Google discusses search rankings, blocks

Google's Matt Cutts also said more updates to the so-called Panda algorithm are coming

Warm mangos, Pandas and Alan Greenspan: these were among the wide range of topics that came up during the characteristically humorous keynote by Google’s Matt Cutts at the end of the first day of the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle.

Panda is the nickname for changes that Google made to its algorithm that were aimed at improving search results, but have hurt many sites whose rankings have plummeted. Google has already made some changes to Panda and is working on Panda 2.2, said Cutts, who is a software engineer at Google.

“Don’t consider it finished,” he said. Google will continue making improvements at least through the end of the year, he said.

He also said that Google plans to offer metrics on “+1,” a new feature that lets users hit a “+1” button next to a search result if it’s a good site. It expects to let site owners view information about how many people vote for their sites.

But Google probably won’t offer metrics about sites that users block. Google users can choose to block sites that may commonly pop up in search returns that users know they don’t want to visit.

“We’re leaning away from giving stats on block because there’s nothing you can do about it and people get stressed about it,” Cutts said. When sites get blocked, it's not necessarily because they are bad sites but that individual people just don't want to visit the site.

Cutts also talked a bit about a new tool Google announced on Tuesday that lets authors tag content that they write. The tags let Google note that an author’s content is consistently popular, so that it can rank new content high, even before the content has lots of links.

He also discussed a recent email from Google CEO Larry Page who complained to Cutts' team about receiving poor search results from the query “warm mangos.”

“We were like, ‘we don’t understand what you want,’” Cutts said. Page explained that he wanted to know why mangos get warm when they are stored in boxes. (Apparently, they undergo a process called respiration when in an enclosed space, a by-product of which is heat, according to Cutts.)

Even though Page's original search terms were quite vague, Cutts said it’s his team’s job to try to return useable results from such searches.

Cutts was also asked how he felt about being compared to Alan Greenspan in a recent Business Week article. Rather than feeling like his words can have the same kind of impact as Greenspan’s, Cutts said he sounds more like a broken record. “I’ve been consistent in what I’ve said,” he said.

Search marketers look to Cutts and his team so that they can better understand ways to make their sites rank higher.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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