Exclusive: Google Teaches Bloggers How To Rank

I recently got the chance to grill senior Google engineer and webmaster relations chappy Matt Cutts on some issues specific to bloggers. Matt took his sweet time getting the interview done, but it was well worth the wait. In it, he talks about Google’s problems with splogs on Blogger.com, and their efforts to solve the issue, aswell as giving advice to bloggers on ranking in Google and how bloggers can use Google to find and organize information. Grab a coffee, sit down and enjoy, it’s a good’un — thanks Matt!

Q. Reputation within the Blogosphere could be the one and only area that Google noticeably trails Yahoo! We’ve seen some promising moves from Google to provide bloggers with tools and service, such as Google Reader, but what other areas should bloggers be looking to you for in order to find and organize their information? Should we expect further news that will excite bloggers in the future?

I think Google actually has a pretty good story to tell here. Blogger provided one of the first easy ways to set up a blog. Google Reader lets you keep up with the feeds o’ your choice. And blogsearch.google.com is a good way to prowl the blogosphere, and it lets you do persistent searches and get the results as RSS or Atom. Google News provides alerts and also lets you get RSS or Atom feeds of persistent searches too, plus you can customize it for the topics you’re interested in. You can also load your own custom feeds into Gmail now as well. You can turn the clip feature off if you want, but it’s neat to have RSS sliding in above your inbox.

Lots of people might not know that My Search History lets you save your searches: you can bookmark/star a result and then add labels (tags) in there; you can also remove searches as well. Google Desktop Search has saved my bacon several times when I wanted to blog something and forgot where I saw it. Plus you can argue that AdSense was one of the first ways that bloggers were able to generate money from a site that might otherwise only be a hobby.

I think if you think of bloggers as a really hip subset of people who deal with information all day long (and that are often site owners too), some of the recent releases are useful. Sitemaps and its webmaster console is really interesting for debugging crawl problems, and Analytics is going to be good for people who want to get a handle on their visitors (e.g. repeat vs. new visitors). I can’t talk about future projects, but there’s 1-2 exciting/fun things that I’ve seen at the plex that make online life easier for people that spend their whole day dealing with information.

Q. Recently, Google’s Blogger service has been under increasing pressure to deal with it’s “splogs” problem. This has prompted some small engines to stop indexing Blogspot domains, and there’s been rumour that Google have stopped indexing them. Is this true, and what more can be done to curb the problem?

Google definitely hasn’t stopped indexing Blogspot domains. The Blogger team has been doing a ton of work on this, and I’ve gotten to see a lot of the steps that they’ve taken (e.g. more use of CAPTCHAs in suspicious situations) to improve things. They’ve made it a lot harder to create a lot of splogs, and the response time is also way down when something does slip through.

Just as an aside to readers, one of the things that Nick has dinged Google for in the past is a lack of communication. I think Jason Goldman, Pal, and the rest of the Blogger team have really done a good job at talking about the concrete steps that they’re doing to improve things. If you haven’t checked the Buzz blog that Blogger maintains, check out the posts that they’ve done about splogs:

They’ve also rolled out a lot of new features like comment moderation. And there’s still some things like flag-as-objectionable that may also prove helpful.

Is the splog problem “solved” on Blogger? I definitely wouldn’t call the issue done, because there are a lot of people out there trying to create fake blogs. But the Blogger team has done a bunch of stuff in response to this issue, and the team has made a lot of progress.

That one incident that generated such a flurry of posts was (I believe) mostly because of a batch of fake blogs that mentioned popular bloggers. I thought it was smart of the Blogger team to post a list of all the splog accounts that they deleted as a result of that incident.

I think there’s still some things that can be done to curb the
problem, but I think the Blogger folks are taking the right steps regarding splogs.

Q. Bloggers are becoming increasingly more interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and unfortunately this is prompting some rather spurious posts from “experts” whose information is often years out of date. If Bloggers need to know how to rank well in Google, where would you recommend they get solid information?

I think everyone should sit down with Google’s webmaster guidelines and just read it all. It will only take a couple hours, but the time is well worth it. Make sure you subscribe to the official search engine blogs. I have a lot of respect for Danny Sullivan, and there are some real experts at WMW and TW. If you’ve got any kind of coding experience, try to build a search engine yourself. You’d be amazed
what you learn. Take random info out on the net with a grain of salt unless you know something about the poster’s credibility.

Q. Can you give the Performancing readers a few tips on ranking in Google?

I wouldn’t bother with year/month/day in blog urls; I’d just use the first few words from the title of the post in the url. Don’t try to
rank for a huge phrase at first–pick a smaller niche and get to be known as an expert there, and then build your way out and up. Controversial posts are sure to build links, but too many controversial posts may undermine your credibility. I think you attract more links with a conversational style, humor, and doing your own research to produce new insights or tidbits of info. In my opinion, just commenting on other blogs isn’t as useful. There are a lot of ways to build a reputation, from having a great blog to producing a unique service to speaking at conferences. A single creative idea that catches fire in the blogosphere or digg.com is probably more useful than just chasing/buying/trading links. Original information or research is great bait to attract links. 🙂

Q. Adsense has become the #1 monetization choice for Bloggers, and for good reason. It’s a simple, powerful, and (mostly) relevant way of showing ads to readers, and monetizing blog archives. One thing many
blogs suffer from however, is adverts for “blog related” products and services. This sucks if you’re not talking about blogs, but *are* posting on one — is there anything we can do about that? Is there anything Google can do to help blogs avoid that kind of ad?

That’s a stumper. I asked around about this. One thing I love about the AdSense team is that they’re so open to feedback. Several people got a thoughtful look on their face and starting brainstorming about how to prevent blog-related ads from showing up too often in the future. The most concrete immediate advice I heard was a reminder about section targeting. Here’s more info about it.

In essence, you can mark out the heart of a page with your post and suggest that the ads tailor to that. You can also specifically carve out sections of the page to ignore. So if you’ve got a navbar or section that has lots of bloggy words like “blogroll” or “linkblog” then you could exclude that section of the page. I’ll keep you posted if I hear other good suggestions.

Q. Performancing has gotten some great reviews, and links this last week or two, people seem to like what we’re doing — can we get a mention on the Matt Cutts blog? 🙂

I’ve got my eye on it; I’m waiting for the right post to come along. I’ve enjoyed the articles so far. It’s got a nice amount of technical crunch to it. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Exclusive: Google Teaches Bloggers How To Rank

  1. Although this is an old post, it still stand relevant.
    Now we can see that people using blogger are happy with the service, so thanks google and thank you for sharing this information with the webmaster community.

  2. Great point of discussion. Although I’ve been in the business for years, I am still surprised with the ideas of Mr. Matt Cutts. I hope you guys can get this discussion to more bloggers out there. Thanks for the post, Nick!

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