Google’s Matt Cutts On SEO Industry Misconceptions: Updates, Revenue Goals & Link Building Obsession

cutts-google-seo-misconceptionsGoogle’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, released another video today named What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry? In short, Matt outlined three topics in this five-minute video.

(1) SEOs confuse algorithm updates with data refreshes.

(2) Panda & Penguin algorithms are not about making Google more money in the short term.

(3) SEOs spend too much energy and time focused on link building and only thinking about search engines.

Here is the video and my summary will follow:

Algorithm Updates Versus Data Refreshes:

Matt explained that one of the biggest misconceptions he sees in the industry is that SEOs often confuse data refreshes and algorithmic updates. This is a topic we covered before at least once, but in short, here is the difference. An algorithm update is when Google changes the algorithm on how the search results are ranked, indexed or filtered. A data refresh is when Google updates the data where the algorithm runs. For example, we had a Penguin update recently; and, that last update was an algorithm update. There was a change to how the algorithm worked. Prior to that, Penguin 3 and 2 were mostly just data refreshes.

Panda & Penguin Updates Are Not About Revenue Gains For Google:

There are many people in the industry that feel Google releases algorithm updates, such as the Panda and Penguin updates with short-term goals of increasing their revenues. Matt said that is absolutely false and the algorithm and organic search results are completely separated from revenue goals.

Matt added that in one of the older earnings report, Panda was listed as a reason why Google’s revenues may not be as high in future quarters. Simply because Panda may have short-term negative impact on Google’s revenues. Why? Because Panda’s goal was to eliminate low-quality content sites that monetized mostly over AdSense revenue.

Then, Matt goes into explaining how Google looks at long-term goals, making the searcher happy, so they come back and search more. Google has methods for letting users take their data and leave. Google is rarely interested in short-term revenue goals, Matt added a few times.

Clearly, this is the PR side of Matt talking; but in my opinion, he 100% believes it.

SEOs Focus Too Much On Link Building & Search Engines:

Matt’s final point in the video is discussing what SEOs spend too much energy focusing on. They include link building and search engines, as opposed to their users. Matt said they can spend more time on social media and other areas to help build awareness of their sites.

He then discusses how the history of great sites, those sites generally focus on design and user experience first. This way the user is happy and recommends it to others. Matt added that Craigslist is a great site; but, their user experience is not great. So, there are many startups that come in and beat them on user experience to take over in some niches.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Graham Ginsberg

    Same with paid links. Penguin 2 only hit the major link sellers

  • Graham Ginsberg

    Yes, agreed, but this is not how Google presently and past, ranked sites.

  • J.R.

    Matt Cutts is SO full of it, Tell me
    for finance niches, IE…..Insurance/Loans/Mortgages, are people going to
    Pinterest/FB/Twitter to talk about how to get a car insurance quote or a cash
    advance, no?…………….They go to google, type in “cheap (insert
    insurance type here) insurance” press enter and either learn about the
    in’s and out of various insurance types and/or shop until they find the lowest
    rate possible. Sometimes they might reach out to family and friends and ask
    what they bought. This is human nature.
    But, as far as I know, FB doesnt’ hold much weight with Google or quite a few
    of us would learn how to take advantage of that technique for ranking purposes.
    Twitter/pinterest is a different story, so YMMV.

    Google for the most part does a pretty good job returning relevant results, but there is NO difference between somebody going out to buy links vs. somebody asking for a kick ass GUEST POST on a blog. The only difference is that one of those strategies takes longer than the other, but the end result is the same.

    Some people on here sound like a bunch
    of guys who got cheated on and are blaming the womanizing jerks your wife slept
    with. Don’t blame him for being a guy! Blame Google, not the grey/black
    hatters. They’re just playing the game to win is all.

    And for any naysayers about negative seo, it does exist and it is REAL. It’s VERY challenging to take down an authority site, but not so much for regular sites. It’s extremely dirty in my mind, but it is a threat.

  • Felipe Bazon

    I disagree with some of these comments. Google’s primary product is and will always be “the quality of its search results” and they will always strive to deliver that organically. Off course Google is always finding ways o make more money via Ads. As an SEO I truly believe that these updates Panda and Penguin came to make organic search results even better and punish those who try to game the algo. Prove to that is that I’ve always played by their rules none of my were ever affected by algo updates

  • Meenakshi

    That’s right but current scenario is different !

  • Craig Gilhooly

    You may want to ensure your own house is in order before you forward it. If it is, go ahead, if not, perhaps leave it.

  • Guest

    I would consider the explanation given by Matt is governed by Hippocratic

    if all that has been spoken above is true then the search quality would have jumped to the level to something Godly and not Humanitarian. In terms of revenue which Matt is emphasizing over if followed Google’s shareholders gonna kill him. In today’s context every search result mainly the ecommerce industry is overburdened with Paid ads , if we consider the CTR figures on each ranking even ranking on #1 would also make no sense to the publisher if he/she is not giving money to Google as all the initial and side results would be paid results.Secondly calling of user experience I don’t think google is focussing on that and still link building seems to major focus area for giving ranks though the older versions of algorithm don’t exist.Thirdly Matt speaks abt social , if it is earned media , how social signal is generated ? Can anybody explain that.First say if I run an ecommerce fan page on FB and post an image with has a highest virality and has generates good amount of traffic to website I don’t think that Google accepts as a social signal. If in social google to promoting Gplus….a post on Gplus caches faster than Facebook , twitter etc .

    I suppose Google team need to synchronize the need three stakeholders -the user, the advertiser and its shareholders and take things accordingly to succeed .

    if Google needs to give the publisher/advertiser the advantages of both earned and paid keeping in retrospect to the needs to the user more and more updates are supposed to be changed or the user and the advertiser would go away.

  • http://www.ebriks.com/ Sudipto Mahindar

    I would consider the explanation given by Matt is governed by Hippocratic

    if all that has been spoken above is true then the search quality would have jumped to the level to something Godly and not Humanitarian. In terms of revenue which Matt is emphasizing over if followed Google’s shareholders gonna kill him. In today’s context every search result mainly the ecommerce industry is overburdened with Paid ads , if we consider the CTR figures on each ranking even ranking on #1 would also make no sense to the publisher if he/she is not giving money to Google as all the initial and side results would be paid results.Secondly calling of user experience I don’t think google is focussing on that and still link building seems to major focus area for giving ranks though the older versions of algorithm don’t exist.Thirdly Matt speaks abt social , if it is earned media , how social signal is generated ? Can anybody explain that.First say if I run an ecommerce fan page on FB and post an image with has a highest virality and has generates good amount of traffic to website I don’t think that Google accepts as a social signal. If in social google to promoting Gplus….a post on Gplus caches faster than Facebook , twitter etc .

    I suppose Google team need to synchronize the need three stakeholders -the user, the advertiser and its shareholders and take things accordingly to succeed .

    if Google needs to give the publisher/advertiser the advantages of both earned and paid keeping in retrospect to the needs to the user more and more updates are supposed to be changed or the user and the advertiser would go away.

  • lencarifin

    which means, this results on SERP with targeted keywords are using link building after all. Few months ’till now i’m confusing about disappear SERP results of my targeted keywords. Now i know the clue, i’ll doing it again for link buildings. My OnPage site are good but poor backlinks, i’m going to fix this soon

  • http://brutegorilla.com/ Brute Gorilla

    You are correct. As I mentioned above, google seems to have deliberately downgraded the small and medium companies and is forcing them to shell out for paid listings.

  • Graham Ginsberg

    The proof is in the Google search results. Who Google places on TOP is the format they love. What format? Paid backlinks and repetitive spammy pages. It has nothing to do with site quality or user experience.

    Test me.

    Maybe you think I got it all wrong.

    Google.com search “pelican ridge meadowland drive” top 3 results PG1 of Google. This is what Google loves. We all need to be JUST like this.

  • Chris Rempel

    The thing about the “future not being bright” for spammers is that it’s BS. Google’s SERPs have been affordably game-able from day 1, and they still are today. Chances are, this will not change until Google stops using backlinks as the primary signal.

    Oh, and when you can blackhat your way to the top for a few hundred bucks – do you really think it’s “crushing” when your site tanks? It’s part of the model. Just roll out another and keep on hammering out links…. And raking it in.

    Works a hell of a lot better than “user experience”. Obviously.

  • http://www.freakfish.co.uk/ Adam Robinson

    He says Google revenue went down after Penguin and Panda! If this is true the only reason i can see why is because lots of businesses went bust after these insane updates.

    Google should have the ability to ignore spam and give it no value. This would cut out spam! If it can detect spam and penalise, why not ignore? I tell you why; adwords!

  • http://www.kdweb.co.uk/seo.htm SEO Companies London

    An excellent read and certainly about time this was cleared up so that those doing the job properly get credited, SEO is more about PR than it is about the link itself, and slowly Google are taking note! More to be done but certainly a step forward in the right direction!

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