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SEO Lessons from SES San Francisco 2012

By Pierre Zarokian

SES San Francisco took place August 13-17. Were you one of the attendees? If you were, you probably got to network, share some business pitches, and maybe even got a chance to listen first-hand to Matt Cutts, Google engineer extraordinaire, talk about the recent changes that have been taking place at the company Larry Page and Sergey Brin started 12 long years ago. Cutts participated in a Q&A session on August 14th. Business and marketing professionals of all stripes were eager to find out what tidbits a normally tight-lipped Google might be willing to share via its emissary, Cutts. He had some very welcome news: greater transparency is coming!

After this year’s tumultuous Panda and Penguin updates, Web site owners found themselves rather distraught as they tried desperately to figure out what to do next after the aforementioned algorithmic changes rankled their search rankings, Web site traffic, and -- most painfully -- their bottom lines. According to Cutts, Google has been paying attention to user reactions to Panda and Penguin, as well as to other recent updates in Google products. In fact, he said, Google has embarked on a path to greater transparency when it comes to lost rankings or punitive actions.

Cutts also made the amusing revelation that though Panda had been named after the engineer that whipped up its power, there was a concerted effort by Google brass to find another "most cute animal" to name the subsequent algorithmic change after: Penguin came out on top of the heap that time. Cutts even suggested that future changes might be named after similarly cute black and white animals. Watch out for Zebra in 2013, everybody? On a more pragmatic note, Panda has become a monthly activity for Google, while Penguin is still being tinkered with.

Cutts also gave a somewhat useful sketch of Google’s long-term vision for its search feature. He said that the ultimate goal of Google was to create the most ideal rankings possible. And he revealed that at the moment, social signals like +1s and Tweets were not being emphasized too much because they were still considered somewhat unreliable, though he did say he expected them to become more prominent signals in the future.

As for transparency, Cutts let his audience know that Google has decided that it wants to tell Web site owners what aspects of their sites, like suspicious links or duplicate content, are to blame for their lost rankings. In other words, Google wants to be on friendlier terms with site owners; too many have already been left fuming recently. Finally, Cutts again stressed the importance of building sites that are original and useful if the goal is to stand out in Google search rankings.


Aug 30, 2012