12 Quotes From Matt Cutts That Changed Link Building

by Barrie Smith January 6th, 2014 


Matt Cutts, the head of Webspam at Google has had a lot to say on link building over the past 11 months or so. He has recorded a number of videos for the Google Webmaster Help YouTube channel as well as being recorded at the conferences he has spoken at this year.

I recommend keeping up with his videos as he provides us with lots of useful information and can often put away any doubts we had about certain things. He even takes his time to create videos answering questions sent in by the public. And that's where the majority of these 12 quotes I have for you come from.

1. "I wouldn't worry about going ahead and disavowing links even if you don't have a message in your Webmaster console."

Answering a question from James in Bristol, England last month regarding whether webmasters should disavow links even if they believe there is no penalty on their site, Matt Cutts gave us clear instructions that we're welcome to disavow any links we feel are harmful to our site whether we've been penalised or not. Mr Cutts went on to further say:

"Feel free to go ahead and do disavows even on a domain level. The main purpose is if you've made some bad links yourself and you need to clean it up. But if you're at all stressed, if you're worried, if you're not able to sleep at night because you think Google might see it, or we [Google] might get a spam report about you, or there might be some misunderstanding, or an algorithm might rank your site lower, I would feel free to just go ahead and disavow those links as well."

2. "Guest blogging is probably the sort of thing that you should be thinking about doing in moderation."

In response to a question from Ben from Phoenix, Arizona in October regarding guest blog posts and paid links, Mr Cutts pointed out that paid links can be obvious to spot and that guest blogging has become too mainstream; saying "Guest blogging seems like it's the fad of the month." The head of Google's webspam team said:

"Tons of people [are] just spraying and praying, sending out invitations; "I'm going to guest blog on all these different things." And sometimes they're spinning their guest blogs. They're not even writing unique content for each blog. I don't think that's the best way to build links to your site. And so I wouldn't recommend that as a tactic. Guest blogging is probably the sort of thing that you should be thinking about doing in moderation."

3. "You should always have a well-rounded portfolio of ways to get leads"

Answering Shubhamstunter from India's question in October regarding putting all your eggs in one basket (Google search results), Matt explained that you should make sure your business has other ways of bringing in leads other than just relying on Google results, as there's no guarantee you will always stay at the top. Here's how he explained it on Google's Webmaster Help YouTube channel:

"I am all for having eggs in lots of different baskets. Because if your websites goes down, then you could always have a brick and mortar business. If your ranking on Google is not as good, then you could have other channels that you can use from print media advertising to billboards to Twitter to Facebook. You should always have a well-rounded portfolio of ways to get leads, whether it be people walking through your door or Yellow Pages or whatever it is. Because you can't count on any one channel always working out perfectly."

4. We're probably not going to update PageRank throughout the rest of the year

Speaking at PubCon in Las Vegas in October, Matt announced that Google will be no longer updating the Toolbar PageRank for at least the remainder of 2013. Here's how the message went:

"A lot of people ask "when are we going to get the next PageRank update?" We have our own internal version of PageRank, it's always updating; it's continual. And every single day we have new PageRanks. There's also an export. And normally it runs once every three months or so. Earlier this year that pipeline broke and we were kinda like "y'know people get a little too obsessed about PageRank anyway, maybe it's ok to leave that for a little while." And so we don't have anybody staffed on trying to revive that pipeline and we don't want everybody to get too obsessed about PageRank, so we're probably not going to update PageRank throughout the rest of the year and then we'll see whether anything happens in 2014."

5. If there's any site you don't want to be associated with, you can just do a disavow

When it comes to a reconsideration request, Matt Cutts and his team advise you to do your best to remove all of the links that have got you penalised before submitting your request. And when you have tried your best to remove a link but the webmaster is not cooperating with you then just disavowing it is fine. Matt answered a question from Jay in Spain back in August regarding disavowing links you don't want your site associated with that are linking to you:

"You've got in touch with the site owners and said, "Please don't link to me. I don't want to have anything to do with your site." If those folks aren't receptive, then just go ahead and disavow those links. As long as you've taken those steps, you should be in good shape. But if there's any site you don't want to be associated with that's linking to you, and you want to say, "Hey, I got nothing to do with this site", you can just do a disavow. You can even do it at a domain level. At that point you should be in good shape and I wouldn't worry about it after that."

6. "Over time, we are going to give more and more information in those [Webmaster Tools] messages"

Responding to a question that asked whether Google will expand their manual spam penalty Webmaster Tools messages, Matt said that in time the messages webmasters receive will receive more and more information, including example URLs of bad links to give you an idea of what to look out for and remove. Here's what he said:

"If you log into the Webmaster Tools console and you see a message, that means that there has been some direct manual action by the web spam team that is somehow directly affecting the ranking of your website. In those cases, right now some of those messages have example links or example URLs that are causing issues for us. We wouldn't necessarily say that those are the only things, because if you have a million URLs that are offending things, we couldn't send all one million URLs in an email or even a message, because that's just going to take too much storage. Over time, we are going to give more and more information in those messages. I wouldn't be surprised if you see one, two, three, some number of example URLs or links that give you an idea of where to look in order to find the sorts of things that are causing that particular action. We're going to keep looking at how we can expand the number of example URLs that we include in messages. Then you'll have a really good idea about where to go and look in order to help diagnose what the issue is."

7. "We're working on becoming more transparent and giving more examples with [Reconsideration Request] messages as we can."

Regarding Adeel from Manchester's question in July regarding examples of bad links to his site, Matt said the team are working on becoming more transparent and giving more examples of the links they are getting sites penalised within their messages:

"We're working on becoming more transparent and giving more examples with messages as we can. I wouldn't say "Hey, give me examples in a reconsideration request" because a reconsideration request - we'll read what you say, but we can really only give a small number of replies. Basically, yes the reconsideration request has been granted, or no, you still have work to do. There's a very thin middle ground which is your request has been processed. That usually only applies if you have multiple web spam actions. And then maybe one has been cleared, but you might have other ones left. But typically you'll get a "yes" or a "no" back."

8. "Sometimes people think that Disavow is the be all and end all, the panacea that's going to cure all their ills."

When asked to give some common mistakes that people make when uploading their disavow file, Matt pointed out that the file is not there to wipe away all of your bad links in 30 seconds and allow you start from fresh. Instead, Matt pointed out that the webmasters need to give their best efforts to remove as many of the bad links they built as possible. Here are his words from June:

"Sometimes people think that Disavow is the be all and end all, the panacea that's going to cure all their ills. We do want, if you've been doing some bad SEO and you're trying to cure it, in an ideal world you would actually clean up as many links as you can off the actual web. That's just a really helpful way for us to see, when you're doing a reconsideration request that you're putting in the effort to try to make sure that all things have been corrected and cleaned up and are not going to happen again."

Other common mistakes Matt pointed out were people trying to upload Microsoft Word and Excel files when the system only accepts regular text files, people not disavowing enough of their bad links, not using the right syntax and including a story behind their bad links in the disavow file (this should be saved for the reconsideration request).

9. "If you don't provide adequate disclosure of paid content, we're willing to go up to and including removing the publication from Google News"

A longer than usual discussion on advertorials, Matt explained in fine detail that any paid links or advertorials must be clearly marked to both the user and search engine (via NoFollow tag). Mr Cutts went as far as to say the Google News team are prepared to kick websites out of the News results if they don't abide by these rules also.

In the video that runs a few seconds over 5 minutes, Matt uses the phrase "adequate disclosure" five times as he makes his point about NoFollowing all of those paid links. Key snippets from his videos are as follows:

"So how about advertorial content or native advertising? Well, it's advertising. But it's often the sort of advertising that looks a little closer to editorial. But it basically means that someone gave you some money, rather than you writing about this naturally, because you thought it was interesting or because you wanted to."

"If someone were to come to a newspaper reporter and say, "I'm going to give you some money, can you link within your editorial story that you're writing, your news article?" That would be deceptive. People would not realize that there was payment involved. And it would really not be fair. So paid links that pass PageRank, change the landscape. It makes it uneven, so that people can't compete on a level playing field."

"If a regular user happened to be reading your website and didn't know that it was paid, they'd really be pretty frustrated and pretty angry when they found out that it was paid. So we've taken action on this sort of thing for years and years. And we're going to keep taking strong action."

"The Google News team recently published on their blog and said that, if you don't provide adequate disclosure of paid content, whether it be native advertising, advertorials, whatever, whenever there's money changing hands, if users don't realize that sufficiently, because there's not adequate disclosure, the Google News team mentioned that they might not only remove the paid content, but we're willing to go up to and including removing the publication from Google News."

10. "Typically, internal website links will not cause you any sort of trouble."

When asked whether too many internal links on your website will hurt you ranking, Matt said that as long as you stick by the general template of bread crumbs etc. there's no reason why your website would be penalised. He said there's nothing to worry about if you're behaving normally:

"Typically, internal website links will not cause you any sort of trouble. If you have a normal site - a catalogue site or whatever; you've got bread crumbs, you've got a normal template there, and that's just the way people find their way around the site and navigate. You should be totally fine. It's kind of expected that you'll have a lot of links that all have the same anchor text that point to a given page. I wouldn't worry about that."

11. "If there is a link selling site and they get caught for selling links, and they just happen to be linking to you, the value of that link that the site was providing, it just goes away."

Asked in April by Sergey L from New York about your site being penalised for having a link from a link selling site, Matt said that your site would not inherit a penalty, but rather lose any benefit that site was originally passing on from you:

"Normally what happens is when we find a site that's selling links, its PageRank goes down by 30%, 40%, 50%, as a visible indicator that we've lost trust in that domain. And it typically also loses its ability to send PageRank going forward. For example, suppose we have a selling site that is selling links to a buying site. And the selling site also happens to link to you. The sort of situation that might happen is we find out that that's a link seller, and as a result we don't trust the outgoing links from that site. The most likely scenario is if there is a link selling site and they get caught for selling links, and they just happen to be linking to you, the value of that link that the site was providing, it just goes away. Maybe you were benefitting getting a little bit of PageRank from that site. Now, since we don't trust that site, you wouldn't be getting that benefit. Typically, it's not the sort of thing where you get affected by that penalty in the sense that you get demoted or anything harsh like that. It's just you no longer get the benefit of the link from that site, because we don't trust it anymore."

12. "It doesn't hurt you if you use a 301."

At the start of 2013, Matt Cutts explained that you do not lose any of your link juice when using a 301 redirect:

"The amount of PageRank that dissipates through a 301 is almost exactly, is currently identical to the amount of PageRank that dissipates through a link. So they are utterly the same in terms of the amount of PageRank that dissipates going through a 301 versus a link. That doesn't mean "use a 301." That doesn't mean "use a link." It means use whatever is best for your purpose, because you don't get to horde or conserve any more PageRank if you use a 301, and likewise, it doesn't hurt you if you use a 301."

Thanks to the team behind www.theshortcutts.com for making it quick and easy to locate all of Matt's videos J

Barrie Smith

Written by Barrie - a Link Building Consultant for Receptional Ltd. Follow Barrie on Twitter and Google+ for more updates on Google Panda, Penguin and Link Building.

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5 Responses to “12 Quotes From Matt Cutts That Changed Link Building”

  1. Ben says:

    Hey Barrie, youve picked a lot of interesting quotes from matt – especaly the ones about disavowing links. the disavow tool is still a secret to me personaly. ive uploaded multiple "detox" lists for different projects but they just do not get processed – even after 3 months they are still not processed. i use the right formats and syntax. do you have any experience with the tool and any experience on how long it takes so that the uploaded lists get processed? google just says "serveral weeks".

  2. Aahna says:

    Hey Barrie,

    You cleared 2 of my myths that I had before reading this post.

    1. Links from selling the site and if Google caught selling site then you're also likely to get penalized, as Google will think you're the buyer and trying to manipulate the search engine.

    2. I recently heard from somewhere that if you're using the same anchor text to target the same content, then it's likely to annoy the Google. But certainly that's not the case. :)

  3. Barrie Smith says:

    Thank you for your comment Aahna,

    It was Matt Cutts who cleared up those myths for you, I was only quoting him!



  4. Asher says:

    Excellent post Barrie! I would like to recommend my article about "What if Google didn't exist" which talks about the real approche with link building and some about guest posts. Guest posting is not the problem, it the fact that people make it what it's not. check it out here: http://www.advancedwebranking.com/blog/what-if-google-didnt-exist/