Jun 25 2015

Will Matt Cutts Be Back At Google In 2016?

Google’s former head of web spam Matt Cutts will not be returning to the company this year from the sound of it. He reportedly said on an internet talk show that Google has extended his leave throughout the remainder of the year. Cutts appeared on Leo Laporte’s Twit.tv show, and according to Search Engine Land, he talked about this during … The post Will Matt Cutts Be Back At Google In 2016? appeared first on WebProNews .

Nov 3 2014

Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon

Back in July, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he was taking an extended leave from work to enjoy his personal life. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet (via Search Engine Roundtable ) that he won’t be back to work at all this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Cutts didn’t really elaborate on why he’s extending his leave, but if you could do it, why not, right? He did say this on his blog back in July: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. In Matt’s absence, the industry had relied on updates from people like Google Webmaster Trends analysts John Mueller and Pierre Far. There have been both new Panda and Penguin updates to roll out during Matt’s leave. It remains to be seen when Cutts will return, but there’s not really that much of 2014 left. I’d expect him to return after the New Year. We’ll see. Webmasters must be itching for more of Cutts’ famous YouTube videos. Image via YouTube The post Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon appeared first on WebProNews .

Jun 2 2014

Google Talks Determining Quality When There Aren’t Links

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Google has a new Webmaster Help video out talking about how it looks at quality of content that doesn’t have many links pointing to it. Specifically, Matt Cutts takes on the following question: How does Google determine quality content if there aren’t a lot of links to a post? “In general, that sort of reverts back to the way search engines were before links,” he says. “You’re pretty much judging based on the text on the page. Google has a lot of stuff to sort of say OK, the first time we see a word on a page, count it a little bit more. The next time, a little more, but not a ton more. And that after a while, we say, ‘You know what? We’ve seen this word. Maybe this page is about this topic,’ but it doesn’t really help you to keep repeating that keyword over and over and over again. In fact, at some point, we might view that as keyword stuffing, and then the page would actually do less well – not as well as just a moderate number of mentions of a particular piece of text.” He continues, “We do have other ways. In theory we could say, ‘Well, does it sit on a domain that seems to be somewhat reputable? There are different ways you can try to assess the quality of content, but typically, if you go back to a user is typing possibly some really rare phrase, if there are no other pages on the web that have that particular phrase, even if there’s not that any links, then that page can be returned because we think it might be relevant. It might be topical to what the user is looking for. It can be kind of tough, but at that point, we sort of have to fall back, and assess based on the quality of the content that’s actually on the text – that’s actually on the page.” A few years ago, after the Panda update was first launched, Google shared a list of questions one could ask themselves about their content to get an idea of how Google might view it in terms of quality. You might want to check that out if you haven’t yet. Image via YouTube The post Google Talks Determining Quality When There Aren’t Links appeared first on WebProNews .

Aug 1 2012

Links Are The Web’s Building Blocks, And Fear Of Google Has Them Crumbling

This year, as you may know, Google has been sending out a whole lot of messages to webmasters about problematic links. People are in a frenzy trying to get rid of links that may or may not be hurting their search engine rankings, and this is a frenzy created by Google. It may not be exactly what Google intended, but it’s happening. Sure, there are plenty of cases where webmasters have engaged in some suspect linking practices, but there are other cases where links appearing around the web are out of webmasters’ control. The fact is that the web is about links. Links are what make it a web. It was that way before Google existed, and it still is that way. However, Google has become such a dominant force on the Internet, that webmasters who rely on Google traffic must bend over backwards to appease the search giant, or risk losing visibility in the search results. Competition is just a click away, as Google likes to say, and that’s very true. It is easy for users to simply go to Bing.com or Yahoo.com or any other search engine. But for the most part, people aren’t clicking away. They’re still going to Google. Clearly, Google is doing something right, but it also means webmasters must abide by Google’s rules if they want any significant amount of search traffic. Google, of course, launched its Penguin update earlier this year, an update that will continue to be refreshed over time. It targets sites that are violating Google’s quality guidelines. But beyond the update, Google is taking the time to send out thousands of emails warning webmasters about links, and in the process is spreading a great deal of confusion. Google recently began sending out a new batch of the link warnings with a somewhat different twist than the ones people were getting pre-Penguin. Whereas the company’s advice in the past was to pay attention to these warnings, Google was (at first) saying that with these, they were not necessarily something webmasters need to worry about it. But of course webmasters would worry about them. Google’s Matt Cutts aimed to clear up some of the confusion in a blog post over the weekend. “When we see unnatural links pointing to a site, there are different ways we can respond,” Cutts said, explaining the original messages. “In many severe cases, we reduce our trust in the entire site. For example, that can happen when we believe a site has been engaging in a pretty widespread pattern of link spam over a long period of time. If your site is notified for these unnatural links, we recommend removing as many of the spammy or low-quality links as you possibly can and then submitting a reconsideration request for your site.” “In a few situations, we have heard about directories or blog networks that won’t take links down,” he added. “ If a website tries to charge you to put links up and to take links down, feel free to let us know about that, either in your reconsideration request or by mentioning it on our webmaster forum or in a separate spam report . We have taken action on several such sites, because they often turn out to be doing link spamming themselves.” Regarding the newer messages, Cutts said, “In less severe cases, we sometimes target specific spammy or artificial links created as part of a link scheme and distrust only those links, rather than taking action on a site’s overall ranking. The new messages make it clear that we are taking ‘targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole.’ The new messages also lack the yellow exclamation mark that other messages have, which tries to convey that we’re addressing a situation that is not as severe as the previous “we are losing trust in your entire site” messages.” “These new messages are worth your attention,” he said. “Fundamentally, it means we’re distrusting some links to your site. We often take this action when we see a site that is mostly good but might have some spammy or artificial links pointing to it (widgetbait, paid links, blog spam, guestbook spam, excessive article directory submissions, excessive link exchanges, other types of linkspam, etc.). So while the site’s overall rankings might not drop directly, likewise the site might not be able to rank for some phrases. I wouldn’t classify these messages as purely advisory or something to be ignored, or only for innocent sites.” “On the other hand, I don’t want site owners to panic,” he added. “We do use this message some of the time for innocent sites where people are pointing hacked anchor text to their site to try to make them rank for queries like [buy viagra].” But site owners are panicking. As usual. OK, we get that Google has its rules, but there is something about the whole thing that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s not necessarily Google’s stance on any particular kind of linking, but that Google, for all intents and purposes, even gets to tell people how they can and can’t link. How they can and can’t build the web. Sure, sites are free to disregard any of Google’s rules. You’re not going to go to prison for engaging in practices that Google doesn’t like, but if you’re running a business, being ignored by Google can have a tremendous impact on your well-being. For that reason, many businesses feel that that Google has a boot on their neck. This isn’t a call for government regulation of Google, though many would like to see it (in Europe, Google is already facing it ). As I said, I do agree that competition is a click away. Nobody’s forcing people to use Google. They’re just using it because they want to. But Google could save the web a lot of trouble by handling things differently, or perhaps finding a better way to rank search results, without punishing sites for its own reliance on links. People are scrambling to have links removed that may or may not even affect their sites in Google. Some of these links are links that people would be happy to have pointing to their sites, but fear of Google’s wrath has them in a frenzy, and they don’t want anything tarnishing their search rankings. I want to include a few samples of what people are saying in link removal requests. WebProNews parent company iEntry owns a number of directories, none of which have ever accepted payment for listings, and many of which are nofollowed, yet are receiving requests like countless other sites for link removals because of the fear Google has instilled in webmasters. Nevermind that directories have existed since long before Google existed, and that Google seems to be OK with some directories . For that matter, some directories that are getting link removal requests, Google even links to itself from its own search results. Now, let’s look at some samples. “We are glad that our website ****.com is Live in your directory. Unfortunately we received a 2 notification letter from Google telling that our website is having unnatural links. Our firm decided to contact all our live links in all web directories and will request to delete it. Please kindly delete this website in your directory. I hope you do understand our concerns.” This person was glad to be listed, but feels they have to pull out because of Google. —- “Thank you so much for your effort to include ******* in your directory. However, due to recent changes in the company’s online marketing strategy, I am humbly requesting for the links to be deleted from your database…Really sorry for any inconvenience that this request will cause/may have caused you. Hoping for your consideration and understanding.” That’s another thing. Google is greatly inconveniencing not only those with links posted, but those who have posted the links. Wouldn’t be easier for Google to just take the actions it feels it needs to, without causing such a stir? This is no doubt costing business a great deal of time and money. —- “Unfortunately we’re facing an important situation right now and we could really use your help. Our website is currently under a Google penalty – basically that means that Google thinks some of our links are unnatural, and they have pushed our site to the back of their search engine results. We are working with consultants to ensure our site meets Google’s Quality Guidelines, and they have advised us to remove any links that might even appear as if they were paid for. Often, these links were naturally placed and are on great sites, but in an effort to be overly cautious, we need to have them removed anyway. ” “Our main goals is to get back to business and ensure we’re creating the best site and resources for our visitors, but until we get this issue taken care of, we’re at a bit of a standstill….” Fear of Google is causing people to seek link removal even for naturally placed links on great sites. Naturally placed links on great sites. — “Because some of our sister stores received a Google penalty, we’ve been working to clean up our backlink profile and want to remove any links that Google may even begin to consider as unnatural or paid. This is absolutely no reflection on the value of your site , and we apologize that it is necessary. However, in an effort to be certain we are complying with changes in Google’s Quality Guidelines, we would be grateful if you could remove the links from your site.” So this person is basically saying that even though we may think your site has value, we need to have our link removed because of Google. — “May I ask that you remove the link to ********** from your website? We do appreciate that the link on your site may not be causing us any problems however we wish to cover all bases as if we get this reconsideration wrong it will have huge implications on the future success of our SEO efforts.” So this person appreciates the link that may not even be causing any problems, but just in case, they want the link removed, because of Google. — “We have received a notice from Google regarding presence of links of our website ******** on your website and they have asked us to get them removed, failing which yours & our sites will be penalized in google search, resulting in loss of business for both of us. … “Therefore, you are requested to remove all the links as soon as possible, preferably within 72 hours, and confirm to us so that we can inform Google. It is not a reflection of the quality of your / our website , but only an approach to maintain our respective search engine rankings. Waiting for confirmation of removal from your end.” Speaking of inconvenience, this person even included a deadline, and still noted that it’s not a reflection of the quality of the site. — “The following site ********* has links on their website without authorisation from anyone in our company linking back to our website. The website owner needs to remove these ASAP. As the registrar you are also seen responsible to ensure the website owner/ domain host they get all links removed, this is infringement of intellectual property. Then there’s this kind of request. People actually suggesting that linking is somehow an infringement. Linking. You know, that thing that the world wide web is based upon? SEM firms are even advising clients to take such action. Some are advising that clients send cease and desist letters. For linking. Because of Google. —- Now, this all may not be exactly what Google had in mind. A lot of people are overreacting, to say the least. But that’s what happens when one company has so much power on the Internet. Not that long ago, you might have thought that the more links out there pointing to your site the better. That’s more paths to your site, and more chances for people to find it, but with so much reliance on Google, people are getting rid of many of those paths for the all important one. Many of the things Google does with regards to how it treats certain kinds of links make a lot of sense, but this kind of madness that has people frantically seeking link removals (and even sites charging for link removals) doesn’t seem great for the web. It’s understandable that people want to be very careful about not having a negative impact on their search rankings, but this goes to show how much power Google really has over the web, just in its own efforts to try and make its own product better based on its flawed algorithm. I say flawed algorithm, because it’s not perfect. That’s not to say it isn’t as good as or better than competitors’ algorithms. There’s no perfect way to rank web content. If there is, nobody to my knowledge, has implemented it yet. When Google started, PageRank and links were a revolutionary way to rank search results, and there’s no question that they have an important place today. However, it seems like Google is indirectly reconstructing the web by sending out all of these messages to webmasters, who will essentially act as pawns in the process of making Google’s own search results better (which may or may not even actually happen). It does suggest that Google is relying on webmasters just as much as webmasters are relying on Google. Perhaps even more so. What would happen to the quality of search results if no webmasters abided by Google’s rules? It’s an interesting scenario to consider, no matter how unlikely. People fear Google too much not to obey the rules. Those who don’t obey are punished one way or another. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible, at this point, that obeying the rules is out of webmasters’ control, as long as negative SEO is able to exist, which Google seems to have recently acknowledged that it is. Google did recently indicate that it is working on a way for users to tell Google which links they want it to ignore, and webmasters/SEOs will certainly be happy when it gets here, but why doesn’t Google simply ignore the links it decides are problematic, without making webmasters jump through hoops? To some extent, Google seems to be taking the action it deems appropriate on certain links (as in the subject of this most recent round of messages), but people are still getting messages, and Google is still taking it upon itself to dictate which links on the World’s web are valuable, and which are not. Google clearly still sees links as an incredibly important signal in ranking content, hence the company’s emphasis on penalizing any manipulation of them. “I don’t doubt that in ten years, things will be more social, and those will be more powerful signals, but I wouldn’t write the epitaph for links quite yet,” Matt Cutts recently said at SMX Advanced. Smart site owners find ways to diversify their traffic, so they don’t have to rely so much on Google for traffic. Social media has been a godsend for a lot of business, and the landscape continues to change rapidly. Even Google itself is doing some interesting things to change how we find and consume information , which may actually make search less crucial. We are living in interesting times, indeed. In the meantime, however, it appears that a great deal of the web will bend over backwards to appease Google, as to not be punished for what Google doesn’t like. Are you sore from all of that bending yet? Let us know in the comments .

May 11 2012

Penguin Update Will Come Back (Like Panda), According To Report

Danny Sullivan put out a new article with some fresh quotes from Matt Cutts . From this, we know that he has deemed the Penguin update a success. In terms of false positives, he says it hasn’t had the same impact as the Panda or Florida updates, though Google has seen “a few cases where we might want to investigate more.” Sullivan confirmed what many of us had assumed was the case: Penguin will continue into the future, much like the Panda update. Cutts is even quoted in the article: “It is possible to clean things up…the bottom line is, try to resolve what you can.” The Good News Depending on your outlook, this could either be taken as good or bad news. On the good side of things, it means you can come back. Just because your site was destroyed by Penguin, you still have a shot to get back in Google’s good graces – even without having to submit a reconsideration request. Google’s algorithmically, assuming that it does what it is supposed to, will detect that you are no longer in violation of Google’s guidelines, and treat your site accordingly. The Bad News The bad news is that there is always the chance it won’t work like it’s supposed to. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are many, many complaints about the Penguin update already. Here’s an interesting one. Many feel like it’s not exactly done what it is supposed to. Another perhaps not so positive element of the news is that sites will have to remain on their toes, wondering if something they’ve done will trigger future iterations of the Penguin update. Remember when Demand Media’s eHow as not hit by the Panda update when it first launched, but was then later hit by another iteration of it, and had to delete hundreds of thousands of articles , and undergo a huge change in design, and to some extent, business model? But on the other hand, eHow content is the better for it, despite a plethora of angry writers who no longer get to contribute content. There’s always the chance that some sites have managed to escape Penguin so far, but just haven’t been hit yet. Of course, Danny makes a great point in that “for any site that ‘lost’ in the rankings, someone gained.” It will be interesting to see how often the Penguin update gets a refresh. There were two Panda refreshes in April alone (bookending the Penguin update). It might be even more interesting to see how many complaints there are when the refreshes come back, and how often they’re noticed. Even the last Panda update went unconfirmed for about a week. Either way, be prepared for Penguin news to come peppered throughout the years to come. Just like Panda. We’ll certainly continue to cover both.

May 8 2012

Google’s Matt Cutts Talks Search Result Popularity Vs. Accuracy

Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, posted a new Webmaster Help video today, discussing accuracy vs. popularity in search results. This video was his response to a user-submitted question: Does Google feel a responsibility to the public to return results that are truly based on a page’s quality (assuming quality is determined by the accuracy of info on a page) as opposed to popularity? “Popularity is different than accuracy,” says Cutts. “And in fact, PageRank is different than popularity. I did a video that talked about porn a while ago that basically said a lot of people visit porn sites, but very few people link to porn sites. So the Iowa Real Estate Board is more likely to have higher PageRank than a lot of porn sites, just because people link to the official governmental sites, even if they sometimes visit the porn sites a little bit more often.” Here’s that video, by the way: “So I do think that reputation is different than popularity, and PageRank encodes that reputation pretty well,” Cutts continues. “At the same time, I go to bed at night sleeping relatively well, knowing that I’m trying to change the world. And I think a lot of people at Google feel that way. They’re like trying to find the best way to return the best content. So we feel good about that. And at the same time, we do feel the weight, the responsibility of what we’re doing, because are we coming up with the best signals? Are we finding the best ways to slice and dice data and measure the quality of pages or the quality of sites? And so people brainstorm a lot. And I think that they do feel the weight, the responsibility of being a leading search engine and trying to find the very best quality content.” “Even somebody who has done a medical search, the difference between stage four brain cancer versus the query grade four brain cancer, it turns out that very specific medical terminology can determine which kinds of results you get. And if you just happen not to know the right word, then you might not get the best results. And so we try to think about how can we help the user out if they don’t necessarily know the specific vocabulary?” Interesting example. We’ve pointed to the example of “level 4 brain cancer” a handful of times in our Panda and pre-Panda coverage of content farms’ effects on search results. The top result for that query, by the way, is better than it once once, though the eHow result (written by a freelance writer claiming specialities in military employment, mental health and gardens – who has also written a fair amount about toilets), which was ranking before, is still number two. It’s worth noting that Google’s most recent list of algorithm updates includes some tweaks to surface more authoritative results . “So I would say that at least in search quality in the knowledge group, we do feel a lot of responsibility,” says Cutts. “We do feel like we know a lot of people around the world are counting on Google to return good quality search results. And we do the best we can, or at least we try really hard to think of the best ways we can think of to return high-quality search results.” “That’s part of what makes it a fun job,” he says. “But it definitely is one where you understand that you are impacting people’s lives. And so you do try to make sure that you act appropriately. And you do try to make sure that you can find the best content and the best quality stuff that you can. But it’s a really fun job, and it’s a really rewarding job for just that same reason.” Cutts then gets into some points that the antitrust lawyers will surely enjoy. “What makes me feel better is that there are a lot of different search engines that have different philosophies,” he says. “And so if Google isn’t doing a good job, I do think that Bing, or Blekko, or DuckDuckGo, or other search engines in the space will explore and find other ways to return things. And not just other general search engines, but people who want to do travel might go specifically to other websites. So I think that there’s a lot of opportunities on the web.” “I think Google has done well because we return relatively good search results. But we understand that if we don’t do a good job at that, our users will complain,” he says. “They’ll go other places. And so we don’t just try to return good search results because it’s good for business. It’s also because we’re Google searchers as well. And we want to return the best search results so that they work for everybody and for us included.” Well, users do complain all the time, and certainly some of them talking about using other services, but the monthly search market reports don’t appear to suggest that Google has run too many people off, so they must be doing something right.

May 7 2012

How Google Handles Font Replacement

Google’s Matt Cutts put up a new Webmaster Help video, discussing how Google handles font replacement. The video was created in response to a user-submitted question: How does Google view font replacement (ie. Cufan, SIFR, FLIR)? Are some methods better than others, are all good, all bad? “So we have mentioned some specific stuff like SIFR that we’re OK with. But again, think about this,” says Cutts. “You want to basically show the same content to users that you do to Googlebot. And so, as much as possible, you want to show the same actual content. So we’ve said that having fonts using methods like SIFR is OK, but ideally, you might concentrate on some of the newer stuff that has been happening in that space.” “So if you search for web fonts, I think Google, for example, has a web font directory of over 100 different web fonts,” Cutts says. “So now we’re starting to get the point where, if you use one of these types of commonly available fonts, you don’t even have to do font replacement using the traditional techniques. It’s actual letters that are selectable and copy and pastable in your browser. So it’s not the case that we tend to see a lot of deception and a lot of abuse.” “If you were to have a logo here and then underneath the logo have text that’s hidden that says buy cheap Viagra, debt consolidation, mortgages online, that sort of stuff, then that could be viewed as deceptive,” he adds. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of thing that can get you in trouble with Google’s Penguin update , even if Google doesn’t get you with a manual penalty. To avoid this, here’s more advice from Google, regarding hidden text . “But if the text that’s in the font replacement technique is the same as what is in the logo, then you should be in pretty good shape,” Cutts wraps up the video. “However, I would encourage people to check out some of this newer stuff, because the newer stuff doesn’t actually have to do some of these techniques. Rather, it’s the actual letters, and it’s just using different ways of marking that up, so that the browser, it looks really good. And yet, at the same time, the real text is there. And so search engines are able to index it and process it, just like they would normal text.”

May 4 2012

Google Algorithm Changes For April: Big List Released

As expected, Google has finally released its big list of algorithm changes for the month of April. It’s been an interesting month, to say the least, with not only the Penguin update, but a couple of Panda updates sprinkled in. There’s not a whole lot about either of those on this list, however, which is really a testament to just how many things Google is always doing to change its algorithm – signals (some of them, at least) which could help or hurt you in other ways besides the hugely publicized updates. We’ll certainly be digging a bit more into some of these in forthcoming articles. At a quick glance, I noticed a few more freshness-related tweaks. Google has also expanded its index base by 15%, which is interesting. As far as Penguin goes, Google does mention: “Keyword stuffing classifier improvement. [project codename “Spam”] We have classifiers designed to detect when a website is keyword stuffing. This change made the keyword stuffing classifier better.” Keyword stuffing is against Google’s quality guidelines, and was one of the specific things Matt Cutts mentioned in his announcement of the update. Interestingly, unlike previous lists, there is no mention of Panda whatsoever on this list, though there were 2 known Panda data refreshes during April. Here’s the list in its entirety: Categorize paginated documents.  [launch codename “Xirtam3”, project codename “CategorizePaginatedDocuments”] Sometimes, search results can be dominated by documents from a paginated series . This change helps surface more diverse results in such cases. More language-relevant navigational results.  [launch codename “Raquel”] For navigational searches when the user types in a web address, such as [bol.com], we generally try to rank that web address at the top. However, this isn’t always the best answer. For example, bol.com is a Dutch page, but many users are actually searching in Portuguese and are looking for the Brazilian email service, http://www.bol.uol.com.br/. This change takes into account language to help return the most relevant navigational results. Country identification for webpages.  [launch codename “sudoku”] Location is an important signal we use to surface content more relevant to a particular country. For a while we’ve had systems designed to detect when a website, subdomain, or directory is relevant to a set of countries. This change extends the granularity of those systems to the page level for sites that host user generated content, meaning that some pages on a particular site can be considered relevant to France, while others might be considered relevant to Spain. Anchors bug fix.  [launch codename “Organochloride”, project codename “Anchors”] This change fixed a bug related to our handling of anchors. More domain diversity.  [launch codename “Horde”, project codename “Domain Crowding”] Sometimes search returns too many results from the same domain. This change helps surface content from a more diverse set of domains. More local sites from organizations.  [project codename “ImpOrgMap2”] This change makes it more likely you’ll find an organization website from your country (e.g. mexico.cnn.com for Mexico rather than cnn.com). Improvements to local navigational searches.  [launch codename “onebar-l”] For searches that include location terms, e.g. [ dunston mint seattle ] or [ Vaso Azzurro Restaurant 94043 ], we are more likely to rank the local navigational homepages in the top position, even in cases where the navigational page does not mention the location. Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking.  [launch codename “Bi02sw41”] One of the most fundamental signals used in search is whether and how your search terms appear on the pages you’re searching. This change improves the way those terms are scored. Disable salience in snippets.  [launch codename “DSS”, project codename “Snippets”] This change updates our system for generating snippets to keep it consistent with other infrastructure improvements. It also simplifies and increases consistency in the snippet generation process. More text from the beginning of the page in snippets.  [launch codename “solar”, project codename “Snippets”] This change makes it more likely we’ll show text from the beginning of a page in snippets when that text is particularly relevant. Smoother ranking changes for fresh results.  [launch codename “sep”, project codename “Freshness”] We want to help you find the freshest results, particularly for searches with important new web content, such as breaking news topics. We try to promote content that appears to be fresh. This change applies a more granular classifier, leading to more nuanced changes in ranking based on freshness. Improvement in a freshness signal.  [launch codename “citron”, project codename “Freshness”] This change is a minor improvement to one of the freshness signals which helps to better identify fresh documents. No freshness boost for low-quality content.  [launch codename “NoRot”, project codename “Freshness”] We have modified a classifier we use to promote fresh content to exclude fresh content identified as particularly low-quality. Tweak to trigger behavior for Instant Previews.  This change narrows the trigger area for Instant Previews  so that you won’t see a preview until you hover and pause over the icon to the right of each search result. In the past the feature would trigger if you moused into a larger button area. Sunrise and sunset search feature internationalization.  [project codename “sunrise-i18n”] We’ve internationalized the  sunrise and sunset  search feature to 33 new languages, so now you can more easily plan an evening jog before dusk or set your alarm clock to watch the sunrise with a friend. Improvements to currency conversion search feature in Turkish.  [launch codename “kur”, project codename “kur”] We launched improvements to the currency conversion search feature in Turkish. Try searching for [ dolar kuru ], [ euro ne kadar ], or [ avro kaç para ]. Improvements to news clustering for Serbian.  [launch codename “serbian-5”] For news results, we generally try to cluster articles about the same story into groups. This change improves clustering in Serbian by better grouping articles written in Cyrillic and Latin. We also improved our use of “stemming” — a technique that relies on the “ stem ” or root of a word. Better query interpretation.  This launch helps us better interpret the likely intention of your search query as suggested by your last few searches. News universal results serving improvements.  [launch codename “inhale”] This change streamlines the serving of news results on Google by shifting to a more unified system architecture. UI improvements for breaking news topics.  [launch codename “Smoothie”, project codename “Smoothie”] We’ve improved the user interface for news results when you’re searching for a breaking news topic. You’ll often see a large image thumbnail alongside two fresh news results. More comprehensive predictions for local queries.  [project codename “Autocomplete”] This change improves the comprehensiveness of autocomplete predictions by expanding coverage for long-tail U.S. local search queries such as addresses or small businesses. Improvements to triggering of public data search feature.  [launch codename “Plunge_Local”, project codename “DIVE”] This launch improves triggering for the  public data search feature , broadening the range of queries that will return helpful population and unemployment data. Adding Japanese and Korean to error page classifier.  [launch codename “maniac4jars”, project codename “Soft404”] We have signals designed to detect crypto 404 pages (also known as “soft 404s”), pages that return valid text to a browser, but the text only contains error messages, such as “Page not found.” It’s rare that a user will be looking for such a page, so it’s important we be able to detect them. This change extends a particular classifier to Japanese and Korean. More efficient generation of alternative titles.  [launch codename “HalfMarathon”] We use a variety of signals to generate titles in search results. This change makes the process more efficient, saving tremendous CPU resources without degrading quality. More concise and/or informative titles.  [launch codename “kebmo”] We look at a number of factors when deciding what to show for the title of a search result. This change means you’ll find more informative titles and/or more concise titles with the same information. Fewer bad spell corrections internationally.  [launch codename “Potage”, project codename “Spelling”] When you search for [mango tea], we don’t want to show spelling predictions like “Did you mean ‘mint tea’?” We have algorithms designed to prevent these “bad spell corrections” and this change internationalizes one of those algorithms. More spelling corrections globally and in more languages.  [launch codename “pita”, project codename “Autocomplete”] Sometimes autocomplete will correct your spelling before you’ve finished typing. We’ve been offering advanced spelling corrections in English, and recently we extended the comprehensiveness of this feature to cover more than 60 languages. More spell corrections for long queries.  [launch codename “caterpillar_new”, project codename “Spelling”] We rolled out a change making it more likely that your query will get a spell correction even if it’s longer than ten terms. You can watch  uncut footage  of when we decided to launch this from our past blog post. More comprehensive triggering of “showing results for” goes international.  [launch codename “ifprdym”, project codename “Spelling”] In some cases when you’ve misspelled a search, say [pnumatic], the results you find will actually be results for the corrected query, “pneumatic.” In the past, we haven’t always provided the explicit user interface to say, “Showing results for pneumatic” and the option to “Search instead for pnumatic.” We recently started showing the explicit “Showing results for” interface more often in these cases in English, and now we’re expanding that to new languages. “Did you mean” suppression goes international.  [launch codename “idymsup”, project codename “Spelling”] Sometimes the “Did you mean?” spelling feature predicts spelling corrections that are accurate, but wouldn’t actually be helpful if clicked. For example, the results for the predicted correction of your search may be nearly identical to the results for your original search. In these cases, inviting you to refine your search isn’t helpful. This change first checks a spell prediction to see if it’s useful before presenting it to the user. This algorithm was already rolled out in English, but now we’ve expanded to new languages. Spelling model refresh and quality improvements.  We’ve refreshed spelling models and launched quality improvements in 27 languages. Fewer autocomplete predictions leading to low-quality results.  [launch codename “Queens5”, project codename “Autocomplete”] We’ve rolled out a change designed to show fewer autocomplete predictions leading to low-quality results. Improvements to SafeSearch for videos and images.  [project codename “SafeSearch”] We’ve made improvements to our SafeSearch signals in videos and images mode, making it less likely you’ll see adult content when you aren’t looking for it. Improved SafeSearch models.  [launch codename “Squeezie”, project codename “SafeSearch”] This change improves our classifier used to categorize pages for SafeSearch in 40+ languages. Improvements to SafeSearch signals in Russian.  [project codename “SafeSearch”] This change makes it less likely that you’ll see adult content in Russian when you aren’t looking for it. Increase base index size by 15%.  [project codename “Indexing”] The base search index is our main index for serving search results and every query that comes into Google is matched against this index. This change increases the number of documents served by that index by 15%. *Note: We’re constantly tuning the size of our different indexes and changes may not always appear in these blog posts. New index tier.  [launch codename “cantina”, project codename “Indexing”] We keep our index in “tiers” where different documents are indexed at different rates depending on how relevant they are likely to be to users. This month we introduced an additional indexing tier to support continued comprehensiveness in search results. Backend improvements in serving.  [launch codename “Hedges”, project codename “Benson”]   We’ve rolled out some improvements to our serving systems making them less computationally expensive and massively simplifying code. “Sub-sitelinks” in expanded sitelinks.  [launch codename “thanksgiving”] This improvement digs deeper  into  megasitelinks  by showing sub-sitelinks instead of the normal snippet. Better ranking of expanded sitelinks.  [project codename “Megasitelinks”] This change improves the ranking of megasitelinks by providing a minimum score for the sitelink based on a score for the same URL used in general ranking. Sitelinks data refresh.  [launch codename “Saralee-76”] Sitelinks (the links that appear beneath some search results and link deeper into the site) are generated in part by an offline process that analyzes site structure and other data to determine the most relevant links to show users. We’ve recently updated the data through our offline process. These updates happen frequently (on the order of weeks). Less snippet duplication in expanded sitelinks.  [project codename “Megasitelinks”] We’ve adopted a new technique to reduce duplication in the snippets of expanded sitelinks. Movie showtimes search feature for mobile in China, Korea and Japan.  We’ve expanded our movie showtimes feature for mobile to China, Korea and Japan. No freshness boost for low quality sites.  [launch codename “NoRot”, project codename “Freshness”] We’ve modified a classifier we use to promote fresh content to exclude sites identified as particularly low-quality. MLB search feature.  [launch codename “BallFour”, project codename “Live Results”] As the MLB season began, we rolled out a new MLB search feature. Try searching for [ sf giants score ] or [ mlb scores ]. Spanish football (La Liga) search feature.  This feature provides scores and information about teams playing in La Liga. Try searching for [ barcelona fc ] or [ la liga ]. Formula 1 racing search feature.  [launch codename “CheckeredFlag”] This month we introduced a new search feature to help you find Formula 1 leaderboards and results. Try searching [ formula 1 ] or [ mark webber ]. Tweaks to NHL search feature.  We’ve improved the NHL search feature so it’s more likely to appear when relevant. Try searching for [ nhl scores ] or [ capitals score ]. Keyword stuffing classifier improvement.  [project codename “Spam”] We have classifiers designed to detect when a website is  keyword stuffing . This change made the keyword stuffing classifier better. More authoritative results.  We’ve tweaked a signal we use to surface more authoritative content. Better HTML5 resource caching for mobile.  We’ve improved caching of different components of the search results page, dramatically reducing latency in a number of cases. More to come…

May 3 2012

Matt Cutts: Excessive Blog Updates To Twitter Not Doorways, But Possibly Annoying

Google’s head of webspam took on an interesting question from a user in a new Webmaster Help video: Some websites use their Twitter account as an RSS like service for every article they post. Is that ok or would it be considered a doorway? I know he shoots these videos in advance, but the timing of the video’s release is interesting, considering that it’s asking about doorways. Google’s Penguin Update was unleashed on the web last week, seeking out violators of Google’s quality guidelines , and dealing with them algorithmically. One of Google’s guidelines is: Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content. There is no shortage of questions from webmasters wondering what exactly Google is going after with the update, which will likely come with future iterations, not unlike the Panda update. For more on some things to avoid, browse our Penguin coverage . Using your Twitter feed like an RSS feed, however, should not put you in harm’s way. “Well, I wouldn’t consider it a doorway because a doorway is typically when you make a whole bunch of different pages, each page is targeting one specific phrase,” he says. “And then when you land there, usually it’s like, click here to enter And then it takes you somewhere, and monetizes you, or something along those lines. So I wouldn’t consider it a doorway.” Cutts does suggest that such a practice can be annoying to users, however. “Could it be annoying?” he continues. “Yes, it could be annoying, especially if you’re writing articles like every three minutes or if those articles are auto-generated somehow. But for example, in FeedBurner, I use a particular service where, when I do a post on my blog, it will automatically tweet to my a Twitter stream, and it will say New Blog Post, colon, and whatever the title of the blog post is. And that’s perfectly fine.” “That’s a good way to alert your users that something’s going on,” he adds. “So there’s nothing wrong with saying, when you do a blog post, automatically do a tweet. It might be really annoying if you have so many blog posts, that you get so many tweets, that people start to ignore you or unfollow you. But it wouldn’t be considered a doorway.” OK, so you’re safe from having to worry about that being considered a doorway in Google’s eyes. I’m not sure I entirely agree with Cutts’ point about it being annoying, however. Yes, I suppose it can be annoying. That really depends on the user, and how they use Twitter. I’m guessing that it is, in fact, annoying to Cutts. Just as some sites treat their Twitter feed like an RSS feed, however, there are plenty of Twitter users who use it as such. A lot of people don’t use RSS, and would simply prefer to get their news via Twitter feed. Some users in this category (I consider myself among them) follow sites on Twitter because they want to follow the content they’re putting out. It’s really about user preference. Not everybody uses Twitter the same way, so you have to determine how you want to approach it. Cutts is definitely right in that some may unfollow you, but there could be just as many who will follow you because they want the latest. Either way, it doesn’t appear to be an issue as far as Google rankings are concerned.

May 2 2012

Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords

Last week, Google unleashed its Penguin update upon webmasters. The update, as you may know, was designed to decrease the rankings of sites engaging in black hat SEO tactics and webspam. One of the classic black hat tactics is keywords stuffing, so if you’ve been doing this and getting away with it in the past, there’s a good chance the update took you down a notch. Specifically, Google’s Matt Cutts said the update “will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. Avoiding keyword stuffing has long been one of these guidelines. The guideline says, “Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.” Google has a page about this in its help center , where it elaborates a little more. Here’s what Google says, verbatim, about keyword stuffing there: “Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results. Filling pages with keywords results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context. To fix this problem, review your site for misused keywords. Typically, these will be lists or paragraphs of keywords, often randomly repeated. Check carefully, because keywords can often be in the form of hidden text, or they can be hidden in title tags or alt attributes. As with other guidelines, Google suggests submitting a reconsideration request, once you feel your site is in compliance. Here are some tips on submitting your request directly from Google . Unlike some of the other black hat tactics advised against in the guidelines, such as cloaking , Google specifically named keyword stuffing in its announcement of the Penguin update . Cutts even provided the following image in the announcement, highlighting this particular tactic: Cutts has spoken out about the practice plenty of times in the past. Here’s a humorous example of when he called out one site in particular about five years ago. More recently – last month, in fact – Cutts talked about a related violation in a Google+ update . He discussed phone number spam , which he essentially equates to keyword stuffing. ““I wanted to clarify a quick point: when people search for a phone number and land on a page like the one below, it’s not really useful and a bad user experience. Also, we do consider it to be keyword stuffing to put so many phone numbers on a page,” he wrote. “There are a few websites that provide value-add for some phone numbers, e.g. sites that let people discuss a specific phone number that keeps calling them over and over. But if a site stuffs a large number of numbers on its pages without substantial value-add, that can violate our guidelines, not to mention annoy users.” Here’s the image he was referring to: Getting Better At Keywords Cutts has advised that you not spend any time worrying about the keywords meta tag (though Google does use the meta description tag): In March, Google released a video about 5 common SEO mistakes and 6 good ideas : One of the “good ideas” was: Include relevant words in your copy: Try to put yourself in the shoes of searchers. What would they query to find you? Your name/business name, location, products, etc., are important. It’s also helpful to use the same terms in your site that your users might type (e.g., you might be a trained “flower designer” but most searchers might type [florist]), and to answer the questions they might have (e.g., store hours, product specs, reviews). It helps to know your customers. I’d suggest including them in your titles as well. Matt Cutts has talked about keywords a lot in various Webmaster Help videos. If you want to make sure you’re getting keywords right, I’d advise watching some of these discussions (straight from the horse’s mouth). They’re generally short, and won’t require a lot of time: