SEO: What’s coming by Matt Cutts 30

This week, Matt Cutts released a new video on his blog with an insight into what Google are working on.  I’ll give you my thoughts on what he has to say in a moment, but first, sit back and watch the video yourself:

The video was taped in early May 2013.

Matt says to concentrate on making a great site that visitors love and will want to come back to, and tell their friends.

1.16: Matt states that they are close to releasing Penguin 2.0. and it’ll will be a lot more comprehensive that Penguin 1.0.  That statement there is enough to scare the cr*p out of most webmasters, I mean who wasn’t affected by Penguin 1.0.?  If they penalize all sites that have ever done dodgy backlinks, or had dodgy backlinks directed at them, then the only sites that will be left are the ones with no backlinks ;) 

1:43: Adertorials – paid ads or coverage that flow Page Rank.  Not only that, but at 2:24, Matt says there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure that an add is not editorial and that it is paid.  What I am thinking here is that affiliate links are also going to need that clear and conspicuous disclosure (they already should have), but how many of us do that?  It certainly makes a case for making affiliate links nofollow.

2.30: Looks like Google are going to target some of the commercial terms that have been heavily contested by marketers.  I think they have been trying to do this for a while, so maybe they finally have something that will work?

3.12: “Go upstream to deny the value to link spammers”.  Clearly Google are looking for better ways to identify link laid down by link spammers.  One way I am sure they are looking at is the various pyramid style linking, or satellite sites designed to take the impact of any penalty without affecting the money site.  In my Kindle book, SEO 2013 & Beyond, I talked a little bit about this and how Google could easily cause problems for websites employing this type of link strategy (see the section on backlinking to backlinks).

3.32: They are working on a different system that does more sophisticated link analysis. I would not be surprised if this involves Google Chrome and the way people interact with websites while using that browser.  I think Google Chrome will be EXTREMELY important to the future of Google’s ranking algorithms.  I mean think about it.  Google release a “netbook” that instead of running on their seasoned operating system Android (which seems to make perfect sense), runs on Google Chrome, the browser.  No other browser can be installed on these Chromebooks, so everyone that owns one will be feeding usage data back to Google (unless there is a way to actually turn off the usage sharing completely).  Think how much data Google can gather from the growing owners of Chromebooks, not to mention those of us that use Chrome on a PC, Mac, Android device or iOS device.  By making their Chromebooks run on Chrome, Google have effectively added another layer of spying on real Google users.

Note, I wrote an article last month called Could Google use Chrome to determine backlink worth?, but there are other theories floating around like how Google can compare traffic levels on a site to the inbound link profile.  Does it make sense that a site with a gazillion backlinks is only getting 5 visits a day?  About a year ago, I read that Matt Cutts had stated that the Google organic SERPs were not affected by Chrome usage data, but that was last year.  Things change, and I think this has.

3.45: Hacked site – Google want to be able to better detect hacked sites, and notify webmasters that there is a problem.  Google have used Webmaster Tools to inform webmasters about problems with their sites, and that is where they will continue to inform webmasters of problems.  It’s another reason I use Webmaster Tools on my own sites and recommend others do too.  If you are worried that using Analytics and Webmaster Tools is giving Google too much information about your websites, then you are obviously violating their guidelines somewhere, so you should be worried.  Later in the video, Matt reiterates Google’s desire to give webmasters more detailed information about problems.

4.20:  If your focus is high quality content and visitor experience, then you should not have to worry about future updates.  If you’ve been using ANY blackhat techniques at all, then the summer may be more eventful.

4.37: Google want to reward websites/webmasters that are an authority in that niche.  This will probably pull data from Google plus, looking at webmaster profiles and seeing the content they are contributing on other websites as well as the content that is getting shared on Google plus (possibly Twitter and Facebook too as well as other social platforms).  This may be a good time to start increasing your Google plus usage, and getting your content shared in relevant circles.

5.02: Google want to refine Panda so that sites which were “collateral damage” (high quality sites that had several “quality issue signals” which incorrectly identified them as spam) in the first round of Panda updates, could recover.  Additional quality signals that Google have identified should help pull some of these sites back.


Interesting comments on Matt’s Blog

On Matt’s blog, there were one or two interesting comments that I thought I’d include as they are genuinely useful to webmasters.

1. Using a machete to prune links

In reply to a comment on how the disavow tool has not worked on one person’s site, Matt says:


This is interesting.  I would assume that a spammy link from a domain would pretty much mean that the whole domain has to be questionable in terms of ethics, authority or quality, no?  I mean how can a spammy link appear on a high quality, authority site unless it has been hacked, or the webmaster has not taken due care and attention of the links on the site?  If you have a bunch of links from a domain, and just one of those links is spammy, maybe it is better to disavow the whole domain just to err on the side of caution.  Bear in mind that a lot of tools we use to find links don’t find all of them, so if a site has linked to you in a spammy way that you had nothing to do with, then don’t trust that it’s only one link on the domain, disavow the whole domain.


2. Paid links

In response to a question on paid links, Matt offers this reply:


This is more confirmation that the linker and the linked can both be penalized (and not just in a situation where money exchanged hands). 

If a site accepts cash for paid links (which pass PR), then it is just as likely to get penalized if caught as the site it links to.  Moral here is that if you are accepting money for advertising on your site, and you are not using the rel=nofollow tag, you should be as your site may just end up getting penalized. 

I think that the situation is similar to blogroll style links on WordPress blogs.  These may not necessarily exchange cash, but something is often exchanged – you link to me and I’ll link to you.  That’s probably the same reason reciprocal linking became a problem a few years back.  Maybe this is one of the reasons that the blogroll has been removed from the more recent versions of WordPress?

Taking this one step further, “paying” a site with content in exchange for a link (guest blogging), may also become a problem in the not too distant future.  You thoughts?  Leave a comment at the end.

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30 thoughts on “SEO: What’s coming by Matt Cutts

  • Harald Schendera

    Paid links are bad. Advertorials are bad. Guest blogging for money might become bad. What are these guys, communists? Why do they take money at all? In my opinion, they should let us advertize for free if they are so concerned about money passing from hand to another.

    • Andy Williams Post author

      It’s not the fact that paid advertisements are bad. What I believe Google take exception to is paid “links” in whatever format (text link, banner, etc) if it is passing Page Rank to another website. They also don’t want paid advertising looking like it is a “recommendation” by the author/editor of the site. Google would love it if links appeared on pages ONLY because they deserve to be there by merit, not because the webmaster who posted the page got something in return (which is where guest posting may come in).

      • Harald Schendera

        This world is ruled by money. This company needs to make money. We need to make money. Deep down, they know they can’t do anything against paid links. Why would they bother if they had a measure against paid links or paid content? All content needs to be paid – even theirs. Links have become a currency. In my opinion, they should give in. I hope that in two years from now, paying for a link is nothing blackhat anymore, more like buying bread.

    • Marshall

      Google wants to own the internet market just like AOL did some years back. Didn’t work too well for AOL did it and eventually Google will mess up and get smacked big time by the FTC. Then maybe the playing field will level out some.

      I agree Google should just let us advertise for free on their site since they are so concerned about money passing hands. Oh Yeah right, the concern is the money passes to Google’s hands.

  • Paul Simister

    After finding that Panda helped boost my traffic, Penguin was an horrendous shock.

    I believe the standard of Google search results are dreadful at the moment. I often do searches and there’s nothing that looks right on the home page if I’ve used a long tail specific search phrase. I suspect that other’s have the same problem.

    I was therefore expecting (hoping) for a big Penguin update to try to get some relevance back into search. let’s hope the clever clogs at Google get it right this time and punish obvious spammers without damaging high quality content providers who cared enough to learn some SEO to get traffic.

  • DK Fynn

    So, link pyramiding, or tiered linking, might become less effective, eh?

    If that’s the case, it might be easy for them to deploy it on pages that only link to a very few sites. For example, a Web 2.0 page (on Tumblr, Squidoo, Hubpages or whatever) that links to an affiliate site (especially if all links go to the same site).

    That might be easy to trace and reduce effectiveness on.

    But what about a blog page (or any page) that has lots and lots of comments, with links to each commenter’s site?

    For example, Webmaster A makes a comment, it gets approved, and now, there’s a link to Webmaster A’s site. But there are lots of other such links, too.

    Webmaster A builds many tiered links to the comment page. Now, there are other OBLs (outbound links) on that comment page, so the link juice is probably being shared among all the other sites that are linked to.

    How’s the algo going to deal with this, if there are so may OBLs on that page?

    • Andy Williams Post author

      Hi DK
      I am only giving my opinion so bear that in mind. I actually think link pyramids and tiered linking can work (and continue to work), but it depends on how it’s done. The way most link builders do it is, in my opinion, like a red flag to a bull. Smarter marketers will learn from recent Google changes and do things a little differently. As I discuss in my book, I think it is going to come down to the quality (and quantity) of links pointing at this type of pyramid structure. Hundreds or thousands or even hundreds of thousands spammy links, pointing at a site that then links to a money site? That’s going to spell trouble eventually. However, compare that to a much smaller pyramid that uses quality links at each stage, and we have something very different.

      As for comments, I think most SEOs that actually listen to Google’s advice will have them set to nofollow. Failing to do this can mean your site links to bad neighbourhoods, which in turn can get your site penalized. Remember, it’s not just the linked site that can be affected by a penalty, it is the site that links too.

      Having said that, I don’t rate links in comments very highly, and I doubt Google do either.

  • Andii

    Hi Dr. Andy

    I think you analysed the video very well. So here we go again wondering if we will still be around after another major algo update by Google. It still never ceases to amaze me how one company has managed to monopolise the entire internet – well almost – or especially when it comes to fledgling sites struggling to make their presence known on the web.

    It’s a shame there is no one to control Google’s dominance and decide whether or not THEY, as a company, are fit to dictate to the world what we should and should not do with our websites, blogs, and forums if we want web users to find us.

    The Cyber Crooks!

    From what Matt Cutts says, so long as you provide a nice site with great content, and adopt good ethics, you’ll do just fine ‘in the long-term’. In other words, be good, and good things will happen! But is this not a bit hypocritical coming from a company that never seems to be out or the courts for immoral and unscrupulous practices, namely spying and pushing their own interests above those of others? They always deny any wrongdoing, even after they’re publicly convicted of a crime, and generally put their dodgy goings-on as either genuine mistakes, or they deny any misconduct altogether, despite the guilty verdict. That said, they still pay the fines without appealing!

    Google also say that it’s WRONG to pay for links used to pass page rank, and consequently drive web traffic to a site by improving its link popularity score and thus raise its profile. Well, a real world business pays for TV, radio, and publications to advertise their new business and drive customers to their bricks and mortar outfits. Isn’t buying or selling links just an online way networking and getting the name of a new website in front of as many eyeballs as possible? And the end of the day, all most of us want to do is get our projects out there to the world?

    And what is Google’s AdWords if it’s not buying paid links to promote a site and drive traffic to its pages? There’s no objections to that, is there? Okay, so AdWords are not passing page rank, nor are they boosting the site’s chances of getting good positions in the SERPs, but the objective is the same in that they are paid links used specifically to drive traffic to the pages of a website, blog, or forum.

    Collateral Damage!

    I hate to hear this term used so casually by Google, because their ‘collateral damage’ stance has lost a lot of people their income. One could argue that if a website was making a fortune from organic search traffic, then it could recapture that business by paying for AdWords and other methods of paid promotion, but the reality is that most of us working online have made a modest living, and not a small fortune, and certainly not enough to pay for costly and ongoing advertising. Or maybe we shouldn’t rely on organic search and simply pay rent for a presence on the virtual high street like in the real world?

    Google’s early days mission statement was “Don’t be Evil”, but I think it is they who have become wicked on the web. Like so many other multinationals in this world, they will do whatever it takes to satisfy their addiction for money and more money, and nothing or nobody will get in their way. It’s the usual case where the strong get to devour the weak. What Google seems to have long forgotten is that without us (people who build websites, blogs, and forums), they wouldn’t even exist. In other words, their success has come off of our back.

    Okay, I;d better stop there otherwise I’ll go on forever, but as a webmaster who works hard on his online ventures, it bothers me that one company is still controlling whether or not people like me make it or not, and we all know that social networks are just a tiny part of overall traffic to a site, no matter how hard we try.

    I’m sure there are some big fans of Google out there, and consequently will not agree with my opinions, but that’s okay, because we all have out freedom to express things as we see them. Just because I think I’m right doesn’t mean I am. It just means I think I am 😉

    Andy Aitch

    • Andy Williams Post author

      Hi Andii
      Buying links is fine. Buying advertising space is fine. The problem is the motive of buying those links. If it is to manipulate the search results through passing Page Rank, then that is the problem. Google have absolutely no problem with people buying links on sites where they are doing so to get click through traffic/branding as the motive. Unfortunately, because of the way SEOs have gone about linking in recent years, Google decided enough was enough and all links are now suspect.
      BTW; this does not mean I agree with what Google do. I agree with their overall intentions of improving search results (which I still believe are their intentions, since good search results are VITAL for the continued success of Google), but not with how they are going about it. As you said, because of “collateral damage” small businesses have and are going out of business, putting people on the streets and wrecking lives. Unfortunately, Google seem immune to the rules that other companies have to stick to. I mean it wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft were in court because they wanted to ship Internet Explorer with their OS, yet Google have created a netbook that ONLY runs on their browser.

    • Marshall

      You are right on as far as I am concerned. I hope FB continues to eat Google lunch as far as effective paid ads go. I would like to see Adwords go down the tubes. Would serve Google right for their arrogance.

  • No More SEO

    Personally, I quit after Panda. I am no longer going to spend 1 more minute or 1 more dollar on SEO. The return on investment for a small operator is essentially nil.

    IF I had the resources, this is what I would do.
    a) obviously create a wonderful site, so the key would be to outsource it by an expert, or become one if need be
    b) find groups of people that would be interested in my site (blogs, forums, etc) and give them what they want
    c) find the key influencers (the bloggers or the forum mods or whoever) and help them server their audience
    d) repeat c and d as often as possible
    e) wait for the gains

    We are talking at least a year investment. So, it has to be worth it. Personally though, I stopped trying and switched to stock market investing. At least in that game, I know the crooks are not going to change the rules every quarter.

    That’s also why I think Andy’s Kindle program is a great idea to supplement income without relying on a ‘business partner’ that is bi-polar (ie, Google update hell).


  • Angela

    In other words, Google is slowly but surely ensuring that the only way to really make money on the Internet is by paying them directly through Adwords. Reminds me of the music business with radio stations and payola – No one will ever admit to it, but its pretty much impossible to avoid.

    Anyway, thanks for the great article and great books!

  • Norm

    Hello Dr. Andy,

    As always, thanks for your super super work!

    Here is my take, such as it is. Angela has it completely right. “Google is slowly but surely ensuring that the only way to really make money on the Internet is by paying them directly through Adwords.”

    Boiled down, Google is on a power trip and they (As far as the little people like us go) are dead wrong about how they view their and our place in the scheme of Internet things. Their biz model and success would have made old JP Morgan blush. If you’re going to work on the net, you’re going to work for them…one way or the other. Google is a monopoly, and monopolies are all the rage in the U.S. these days. One software, one bank, one search engine, one party rule. Google is right in the middle of this aberration abomination.

    We’re in the middle of what’s called a “fundamental transformation” here and the Internet is no exception. There are probably as many lawyers trolling the net these days as there are Internet entrepreneurs. The fact is that it will take honest historians in the far future to sort all of this out. In the meantime, we’re caught right in the middle of this change. The old IM ways are dead or dying and we’re darned if we know which way to turn.

    In free enterprise, the best guy wins. Period. But Google has a different idea…

    Being a successful Internet marketer means that you gain an edge over the competition to put your quality site on top of theirs in the searches. Google is on a mission to make their search model “equal outcome.” This is anti-entrepreneurial.

    In the end, it’s about control. Yeah, I know all this is pretty heavy and way out there. But, way way back in ancient history a couple of years when all of this started and I was screaming Angela’s line about Google nudging us to paid ads, not many people bought it. And judging by comments on sites like the Warrior Forum, many IM’ers are still ignorant or in denial because they are still doing the same old stuff.

    Personally, after all of my doom and gloom I’d like to say I have the solution. I do not. I do trust, however, that smarter minds than mine will prevail with something good one of these days.

    Thanks again Dr. Andy, and the rest of you who come and comment here.
    Your fan,

    • Marshall

      They don’t care on the the Warriors Forum. They sell courses there to newbies who don’t know any better. While there are some good deals there on some things, there is some real junk too.

      Kindle is becoming so competitive it is not the panacea it once was either. Unless you can pay to outsource the grunt work of promoting your books, it is very difficult to get to the break even point by yourself. Break even being where you are earning enough sales to afford to outsource. Even with 5RR, outsourcing is not cheap.

  • David


    with only quality content and no backlinks at all wont bring you to the top eather!
    so what is it that google really want? my opinion is that in the future you will be paying
    google just to get on the first page! and they will be the biggest affiliate them selfs:-)
    guest blogging not good?? why? i see it as iff you would give flyers to people in the
    ofline world, guest blogging is not only for the links but also to get customers to your sites!
    what’s wrong with this!?
    i think/hope they will digg there own grave when they keep on hitting on the site owners,
    all the traffic they get(google) is in a way because of all the site owners optimizing for google search!
    i’m against spam and web spam!! but there have to be a way to keep it fun for both party’s


  • Allan Starling

    To put it rather simply, what is the point of jumping through all of these hoops to get on the first page of a Google search, when that first page is already full of paid ads?

  • Andii

    I don’t usually double-dip in comments, but after yesterday’s rant, I just had to back up my stance over Google as they preach to those of us that run online projects, telling us to be good, and play by ethical rules as laid by them. In other words, do as we say, not as we do, and we might give your some exposure online via our SERPs.

    Associated Press May 17, 2013

    Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of a UK Parliamentary committee, criticized Google vice president Matt Brittin as well as the US search giant on Thursday, saying Google uses “smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax.”

    ‘‘You are a company that says you DO NO EVIL and I think that you do, do evil in that you use smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax.’’

    The case continues….

    Google SLAPS us, but who SLAPS Google?

    Sadly, when Google slaps the owners of websites, that site is trashed into oblivion overnight. When Google gets slapped, it pays a fine and simply gets on with business as usual and continues to dominance of the World Wide Web …

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if they got suspended from the internet for duration of time for breaking the rules, in much the same way as a sports player might be banned for a season for misconduct. That would mean all the web searchers would have to use alternatives like BING and a few others. It would certainly be interesting to see what happens to the stats of good sites with great content which were finding it hard to get found via Google.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty trashy websites out there in cyberspace, many or which shouldn’t be found in the SERPs, either because they’re just poor quality (I’ve had a few myself in the past), or they are malicious in their intention. But I’m certain that this so called “Collateral damage” they speak of so casually is far more widespread than they lead us to believe.

    It sometimes seems that cyber crime is being fought by cyber crooks, but that’s something for a whole other debate 😉

    • Andy Williams Post author

      Andii, feel free to “double dip” whenever you want.
      With regards to paying taxes in the UK, it’s not just Google. Certain “coffee houses” also get away without paying anywhere near what other UK businesses do. The fault isn’t with these companies in many cases, it’s with the UK. Until the UK close the loopholes being used by large corporations, these tax stories will continue.

  • Marshall

    Personally I could give a poo about google analytics and webmaster tools anymore. Like everything else Google touches they eventually screw it up. They make it so complicated to understand and operate, it is not worth the brain damage to keep up with the changes. First they screwed up adwords. Then they screwed up Google+. Next the Google Affiliate Network has bitten the dust. Now they are working really hard at making it so hard to be a webmaster that it is not fun anymore. Pretty soon Bing may be the dominate search engine just because Google makes it so difficult to be a webmaster.

  • Sean

    “To get free traffic!”

    Come on Andy – maybe 5 or 6 years a go, but organic traffic is not free. Nowadays, you have to invest in at least one SEO service to compete. Also, SEO takes time and time is money in business

    The only ones making real money with SEO are the ones selling SEO services and products. For example, within hours of the latest Penguin, or whatever its called, I received 2 emails from well known SEO guru’s with their latest product/ebook on how to recover from the latest update. I thought, that was quick.

    The more uncertainty Google creates the more opportunities to create new SEO products and services. Interesting business model.

    There are affiliates and companies who are doing well with SEO, but they’re more the exception than the rule. Relying on SEO alone is not a smart business strategy as its hard to hit a moving target. It was that ‘free traffic’ mentality that I persisted with SEO for too long until really understood the real costs involved. I no longer rely solely on SEO.

    If you haven’t changed your strategy on how you acquire traffic, after what’s happened over the last 2 years, then whose the fool?

    A lot of moaning about Google. Fact is, Google owes you nothing. They own the highway, abide by their rules or find another highway.

    • Andii

      Hi Sean,

      You say, and I quote: “Fact is, Google owes you nothing”. Do you really believe that? I mean, let’s put this into some kind of perspective here. Without US (the folks that populate cyberspace with websites, blogs, and forums), Google wouldn’t even exist.

      You’re right about one thing though, and that is Mr. G does tend to own the highway by their overwhelming dominance, so they can do what the heck they like and cause as much collateral damage (as Mr Cutts puts it), as they like.

      When it comes to BIG business, the strong have always devoured the weak, but providing the good guys keep doing good things, there’s still money to be made online, Google or no Google. It’s just a shame that they’ve become the only serious show in town when it comes to major internet search.

      But patience and relentless persistence usually pays off in the end, no matter who you are or what you do online (providing it’s all good) 😉