spammers said in forums that it didn't cause any pain, so they turned it up a bit more with 2.1

Algorithms for very spammy queries, like "payday loans"  - Also used mesothelioma as an example

Advertorials/native advertising - Going after paid advertising that includes a followed link

Continuing action on spam networks - They have a good list of networks and are working their way down it

Communication

New videos for malware/hacking - They have hours of video on this now

Concrete examples in guidelines - Increased real examples

>100 speaking events, Hangouts on Air, webmaster office hours - There are a ton of people that give advice from Google.  It isn't just Matt Cutts.  "If you want to talk to someone at Google, we try to make that easy".

How Search Works Website - Launched this site to help people understand Google better.  They categorize different types of spam and show show charts of how they are cracking down on it. You can see live data of action being taken on spam sites.

Future of Search

Big Future Trends:

 - Machine Learning - Want to add more value for searchers/users
 - Mobile is huge -  6%, 25%, 40% <-- That is the percentage of traffic to YouTube that is mobile from 2011-2013.  Major growth.  "If you haven't thought about mobile, if your website looks sucky on mobile, you need to start thinking about that now"
 - Social/Identity/Authorship - It really helps to detect spam if they know the identity of who is publishing.  He is saying that Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ don't necessarily have an impact today… but it could be the future.

Webspam Trends:

 -Hacking - "It is going to look like the web spam team isn't doing much for the next few months".  They'll be working on the next generation of hacking detection.
 -International Issues - Things like child porn.  Don't want people to find this.
 -PageRank Update - No toolbar PageRank scheduled for rest of year.  It generally runs every 3 or 4 months. The pipeline for updating it broke, so they are just gonna wait a while.  "We'll see if anything happens in 2014"

Concrete Advice

 -Mobile - Start thinking about this now.  Don't use flash.  Display nicely.
 -Learn about requestAutocomplete - Annotate your forms.  People don't like filling out forms.  This is a standard whereby you can markup your forms with an extra attribute and then allows for a "1 click form fill out".  
 -Ad-heavy Pages above The Fold - If you look at the top of your page and, front and center, there are ads.  They would take action against that.
 -Tightening Authorship (~15% reduction) - not going to just be about markup, but the quality of the content
 *-Rich snippets may depend on site quality - Originally people were manually approved.  Then everyone could do it.  Now they are going to have a better middle ground.
 -Google will get smarter on JavaScript - Getting better at crawling it, especially public libraries.

Worth Doing Now

 -Sign up for Webmaster Tools
 *-Subscribe to @googlewmc and other social channels.  Find videos faster that when Cutts' tweets it.

Q&A

1.  Whenever you talk about Google+ signals, you always say "+1s".  But what about shares?  Could they have an impact on SEO?

It isn't the case that +1s and shares have an impact on ranking today in general results.  In personal results, yes, it can have an impact.

He talks about +1s specifically because it is easier to talk about them in general.  He is very bullish on social signals.

2. Talk about negative SEO

They've been thinking about it for years.  They don't want any one person to be able to torpedo another website.  They haven't gone as strong on Penguin to ensure negative SEO isn't effective.  He says there are a lot of people worried about it, but it is actually very rare.  Disavow is intended to help with this as well.  They now give a much better sampling of links in GWT.

3. Did you catch Jason's keynote?

"I was flying in as it was happening".  Heard about it, heard it was interesting.  Everybody wants the SEO cage match, but Cutts isn't going to give it to him.  OK, here is his take (opens up some new slides):

He respects Jason and what he was trying to do with Mahalo.  Matt shows a few articles and quotes on people in 2011 complaining about Google, particularly content farms.

As a stopgap measure, someone on his team created a Chrome Extension to block sites (Personal Blocklist by Google).  200,000 people installed it.  Shows content farms were an issue.

Shows an article from Business Insider, "How to play a xylophone" from Mahalo and the content was SO bad.

Google wanted to move fast on this. As soon as they had the signals ready, they wanted to put them out there.

Jason was saying that Google isn't a good partner.  Matt says that Jason was a YouTube partner, but that has no impact from the web spam team.  It wouldn't be fair for him to have a meeting just because he has a partnership with YouTube.

Jason got a 1-on-1 meeting with Matt at GooglePlex (after insisting), where Jason said that Mahalo was high quality content.  Matt told him that Mahalo was one of the most blocked sites in the Google block extension.  The data showed that it was low quality.

Matt has made an internal video that explains to employees why they can't give special treatment to parters, advertisers, or clients.  He sends it to sales people who try to get him to meet with people.

Show another article, post-Panda, from the New York Times praising the results from the Panda update.

He notices when +Michael Gray, +Jason Calacanis, +aaron wall  call them out, and they look for the kernel of info that they can fix.

4. Should we go back and update old links?
Press releases is a good example.  Should they go back and update old press releases?  "If you are paying for something, you shouldn't get pagerank pass back". If you are doing press releases and there is no anchor text, great, no problem.  However, if you throw keyword rich anchor text into those, you shouldn't do that.  They have a large database of press release sites, and now they have rules that just say it doesn't pass PageRank.  So it wouldn't cause you a penalty, but going forward be cautious about any links you pay for.

5. Can you address infinite scrolling?
Similar issue to Javascript.  It is kinda like a calendar, where Google could crawl to the year 10,000 and generate lots of pages.  Google is getting better at understanding it, but make sure you have a pagination accessible for best crawling. 

6. For people/companies trying to establish authority, how do you compete with people who have been around for a long time?
It is possible, but there is a lot of elbow work.  No shortcuts.  Go back to basics:  Have a blog or forum to have unique content.  Write unique descriptions; make them catchy or compelling.  Anything that is creative is good - think about the last 5 things you shared on FB/Twitter… they were probably creative.  Develop a personality and voice.

7. Do PDF eBooks contribute to authority?
They tend to be more skeptical of this. They've seen spam eBooks.  "I'm not going to take that signal off the table, but I would be skeptical about it because I worry about the implications"

8. Is there a limit to how much you can blog?
You can blog as often as you want to if you are generating good content.  "I wouldn't overdo it".  Quantity over quality.

*9. I came from the Ukraine, which is a Russian speaking country.  Will you make changes there to clean up the results?"
The main team is based in Mountain View, so primarily english although a few other countries (like Romania).  Acknowledges that they need to do better with other countries. 

10. There is an implicit partnership between content creators and Google. With the knowledge graph and ads, Google takes up more and more content on Google search results.  Can you talk about that?
We don't want that to get out of control, and push back on the Ad team.  They are working on maximizing pixels to show more organic.  The vast majority of searches aren't highly commercial, so there are less ads.  However, things like "credit cards" do indeed show more ads.  If we "poke" him about it, it gives him more ammo to go back and say that people don't like it.  It sounds like he doesn't control it...
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