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.