What Google

SEO is Changing

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WebProNews’ Mike McDonald caught up with Matt Cutts of Google at the Hofbrau Haus in Las Vegas during PubCon to get his views on a number of topics.

Is Ranking Dead?

Matt Cutts

Cutts said, "I’m not sure I would say ranking is dead but it’s not as important as it used to be. The fact is the smart SEOs are not just necessarily looking at the rankings. They are looking at conversion, they are looking at their server log. It’s great if you’re ranking for a phrase but unless that leads to sales that doesn’t help you very much."

"The challenge is not to pay so much attention to ranking, pay attention to traffic, pay attention to conversions and keep building good content and don’t worry about ‘can I show people that I rank number one for my trophy phrase.’"



Universal Search In 2009

"Universal is really useful and I think it will continue to expand and what that means in 2009 you can’t just think of yourself as an SEO," said Cutts.

"SEOs are starting to embrace the fact that they are marketers. It’s a broader spectrum. You have to think about how you build buzz, how do you get loyal customers, how do you optimize your ROI. All those different things and that can include how do I make good videos, do I have a book, things like that."

Cutts says that people will continue to pay attention to video and images in 2009 but noted a down side. "Of course anywhere there is money there will be spam." Google has been focusing on its different properties to manage the spam issue.


Google has gotten better on Flash and submitting a video to video sitemaps is really helpful in getting onto Google Video Search. "We want to be able to present video from all kinds of places," said Cutts.

Video File Format

"Whatever file format you want to use is totally fine."


Cutts says that just because search engines are getting better at Flash does not mean mobile is. On mobile devices you can’t just think about search engines. You have to think about the user experience.

Matt Cutts

Competing with Black Hat SEO

"Black Hat SEO is getting a little more malicious. In a world where Black Hat is moving towards really illegal things as an SEO you have to decide your risk tolerance and do I really want to try to compete with people who are doing illegal stuff or do I want to make a long term site that’s gonna stand the test of time."


There is no real advantage to using Subdomains. If you have a lot of Subdomains that can be a lot of work. You don’t want to overdo it. Really it’s what ever is easiest for you.

What Google
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  • Daniel

    I’ve been bumping into the whole "Video inclusion" issue now a few times. I guess it will be time for us to integrate some videos soon in order to stay on top of the rankings. I wonder however, if the videos have to be all self produced or "unique" or can one also integrate youtube and already see a positive effect. We sell language courses all over the world and certainly do not have the budget to travel to over 60 locations and shoot nice image films. Nor do our partners at the place sometimes have the budget/manpower.

    Any hint is welcome.



  • http://www.ourhomeremedies.com Ari Lestariono

    Nothing’s change, only perspective change

  • http://www.hostingtangguh.com hosting murah

    google rank is still importan for me

    my 60% visitor come from google.

  • http://www.hawkinsotr.com Michael Hawkins

    I think that Matt is basically right, but that does of course not remove the fact that everybody will still want as good ranking as possible and that Google can’t squeeze everybody into their first page results – even if there for many search phrases content wise are way more than 10 sites that would deserve a spot there.

    I also think that various social media will play an ever increasingly important role in determining both your search engine rankings and traffic levels.

  • http://www.ahorre.com/marketing/ Geoffrey Gonzalez

    "SEOs are starting to embrace the fact that they are marketers. It’s a broader spectrum. You have to think about how you build buzz, how do you get loyal customers, how do you optimize your ROI. All those different things and that can include how do I make good videos, do I have a book, things like that."

    This is sooo true. We all need a well rounded approach to our web presence. I know starts to "return towards an online / offline approach"



  • http://www.digitalspiralwebdesign.com Affordable Custom Web Design

    I think we wil see more and more of the SEO market evolving in the very near future. And along with those changes, all SEO pros are going to have to adapt to follow suit.

    It will definitely be an interesting transition and I’m ready to see the new SEO.


  • http://www.CyberCucina.com CyberCucina Gourmet Foods

    It seems that to try any black hat tactic is extremely risky, since you could loose so much because of Googles dominance. The risk is so great I would never consider it for a nanosecond.

    • http://www.jbcr-virtualsolutions.com BJ

      Many marketers who use Black Hat don’t give a rat’s butt about Google banning them. They burnout domains and move on to another domain. We’ve had prospective clients approach us [we declined] that state as much right up front. We even had one threaten to get us banned for not doing black hat for them, just to prove what losers [they think the rest of us are] for ‘playing fair’. These folks are totally ruthless by nature.

      I also know of sites that should be banned by Google for their black hat, but they are also using Google services that generate revenue for Google. Google has a huge conflict of interest problem with taking revenue from these sites when they [perhaps?] know they should be banned for some of the other practices they are using.

  • http://www.seothoughts.co.uk/ Chris

    I agree that in order to get traffic you need to rank for your search terms in order to get conversions.

    thank you for the information.

    • http://www.westcoastvinyl.com Replacement Windows Tacoma

      I agree up to a certain point. If you’re into just traffic thats fine for that purpose, but if you’re in a niche then pure traffic isn’t it.
      Chances are in your niche your going for that long tail keywords.
      You’ll get less traffic but your conversion (if your page has been developed and optimized) will be higher than just getting pure traffic.

      Ranking is good to have, but I’ve seen people that just put up a site and get almost instant traffic with high conversion!

      Obviously, this was all planned out. Getting into the forums and network and rubbing elbows with the community and then suggested that the community checked out xyz.com site.

  • http://anything.wastedboy.net Wastedboy

    I can’t agree more with Cutts’ statement, "The challenge is not to pay so much attention to ranking, pay attention to traffic, pay attention to conversions and keep building good content and don’t worry about ‘can I show people that I rank number one for my trophy phrase."… It’s time for change!

  • http://www.dotcom-monitor.com/ website monitoring

    I do respect Matt’s opinion but I’ll never believe his recommendations to use white SEO will persuade doorway builders and other guys who prefer ‘quick’ methods. The reason is simple – white seo requires too much time.

  • http://googlelatestupdates.blogspot.com/ Latest google updates

    Yes i do agree with cutts in some points, but with out rankings how we can get conversions, so for this point i am not agreeing cutts orgument regarding.

  • http://www.onlinetv.us OnlineTV

    Cutts is right on. The server log will tell you what is converting. Paying attention to a trophy keyword should not be the goal. You should be looking at what is being found and work from there to further expand that effort – conversions happen with traffic. Find the sweet spot in the logs. If it is not there you have to have something with relevance to your desire on the pages.

    It is content; ever expanding in its own importance that will bring you to the top of keywords you did not realize were more important than the trophy keyword you once desired.

    • http://www.swansonscontracting.com Home Remodeling Estimates Salem OR

      I totally agree, if you are vigilante and monitoring that one specific page or split testing that you’re trying to convert. The server log is another tool that you have on hand to help you decipher what is converting. Text content is king, but so is pics or videos that supports what the content is on.

  • http://myway2fortune.info briguy

    Great article Mike..as a small webmaster. I sure appreciate articles like this! Especially when I read the “PR” might not be as important as it once was! I was always wondering if I would get more traffic/conversons if my sites had a higher PR..seems that the sites that have high PR in my niche are generally “blackhat” based..one month wonders! Anyway I keep on doing what I been dong!

  • http://www.MosaicWebsite.com SEO

    We’ve heard all this before. How about some strategic tips for backlinking?

    • http://www.westcoastvinyl.com Vinyl Replacement Windows Seattle

      Word I hear that , how about hearing more about is backlinking still important or is it a waste of time?

  • http://www.complaint.customermath.com Imran khan

    It is a great articles but I think subdomains still mater. I know subdomain gives more work but they also give more options if you really have nice idea of what you are going to do you can do it on subdomain rather mixing it with current site.

  • http://www.nupokuren.dk/Nupo-Produkter/Nupo-Slankeprodukter.aspx Nupo Tilbud

    Agree – conversion is as important as ranking (at least when your ranking is good enough)…

    • http://tenerifemortgagebroker.com Tenerife Mortgages

      Surely Google designs their algorithm around an increasing number of factors in order to stop or at least slow down SEO manipulation.
      Their goal is deliver the best possible result which has to be the websites containing the most relevant information to the search, the websites which keep the user engaged for the longest amount of time and which give the user the best result overall. So, build a site, fill it with relevant content and dont try to hard in any one area.
      If you concentrate on one particular aspect, all it takes is an algorithm update to blow you away.
      It seems pretty obvious when you think about it that google are going to want the sites which convert the best – at the top of the rankings as the user is obviously finding exactly what they are looking for.

  • http://www.mobilemini.com storage containers

    I don’t think that rankings will ever die, only what we present to the client. My boss loves Google anything, keyword tools and of the such but I think the real power is tracking actual sales not keyword searches. If this is the future of Google we have to grow, which is something the SEO field has done since day one.

  • http://www.cdncc.com Guest

    If PR is less important why make it publicly available? Offering the ranking and telling everyone it’s not important is a contradiction. Why not come out and say it like it is Matt, PR is important but you don’t like people exploiting it for artificial ranking. As long as its a free public tool to measure Google’s ranking it will always be abused, make it a private rating between Google and the webmaster if you want to avoid abuse.

    • http://www.thevillagelodge.com Cape Town

      Just had a nightclub site that i started some link building on. This site was on page 12 of Google. I put a one way link from another PR5 site to this newly completed nightclub site and withing a week it was at number 1 on Google for its search term. This is the only link pointing to this new site……so no i don’t think PR is dead……although i know it is not so relevant anymore when it comes to link building….

      I think making PR less important is a good step for Google……you just have to love them.

  • Guest

    How can you convert if you don’t have traffic because you don’t rank?

  • Guest

    Think this is an excellent point about ranking, because what is the point in being ranking number 1 if the search term generates little or no traffic.

    Fundamentally its all about targeting traffic and that is why you have to think of it from a Marketing way. What search terms are potential customers going to put into Google that is going to generate business for you.

    Our company name says it all, 4P’s Marketing.


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    • http://www.dr-sandy.net/2008/02/organic-search-engine-optimization-seo.html Organic search engine optimization by Dr. Sandy

      I am a blogger and from a bloggers perspectives I would rather focus upon getting more and more visitors and converting visitors into subscribers.

      Although I recon search engines as one of the best ways to generate traffic to a blog but a higher raning is of no use if visitors bounce bac after landing or don’t subscribe or leave comments on a blog.

  • http://www.freereport.co.cc Guest

    Ranking dead? well if google says so may be we should all just pretend to agree. That is what make people see you first. Every thing in life is about competiton and we all strive to be ranked in all ways of life,this is what differentiates the winner from the looser.Google still recognises RANKING, but then viewing the whole issue from the marketing angle means that when you focus on the conversion rate of your site, then you will want to get the best contents you can ever get for your website.This in turns makes google more credible as those who search on google tends to see answers to their problems.



  • Alex Holliman

    Good interview, all very interesting.

  • http://www.smart-keywords.com Aussiewebmaster

    The biggest thing is the call of black hat seo tactics as illegal… we seem to have gone from against Google rules to illegal. In cases where there are illegal actions ok but we can’t blur the lines.

    • http://www.giveawaylegalforms.com/ Legal Forms

      So you’re saying that black hat SEO tactics are actually against the law? It seems the Government and Google may eventually form one entity. Perhaps in the next few weeks I’ll be turning the News on and see someone receive 20 years for keyword spamming. That will be the day.

  • http://www.answeraddict.com answers to questions

    Great roundup interview with Matt.

  • http://lbug.co.uk Lightning Bug viral advertising

    The new personalised results pages make it even harder to rank consistently highly. It looks like social media might be the way to go from now on.

    • http://www.haircarehints.com/ Hair Care

      I think you’re right, social media might be the way to go, but I don’t think just personalised search results are the end of it. With Google tracking each Chrome browser, personalised results (or should I say tailored?) will increase even further. I’m not looking forward to how SEO will be in the next 5 years time.

  • http://www.portalmaonaroda.com.br fornecedor clientes

    I agree with Matt, when he said that smart SEOs have to pay attetion to convertion, and traffic… the only thing he forgot to say is that to have traffic by new visitors you need to be in the top of the searches, and to have to have traffic (old visistors) you need to have good content, make credibility and a great “usabillity”.

  • http://www.qualityclotheslines.net/rotarys.html Rotary clothes lines

    My rotary clothes lines page has good content and converts sales but it also ranks well. i know that my competitors will sell if my site ranks lower than theirs. I suppose Matt is trying to get people to focus on making quality sites which is good but google doesnt always return the best quality sites.

  • http://www.scottrobertsweb.com Scott Roberts

    Ranking still matters when your traffic is primarily from search engine results. If people get to your site by other means, then it does not matter as much. It’s pretty simple.

  • http://vb.maas1.com/f122.html ???? ???????

    thanks for post

  • http://www.direito2.com.br Ruben Zevallos Jr.

    Here in Brazil the Mobile market is getting bigger with IPhone and other Smatphones… the 3G is now reality and is getting cheaper too… so, everybody have to make their web sites Mobile Ready to get this market.

  • http://www.barrywheeler.ca Marketing, Business & Technology News

    I don’t think that page rank is effective any longer, unless you plan on selling links. I’ve seen some links with low PR rank much better than High PR sites.

    I think that this is a bit of a cop out by Cutts.

  • http://www.moovinonup.com/search_engine_optimisation.html search engine optimisation

    dont we need ranking to get traffic in the first place

    • http://www.underwearfreebies.com Diane

      Building up outside PR is going to be more important maybe? Getting articles in magazines and newspapers will bring in traffic and then it’s about having something useful enough to be passed on by word of mouth.

      Will viral site be more used? Compare the Meerkats is a spoof ad for compare the markets website and they’ve built an entire spoof site.

  • http://www.pragmites.com SEO Pune

    Matt Cutts keeps repeating that all you need for good rankings is good content. I believe that there are many other things(according to Google themselves) that you need for good rankings.

    • http://tenerifemortgagebroker.com Tenerife Mortgages

      Yup you

      • http://TenerifeEstateAgents.net Tenerife Estate Agents

        I have a real estate site – very new and as such it doesnt rank too highly for too many keyword phrases but hopefully things will improve.
        I have read all about SEO and ranking and if there is any truth in “ranking is dead” then what am I supposed to do to beat my competitors?
        I have read a lot about video and image search which is all very well – I could make video listings and pictures are obviously on the site in abundance.
        But I also have a mortgage website. Mortgages doesn’t really lend itself well to video and images so is text going to be enough?

    • http://www.blackhatteam.com BlackHatTeam

      Google changing everyday. so just trust him!

  • http://www.packagedhosting.com Packaged Hosting

    Interesting article and subsequent posts. I think rankings will always be relevant although its not just the ranking anymore. As an SEO I look at other things also; how much traffic does it generate, where is that traffic coming from (are they searching from my target areas or elsewhere), what is the bounce rate like and so on.

    Rankings will always be important if you want search engine traffic, there is just more to it as I said and there are also more ways to get them. With Google moving more towards Universal Search it is not just your content that can get ranked anymore.

    I don’t think PR is a insignifigant as it is made out, but to be honest how much weight it carries is irrelevant. I keep seeing people on different forums, in articles or elsewhere saying certain factors have little or no weight and no to bother. I totally disagree, if you want the best results you should cover every single base you can and make sure it is up to standard.

    A good example would be the debate of W3C validation and if having a valid site means better rankings. Considering only about 5% of sites on the web do validate I don’t see how it is a good indicator for Google. On the other hand why not do it anyway just to be sure while one would think at some level a valid site means less errors and happier users.

    Even if it was not the case, if you want to get to the top you need to pass all or most of the criteria along the way which includes things outside the SEO criteria. You need a good site, good marketing as these will affect your end result also.

  • http://mcdia.com DESIGNher92

    These guys have been preaching White-Hat-Long-Term forever. It’s nice to see that the guys that I send all of my SEO work to are on the right track. As they’ve explained it to me, it all comes down to making the site about what you want people to know about you, your products, your ideas, whatever. The tighter you draw a line around what it is you want them to know, the better Google will regard you – after all, Google just wants to “get it right.”

    Right now, the http://www.MCDIA.com guys are helping me with the strategy of landing page design and making sure I don’t design myself into a corner. They rock – I’ve learned so much from them.

    Thanks for this post – it really gives me confidence that I’m on the right track and so are they!

  • Guest

    Good article, thanks for sharing these insights from Matt Cutts.

    At the end of the day, any smart SEO has always been focused on the bottom line. One needs rankings to get traffic, one needs traffic to get conversions, one needs conversions to ultimately have a profitable online business… It’s not rocket science.

    What surprises me is how many people still go broke investing paid search even when their sites have the potential to rank organically.

    Look at the highly competitive online health space. You see sites like RateMDs.com and ZocDoc.com bidding on thousands of terms that other sites rank for organically. Who is going to win at the end of the day. I tried searching for all sorts of terms related to how to find a doctor, my health insurance, different medical specialties , etc and on almost every page of results that came back I saw the same few sites buying ads right next to the same sites that were organically optimized.

  • http://www.web-media.co.uk Rob Willox

    Are we talking about search position ranking or straightforward Pagerank?

    If it’s PR then, as other comments point out, lower rank pages often appear higher in the serps. Matt Cutts, in another blog post, when asked about the importance of PR said that although as a measure it is important it is only one of about 200 factors contributing to search results page position.

    What I think he is saying is that focusing simply on achieving high serp positions for particular or individual keywords is less important than it perhaps once was.

    The important measure is how these positions relate to achieving your marketing and business objectives and conversion is quantifiable and measureable.

    It’s about relevancy of search term and landing page content. Content is still important and relevant content more important.

    Long-tail keyphrases are less competitive and can both achieve higher page positions and higher conversion rates. By their very nature they are more specific, more targeted and demonstrate more commercial intent.

    As Matt said, above, “It’s great if you’re ranking for a phrase but unless that leads to sales that doesn’t help you very much”.

    And that’s the bottom line and so it this!

  • http://joespencer.biz/ Joe Spencer

    I enjoyed your article. It really fits onto what I was planning for 2009 SEO Strategies.

  • http://www.blackhatseoworld.com blackhatseo

    They might also be using Searchwiki results when collected. Some sites with bad comments and ratings will eventually go down in Serps.

  • http://www.tmdesigner.it/blog/ Seo Blog TmDesigner

    Viral Advertising is strictly linked with Search Engine Optimization.. Serps are only differents points ok View ol Ads..Google Knows it!

  • http://www.curehemroids.com/ Hemroids

    I agree with that, because my site may be ranking no 1 for the keyword “hemroids information” but I know that this keyword is not converting to sale. It is better to be ranked no 7 for a keyword like “cure hemroids naturally” because this keyword is more likely to convert to a sale.

  • http://www.21stsoft.com seo web development

    A subdomain can actually help your site SEO, usability and Adwords quality score.

    Creating a subdomain and serving content from it can increase the speed of page uploads significantly due to HTTP 1.1 (current version) limitation of loading only 2 objects at a time from a single hostname.

    If, for example, you loaded images from here:
    you can only load 2 images at a time. If, however, you added a subdomain:
    and loaded images from both places then you would be loading from 2 different hostnames thus doubling the number of static files to 4 that HTTP 1.1 will upload at a time.

    Faster page loads mean that search engines will grab your content easier thus allowing your SEO optimized content to be indexed. If the page loads too slow then the user will just leave – a big usability problem.

    Since the page loads faster, your Adwords quality score will improve because Google recently included page load times in their quality score algorithm.

  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/seo-web-design.php charlotte web design

    Thanks for the info from Matt.

    • http://www.websoftware.com affiliate marketing software

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  • http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-143489967.html Cutts, Scoble & Zawodny in Blogging Roundtable

    Great article, its fun to look back on things and see how far they have come.

    “AUSTIN, Texas — Three of the Industry’s top bloggers, Matt Cutts, Robert Scoble and Jeremy Zawodny, come together at a special tech session: “Where Blogging and …”

  • http://www.eduwiz.org Indian Education forum

    I think Google should start a forum or something like that can really help for webmasters . Recently they started a forum for adsense publishers . A similar forum for seo and other education would be great .

  • http://www.goarticles.com/cgi-bin/showa.cgi?C=1449626 Daniel

    I don’t think that page rank is effective any longer, unless you plan on selling links. I’ve seen some links with low PR rank much better than High PR sites.

    I think that this is a bit of a cop out by Cutts.

    Thats a great one. Enjoyed reading it thanks.

  • http://trinispice.net Ryan Persad

    In 2008 the last few months things was well with the traffic, now we are receiving no traffic since feb18 and i saw now penalties

  • http://www.logix-opt.com TIMS

    It’s grate post.

  • http://jamabase.com Technology, Gadgets, Gizmos

    If ranking is going to be less important then I guess backlinks will also play less of a role?

  • http://www.electrocars.net Used car search

    Gr8 post……I have a long term SEO customer that I have achieved excellent rankings for via white hat SEO. I have good backlinks in Google and my all keywords on top ranking.

    • http://www.flv-converter.us FLV Converter

      We all changing,for the changing market.

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