Totally Boss SEO Do’s & Bogus Spam Don’ts From Matt Cutts & Duane Forrester, Only at #SMX

Posted in SEO, SMX West

Welcome back to aimClear’s coverage of #SMX West 2013! I’m gonna go out there and say it: for all intent and purpose, when you see him at a conference, Matt Cutts is the ubiquitous and powerful force known as…. [the] Google. And when you see Duane Forrester, strolling around the convention center, you’re likely to think, “… that’s Bing.” Of course, there are zillions of smart, hard-working people behind the scenes making both these search engine behemoths what they are, do what they do. But there’s something about Matt and Duane , man… just something about them.

So you can imagine the delight of #SMX West 2013 attendees to find these two dudes sitting together on a late afternoon panel, moderated by Danny Sullivan (trifecta), and, um, they’re all carrying guitars righteous!). What’s going on!? Turns out, Matt and Duane had come that day (from the future) with Danny (also from the future) to educate us dumbfounded yet eager audience members on what to do and NOT to do on our own excellent search adventure…


Okay, so we’re all caught up on the theme. Let’s proceed…

After a tubular introduction by Danny, Matt took the stage first. He was tasked with exploring some BOGUS examples of spam, in other words, what you SHOULD NOT do on your excellent search adventure.

Bogus Spam: What NOT To Do With Search Engines
As he got into his presentation, Matt actually asked, quite earnestly, that we not tweet the first few slides. They were some totally juicy top-secret albert-einstein-level spam sh*t, but for #SMX West attendees only. Sorry, readers.

Now – onto the bogus spam examples we were allowed to share:

  • Cloaking. Cloaking isn’t always intended as black-hat or anything, but if you’re not careful and do it wrong, you could accidentally block yourself from the Google Bot (a.k.a. shoot yourself in the foot).
  • Doorway Pages. Doorway pages = many pages generated to target one unique phrase. They’re populated with cookie cutter copy that’s basically duplicate content. Again, this is not always intentionally spammy, but be careful! Manual monitoring can go a long way. You never know what horrifying boo-boos you’ll catch. (Not catching them just makes you look like a stupid n00bzor.)
  • Auto-generated Content. Bad. Auto-generated content featuring webspam team is dirt stupid. (Here, Matt showed an example of auto-generated content featuring Google’s Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google. Probably took Google about 0.024 seconds to find and destroy.)
  • Keyword Stuffing. Just bad. Don’t do it.
  •  Gibberish! Kinda like KW stuffing, but more about words that make don’t sense whatsoever (courtesy of a bad spammer? 🙂 ).

“Gibberish is kinda like slam poetry, but really… it’s not. It’s bad.” -Matt Cutts

  • Hacking. We’re not talking about those who do it. Those who do it (for evil) are evil. We’re talking about those it happens to, and it can happen to anyone! (Even the Smashing Pumpkins, as Matt’s screencapped exampled showed! Egads!) If you don’t monitor your web assets, beware – something could have been hacked and totally messed up without you even noticing it. Another bummer, once hackers get in, it’s not that easy to get them out.
    • Tip: Try out Fetch as Google to your content as Googlebot sees it. Is the spam still there? Euuush. Deal with it.
  • Blog Comment Spam. Make sure you don’t waste time and embarrass yourself responding to comment spam 🙁 .

Matt’s Bodacious Conclusions!

Do it right the first time. There are a billion resources out there loaded with tips on how to be a good site owner, an honorable SEO. Follow them, and you’ll be on the right path!

  • How Search Works
  • Webmaster Blog
  • Webmaster Forums
  • Webmaster Videos
  • Webmaster Tools
  • Webmaster Academy
  • SEO Starter Guide
  • Webmaster Office Hours
  • HTML Documentation

“Be excellent to each other, and to search engines.”

Duane was up next. He was tasked with sharing totally righteous things you SHOULD do on your excellent search adventure.

Righteous Acts: What TO Do With Search Engines

  • DO move from “query” to “session.” A query is a single action. A session is a collection of related actions over time. For example, query = dog. Session = searches on Monday for dog beds, dog accessories, dog toys, vet near my, dog friendly hotels… and on Tuesday, searches for dog sweaters, dog collars, dog leaches, puppy treats.
  • DO mark up your content. Build the good stuff. Help search engines discover and understand what your content is. When search engines consume content, they disassemble the page, and reassemble as queries come in. As if you don’t already know, visit for help on marking up your content. You don’t know that? Come closer. *Smack*.
  • DO prepare for mobile. Bing looks at the entire Internet in one shot. But people are finding new ways to search and interact with content. As a business, you need to be prepared for this. If you’re talking now about HTML5, you need to move within the next 12 months from having the conversation to taking actions. These things aren’t quick or sexy – but they do prepare you for the things coming.
  • DO evolve as search evolves. New devices demand different search experiences other than links. The ability for these devices to feed in real time signals helps Bing handle intent better and therefore can provide a more tailored experience to users. It’s not just mobile phones or tables – not just text entry. Anything could be a search: voice, picture, gesture, sound, anything. Duane and his team are building the universal interface for search.
  • DO avoid shortcuts, like syndicated content. Gross.
  • DO pay attention to the details. crawlability, site structure, on-page, content, links, social – ALL of the technical basics. you must have these done. SEO is no longer the pinnacle work that happens with a website. it’s the baseline. you have to do it. and do it well.
  • DO stay focused on the big picture. Content is #1, then social, then user experience, then link building, then SEO. Don’t try to extrapolate from this graph. Importance is relative. Use it as a guide. No item is unimportant. Ask yourself: Why do people search? They have a task in mind they want satisfied. If you nail content, social, and UX, link building comes to you. Let it happen naturally, because your product is amazing. You cannot skip SEO, but you have to know what you’re doing and why!
  • DO target your optimization. Every area of your site has a value – whether that’s in dollars, page views, emails, etc. Determine what the value is. Assign value to every URL. Sort your site by value to see what really matters. Organize work around high-value area first! smart.
  • DO encourage more sharing. Some tips: (1) Create lists – people love to consume content in list-form. They’re quick and easy. (2) Use hooks (humor, anger, contrarian, etc.) but be careful how you use them. When used well, they are highly effective. (3) Participate in communities. When you are valued member of a community, the community supports you. (4) Share others information. People love when what they share gets shared itself. Share from trusted sources. (5) Ask questions. Your followers will love the interaction and it will grow your following as others engage.
  • DO build efficiencies. Look for ways to streamline your time. Identify a customer need and fill in the blanks. Look to identify patterns so you can leverage efficiency efforts. To churn out really cast link roundups, Duane brings in trusted feeds, filters them through Hootsuite, broadcasts them across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., then pushes them through If This Then That, feeds it into Evernote, scrapes that, slams it into a Newsletter form, does a little light editing to make it flow, and BAM. Has a gorgeous link roundup of things he’s shared on social the past week. Dude.
  • DO  invest in new skills! SEO tactics, social tactics, paid search methodologies, budget management, negotiation, executive pitching, influence, psychology, marketing. Never stop learning.


Some last-minute tasty insights were shared during the Q&A, among them…

  • The Disavow Tool: This tool isn’t meant to be a dupe marketers into reporting themselves for spamtastic links on their site. Rather, it’s meant to help remove links the site-owners cannot. Earlier on Day 1 at #SMX, Rhea Drysdale warned against using this tool too casually, lest you accidentally ban an entire legit domain, despite some shady links from subpages. To that end, Matt noted: “If it’s clearly a bad domain, just disavow the entire domain.” Echoing Google’s sentiments, Duane pointed out that Bing’s Disavow tool was created to aide site-owners and marketers, to the extent that Bing will alert marketers if they unintentionally misuse the tool.
  • Social, SEO, & Links: Google and Bing are in agreement — when it comes to ranking factors, links are more important than social influence. That said, looking forward, Matt implied that social metrics and similar factors (for example, identity, that is to say, authorship) will continue to grow in significance and impact SEO more and more as time goes on.
  • Panda & Penguin! According to Matt, the next Panda update will roll out on or around Friday, March 16. (That’s this Friday!) He suggested that regarding Penguin, another major update will roll out sometime during 2013, and will be one of the “most talked-about algorithms” for the year.

Okay! That about does it. Did I mention this entire time Matt Cutts was wearing a backwards baseball cap? Thanks SO much to our dynamic duo, led by the great Danny Sullivan. This was one helluvan entertaining session, and for the record, I think I tallied your 80s slang references at 283. Not bad, not bad at all. Stick around aimClear Blog for more coverage straight from the convention center, and of course, follow along with yours truly @beebow for continued live tweets!

photo credit: niekel on