Ranking Advice from Matt Cutts for 2014

Written by: Drew Lyon   Austin, Texas

Posted on: October 23, 2014

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Maybe you’ve heard of the friendly search engine guy who works at Google and does the SEO videos … used to reluctantly answer to “porn cookie guy” because he would bring homemade cookies to any coworker who found “Adult” results getting past his SafeSearch filter. Any of that ring a bell?

Matt Cutts is probably the closest thing our industry has to an official SEO liaison at Google. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can immediately jump at everything he says—sometimes he’s promoting practices Google would like to see more people use, aspirational advice, while other times he may be offering genuine (Google-approved) insight from his close-to-the-source perspective.

With that in mind, we’ve gone through his last few months of videos and blogs and boiled it down to a few solid takeaways…

Google is not a fan of guest blogging anymore

Cutts was pretty emphatic on this. The most recent post on MattCutts.com begins:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

What he goes on to say is that guest blogging was a perfectly good practice for awhile, but now, overall, Google considers it “more and more spammy.” Essentially, it might not hurt you today, but it won’t help you much either.

The takeaway from this being that your time and resources are better spent writing quality content that directly shows your authority, opposed to piggy-backing on someone else’s. You can do this by simply posting it on your own website or blog.

Branding is a part of Google’s algorithm

It’s no secret that being a well-known brand has often correlated with high rankings. It makes sense that big brands have lots of naturally occurring backlinks and therefore strong search signals. But until recently, this was a corollary relationship, not necessarily a causal one.

Matt Cutts has talked in length over the past year about the importance of building your brand. The idea is that Google’s algorithm will be more sensitive to brand name mentions and demonstrable brand authority across all online platforms.

Take this a step further and you can deduce that branded links or even unlinked mentions of your business name may be more valuable than broad keyword links, which have been steadily falling out of favor with Google for the past few years.

Cutts continues to plead the 5th on Facebook & Twitter

Similar to the brand issue, there is little doubt that being popular on social media often correlates with high rankings. However, seeing as how Facebook and Twitter are basically in direct competition with Google—they’re after a lot of the same ad revenue, after all—it’s not surprising that Google continues to say these networks are treated no differently than other sites on the internet. And, in the spirit of free and open competition, Google and Cutts maintain that their own social media product Google+ does not receive preferential treatment either.

This is one case where we have to call timeout on what Cutts is saying (or not saying) and just look at the obvious. Google has always given special placement on search result pages to businesses that use their services such as Maps & Places. And already anyone who’s signed into a Google account is seeing websites that have been +1’ed by people you know being highlighted in search results.

Furthermore, just because Facebook and Twitter aren’t given special treatment that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of having a stronger effect on rankings on their own due to the massive size and ongoing engagement of their users. The main thing to take from Cutt’s statement is that going all-in on social media might not be a wise strategy because these networks are still only one of many many ranking factors.

There you have it. The SEO musings of Matt Cutts always make for a good debate, but they’re by no means the last word.

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