Matt Cutts Grab Bag

Good Q and A session over at Matt’s blog.

Couple things I didn’t like:
The very generic answer about RK. Specially if RK does represent some sort of internal PR calculation.
Rolling out Big Daddy to all the datacenters without fully addressing the supplemental issues first. Why not wait on rolling out Big Daddy across the datacenters until the issues were all fixed/tested.
No answers discussing the 301s.

My favorite comment:

>You could whitelist the IP range that Googlebot comes from in the mean time.
Do you have a listing of all the Googlebot IP addresses?
Thanks.

Google Showing Query Specific Results for Olympians

Barry posted about how Google is showing a NBC Olympics box link to Carl Van Loan NBC athlete page for the query “loan”.

Barry noticed that other queries are not returning the Olympics box:

What bugs me is that a search on other popular U.S. Olympics Athletes do not bring up the same style result. One of the most popular U.S. Olympics stars is Apolo Anton Ohno but all you get are Google Images at the top. Another very popular U.S. athlete is Shaun White, but no special NBC Olympics box for Shaun either.

That sounded weird, so I spent a little time testing the system. Barry is right – searches for full names like “Shaun White” and “Apolo Anton Ohno” don’t show the NBC Olympics box. But one word queries for “Shaun”, “Apolo”, “Ohno”, “Van” do.

Here’s a list of some other interesting terms the NBC Olympics box is showing up for:

team, olympics, nbc, 2006, winter, torino, winter 2006, kevin, michael, ski team, snowboard, cross country skiing team (but not cross country – interesting), team sprint

Looks like NBC is using exact matching for these terms, since the NBC Olympic box doesn’t come up for many broad match terms like “NBC News” or full olympian names.

Update: Looks like someone at NBC recently added a few more terms to their campaign. Full names are now coming up with the NBC Olympic box.

Google Related Content AdLinks

Looks like Google is testing a new related content block that displays links to related content (so far news, searches, web pages). I’m assuming Google plans to allow publishers to modify the block to show links to other types of content like images, local, froogle, etc.

Garett Rogers says:

Since this doesn’t appear to show any advertisements, it is likely publishers won’t gain anything by using it — other than the satisfaction of knowing users are finding more information they are looking for. To solidify that point, the source code for the block doesn’t contain any unique identifier — required to link a website to a user account.

True, the source code doesn’t contain any unique identifier – but that doesn’t mean the public version won’t. Right now the outbound links from the content block do carry a client id. So Google is tracking where the visitors are coming from.

Web Page Link:

http://www.googlesyndication.com/relcontent/pageclick?

client=ca-rlu-vivi-ro-468x60_rc
&source=rlu&url=http://www.vivi.ro/blog/?p=182
&type=0&redir_url=http://romanian.joelonsoftware.com/

News Link:

http://www.googlesyndication.com/relcontent/pageclick?

client=ca-rlu-vivi-ro-468x60_rc
&source=rlu
&url=http://www.vivi.ro/blog/?p=182
&type=1
&redir_url=http://www.zf.ro/articole/Brokerii-nu-vad-motive-de-optimism-80250.html

Search Link:

http://www.googlesyndication.com/relcontent/searchclick?

client=ca-rlu-vivi-ro-468x60_rc
&type=2
&redir_url=http://www.google.com/search%3Frcu%3D2RLU%26hl%3Dro%26q%3DBANCURI

Example Script Include:
<script type=”text/javascript” language=”JavaScript”>
<!–
google_rc = new Object();
google_rc['width'] = 468;
google_rc['height'] = 60;
google_rc['modules'] = ['news','searches','pages'];
google_rc['color_line'] = ’336699′;
google_rc['color_link'] = ’0000ee’;
google_rc['color_bg'] = ‘ffffff’;
google_rc['color_text'] = ’000000′;
google_rc['color_source'] = ’6f6f6f’;
google_rc['color_header'] = ‘c6ddf4′;
google_rc['color_footer'] = ‘eeeeee’;
//–>
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” language=”JavaScript” src=”http://www.googlesyndication.com/relcontent/show_rc.js”></script>

You’ll notice that you can choose which modules to display for the related content block.

New AdSense Layout and Features

From the AdSense blog:

You can now access all AdSense products from the AdSense Setup tab within your account — edit your color palettes, get code snippets, access your channels, and more. As we add even more products and features, they’ll all share a consistent style to keep AdSense easy to use. For example, try out the new AdSense for content color picker for choosing and customizing new color palettes on the fly. Explore the link unit wizard with its new live preview feature and expanded explanations of this unique advertising option. These are just a couple of the many features we’re planning to offer, so keep an eye out for new options soon.

The new AdSense tab makes it easier to get started with AdSense – setting up AdSense code is split up into logical steps and the overall layout is less cluttered. Overall the changes are minor, but help improve the user experience. The live preview feature is good for getting an idea of how an AdSense block will look.

Couple new reporting features are being added:

We now offer more detailed reports about the type of ad targeting you’re displaying on your pages. See how much of your traffic is viewing site-targeted CPM ads and how much is viewing contextually-targeted CPC ads. To view separate reports for contexual targeting and site targeting, visit your Advanced Reports page. From there, choose AdSense for content as the product, select to show data by individual ad unit, and click the checkbox marked Show data by targeting type – contextual or site. Then generate a report as usual.

Reports for referrals are also being added.

Google FUD Over Paid Links

The more and more I think about the debate over paid links and Google, the more I think about FUD.

FUD is a marketing strategy that stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The term FUD describes disinformation tactics used to persuade customers to use a certain product over a competing product. A company that cannot respond with hard facts can use FUD tactics to cast a shadow of doubt on their competition and make people think twice before switching to the competitor.

Lets take a look at some quotes from Matt Cutts:

Reputable sites that sell links won’t have their search engine rankings or PageRank penalized–a search for [daily cal] would still return dailycal.org.

Fear:
I’m afraid that my site will lose its search engine rankings.

Uncertainty:
Is my site a reputable site?

Doubt:
Maybe I shouldn’t sell a link then, since I’m not dailycal.org

However, link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).

Fear:
I’m afraid my site will lose it’s ability to give reputation.

Uncertainty:
How will I know? Maybe my PR will be affected? Maybe I’ll be penalized?

Doubt:
Guess I shouldn’t sell links.

Google’s stance on selling links is pretty clear and we’re pretty accurate at spotting them, both algorithmically and manually. Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.

Fear:
Google can see my paid links from a mile away. My site will lose its trust in the search engines.

Uncertainty:
Wait. How can Google tell which links are paid? What if I’m just buy links for traffic. Oh no, should I have nofollowed that link?

Doubt:
Maybe I shouldn’t buy any links. I guess I’ll stick with AdWords.

Would anyone be surprised to find that some link buyers turn around and then sell links to other sites? And that those links may not be of the highest quality?

Fear:
What if the site I am advertising on is linking to a bad site? Will my site be punished?

Uncertainty:
How can I check if the site is linking to a bad site? What is high quality?

Doubt:
Forget this, I’m pulling my link buy from this site and I’m sticking with AdWords.

What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.

Fear:
Now that I have a nofollow link, does that mean visitors will think my link is spam?

Uncertainty:
Search engines don’t count my link. Visitors see that my link has a link condom. Will humans think my site is spam?

Doubt:
I have no idea how safe this is. The only real safe alternative is to stick with AdWords. I can purchase links without having to worry about how it affects my visitors or my rankings.

The Google FUD is working.

Over at cr8atsiteforums, a user is scared of being punished for placing links on his site:

If I were to sell ads on 14thC and put up a page describing traffic, rates, terms, etc. one of the terms I’m inclined to place would be that a “nofollow” would be attached to the ads.

Except that will turn a lot of people away.

Shoul I even worry about it or just let Google devalue those links on their own (per Rand’s appearance in Newsweek and subsequent chat with Cutts)?

If I do that, would I incur any penalties?

Here’s a post over at webmasterworld:

BUT – arrgh, I still can’t quite get the big G out of my head. Now the option of buying a load of links comes up (around 15,000 in fact) and based on its natural merits of click throughs and brand awareness it seems like a very cost effective way of advertising. I can’t get G out of my head though. With a huge percentage of my traffic coming from search engines I cannot afford to get flagged or lose my rankings. I know I want these link for natural purposes but will G realise they are for natural purposes? I’ve read a bit about buying links and getting flagged and bam, your rankings have plummeted to oblivion. I’m trying to go completely white hat – but even then I think I may get into trouble, even though my motives for the links are totally pure.

And another:

Matt stressed that obvious paid links offered no boost in rankings, although they do not detract. In short, he stressed that paid links are a waste of money, and that G rewards links occuring naturally. He stressed that G is getting better by the day in detecting paid links.

I know there are ways of crafting paid links so that they will appear to be naturally generated, but the effort may not be as cost effective as developing unique, compelling content which will stimulate good inbound links. At least, this was my take away from that session as well as others in which matt participated.

Sure sounds like FUD to me.

Google may have a problem determining the difference between a paid link and a freely given link. But that is their problem, not yours. Ultimately, it is Google’s job to detect whether a link is bought or not and adjust its rankings accordingly.

It’s not the Webmaster/Marketer’s job to prevent web spam.

Who wants to buy an endorsement that says “Visit this site, but I don’t really trust their products”. Imagine buying a page spread for the New York Times that has a big banner across the top that says “This site maybe in the same category as pharmaceuticals, porn, gambling, and other spam.” Right.

Google can/is effectively eliminate competition to its main cash cow (AdWords) by keeping people afraid of using any system other than AdWords for advertising. Buying a graphic ad – well don’t because Google may ban you since the site you are buying ads on may link to something Google doesn’t like. Buying a text ad – well don’t because paid links are bad. Selling ads on your site – well don’t because Google may not trust your site anymore. Adding affiliate links to your site – well don’t because Google doesn’t like “thin affiliates”. Ad nauseum.

The FUD isn’t just hurting the text link brokers and individual link buyers. The impact is widespread. Online publishers are afraid that their sites will lose rankings, so they don’t consider any alternative revenue sources (affiliate links, text link advertising, etc) and they stick with AdSense. Ad networks like text link ads lose potential business since customers are afraid of buying links. SEOs are impacted since clients are afraid of Google so they stick with AdWords. For instance, take a look at the SEO guide from Google. It is filled with FUD. There is one sentence about the benefits of SEO and about another 200 lines covering bad SEO.

Nofollow is not an option. Nofollow was created to make sure spammers get no benefit from abusing public posting areas (like trackbacks/comments/etc). Forcing site owners and advertisers to employ nofollow on their links with FUD is just low. Google needs to stop scaring site owners/advertisers and focus on producing a product that makes the debate over paid links non existent.

Google Launches Google Research Blog

New official Google blog up – Google Research Blog.

So who are we? We’re experts in machine translation who came here to work with the largest corpus of bilingual and monolingual text ever assembled. We’re experts in machine learning algorithms who came to work on one of the world’s largest computing clusters. We’re researchers in natural language, vision, security, human-computer interaction, and a dozen other fields who came to help a user base of hundreds of millions of people. And we’re working side by side with the engineering team — not in a separate building or site. Some of us are launching projects on google.com this week and wearing pagers, and some of us are working on goals for the year 2020.

I’m looking forward to what the Google Research team is going to do with the blog.

Google Product Communities and Resources

Looking for help using some of Google’s products? Most of the time, the best information can be found reading community forums and this case is no different. In addition to the normal forums/resources, Google provides many useful places for you to discuss and read more about their products.

Here are some of Google’s communities and resources that may help you.

Google Analytics

Conversion University
Learn more about driving traffic to your site and converting visitors into customers.

Google Analytics Support
Helpful resource for Google Analytics

Google Analytics Google Group
Discuss Google Analytics with other users.

Google AdWords

Inside AdWords
Official Google AdWords Blog.

Google AdWords Google Group
Discuss Google AdWords with other users.

AdWords API Blog
Office Google AdWords API Blog.

AdWords Learning Center
Learn more about how Google AdWords works.

AdWords Support
FAQ for AdWords and resources.

Gmail Gtalk Chat

Looks like Chat for Gmail is being updated and for some reason I’m only seeing Gtalk for Gmail on Internet Explorer. Any firefox users seeing the new interface? (Popups on hover over contacts)

Chat with your friends from right inside Gmail. There’s no need to load a separate program or look up new addresses. It’s just one click to chat with the people you already email, as well as anyone on the Google Talk network. And now you can even save and search for chats in your Gmail account.

We’ve started rolling this out to all Gmail accounts, so yours should have it soon. It’s good to chat. Learn more

FON, Google, Skype and Why It Matters

Yesterday, FON announced that Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures will be backing them with 18 million Euros.

FON is company that has one purpose – wifi for everyone. Basically you download some software, install it into your router, and start sharing your bandwidth. You can read more about how FON works and the company’s business model here.

Now why does that matter? Sure free wifi is great, but why are companies like Google and Skype investing in FON?

First lets talk about Skype.

Skype has been slowly introducing products focused beyond the desktop. Recently Skype announced that soon you’ll be able to use Skype on wifi phones. Combine the Skype wifi phone with the FON network and you have a phone that can work anywhere (assuming the FON network spreads globally) – similar to cell phones but on the current internet broadband network.

So instead of having to sign up with a cell phone provider, you could use your current Skype username with a Skype phone and use that phone to talk anywhere – seamless transfer between your online contacts and your offline contacts using one product.

What about Google?

Similar to Google’s relationship with Mozilla, this represents a chance to get in at the beginning with FON. Google can place their services at every point inside the FON network – the portal that pops up when people log in, the default search engine for FON users, the default mobile search for Skype+FON users, etc. If FON spreads globally and Google is the default for FON users, this represents an easy way for Google to secure users.

Right now, cell phone users have to pay a premium for data usage (browsing /text messaging). With a wifi based phone, I can see data usage becoming much more widespread which would help mobile applications like Google mobile /Google local.

This could be the start of something real big.

GBuy – Google Payment System

The WSJ reports that Google is testing a online payment system that will be tied into Google AdWords. (via Battelle)

For the last nine months, Google has recruited online retailers to test GBuy, according to one person briefed on the service. GBuy will feature an icon posted alongside the paid-search ads of merchants, which Google hopes will tempt consumers to click on the ads, says this person. GBuy will also let consumers store their credit-card information on Google.

The ability to accept payments will open up many streams of revenue due to the variety of Google’s web properties. Google will be able to help advertisers sell products through Froogle, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google News, Google Local, and of course Google Search.

Back in June, I predicted that Google would be building a pay per sale model based off of their current AdWords product. Here’s what I wrote:

But I think Google’s initial use of a payment system is to add a pay-per-sale model to their current pay-per-click advertising network. Merchants using AdWords to advertise and Google Wallet to process their sales will be able to track which ads lead directly to sales and at what cost. Merchants will be able to tap into the power of large scale affiliate marketing (ala Commission Junction). Publishers can then choose between which model to promote – AdSense for clicks or AdSense for sales.

Advertisers can also decide whether they want to generate traffic or pay for sales. A pay per sale model typically encourages a publisher to create a high quality and relevant web site – which is great for advertisers. Pay per sale will also alleviate click fraud issues, since there are fewer concerns about whether conversions are legitimate, and whether traffic is of low quality.

This feels like a natural addition to the AdWords product. Although Google is not directly competing with Paypal, I can see why Paypal is concerned.

Goobuntu – Google’s Linux Distro

The Register is reporting that Google is working on a Linux Distro built off of Ubuntu.

Google is preparing its own distribution of Linux for the desktop, in a possible bid to take on Microsoft in its core business – desktop software.

A version of the increasingly popular Ubuntu desktop Linux distribution, based on Debian and the Gnome desktop, it is known internally as ‘Goobuntu’.

Google has confirmed it is working on a desktop linux project called Goobuntu, but declined to supply further details, including what the project is for.

Linux has consistently run into usability problems and thus been generally delegated as a server operating system. I’m hoping Google can produce a usable desktop version of Linux, similar to how Apple made Unix (FreeBSD) usable. I’m really hoping it doesn’t look like this.