Live from Pubcon Vegas: Super Session: Search Engines and Webmasters

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Nov 10, 2010
More Articles by Janet

Matt Cutts from Google was the sole speaker during the super session tonight and covered the “state of the index”.


First Matt talked about the Android operating system, like Nexus One and Froyo. Mobile is really growing quickly so think about how it works with your site.


The Chrome browser has improved from 4.66% market share to 13.04% market share this year. There’s a Chrome extension gallery that features downloadable extensions. Check out some of the extensions Matt mentioned:

  • speed tracer
  • resolution test
  • web developer


Google is really concerned about trust and security. For instance, they moved their servers from China to Hong Kong. Gmail became HTTPS by default. He mentioned blackhat hackers. There are less blackhat spam, but they are writing detectors for it.

Self-Driving Cars!!

Just one more thing that Google is working on. It’s become an internal joke at Google. If a developer needs to delay a launch, others might remind him/her that Google made self-driving cars!

Big Themes: Speed

Caffeine, real-time search, Google Instant, Instant Previews, and Gmail Priority Inbox are a few examples of how Google has been focusing on speed this year.


Google realized that the indexing speed needed to increase in a real-time world. Caffeine provides a continuous updates of the index. It’s incremental indexing and push it through to the index and be live in seconds. It’s 50% faster than the old indexing.

Real-Time Search

Real-time search allows for instant searching on a topic and shows Twitter results.

Google Instant

Google Instant provides results as you type. The goal was to reduce the time to search and save the searcher time to find what they’re looking for. Not everyone likes it, but you can turn it off. Three ways that Google counts an impression in Instant:

  • user hits search/enter or selects query from autocomplete (old way)
  • user clicks on a link in the results
  • user stops typing and results displayed for 3+ seconds

What does it mean for your logs? If a user types [pub], for instance, Google would show results for [pubcon] and if the user clicks on a result, the stats will show for the keyword [pubcon].

Google Instant Previews

Google Instant Previews quickly decides which result to click by providing a preview of the website and what text was highlighted on the page before you click. Some info about Instant Previews:

  • not a ranking change
  • look out for interstitials or overlays
  • previews do not count as clicks
  • you can opt out

Search Options Shown By Default

The navigation bar on the left has changed and you can change the location in the bar to see what the search results look like in a different geographic location.

What Has Google Done for Web Developers?

Google just launched mod_pagespeed, an open-source Apache module and can reduce your load time by 50%.

Google also launched Asynchronous Google Analytics which allows GA to load and get its data even if the entire page doesn’t load.

They also rolled out how to crawl AJAX, and Twitter and Facebook have adopted it. Normally, Google drops anything with a hashtag. But, if you put an exclamation point after the hash, then Google will index AJAX.

Google also launched easier spam reporting. There’s a Chrome extension (Google Webspam Report) which automatically populates the fields in the spam report form. And yes, Google does read spam reports, but they may not manually review every report. Investigations are prioritized based on user impact.

Google also allowed the canonical tag to work across domains. They updated the SEO starter guide and Google’s SEO report card. Google doesn’t always do good SEO for themselves.

Matt encouraged everyone to try their own videos. YouTube now has easy accessibility and can automatically caption for you.

There have also been Webmaster Tools improvements, such as new ways to verify ownership of a site. The Site Performance section of Webmaster Tools has been added. But site speed as a ranking factor only affects < 1% of queries. There’s significantly more data and charts for queries as well. There’s also many more messages in the message center for things like suspected hacking and increases in crawl errors. He encouraged everyone to enable email forwarding so you can be sure to receive these messages to your email address.

What’s in store for the future?

Google listens to feedback. For instance, they will not be using the Beta label forever anymore! When Buzz rolled out, the complaint was that there wasn’t enough testing before it rolled out. But Instant and Instant Previews had some testing prior to roll out.

Google is also devoting more resources to spam issues. Last year they had a plateau of spam. A big trend has been hacked sites. You can also report link spam at

Google also wants to help webmasters more. Engineers are working on helping webmasters affected by spam. There will be more and better penalty notifications in Webmaster Tools. They also are trying to make the reconsideration process more transparent.

What are the big trends?

  • mobile
  • local
  • social
  • variety: real-time, video, news
  • HTML5

Nine Tips You Must Know

  1. SEO: Chase users, not algorithms.
    The best SEOs try to predict what Google will do next and make their sites better.
  2. Keywords: “Ask 10 taxi drivers” rule.
    What would people NOT in the search industry search for?
  3. Blog: Pay attention to the first link
    Make the first link the payload. That’s where most of the readers will go. Don’t bury important links.
  4. Content: Read it out loud
    Make sure it sounds good!
  5. Twitter: Leave room for “RT @you”
    People won’t retweet you if you make it hard to retweet yourself.
  6. Video: Make one
    Be thinking about it as an alternative source of traffic.
  7. Conversion: Test. Repeat. Guide User.
    Don’t be afraid! Test.
  8. Anyone: Own your own domain name.
    If you don’t own your domain, it can be taken from you.
  9. Webmaster Tools: Turn on email!


Barry Schwartz asked: How many ranking factors does Google have?

Matt: They have tried to limit the number of ranking factors in the sense that it’s not a goal to have the most ranking factors. There’s about 200 ranking factors and they can have many signals.

Question: What is Google doing to improve local and reduce local spam?

Matt: Because of the quick growth, it likely opened local up to spam. Google is opening up local to be corrected by users better. Because they can correct more in house now, they can correct it faster than if it were with another content provider.

Question: The info we put into the noscript tag wasn’t picked up by Google Instant Preview. Why?

Matt: While Google does a good job of indexing Flash, the previews aren’t able to show Flash yet.

Question: No one likes the new keyword tool. Can we get the old one back?

Matt: The keyword tool team wants to push forward with the tool and make it better. The team believes they have some roll outs that will make it better.

Question: Is there a plan for customer service in the Android market?

Matt: There is an abuse team that looks at spam in the Android market. There are a lot of people at Google trying to make the market better.

Tony Adam asked: What about mod_pagespeed for IIS?

Matt: We’re likely not opposed to it, we’ve just been more open to working with open source servers.

Question: How can you get a new site indexed?

Matt: AdSense is NOT a good way to do it, but links are.

Question: Why isn’t geolocation better in Google Places?

Matt: Google has outsourced some geolocation, but they should be able to get better at it with their own data.

Question: How does Google view age of a site as a ranking factor?

Matt: After about six months or so, it isn’t much of a factor. People confuse age of the domain with number of inbound links. Domains that are older likely have more inbound links because they’ve had more time to acquire inbound links.

Question: What is Google doing to detect content farms?

Matt: Google historically has tried to do most everything algorithmically. blekko does allow you to identify content farms, but blekko is more human based response. Google is having an active debate about this. If you can’t algorithmically identify a content farm, is it still ok to take action and remove a site?

Question: What’s to stop me from paying someone cheaply and forcing my site up (such as by reporting spam)?

Matt: They have big link spam projects coming up as well as tools coming out to identify paid links.

Share this article

Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter

Receive Monthly Digital Marketing Tips

Subscribe to monthly updates from the Marketing Mojo Blog to get the latest digital marketing tips, best practices and insights - hot off the presses and straight to your inbox!


Blog Search

  • Thomas

    Speed, Speed, and more Speed. My sites are all powered by wordpress. Do I really need to worry about speeding them up or do they come out-of-the-box quick?

    • Janet Driscoll Miller

      Thomas, great question. WordPress can be VERY slow. A lot of it depends on the types and number of plugins you have running. Michael Gray (@graywolf) did a good post a while back about how to speed up your WordPress.

      Some of the points I’ve seen made by Michael and others include:

      1. Reduce the amount of calls to the database. Every time you make a database call, it slows down WordPress. So for things where you don’t need a database call, remove it. For instance, WordPress makes your blog title a database call. Since your blog name likely will remain the same throughout the site, you can replace that data call by simply typing the blog name on the WordPress template.
      2. Manage cache. I use the SuperCache plugin to manage my cache, which helps the site load faster.

      Lastly, I’m not sure if I mentioned it here, but Matt also said that while speed is a factor, most sites are loading just fine and are not penalized. So I wouldn’t obsess about it, but you should check the speed in Webmaster Tools. Great tool. And consider using the new mod_pagespeed Apache module to also speed up the server.