Discussion with Matt Cutts

During my recent trip out to California I had the opportunity to site down and speak with Google’s head of the Webspam team, Matt Cutts. It was enjoyable to chat with Matt, and you can see a transcript of the Matt Cutts interview here.

The major topics we covered were:

  1. Google’s tracking of Javascript encoded or redirected links
  2. NoFollow, NoIndex, and Robots.txt
  3. Hidden text
  4. Signals that Google can use to rate site quality, other than links

Check out the interview, and if you would like to comment on the post, you can do so here.

Comments

  1. Great stuff Eric, thanks!

  2. Looking for a wee bit of clarification on your interview:

    Matt Cutts: A NoIndex page can accumulate PageRank, because the links are still followed outwards from a NoIndex page.

    So this basically says that robots.txt cannot be used for PR filtering purposes? You can exclude internal pages from crawl, but this will not affect the flow of internal PR around your site?

    Interesting, and methinks we’ll see a lot more use of NOFOLLOW for internal linking.

    I note also your advice to clients about nofollowing links to utility pages – I made this very suggestion to a client who was then told by their Adwords rep that he passed this idea to engineers and they came back saying it was bad advice. You can imagine who the client tended to believe…

  3. “Now, robots.txt says you are not allowed to crawl a page, and Google therefore does not crawl pages that are forbidden in robots.txt. However, they can accrue PageRank, and they can be returned in our search results.”

    I understand the reasoning for this approach, but think it’s on dodgy legal ground because it does allow for the injection for false titles in the SERP results, a serious issue for companies in the financial sector for instance who need control over their public representation.
    chttp://www.search-engine-war.co.uk/2007/04/the_power_of_li.html

    Perhaps these results should be marked more clearly as ‘ghosts’ or something.

  4. The part about Noindex and linkjuice is very confusing. Maybe you can do a followup about that.

  5. “Interesting, and methinks we’ll see a lot more use of NOFOLLOW for internal linking.”

    And there will most likely be much weeping and gnashing of teeth because of such increased use of NOFOLLOW on internal pages.

    There is absolutely no reason for people to agonize over how much internal PageRank accrues on an “About Us” or “Contact Us” page as all you have to do is use those pages to link to other pages on your sites.

    Instead of trying to fix non-problems with NOFOLLOW that will cause many pages to needlessly either fall out of the index or update too seldom, people need to stop and think about how to manage their internal navigation so that it really serves the best purposes to begin with.

  6. Instead of trying to fix non-problems with NOFOLLOW that will cause many pages to needlessly either fall out of the index or update too seldom, people need to stop and think about how to manage their internal navigation so that it really serves the best purposes to begin with.

    Perhaps in some ideal world over the rainbow, but with large corporate sites where multiple departments are vying for real estate this simply isn’t an option.

    Please do explain how having a (TB)PR7 privacy policy and t&c pages can be overcome by managing our internal navigation when legal impose those links on every page? And if you think that legal are going to let you embed links into their t&c text…

    Welcome to the real world.

  7. I’ve been learning about optimizing robots.txt for quite awhile (along with Joost de Valk), and this really answered all of my questions remaining. Its so nice to listen to Eric and Matt discuss it because they live in that world and have all the terminology down.

    Thanks what a great read! So great I did a write-up with a special guest appearance..
    @ askapache.com/seo/robotstxt-mattcutts-noindex.html

  8. That was a pretty good interview – no, a very mature interview – which was a real joy to read. All to often recently we’ve seen Google’s motives second-guessed, and people languish in debating policy policy. It was nice just to read Matt lay out the finer points on the use of tags, as well as Google’s overall approach to webspam. Thanks again to both of you. :)

  9. So, is this going to spark a trend of using tags to control the pagerank ‘flow’ around a website?

    An interesting related point (which I don’t think is covered in the interview) is to what extent the XML sitemap can be used to communicate the importance of each page, e.g. to tell Google that the terms and conditions page isn’t that important, despite being linked to from every page.

  10. Wow great interview. Interesting regarding how Google actually follows those noidex pages. I’ve also checked out a few others that you did in the past (Seth Godin). I’ll keep checking back for more interviews. Thanks.

  11. Interesting article. However, I feel that there is still a shadow area about hidden text. I understand from this interview that Google handles properly many of the Display non CSS navigation cases. Some e-commerce cards for instance do not give another choice than the use of display none to display some product description text in area A and not in area B. In such situation, I do not feel so confident. Am I wrong? Any former successful experience?

  12. Irene – Unfortunately, there are no absolute answers. Google will try to figure out your intent and do the right thing, but Google uses algorithms to do this, and algorithms can make mistakes. That’s why the best thing to do is to stick with common methods for implementing these kinds of hidden text. It increases the chances that Google will recognize it and do the right thing.

  13. I’m confused by this part – I assume there’s a typo in there somewhere..

    “and telling them to take pages like their about us page, and their contact us page, and link to them from the Homepage with a NoFollow attribute, and then link to them using NoFollow from every other page. ”

    ..which basically says, use NOFOLLOW on every page. The way it’s writtem it implies we do something different on the front page..thanks for the great interview though.

  14. Hi James – Thanks for pointing out the typo. It’s fixed. The idea was to link to pages like the About us page normally from the home page, and then to NoFollow it frmo everywhere else.

  15. That was a great interview, thanks for the information on the NoFollow, NoIndex, and Robots.txt. That’s one area I think where most SEO efforts are poor.

  16. Thanks for the interview Eric.

  17. Great! Dear Matt, your writings and interviews are always keenly followed here.

    Thanks.

  18. thanks to matt for these useful tips but one thing i would like to ask that today sites are using flash images and videos in a great manner. In these cases what becomes difficult is to optimize these sites. actually these flash images are basically meant for helping viewers but they can’t get proper attention from google. Thus i think google should pay some attention in this topic about indexing flash.

  19. Hi Eric,

    Its good to see soem detailed information been provided. There are far too many short posts being psted on the blogosphere.

    cheers
    Tony

  20. Thanks for publishing this Matt Cutts interview. Very interesting stuff…

  21. The thing about linkjuice is very confusing. Maybe you can do a followup about that. Thanx for this informations!

  22. Its so nice to listen to Eric and Matt discuss it because they live in that world and have all the terminology down.

    Thanks what a great read!

  23. Great chat Eric!
    I read alot about the javatracking from big g. Thanks for publishing you interview.

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