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What Matt Cutts Said at Domain RoundTable 2008

This is live blogging from matt’s session. It will update as I enter information.

Matt said: about his role on the web spam team, he defined spam as sites that “rank higher than they deserve”. Go figure that one out.

Matt asked how many people were into domaining because it was like a garage sale, where you find a rare book worth a lot on sale for only 50 cents. He also asked how many were in it for the money, and then how many had a life long commitment to creating new content and publishing content of value to users on the web…. Can you see where Google is going with this? Sure you can.

He highlighted GMHS.com which is a for sale domain. User won’t be happy if they typed in the name of a high school and got this. Not too happy a user.

Earthday.org parked page… says it is relevant. Lots of user stuff. Complete new user might be happy landing on it. A savvy user will not be as happy with it.. they will wirte in and say… Matt suggested hiring a blogger to be the EarthDay Blogger for 10% of the eventual value… cherry pick your top 10,20 domains and give a blogger some equity to write content.

Ajaxian.com neat site about AJAX. Take gmhs.com and get somebody to develop it.. that’s the high end of content and value add, because not everyone is providing that. For the valuable domains, that is what Matt would do.

Q for Matt: standard dupe content question. Matt says he can handle that. Litmus test is “were was the first place this content debuted (was viewed)”. Gigablast is like 2 guys and can’t do that, but Google can. Google filters out dupe content that is not as useful as the original. What abut shuffling content, dictionaries.. trying to evade detection, as Matt says. He says it is easier to find someone to generate that content for you.

Q: on DMCA process from Ron Jackson, do you complain to Google or the host? Matt says google.com/dmca.html to describe that process. There is a process for counter-notify and dispute, and if that happens Google stops and leave the debate for the involved parties to handle.

Q: from a lawyer… an admittedly frustrated lawyer, not having great success because people just switch web hosts when challenged. Matt says Google “doesn’t ant to play police”. The lawyer says Federal copyright registration is a prerequisite to DMCA, and not easy to get a copyright on a web page. Matt suggests that after you’ve been scraped a few times…people look for ways to embed links in the article to take advantage of the scraping… “I get a lot of links”…”I’m guaranteed to have more page rank than they do”… he personally says “oh well, that’s links that go to my website”.

Q; on tld’s and their impact on ranking. Matt says early literature shows G didn’t care about what TLD was using.. just # links and how reputable those links were. He says except fro some corner cases, it doesn’t matter, and he says most people will never fit those corner cases.
Note: Matt says the new york times is more reputable than your college friend (he was addressing link value). Think about that.

Matt: “you never want your users to be angry” , Matt remembers his mother in law with a huge infection of scumware, and how much Matt spends the first day of a visit cleaning up her computer. Some people don’t want their ads showing on parked pages. Matt says Google helps show people how the domain channel can work as a profitable advertising channel.

Q; about how long it takes for a new site to monetize. Taking longer now than it used to. Matt says people think a page gets a little page rank just because it is a page, which is a misconception. Page rank is peanut butter… you’re spreading it around, it gets thin. You need more links (more peanut butter?). Think about marketing aspect.. catchy angle that attracts people’s attention, and then spread that around your network. Q: Gestation period has gotten much longer…. Matt says it can take time for pages and trusted pages to develop.

Matt showed off searchmash.com. Will we see some of these features on Google? Entirely possible. Notes the integration of DomainTools for whois as of yesterday. “please don’t scrape this”…. Google has built in a “fair amount of checking” so too frequent queries will cause it to block you. “We like this idea of trying out experiments”. He searched “aa 127″ and got American Airlines flight status for flight 127.

Matt says if a domain changes hands, Google resets the links vale to zero/near zero. [Update: Matt apparently said this about expired domains in 2007. I can't be sure of exactly what was said here, but these were contemporaneous notes so perhaps we will have to wait for the recorded sessions to be sure].

Domain names are the primary way of mapping where domains are on the web and Matt expects that to continue. Domain names are important and inseparable going forward.

Generic domains that users are likely to remember, will indeed carry more weight than others. There is a real value to those FuneralHomes.com for example. Google does give keywords in the URL a certain amount of weight, but you don’t need it in order to rank.

“We have a deal with GoDaddy that if you sign on with GoDaddy you’re automatically registered with Webmaster Tools”.

Q: Parked Domains: ” We try to detect parked domains, and once they leave their parked status, we let them in relatively quickly”

Q: If a domain says it is for sale, does that harm it’s chances in Google? Matt: Our litmus test is not whether or not it’s for sale, but if their’s good ocntent on it and it’s helpful to users.

Q: if you stub your toe [violate google guidelines] on on domain of thousands, do all of their domains suffer? Matt says no.. just because one domain is doing something bad…. BUT, it does increase the odds of google scrutinizing the other domains. Says google knows how to find other owned domains via common templates etc. If just doing everyday stuff, one domain in trouble doesn’t hurt other domains.

Q: Breakup page of more than 100 links… people complain about it.

Q: Ip cloaking to block abusive users. Matt says be careful.. ok to block scrapers etc but Google runs spot checks from different IPs… matt will go to his old school account to see what the page looks like. If user and Googlebot see same thing, should be ok. Matt cares about cloaking Google, not other users. BUT be careful not to get it wrong.

Q: Geo IP cloaking question… Matt says ” different MD5 sum means high risk category” ;-) Dont treat Googlebot like it was it’s own unique country (Googlestan), getting Googlestan content. We crawl from California… if you cloak it, be very careful to say what you are doing “it looks like you are outside of Colorado..so we’re serving you outside of colorado content…”

Q: on use of nofollow. Directory owner, asking if nofollow helps or hurts. Matt says nofollow is a “very simple thing”. Nofollow link doesn’t flow pagerank, doesn’t flow anchor text. Link level to say “I trust this link but I don’t trust this link”. You don’t want to flow page rank through them if you don’t trust them. Real business 3-4% of your links will be stale, don’t worry don’t need nofollow. If check them at some point, willing to vouch for them, at some point checked them for quality, then don’t need to worry about nofollow. If just a domain directory, use no follow.. it is a matter of how much due diligence you put in.

Q: Webmaster asked about DiamondsDirect.com and why it and other sites don’t appear in Google. Matt looked at it, said the site was good, most users would lik eit, but the feed data was dirty (some control characters showing up) and appeared at many places.. probably more unique content.

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25 Responses to “What Matt Cutts Said at Domain RoundTable 2008”

  1. António Says:

    Matt says if a domain changes hands, Google resets the links vale to zero/near zero.

    A couple of months ago I asked AaronW about this. He commented back that he doesn’t see a reason for Google to devaluate the links, nor do I, if the domain is changing hands but all the rest stays equal. Apparently, Matt does.

  2. Troy Duncan Says:

    I can’t wait until a viable competitor to Google exist. I have no problem with a Yahoo/Microsoft merger.

    There is no way one man’s word should direct an entire industry! I applaud their stance on cleaning up the Internet. But monopolies are nofollow and competition is dofollow.

    @Troy: It’s one man’s word, but he represents Google. His word isn’t Google practice, but represents Google’s approach. I think of it as Matt’s vote… which carries considerable weight, but is not the official answer. I am sure there are many cases where Matt might propose and defend a fair solution, and perhaps work towards making it a Google standard, yet in the mean time it certainly might not be what Google is actively doing.

    The key here is understand what Matt means when he says something… and that can be elucidatd by asking more, smart, informed questions. 

  3. Jeremy Luebke Says:

    “Matt said: …he defined spam as sites that “rank higher than they deserve”.”

    First time I’ve heard that definition. That one is just scary. Who decides if a site “deserves” the #2 or #13 spot? Can a site deserve a 2nd page spot and be considered spam if it hits the 1st? I think those where poor choice of words.

  4. Josh@JaeWeb Says:

    matt can be a goldmine of info but sometimes he says some dumb shit.

  5. Matt Cutts Says:

    Jeremy, typically the way that I’d say it to a general audience is that webspam is cheating or taking shortcuts to make a website show up higher than it should or than it deserves to be.

  6. Jeremy Luebke Says:

    “cheating or taking shortcuts to make a website show up higher than it should or than it deserves to be”

    Now that sounds more like what I would expect.

  7. john andrews Says:

    @Jeremy: In my experience, speaking to a domainer audience is very differemt than speaking to an SEO audience. I know from participating and watching that it is quite a challenge to cover what needs to be covered and still maintain a sensible conversation with the audience. Matt had quite the challenge and did a great job.

    At the same time, we need to understand Google as best as we can, and that means we need to understand Matt’s comments.

    @Matt: thanks for clarifying in your comment. Not everyone with questions/concerns commented in public.

  8. Loewenherz Says:

    “Page rank is peanut butter…” Nice :) But I don’t understand the relation between the question (to monetize a website) and the answer (a little pagerank).

  9. florian Says:

    “if a domain changes hands, Google resets the links vale to zero/near zero”

    -> so if Microsoft buys Yahoo – after that deal yahoo.com will have pagerank 0?

    I cant belive that.

    @florian I think Matt was referring to cases where a domain changs hands and switches topics, not just ownership. So if Microsoft bought the Yahoo! domain and changed its’ popular Sports News pages to be Weather pages, keeping the same URLs, Google might reset the link value of those inbound links because they no longer represent votes for content.

    Matt gave the analogy of a Starbucks that moved into an old Bank building after the bank went back-rupt. Should Starbucks customers assume Starbucks doesn’t know how to manage money…should Starbucks inherit the bank’s reputation just because they are in the same location?

  10. Gab "SEO ROI" Goldenberg Says:

    “We have a deal with GoDaddy that if you sign on with GoDaddy you’re automaticlaly registered with Webmaster Tools”.

    And the blackhat community officially just blacklisted GoDaddy registrations.

  11. lindsay Says:

    It is interesting seeing how Google is working so hard to have their search be the purest. It’s tough to know what will happen when real competition begins to eat at them. Once the next competitor begins to threaten them (which will happen) I imagine Google will give up some of their ideals in order to keep their audience.

    Time will tell.

  12. Jaan Kanellis Says:

    “Q: on use of nofollow. Directory owner, asking if nofollow helps or hurts. Matt says nofollow is a “very simple thing”. Nofollow link doesn’t flow pagerank, dosn’t flow anchor text. Link level to say “I trust this link but I don’t trust this link”. You don’t want to flow page rank through them if you don’t trust them. Real business 3-4% of your links will be stale, don’t worry don’t need nofollow. If check them at some point, willing to vouch for them, at some point checked them for quality, then don’t need to worry about nofollow. If just a domain directory, use no follow.. it is a matter of how much due diligence you put in.”

    So by using the nofollow that should not effect how other pages on your website rank right?

  13. Matt Cutts Says:

    You’ve got it, Jaan. At most you’d see a second-order effect where PageRank didn’t flow through the nofollow links and thus ended up somewhere else on the site, which in theory could change search engine rankings a little bit.

  14. Jaan Kanellis Says:

    So pages do have buckets of PR and by nofollowing certain links you can guide where you want your most of your PR link juice to go, e.g. PR Sculpting?

  15. tuscl founder Says:

    Matt Cutts Says: April 21st, 2008 at 8:27 am
    typically the way that I’d say it to a general audience is that webspam is cheating or taking shortcuts to make a website show up higher than it should or than it deserves to be.

    So Matt, what you’re saying is a site that deals specifically with strip clubs and has for over 13 years should rank higher than a site that has as its complete content the word “test”. (search “strip club reviews”, then compare findastripclub.com vs tuscl.com)

    Or is what you mean that when a user searches for “strip clbus” they shold be bombarded with articles about vegan strip clubs and a pastor in ohio rather than the four major strip club sites on the internet?

    Just curious

  16. florian Says:

    @John: Thanks for the details.
    So probably a manual review is neccessary. Either for keeping the link value or for keeping it not. I would really like to know how Google handles that issue.

  17. john andrews Says:

    Update: on a related note, DomainNameNews discusses the Microsoft patent on using domain age as a ranking factor see http://www.domainnamenews.com/search-engines/domain-age-and-search-engine-positioning/1522

    It’s conjecture but it does suggest that issues like what determines age of a domain will need testing down the road. Basically, MS is probably just trying to patent the building in of a trust/less trust switch predominantly based on age.

  18. DP Says:

    Concerned about ‘the domain changing hands’ comment – what about when an entire site is sold? Domain changes hands but still points to the same place/site. Or you update contact information on your domain / transfer it from one registrar to another — does G know the difference between this and a sale? I’d expect to see this comment made about a dropped domain being re-registered, surprised to see it as broad as “changing hands”. Any elaboration on this would be very helpful. Thanks!

  19. John S. Britsios Says:

    A question for Matt:

    Would 307 redirects in combination with X-Robots directives “noindex,nofollow” be an appropriate alternative to the “nofollow” attribute?

  20. John Lessnau Says:

    I have been looking at a dormant a PR7 that I could get for a steal (still several thousand $$). I wanted to parlay it into a high PR site with great content. Based on Matt’s comments, I would be better off using one of the domains I already own and use the money saved on good content writers.

    @DP: I have seen domains sold retain their value until the content gets changed drastically, then sandbox time.

  21. Jan Says:

    I can’t wait until a viable competitor to Google exist. I have no problem with a Yahoo/Microsoft merger.

  22. MXL Says:

    Google is so screwed up you can’t get a straight result from them anyway. Why?
    One idea I have is if you get the poop you get in results then you might click one there money makers, adsense traffic.

    I mean really if you type in a domain dot com and all you get is other sites that know how to piggy back off your original request and they show up without the original domain dot com in the results, that’s a worthless product to me.
    I spell Google, BING plain and simple you get what your searching for.

    The only thing Google can do right is serve maps and earth.
    I boycotted them years ago. I think there must be something in the water of the
    silicone valley every company in that area is or is becoming whacked.

    Let’s hope Bing dot com stays in Redmond.

  23. copyright registration attorney Says:

    To expand on the DMCA mention above, the DMCA also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control or security measure, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself.

  24. Malcolm Lambe Says:

    Sorry. Delete the last two comments. I’ll try again. I’m looking for the latest info on stop words in domains. What I want to know is: is it true that Google (and other search engines) ignore stop words in domains? If that were the case wouldn’t it be open season on all domains? Domainers could just add variations of stop words to popular and high-traffic domains and get them high in the SERPS. It can’t be that easy surely?

  25. Hot Stripper Fan Says:

    Howdy everyone, I’d like to know if anyone has a suggestion about a good town or city to get a job as a strip club dancer. I recently lost my waitress job and I am willing to basically move anywhere if I can get a job there at a good. I danced at a gentlemans club here in Dallas for a few months and I have stripped at a bachelor party or two ;) I am 24 years old and have a great body. Anyone have any suggestions about a new city with good strip clubs to work at?

    John responds: gotta love the public Internet!