Google`s Matt Cutts Delivers Live Chat

Last week Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam fighting team, held a live 90-minute web chat on the Google Webmaster Central YouTube channel. If you weren’t one of the thousand or so viewers who tuned in, you can still watch it online – but until you can make the time for it, here’s a quick summary.

Those who have been following the news about the J.C. Penney penalty will be interested to hear that Google has relented after keeping the retailer in the doghouse for three months. The search giant didn’t suddenly decide to remove the penalty, though; they received a reconsideration request from J.C. Penney first.

Matt Cutts explained that Google reviewed the request, and saw that the department store empire “did quite a bit of work to clean up what had been going on. You don’t want to be vindictive or punitive, so after three months the penalty was lifted.” He added that he thought the penalty was “tough and the appropriate length.”

To no one’s surprise, Cutts received a lot of questions about Google’s Panda update. While Panda has started to expand beyond the U.S., it still only affects queries in English. When will that change? “Probably not in the next couple weeks. Maybe in the next couple months,” Cutts said in response to a question about Panda’s expansion.

Cutts was surprisingly forthcoming about how Panda works, at least in the sense of its continuing development. He emphasized that it is “an an algorithmic change that tends to rank lower quality sites lower, which allows higher quality sites to rank higher. So it’s not a penalty” despite the fact that many of those affected by Panda feel as if they’ve been penalized. In fact, according to Cutts, “there’s been no manual exceptions” to Panda, and he doesn’t expect any in the future.

Cutts noted that Google continues to update Panda; the first version came out in February, then there was a big update in March or April where Google “started to use blocking of sites along with some other signals…” Cutts noted that Google plans to “keep iterating on that, we’re going to keep looking for signals of quality, we’re going to keep looking at the ways where, if you are producing high quality content that users love, that you will be ranking where you would expect to rank.” If you think you’ve been affected by Panda, and are looking for guidance in improving your content, Cutts referred listeners to a Google Webmaster Central blog post for assistance. He also suggested that site builders should try to “step into the Google mindset and how we think about these sorts of things…and how we’re trying to return higher quality sites.”

Listeners also asked about Google’s new +1 button, and whether its use will affect search results. Cutts gave as clear of a “yes” to that question as Google ever gives: “It’s definitely a signal we’re paying a lot of attention to…It has tons of potential. It looks very promising.” Website owners will be able to put a +1 button from Google on their sites relatively soon.
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