Matt's Stats: Does Matt Cutts SEO his own Site?
How Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, optimizes his own website – MattCutts.com.
Well if you haven't lived in a cave since 1998 then you'll likely know about Google. If you're in the Google game (commonly referred to as SEO) then you'll likely know who Matt Cutts is. He's the head of their Webspam team and he's the guy who called Google a mama bear and their Search Engine their baby bear. SEO's he likened to a person poking their baby bear with a stick.
Over the years he’s had an on and off relationship with SEOs, talking one on one with such pros as Danny Fitzgerald and others.
Matt Cutts, being the unofficial face of Google - likely with full access to, and understanding of, their algorithms - must know a little something about optimizing websites.
Even if he doesn't optimize so extensively he has admitted to optimizing his own blog to some extent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gRzMhlFZz9I#t=40). Even if he doesn't optimize proactively to "game" Google's algorithms it is assured that his inherent knowledge of the signals that affect ranking; the ways that are effective in optimizing and what Google likes in terms of content, structure and the rest, makes him the ideal optimizer even if he does so merely subconsciously. We’re also pretty sure that he won’t do anything that is counter to Google’s guidelines which in itself can be very telling.
So let's take a look at Matt Cutts own site to see how he optimizes.
Matt doesn't appear to use the Meta Description or Keywords tags on his blog.
He uses rel="Author" and Canonical
He uses OpenGraph markup
Matt's Titles are the title of the post including punctuation. He doesn't add the name of the blog to the specific post titles. Google does that for him by putting in his name “ - Matt Cutts”. This occurs even on his homepage which has only his URL as his Title; which is rewritten by Google to “Matt Cutts”. When his blog posts don’t contain his name Google ads it but his blog’s homepage includes it so Google forgoes the addition. His Titles range in size from very short (6 characters such as “How to”) to as much as 69 characters which does not show fully in SERPs.
In some cases, such as those with long titles, Google doesn’t add the “- Matt Cutts”.
Matt’s posts run from a few lines to well over 1,000 words. A sample showed an average of 498 words with an average of 7 links per post. Many posts include an image or links to videos.
Matt commonly reiterates the keywords and topic of the post in the first line of the content of the post. Here are a few examples:
Post title: On Leave
First line: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave.
Post title: Fun summer book reading suggestions?
First line: Hey everybody, I’m looking for some fun books (mostly fiction) to read this summer.
Post title: 30 day challenge for June: treadmill desk!
First line: Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Let me tell you about the 30 day challenges I’ve been doing and what I learned:
Outbound external and internal links show as Follow links and are absolute links (e.g. full URL including http://www.site.com or http://site.com).
Internal links to related content:
In most posts he includes a link to something extremely specific to the topic within the first paragraph whether it's a related post or in the case of his "Fun summer book reading suggestions" it is to a specific book.
He also includes a lot of links throughout the posts to relevant content. As mentioned above, from a sample we took, his site averages 7 links per article. By far most have keywords in the linktext of the anchor.
This goes directly in line with Google's Quality Rater Guidelines leaked here (http://www.thesempost.com/google-rewrites-quality-rating-guide-seos-need-know/). Where supplemental related content links are even more effective and beneficial.
After an analysis of a portion of his blog pages I found that 58% of his posts have a link in the first paragraph but that average changes dramatically on posts that have a brief (one or two line) first paragraph or if we include the beginning of the second paragraph. The average number of posts which have a link in the first and second paragraph rises quickly.
Matt often uses images in his blog.
He names them with descriptive keywords along with hyphens as separators.
Such as matt-cutts-marathon.jpg or dread-pirate-roberts1.jpg
Yes Matt uses the Alt Image attribute and he lists essentially a quick description of the content of the image which closely matches the images name and content in the post.
Examples of Matt’s Alts are “Matt Cutts in the San Francisco marathon" or "Dread Pirate Roberts”. One interesting thing is that when he has more than one photo of the same thing (e.g. different pics of him as Dread Pirate Roberts) he names them in succession using 1, 2, 3, etc. However when he does the Alts for these he uses the same description “Dread Pirate Roberts” and doesn’t add anything to differentiate them in the Alt.
Matt uses keywords from the post's title with hyphens. Since the blog part of the site is WordPress, a lot of this is part of their CMS.
H1's are commonly the post's title. They are sometimes swapped for a H2 heading.
Let's see how Matt ranks:
For SEO related posts:
guest blogging for SEO: #1
guest blogging: #1
Penguin 2.0: #1
penguin 2.0 algorithm: #4
So yes these posts are highly read, shared and quoted as well as linked to and Matt is one of the most relevant people to SEO related topics.
But how does Matt rank for topics he's not really related to?
summer book suggestions: #5
fun summer books to read: #12
good summer books to read: Not in top 30
fun summer books: #13
treadmill desk: #29
30-day challenge: #26 (Unless you include the TED video of Matt which is #10 and which is linked to from his blog page).
Bluetooth garage door opener: #3
Bluetooth garage door opener app: #4
Bluetooth garage door opener android: #2
So it seems that because Matt is so well liked, linked to and quoted that pretty much anything he writes about seems to do well but normally on a very specific basis related to the targeting of his keywords in his Title, post title and content (especially the beginning of it).
Matt has tons and tons of highly relevant and high PR backlinks from very authoritative sites and ones which are extremely focused on the topic of SEO.
Moz' OSE shows he has 6,749 Root Domains and more than 102,000 Total Links.
Majestic shows even more: 22,346 Root Domains and 1,317,320 Total Links.
His post on Guest Blogging alone has 1,891 Root Domains and 7,515 Total Links so it's no wonder that it ranks so highly. However even his off-topic posts have good links, such as his post on Bluetooth Garage Door Openers which has 43 Root Domains and 640 Total Links.
Now a basic link audit of Matt's site:
Q: Does Matt have spammy links?
Q: Does Matt Disavow these links?
A: Only he and Google know
Examples of spammy links to Matt's site:
These two are obviously owned by the same person.
These sites link profusely to Matt's blog essentially making much of his blog their own:
It appears that many of these are likely scraping Matt's blog while others are including his RSS. Does it help to include Matt's RSS? They all show as Follow links so one must wonder. Does Matt get credit for them? Likely unless he disavows them. Considering he has a PageRank of 5, I doubt there’s much disavowing going on but I may be mistaken.
Now here Matt tells us that sites which grab content (even via RSS) just to fill their sites or blogs with relevant content (like those mentioned above) are low-quality sites. So Matt has a ton of low quality backlinks to his site. http://youtu.be/o7sfUDr3w8I
I would be willing to guess that Matt's site didn't get hit too hard by Penguin so it begs the question, does linking to Matt's site help? One might expect Matt to say something to the effect of "Hey, low quality backlinks can generate a drop in rankings once they're picked up by Penguin so that you don't have the same ranking you had pre-Penguin because we now address those links differently, applying a lower value to them. Hey, even I got hit by Penguin on my blog because the value of the spammy or auto-generated links to my site got devalued". I don't recall seeing that but Matt deserves the chance to answer that question. It would be very insightful and welcomed.
Matt; could you share some screenshots of your Google Analytics data (quantities removed) for the different updates so we can see that even your site gets hit for the same reasons that others do?
Perhaps Google knows that Matt doesn’t seek out these links but it’s important that if they are low-quality that they don’t count in the same way as for other sites.
I'm not Matt bashing, just cuz he's on leave. And I won't be removing this content via the “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling so hopefully we'll get some answers when he's back, bright eyed and bushy tailed! Enjoy the well-earned break Matt.
Now as for the sites that are using such auto-regurgitated content, especially to Matt's site, what has happened to them? I haven’t found any that appear to rank well for their target terms so perhaps Google has lowered their quality.
Now after all of this information one can think that Matt has really optimized his site well and that he has adhered well to Google's guidelines.
One interesting thing to note is that this is all about his blog located at www.MattCutts.com/blog. Have you taken a look at Matt’s homepage (Located at www.MattCutts.com)?
His homepage is so basic as to be a bit startling. It has no Meta Description or Keywords; the Title Tag is his URL; he has a canonical tag and of course GA code. He has little formatting, one image with no alt attribute and he links to his Twitter and Google+ with a rel=”me” link attribute.
Rel="me" from Matt's site:
The rel=”me” is important for building brand awareness in Google. Google has a bias towards brands and this rel attribute helps to connect your content, media and social media to your brand. It is the XFN version of the HTML5 rel=”author” attribute. It is interesting though that Matt choses the XFN version over the more notorious rel=”author” that Google seems to promote more.
It appears that Matt doesn’t use either an XML or HTML sitemap.
Although Matt has a Google+ page, a Twitter account and possibly a Pinterest account (but it isn’t quite clear if it is his or not: http://www.pinterest.com/mattcutts/) it is clear that he only links to Twitter and Google+ on his blog.
One thing that’s interesting is that he doesn’t have links to automatically share content from his blog to Twitter or Google+.
He does often link from his Google+ posts that correlate to his blog posts while on others he links to related media (e.g. his video on TED).
His posts get a lot of +1’s and shares even on “not-so-interesting”, non-SEO, personal posts or small posts.
Also it seems that there’s not a problem with having the same content repeatedly posted on your G+ page but Matt’s subconscious SEO comes into play again here. If you look at his G+ page you’ll see at least 10 posts with a link to his TED talk.(http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days?language=en)
One funny thing on that TED page is Matt’s bio: “Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google, where he fights linkspam and helps webmasters understand how search works”
Well I can agree with the first part but the second part… helping webmasters understand how search works? Not so much. It’s more of helping us understand how search doesn’t work.
So let’s look deeper into Matt’s G+ page shall we?
Matt repeats things like his TED talk but each post has a different body so he’s not duplicating the content of the post although many are very similar. There can be two main reasons for this (to me). One is that he doesn’t want to appear overly repetitive to his readers; secondly he doesn’t want to have any algorithmic duplicate content issues (i.e. Panda). The answer could be one, both or none.
He had 6 posts in June, 3 in May, 4 in April and 4 in March. So he’s around one per week on average. The mass majority of his posts have links to external content and much of the time it’s to his blog.
Now although Matt has 300,685 followers and over 10 Million views he only has 211 people in his Circles. So is it good to have people add you without adding them back? That’s what it seems Matt does. I can imagine that he has more than that many people that he could consider close enough to him to add but he’s very finicky when it comes to those he adds.
According to Majestic Matt’s Google+ page has 9,115 backlinks from 434 domains.
Now on Matt’s Twitter account he has over 23k tweets and yet again we see a huge distance between those he follows and those who follow him: 365 to 350,000. That’s a whopping difference! Matt uses Twitter a lot more, doing many Tweets per day. He includes links (to his blog posts as well) and includes images a lot. He retweets some and uses his Twitter (blog and G+ too) to support causes.
According to Majestic Matt’s Twitter account has 75,532 Ext Backlinks from 2,227 domains.
Will the real Matt Cutts please stand up, please stand up!
People using Matt:
There are some others that try to use Matt’s name on Pinterest such as:
It doesn’t seem like FB is on the top of Matt’s list (HUGE SURPRISE THERE!!).
Now it’s funny, if you go to https://www.facebook.com/mattcuttsblog or https://www.facebook.com/MattCuttsSEO you’ll find that neither of these are actually Matt Cutts either. How’s that workin out for you guys?
So all in all it appears that Matt’s homepage is poorly designed and optimized and even though it is - it seems that his homepage gets no penalty for being so poorly designed or formatted as his site gets great PR and ranking despite its homepage’s lack of optimization - likely because his blog is well optimized and because of the backlinks to his domain. In fact if you do a site:mattcutts.com search you won’t see his homepage on the first page.
Matt’s Social presence isn’t extensive (only G+ & Twitter) but is quite intensive. He has a ton of followers and follows very few. He uses G+ some but Twitter often. He links out a lot and regularly links to his blog from both.
This is interesting. Matt uses RetroLinks: http://www.mattcutts.com/retrolinks/
OK, nowt it appears that Matt and SEOMofo have had a fun, stormy and combative relationship for many years. SEOMofo, “The Greatest SEO in the World” has been answered by Matt on a video, chided Matt with heavy-hitting questions, rebuttals and answers, including back-and-forths on Twitter. But the most amazing one is SEOMofo hacking Matt’s site via his Robots.txt.
Here you can see the example of how he succeeded in hacking it:
And here is the SERP result for “site:mattcutts.com seomofo”:
A description for this result is not available because of this site's robots.txt – learn more.
A description for this result is not available because of this site's robots.txt – learn more.
And the funny thing is that since 2010 and it still hasn’t been fixed!
Well we’ll keep looking into Matt’s site to see what gems we can pull out and what SEO techniques the head of Google’s Webspam team subconsciously implements into his site.
Hope you've enjoyed this and, as always, thanks for sharing!
Coming next: This report in two cool Infographics