Pubcon Smackdown Session

November 12, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

pubconIt’s the last session of Pubcon. I have absolutely no idea what to expect here. I just know that they’re playing some old school Billy Joel and that makes me very happy. Very, very happy.

Matt Cutts is up on stage. Nathan Buggia is listed as being the Bing dude…but that’s not Nathan on stage. We’ll see if I can get a name.  It’s kind of a lame “smackdown” when you just have two people up on stage, isn’t it?   The other guy is Sean Suchter. Hey Sean. I wish we had more search engines. Someone create an engine that doesn’t suck. Sound good?

Oh, I think they’re starting.

Sean is up first. He says the goal of Bing is to address unmet problems in search. A quarter of clicks come back to the SERP. Almost half of search sessions need refinement and half the time is spent on long quieries. They’ve seen times where one session is lasting multiple days.  He says the results he’s seen so far have been encouraging. There’s been great user growth.

Since the launch:

  • 80 million unique visitors
  • 9.4 market share growth
  • 41 percent unaided awareness
  • 14 percent perception

They think they have a lot of legs.

Since Bing’s release they’ve done a lot of innovation and added new features.  Some of them are visible to the end users.

Visible Improvements:

  • Visual Search: Seeing lots of great user response. People like it. They’re able to get to the products they want much faster.
  • UX Innovations: They now have a hover preview. If you hover on a result, you get a deeper look into the site and some structured information.  The content is automatically generated. If you don’t like the presentation in the hover preview, there are tags to turn it off. There are also tags should Google adopt it.

Back end improvements

MSNBot 2.0B

  • Deprecate MSNBot V1.1
  • Only MSNBot 2.0 should be visible
  • 2x-3x more crawling capability Web wide
  • More crawling helps in freshness
  • Easy to throttle the traffic either ways, just tell us based on your existing traffic. Some site want them to increase download rate. Other sites want them to reduce it.

What is Spam?

Anything done with the intent to rank higher by manipulating the search engine without adding any value will be perceived as spam. We want to best content for the user for a given query. Anything done to disrupt this effort will be neutralized and even punished.

If you’re worried about your content being included or excluded, go to the support tools. They’re available at

He’s going to do some real-time SEO. He wants people to tweet with the hashtag #mattshair to see how quickly we can rise to the top of the PubCon list using Bing’s new Twitter. It ended up working, though not as quickly as Sean would have liked. Better luck next time, Bing.

Time for Matt Cutts and his shaved head. He asks how many people still have a hangover at 4:30pm and A LOT of people raise their hands. Hee! He says they’ve been having a good time at PubCon.

What has Google done for users lately?

New things for users this year

  • Chrome
  • Android
  • Wave

All of these have large open source components.

He talks about the Google Music OneBox. People can play MP3s right in the search results and then buy it for 99 cents. You can also use it to search for lyrics. Yeah, you could do that with Ask back in the day. Then Ask died. I hate you, Barry Diller.

He uses Google Squared to do a search for [las vegas shows] and shows how you get a bunch of pretty cool stuff.  I hate to say, Google Squared is pretty cool. That’s one I like playing around with. He also throws in [social networking sites] and it brings up a bunch of different social networking sites that people probably wouldn’t have heard about it. The competition on those networks is probably a little less fierce, which he says makes them valuable. There’s probably also no traffic, which would make them, you know, less valuable. :)

He plays around with Google Social Search and shows how it allows you to get answers directly from your network. In order to opt into Google Social:

  1. Make a Google Profile [Danger! Danger! Danger!]
  2. Add links to Twitter, FriendFeed, your blog.
  3. Opt-in to the Social Search experiment at

Wonder Wheel – Matt calls this a fantastic way to do keyword research. Type in [pubcon] and it will show you all sorts of related stuff, and then you can click on something on the wheel and a whole new area of keywords will show up. It’s built in Flash so the technology is pretty neat. It’s a fun brainstorming tool.  It’s like a mind map.

What has Google done for Web developers lately

Go to to help you speed up your site.   It will show you where the latency is coming on your site when trying to load a page.  He hints that people at Google really want to use site speed as a factor in rankings. They’re not using it right now, but they want to be.  They want search to be like a magazine. Google wants to make the Web fast. 2010 is a great time to pay attention to speeding up your site. HINT. HINT.  Matt says the Google Reader team had 2 megabytes of…stuff.  They used Closure and then they had 513 kilobytes. They gzipped that and they had 184 kilobytes. I’m assuming that YOU know what that means. I, do not.

Other Tools:

  • Google Web Toolkid.
  • AJAX Libraries API

What has Google done for webmasters lately?


Ignore URL parameters: You can log into GWC and tell Google a parameter you want them to ignore. Yahoo was doing this first and Google implemented it to make life easier for webmasters.

Fetch as Googlebot:  Launched a few weeks ago. You prove that ou own a site and then you can say “fetch this page” and Google will show you exactly what Google saw, http headers and all.

Better Malware Warnings

Message Forwarding: If Google has a message for you, they’ll now send  you and email so you don’t have to check in every day. It just makes life easier.

Keyword Details: If you’re seeing the keywords on your site, you can click on them and see the URLs for those keywords.

Google doesn’t hate SEOs and they don’t think that all SEO is wrong. There are plenty of great white hat things people can do to make their site more crawlable and discoverable. They made a SEO Starter Guide so you can give it to your clients and tell them that not all SEOs are criminals. [Nice word choice, Matt]

What’s the latest with Caffeine?  They’re not going to roll it out until AFTER the holidays. Fear not.

He thinks hacking and malware is going to get a lot worse. So watch it.

Why is Google better than Bing?

Matt: Google is fresher. It’s more comprehensives. It’s more relevant. And the UI is faster.

Is the nofollow info really accurate?

Matt: We’ve certainly been very forthright.  They want nofollow to be dropped from the link graph.

With Yahoo, can you beat Google?

Sean: I think we can beat Google no matter what.

Matt: Competition is good. He wants competition. He wants people to keep Google on its toes. He wants Bing to compete fairly. As long as its on an equal playing field, he’s glad. But he thinks Google has done the best that it can and they’ll keep doing that.

Is there a possible third engine?

Matt: There’s still a bunch of engines that haven’t given up. But there’s also a ton of engines doing vertical searches. He thinks that’s really  healthy because sometimes those individual tools can do a better job than a traditional search engine. He also likes that there’s a lot of innovation in search in general.

Is a competitor, a scare or something you’ve embraced?

Sean: If you look at our you can do raw seach for tweets with it but it also has the top links. They think it’s terribly useful.

Matt: The value of Twitter to him is that it lowers the bar for regular people to make content. It brings a lot of cool things into the mix. It’s the extra content that now exists.

What do you see happening with local?

Matt: They just released Ground Truth. Instead of taking 8 or 9 months to correct a business listing, they can do it in 2 weeks. There are some people on his team moving to the Maps team to try and combat spam.

Sean: They’ve extracting a lot of local meaning from things.

Does Google and Bing penalize for buying links or penalize?

Matt: we can do both.

Sean: We don’t generally know whether a link is bought or not. We don’t have direct knowledge of that. We know whether the link is adding user value or not.  The effect that we give the link depends on how much user value it’s adding.

Matt: They don’t think of paid links as useful as editoral links. They’d make those links not count. Whenever you’re selling links, it’s much more visible and a lot easier to tell.

Will the Caffeine update roll out AJAX results?

Matt:  Google has bee doing AJAX search results.  You fill in a keyword phrase and it does an AJAX query and pre-populates the page without changing the URL. It happens faster.  If you’re not careful, though, it can break referrals. T he AJAX change is unrelated to the Caffeine change. He expects it to continue over time.

You say Google tries to return the most relevant results. Logically, if you define relevance and then you measure it, you’re always going to be the most relevant. Deeper thinking there are factors getting in the way of returning the most relevant results right now?

Matt: It turns out if you put everybody in this room into the rating experiment  and ask them for the ideal search results, they won’t agree.  They agree to about 80 percent.  They look at bad sessions, complaints, dissatisfied feedback form. They keep their eyes open a lot of different ways to get that feedback.

Two links on a page, one is nofollow’d – is the other nofollow’d too?

Matt:  He doesn’t know. He’ll check.

And we’re out of here! Thanks so much for hanging out with us this week.  You’re the best and hope the coverage was useful.

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