When Cutts took the the stage at SMX Seattle, Search Engine Land editor-in-chief (and session moderator) Danny Sullivan had a giant stuffed panda – “the Panda in the room” – waiting for him. The panda indicated the focus of the session, and Cutts went on to talk about about future iterations of Google's algorithm as well as the need to invest in content for SEO and social campaigns.
“We're continuing to iterate on Panda,” Cutts told the audience. He acknowledged that some site owners have been unhappy about changes in the post-Panda search landscape, but he also pointed out that many users are calling for even more updates to further cleanse SERPs of spam content. Cutts explains that there's a “mass perception” outside of the search industry that low-quality content pollutes search results, and Panda aims to address this.
While he didn't go into much detail about what marketers might expect in future iterations of the algorithm, Cutts made clear that Panda updates are in the works. He didn't specifically mention the ranking potential of +1, but many speculate Google +1 data could become a ranking signal. (On a related note, Cutts said +1 metrics will soon be available to marketers – perhaps linked to the company's recent purchase of PostRank?)
Cutts also discussed the extent to which Panda uses block data. (As a reminder, one newer method of blocking content is via a Google Chrome extension.) He says the second version of Panda incorporates block data when there is a “high level of confidence.”
Even if it works as a ranking signal, Google will not be offering marketers block data analytics, partially because there is “nothing you can do about it” other than work to make your site better. And, of course, he touched on the fact that the best way to make a site better is to invest in content.
At a certain point during his SMX Seattle Q&A session, Matt Cutts joked that there are countless videos of him on the web saying something to the effect of “invest in content.” If this live session were one of his Webmaster Central videos on YouTube, it could be added to the list. Cutts suggested that good content will help pages see high rankings even when overall sites have been negatively impacted by Panda.
Cutts also spoke about how quality content works across both search and social channels. He addressed the correlation between Facebook shares and SEO ranking reported earlier at the conference, reminding marketers that correlation is not causation. Google doesn't have access to Facebook share data, he says. He suggested the relationship between high share rates and high ranking lies in the fact that good content has both SEO and social value.
On that note, he concluded his session by reminding marketers to be creative with content. He reminded marketers to publish content “people will love” that offers unique value, confirming Google's earlier SEO tip that marketers should focus on site content for readers over optimization for Panda (or any algorithm).