Keynote Address – Matt Cutts, Google

March 12, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Good Morning, Friends! Are you awake? I am! It’s because Jack Leblond brought me Starbucks. Isn’t he the nicest person on the Internet? I think so. Mmm…coffee.

It’s time for a keynote. This time it’s Mr. Matt Cutts.  I haven’t liveblogged a Matt Cutts keynote in forever. It’s been at least two weeks. ;)

Matt has an actual presentation this time. Is he allowed to do that? Where’s the hour-long Q&A? :)

He says it sucks to launch things for conferences. It’s a huge bear (bear? like roar?) to try and coordinate. You’re checking code at 7:30am. But they’re launching something new today.

Black hat SEO joke from ~2004.

Question: Why did the black hat SEO spam an innocent blogger?

Answer: Because the blogged asked for it. They said “please post your comments and suggestions”. Buy my cheap Viagra online!

That’s not how it is anymore. It’s not Webmasters or SEOs vs the search engines.  We’re all blogging.  We’re all tweeting.  We’ve all become publishers.  We’re *all* publishers now so we’re in it together.  [Right. Because Google loves publishers. Or, at least they love screwing them over. Wait, what?]

Google Friend Connect API

He shows a hand drawing of his blog. It’s awesome.   He starts talking about the new Google Friend Connect API.

You can add a few lines of JavaScript and add comments. It awakens the social community that’s already on your site and it makes it more active.

You already have a comment form on your blog. You don’t need another way to do that. However, the Google Friend Connect API lets you integrate different accounts (Yahoo, Google, Facebook) to leave comments directly on your blog.  It’s not just WordPress. It’s for any system.

As a user, why is this good?

  • Easier to leave comments or participate in a site.
  • How many user names and passwords do you have? Probably a lot.
  • Not just blogs: forums, content-management systems.
  • Completely open: built on Open Social.
  • Use your Google, Yahoo, AOL Instant Messenger, OpenID.

You can use any mechanism to use it. It gets rid of the drive-by spam that pollutes the Web. Webmaster could use it on their site today. It’s not just for blogs.

As a publisher, why is this good?

  • More user participation (and with accountability, comes more *intelligent* participation.)
  • More comments and higher quality comments, less spam
  • More interactions: questions, answers, votes
  • More content, page views.


  • Widgets
  • Client-side: Javascript API
  • Server side

Developer Plugins

Proof of concept: WordPress Drupal, phpBB

When you’re on the blog, you’ll see the sign in button for Google Friend Connect. It will ask you if you want to join the site. If you do, you’ll sign in and it’ll take you back to WordPress. You’ll see your photo and you can leave your comment. Your avatar is already there. It takes three seconds to leave a comment on blogs with the plugin installed.  He shows the same thing on Drupal. [There’s a crazy Drupal fan in the audience who starts w00ting up a storm. It’s cute. And scary.]

Matt says they don’t want to manage these plugins. They’re rough but they’re Open Source. Take them and do what you want.  Create better plugins. Make them for different software. Do wild/crazy/social things.  He says its a white hat way to get links.

Question & Answer

Brett: Let’s talk about duplicate content

Matt: That’s the most common white hat question he get. Black hats don’t ask about duplicate content because they make the duplicate content. Hee! If someone asks about duplicate content, he knows they’re probably a white hat. [Got that black hats?]

Most times you don’t have to worry about duplicate content. People very rarely get penalized for duplicate content. Most of the time, they just put a filter in place and decide which page to show.   They just introduced the canonical link tag. There are so many big sites that have duplicate content on their sites (www vs non-www, http vs https). In an HTML page you have an element in the head that tells Google what the preferred version of that page is.   Google treats it like a 301. You can’t go across domains.

Is it still possible to have problems? Yes. He says IBM shot themselves in the foot. They did a redirect and set the canonical link tag to be a 404 page and a page never indexed by Google.

If your duplicate content problem is the result of a spammer, you have two things you can do. You can file a DMCA request.  Google will take those pages out of the index.

Or, if they’re a true spammer,  do a spam report. Google loves to get those.

Brett: How about the JavaScript test.

Matt: That was really funny. The team there only thinks about speed. They want to get the results back to users as quick as humanly possible.  JavaScript makes the search results a lot faster. Suppose you do a search for flowers, as you’re typing flowers, they can do a query from the back end and fold search results right into the page. You’re still in and they can pull in the results automatically.  It doesn’t give you the referrer. He says the team didn’t think about the referrer aspect. So they stopped.  They’ve paused it until they can find out how to keep the referrers.

Brett: How come you couldn’t just say that before?

Matt: That’s good feedback.  [Heh]

There’s not a massive conspiracy at Google. All that team thinks about is speed.

Brett:  What’s the current best practices for moving a site?

Moving to a new IP address:

You have an old site at an old IP address. You bring up the site at the new IP address. The idea is that you get the same site. Before you do that, there’s something in DNS, that whenver you type in, there’s a domain name resolver that tells you the IP.  There’s a setting called TTL (time to live) which tells Google how often to check.

Basically, here are the steps:

  1. Change TTL to five minutes.
  2. Bring up site so it lives on both IP addresses
  3. Point from old IP to new IP
  4. Wait 5 minutes.

Moving to a new domain:

That’s trickier.   You want to have a 301 from the old site to the new site. Google handles that completely fine. But you don’t want to lose traffic so you want to be really careful.

Don’t just move the entire domain from the old to the new. Start out by moving a small part of your Web site. Move part of your forum and make sure that the rankings for that one part of your site don’t crash. If you move part of your site first and it goes fine, you know you’re pretty safe. Break down the move into smaller chunks.

Brett: Do clickthroughs or behavior metrics on the SERPs affect rankings?

They do use things like bounce rate on ads.

He’s not going to say they might not use it.  He says its problematic because it’s a noisy signal. He thinks Microsoft uses it. Noisy stuff like toolbar and behavior metrics would be kind of spammy. He’s skeptical, but he’s not going to take it off the table.

It’s an appealing idea, but you’d have to worry about spam.

[Hmm, interesting answer. What do you think? Do you *really* think Google’s not looking at that stuff?]

And we’re out!

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