Matt Cutts Discusses the Future of Google Search at Pubcon 2013

Just a few days ago, I discussed how changes in Google are reshaping the way we do SEO. Yesterday, we received insights directly from the source – Matt Cutts discussed the accomplishments, explained the changes, and revealed the future of Google search in his keynote speech at Pubcon 2013. I want to walk you through the main points of his speech.

Matt Cutts discussed the future of Google search in his keynote speech in Pubcon 2013 last October 23. Image from

“Moonshot” Changes

Cutts began by discussing the changes that they are most proud of making in Google search. The focus of the items he mentioned in this portion is developing a greater understanding of the audience – entities and personas, context and word relationships. He explained that Google has, for a long time, been trying to understand entities and things. This has led to the development of the Knowledge Graph, which we see all over Google search today.

Another proof of their efforts to understand entities is Google Now. This feature works by understanding personas and delivering the information you need. Cutts is proud that today, you don’t even have to search for the information you need to find it – sometimes, it’s delivered right to you.

Google’s effort to understand word relationships and context more can be seen in several of their search features. Voice search and conversational search both display the deep learning feature Cutts discussed in his speech. These two new features, as we know, are also changing the way we design our search engine optimization services, shifting focus from exact match keywords to contextual search and long-tail search terms. But this is just the beginning of Google’s pursuit of quality in their SERPs.

Improving the Quality of Search

The core quality and web spam changes that Cutts discussed in Pubcon are changes that we’ve already anticipated and addressed several times here in our blog and in our services. Cutts highlighted the following specifically:

  • Improving algorithms to deliver better content. Hummingbird and Panda received special mentions for this one – the former, for giving users better answers based on context, and the latter, because Google is continuously softening the algorithm to bring some quality sites and content back on the SERPs.
  • Identifying and boosting authorities. Focusing your content on a topic helps establish your authoritativeness on that specific field and content area. Google will be looking at this to identify and boost you as an industry authority in their SERPs.
  • Cracking down on spam. We’ve seen the effects of Penguin 2.1 already, which was Google’s answer to webmasters saying Penguin 2.0 was not a big update. Cutts warned that more changes are coming to Penguin. In addition, he noted that they are targeting the same items we’re cleaning up for our clients – spam queries, advertorials that do not follow Google’s guidelines, and spam networks.
  • Improving mobile search. Cutts discussed how they now have algorithms that rank websites for smartphones. For example, if you are using a smartphone that does not support Flash, Google will not give you a website that has Flash.

The Future of Google Search

Our predictions for the future of search in our previous blogs have been spot on so far, as Cutts discussed what we can expect from Google search in the future. Here are the things you can expect from Google search in the next 6 months or so:

Machine Learning and Focus on Context

Google is moving away from being just another “search engine” and moving into being an information portal. According to Cutts, they want to give relevant answers to specific queries. They are improving their machine learning capabilities to better interpret context and answer conversation-type questions more effectively.

In addition to this, Google is making a move to read and index JavaScript items better. Part of their machine learning endeavor is to improve their search engine’s understanding of smarter libraries.

Social Authority, Identity, and Authorship

Google will be tightening authorship in the coming months as part of their campaign for quality. According to Cutts, they will be reducing authorship by as much as 15% to ensure continued relevance and quality. They will be looking at your social signals as a sign of authority as well. Building your authority through the continuous publication of quality content, practicing content marketing, and interacting with your audience and with influencers through social media are great ways to establish your identity as an industry leader, build your social authority, and maintain your authorship.

Improving Conversions through Google’s Features

Cutts also discussed two features that will be helpful in improving your conversions. He introduced the item Request Autocomplete, a new feature in Chrome which lets users save data to auto-fill forms and increase conversions. He also noted that the use of rich snippets will be improved in the coming months. Google may take away the ability to use rich snippets depending on the quality of websites.

Zeroing In on Spam and Other Hot Issues

The battle for quality content and links is on as Google continues to zero in on spam. Queries like “buy Viagra,” which can lead to phishing sites and hacking problems, are being addressed by Google, but expect slow results – Cutts said they aren’t working on much in the next six months except for the “next generation of hacking.” They are, however, still going to be very strict about other things, and Cutts specifically mentions websites with ad-heavy pages above the fold. Changes in Google’s algorithm will detect websites like this and prioritize less ad-heavy, high-quality websites.

Following UN Women’s ad campaign using Google search to show how rampant sexism is around the world, Cutts’ declaration that they are addressing searches for hot topics comes at a perfect time. The hot topics being addressed include searches for child porn, international issues and bad queries like the ones in UN’s ads.

Mobile is Happening

We’ve been saying it for a long time, and you’ve been hearing it for years, but now it comes from Cutts itself: you need a mobile plan. The smartphone algorithm discussed earlier should be your cue that you need to optimize your website for mobile, especially since they have an algorithm that sorts websites for display on mobile devices.

Given these insights from Cutts, you will need to update your search optimization strategy in anticipation of the changes Google is planning to make. We’d be glad to bring your online marketing strategy up to date with our complete search engine optimization services. Give us a ring or leave a message and we will start planning your updated strategy today.

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