Google's Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, has recorded a number of videos for the Google Webmaster YouTube channel over the years.
Last year was the year of link building advice, with many videos discussing the tricky territory of building good quality links to your site.
And this trend seems to have continued into 2014. Mr Cutts has already released three videos focussing on link building.
Let's have a look at three important pieces of advice that he's already shared:
1. "Newer sites, more agile sites, more hungry sites, more sites that have a better user experience, they can grow, and they can eclipse you if you don't continue to adapt and evolve and move with the times." – M. Cutts (27 January 2014)
In late January, an anonymous person from New York asked Matt if there was anything in the Google algorithm to "protect" older domains in business from newer sites with more spam. Hang on, "more spam"? Your site has spam links, anonymous? Anyway, Matt went on to say:
"Leave off the "more spam". We're always trying to prevent the spam from ranking. So let's talk about older domains versus newer domains. It's interesting because usually we see the question phrased another way. People are like, "I have a brand new domain, and I'm having a hard time competing against the old domain." So it's interesting to have this question coming from the old domain and saying, "well, why is the new site passing me?"
The advice that I'd give to you as the owner of a site that's been around for 14 years is to take a fresh look at your site. A lot of the times, if you land on your site and you say – land on a random website from a search result, even if they've been in business for 15 years, 14 years, sometimes they haven't updated their template or their page layout or anything in years and years and years. And it looks like, frankly, sort of a stale, older site, and that's the sort of thing where users might not be as happy about that.
So if you do run an older site a very-well-established site, I wouldn't just coast on your laurels. I wouldn't just say, well, I'm number one for now, and everything is great. Because newer sites, more agile sites, more hungry sites, more sites that have a better user experience, they can grow, and they can eclipse you if you don't continue to adapt and evolve and move with the times. So I wouldn't say, just because you are a domain that's well-established or has been around for a long time, you will automatically keep ranking.
We've seen plenty of newer domains and businesses bypass older domains. So the one thing I would urge "politely" well-established sites or older domains is to not just coast forever. Take a fresh look at your layout. Are you still providing the best user experience? If something is not as fresh as some of the experiences that you get from some of these newer websites, they can have fantastic design, then eventually, people might prefer that user experience and end up migrating and leaving you behind."
Barrie: It wasn't the hardest question in the world to answer – just because your site has been around for a long time does not give it any reason why it should rank high. The same way I've been in my job for many years doesn't guarantee me a pay rise. They work in the same way – you get to number one by being the best. I get a pay rise by being more important than I was last year.
Don't rest on your laurels and that one PR link you got 7 years ago – continue to innovate and build your brand if you want to dominate your niche and rank top of Google for those all-important relevant terms.
2. "I wouldn't count on [article directories] being effective." – M. Cutts (29 January 2014)
Two days after answering a question on newer domains outranking older domains, Matt got back in front of the camera to answer Deepika from India's question regarding links from article directories. Deepika wanted to know if they were "good" or "bad". Seriously, this question has only been answered now by Matt Cutts…
"I think over time, article directories have gotten a little bit of a worse name. To refresh everybody's memory, an article directory, is where you write 300, 400 or 500 words of content, and then you'll include a little bio or some information about you at the bottom of the article, and you might have, say, three links with keyword-rich anchor text at the bottom of the article. Then you'd submit that to a bunch of what are known as article directories, which then anybody can download, or maybe they pay to download them, and they'll use them on your own website. The theory behind that is that if somebody finds it useful and puts it on their web page, then you might get a few links. Now, in practice, what we've seen is this often tends to be a little bit of lower quality stuff. In fact, we've seen more and more instances where you end up with really spammy content, getting sprayed and syndicated all over the entire web. In my particular opinion, article directories and just trying to write one article and just syndicating it wildly, or just uploading it to every site in the world and hoping that everybody else will download it and use it on their website, I wouldn't necessarily count on that being effective. We certainly have some algorithmic things that would mean it's probably a little less likely to be successful now compared to a few years ago, for example. So my personal recommendation would be probably not to upload an article like that."
Barrie: Article directories were once popular in getting easy, low quality links – simply sign up and publish an article. Looking at the majority of the articles on some of these article directories it appeared that there was little or nothing in the way of a quality check. And as Matt says, you could link back from your article to your website.
It's been a few years since article directories have had any value in the spam world. Now-a-days they're good for getting your website kicked out of Google. A number of the Penguin recovery campaigns I have conducted for websites have included low quality links from article directories that I've needed to remove.
Just like Matt finished off his video with, I would steer clear of article directories.
"I wouldn't worry about the grammar in your comments" – M. Cutts (10 February 2014)
Mr. Mortini from Chicago, Illinois asked Matt if bad grammar in comments on his blog affected his "quality ratings" and whether he should edit or disapprove of these comments. Matt's response:
"I wouldn't worry about the grammar in your comments. As long as the grammar on your own page is fine, there are people on the internet, and they write things, and it doesn't always makes sense. You can see nonsense comments on YouTube and other large properties, and that doesn't mean the YouTube video won't be able to rank. Just make sure that your own content is high quality. And you might want to make sure that people aren't leaving spam comments. If you've got a bot, then they might leave bad grammar. But if it's a real person, and they're leaving a comment and the grammar is not slightly perfect, that usually reflects more on them than it does on your site. So I wouldn't stress out about that."
Barrie: This gives me the impression that Google's algorithm takes content in comments with a pinch of salt. If Matt's not concerned about the grammar in the comments then perhaps Google does not factor this text on the page into the algorithm. That's a relief – people can leave bad grammar on my site now with me not having the fear of it bringing down the quality of my content J
Be sure to Subscribe to the Google Webmaster Help YouTube Channel to keep up-to-date with Matt Cutts' videos and advice.