We’ve been showcasing our search marketing software at SMX Advanced in Seattle this week and had the opportunity to see Matt Cutts' ‘You&A’ talk. Here’s our take on some of the topics broached.

The recent Penguin update was inevitably a hot topic of conversation, and many of the questions from the audience and panel were alluding to the core changes that Penguin was designed to make – to reduce spam.

Matt described content quality at a deeper page level as central to the Penguin update (Penguin 1.0 had focussed more on home page content quality), and how the Page Authority signal is an excellent indicator of this. This is consistent with some of the data that we have seen here at Stickyeyes, suggesting that Google are certainly driving rankings through adding more weight to this signal.

Bounce rates, traffic and social signals were also discussed, however it became apparent that these are not considered by Google in terms of driving high rankings within their algorithms.

Conversely, recent research using Stickyeyes’ Roadmap system has produced data describing the opposite – that traffic levels and lower bounce rates, along with page load speeds, have all increased in terms of their degree of relationship to high rankings. This indicates that Google is determining that sites with higher traffic levels and a greater degree of stickiness are ultimately ‘cleaner’ and more search relevant sites - and should be rewarded with stronger rankings. This is not great news for small businesses or emerging sites looking to enter an existing market.

Matt described Social as an aspect that Google struggle with (particularly indexing Facebook pages), and related activity as not being heavily considered within ranking algorithms. Again, we are seeing evidence to suggest the opposite. Social continues to demonstrate strong, positive growth in correlation to high search rankings, especially the Google + signal, which although slowly decreasing in relevancy versus other signals it is still consistently growing month on month.

It is important to caveat this insight with the notion of causality and of course internal capability of high profile brands to spread social virally, and as a result generate higher volumes of links. Whilst Google claim Social is not a key area they consider to determine rankings, it is clear that modern brands online will absolutely require a social presence in order to sustain or increase rankings in Google in the future.

Another interesting point Matt made was in reference to Mobile search. He was quite explicit in his broaching of this subject; marketers should be thinking about Mobile and the multi-device customer experience. He was clear that this will affect rankings in the future. He alluded to single URL redirects when browsing sites on a mobile device, the importance of load speed and well structured, ‘clean’ URLs.  In summary, pages that lend themselves well to either responsive or multi-device applications and provide an excellent user experience via mobile will be rewarded with high rankings in Google. This is definitely an area to watch in the coming months.

You & A with Matt Cutts disclosed a strong and consistent message; spammers will be stamped out, and webmasters who place user experience and great content at the heart of their online presence will be rewarded by Google.

More changes to come? If you thought the Penguin update was over, think again. Matt noted that there were a number of additional and bigger rollouts coming shortly, so we can expect to see more search volatility.