To finish off the first day of SMX Advanced, Danny Sullivan held a question and answer session with Google’s Matt Cutts.
Matt said that there had been an update of Panda about six weeks ago. NormallyPanda updates occur about once per month. They are looking at how to pull some people out of the “grey” zone right now. Panda has almost reached the “steady” state where the updates aren’t as drastic. New Panda data becomes part of the index rolling out new panda updates about ten days out of every month. It’s now a small enough incremental change.
Announcing Algorithm Updates
Danny asked why Google doesnt’ just announce all of this when it happens. Matt said that they did this for about a year, announcing what had launched. But people seemed to tire of the multiple update announcements, and many of them might be small updates. The noise might make people crazy. So they tend to just announce big updates, like they did with Penguin 2.0 recently.
Penguin 2.0 and Web Spam
There’s still spam getting through, even after Penguin 2.0. Why? Updates are normally targeted towards a particular type of query. Penguin is for web spam, but not hacked sites, for instance. Penguin 2.0 goes deeper and touches individual pages across the entire site. They’re always looking at types of queries to make them better. Some techniques were not addressed in Penguin per se.
New Payday Loans Web Spam Update
Matt mentioned a payday loans web spam update that launched today. Barry Schwartz wrote about this on Search Engine Land today.
Danny shared that he thinks there are problems with links as a social signal. Now we’re in a new world of link requests – takedown requests. Why won’t you just disavow the links yourself at Google? Matt said that they find the sites at Google and notify webmasters when they see something questionable. Danny asked how is it fair that someone has to clean up someone else’s mistakes? Matt stressed that it’s a one time correction really. He believes we’re moving to a healthier web world that gets harder to spam. Disavow is just a way to take care of them if someone won’t take them down.
Danny joked, “Where’s the decoder ring of what links count?” Matt said that a press release link is a paid link essentially. Matt said just aim for a great user experience.
Messages from Google
Messages aren’t typically about algorithms. If Google takes manual action, you will likely get a message in Google Webmaster Tools. In the next few days, Google is launching in the next few days example URLs to demonstrate the problem in these messages.
How Long Are Penalties?
The penalties vary by how severe the issue is. Penalties currently automatically expire. Manual actions automatically expire. In some cases, they may circle back to re-check the site when the penalty is auto-expiring.
What about Mobile?
Matt emphasized that everyone should really be thinking about mobile. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it may not rank as highly on mobile. If the mobile site is slow, it also may be affected as well. This change has been approved, but no word on when it will roll out.
Danny reminded Matt that he had told us that not provided was nothing to worry about because it would only be in the single digits. What’s up? Matt remarked that given what’s happened recently (NSA), don’t you think it’s a good idea to encrypt data for privacy?
Keyword Tracking in Google Webmaster Tools
Danny asked why we can’t see terms in Google Webmaster Tools forever. Matt said that Google gives you 90 days… you can download it.
Matt confirmed that slower websites won’t rank as well. It’s not a penalty, but page speed does have an effect on ranking.
Most Overrated Issue in SEO?
What is the most overrated thing in SEO right now? Short term social, not long term social.
Most Underrated Issue in SEO?
Most underrated? User experience especially on mobile.
What’s your biggest surprise over the last year? It’s impossible to gauge what people will or will not notice.