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Matt Cutts hit the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference to talk about ranking better in search. What words of wisdom does the head of Google’s webspam team have for SEOs and websites?

First, Cutts announced – or warned! – that there is a “very significant” Panda update on tap for 2013. While sparse on the details, this does indicate to SEOs that everyone needs to tighten up even more on their quality in terms of content and search engine optimisation practices. He also indicated that there will be an algorithm update coming in the next few days. But don’t panic: remember, Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year, and Panda has been updated 24 times already. It’s the big update we’re going to be looking towards!

Speaking of quality, Cutts also spoke about Google’s targeting of a link network. Reportedly, the service, which sells links, was penalised and some 98,000 websites saw their rankings lowered, some devastatingly so. Another win for the webspam team and for searchers.

Besides paid links, Cutts warned against other practices, which he calls “lazy” and “hazardous”:

  • Doorway pages.
  • Auto-generated content.
  • Keyword stuffing.
  • Gibberish; that’s right, content that makes absolutely no sense in any language.

He also indicated that sites ought to be on their guard against hacking. If your site is a victim of hacking, check out Google’s Help for Hacked Sites for tips on what to do to reclaim your good name – and your good ranking.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. Google continues to target low-quality or malicious websites. Legitimate sites can get swept into these updates, so it is important to continually watch your quality, conduct link audits, use the link disavowal tool, if necessary, and scan for scraped content, among other techniques.

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