Monday, 3 June 2013

Google put out a new Webmaster Help video today, featuring Matt Cutts once again talking about “misconceptions” in the SEO industry. You may recall a while back when he tackled the “misconception” that Google is doing everything you read about in its patents.

There are two main takeaways from the new video. The first is that Google does not make changes to its algorithm (like Panda and Penguin) in order to generate more revenue for itself. The second is that you should focus more on design and user experience than link building and trying to please search engines.

First, Cutts points out that a lot of people don’t get the difference between an algorithm update and a data refresh, both of which are common terms associated with Panda and Penguin. He’s talked about this before, but here’s his latest refresher.

“The difference between an algorithm update versus just a data refresh – when you’re changing your algorithm, the signals that you’re using and how you weight those signals are fundamentally changing,” he says. “When you’re doing just a data refresh, then the way that you run your computer program stays the same, but you might have different incoming data. You might refresh the data that the algorithm is using. That’s something that a lot of people just don’t seem to necessarily get.”

Then he moves on to “a bigger one they don’t seem to get”.

“I’ve seen a lot of accusations after Panda and Penguin that Google is just trying to increase its revenue, and let me just confront that head on,” says Cutts. “Panda, if you go back and look at Google’s quarterly statements, they actually mention that Panda decreased our revenue. So a lot of people have this conspiracy theory that Google is making these changes to make more money. And not only do we not think that way in the search quality team, we’re more than happy to make changes which are better for the long term loyalty of our users, the user experience, and all that sort of stuff, and if that’s a short-term revenue hit, then that might be okay, right? Because people are going to be coming back to Google long term. So a lot of people…it’s a regular conspiracy theory: ‘Google did this ranking change because they want people to buy more ads,’ and that’s certainly not the case with Panda. It’s certainly not the case with Penguin. It’s kind of funny to see that as a meme within the industry, and it’s just something that I wanted to debunk that misconception.”

“Panda and Penguin,” he continues. “We just want ahead and made those changes, and we’re not going to worry about whether we lose money, we make money, whatever. We just want to return the best users’ results we can. And the mental model you should have is, we want to have the long-term loyalty of our users. We don’t want to lock users in, so we have Data Liberation. People can always get their own data back out of Google, and if we just choose short-term revenue, that might make some money in the short term, but historically we’ve had the long-term view. If you make users happy, they’ll come back. They’ll do more searches. They’ll like Google. They’ll trust Google more. That, in our opinion, is worth more than just some short-term sort of revenue.”

“If you look at the history of the decisions that Google has made, I think you see that over and over again, he adds. “And Panda and Penguin are no exception to that.”

Finally he gets to the topic of what he thinks SEOs are spending too much time doing.

“I think a good proxy for that is link building,” Cutts says. “A lot of people think about, ‘How do I build more links?’ and they dont’ think about the grander, global picture of, ‘How do I make something compelling, and then how do I make sure that I market it well?’ You know, you get too focused on search engines, and then you, for example, would entirely miss social media and social media marketing. And that’s a great way to get out in front of people. So, specifically, I would think, just like Google does, about the user experience of your site. What makes it compelling? What makes it interesting? What makes it fun? Because if you look at the history of sites that have done relatively well or businesses that are doing well now…you can take anywhere from Instagram to Path – even Twitter…there’s a cool app called YardSale, and what those guys try to do is they make design a fundamental piece of why their site is advantageous to go to. It’s a great experience. People enjoy that.”

I think we’ve all pretty much heard this before.

Image: SerSon Art (Etsy)


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