An Appeal to Conferences: Matt Cutts, Not Provided, and the Google’s Relationship to our Community

Matt Cutts has always shared an interesting relationship with the SEO industry. It was always strange to have the head hen visit the fox’s parties, but – then again – it seemed like a fair trade. His relationship to our community generally seemed quid-pro-quo. He would learn much about industry players, our tactics, and give a human element, while sharing some amount of information useful to us. Of course, this often came with a good deal of FUD, but it seemed worthwhile.

There have been plenty of SEOs, like myself, who have questioned that relationship for some time. The balance has seemed to tip more and more in favor of Google over the years, as a “relationship with Matt” has been reduced to “fill out a reconsideration request”. Similarly, there have been plenty of industry leaders who have called out Google for a range of hypocrisies: from advertorials to followed Google Authorship links, but even then Matt seemed to brush them off.

It seems that the one thing that has protected him from everything else is this: he spoke from a position of authority and didn’t lie. As much as I may dislike some of the things that Matt has done over the years, as much as I think he is an amazing at manipulating the masses, I couldn’t fault him on the thing that drew us all to trust him in the first place – authority and accuracy.

Today, though, it has finally happened. What began as a supposedly innocuous attempt to protect user privacy, (Not Provided) has reached all time highs where keyword data is almost non existent. When Google first announced this change to HTTPS and scrubbing their referrers, they received a lot of blow back from our community, but Matt Cutts insisted that it would only be “single digits” percentages. What many of you might not remember is that we pressed him on this question and he indicated that at full roll out it would be no larger than this. His statement can’t be seen as out of context – he made clear that the context was indefinite.

Unfortunately, this leaves us with 2 very straightforward alternatives: either Matt Cutts lacks the authority, insight, or access to understand and divulge incredibly important parts of Google’s relationship with webmasters, or he is simply willing to lie about it.

I honestly think Matt was lying about it. Everyone in SEO saw the bigger picture, saw where this was leading, called out Matt on it, and he insisted that it was not the case. But this leads to a more important question. A question that must be answered the conferences and events that webmasters attend yearly – is it worth inviting Matt. Is it right to invite and even headline a figure who you know has likely intentionally deceived your attendees? Or, more importantly, even if he didn’t willingly deceive them, what is the point of inviting him if he is incapable of providing the truth?

I think the time is here: we demand better. We demand a representative who can be trusted, who speaks with authority, and at least has the common decency to tell us when he doesn’t know. And that person is no longer Matt Cutts.

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  1. David Quaid
    Sep 26, 2013

    I fully agree. Not because I’m prone to rants or taking on the impossible, but its because of the principle they set “Do No Evil.”

    Hiding keywords isn’t evil. But hiding keywords when it makes no sense, just as a pretend nod to “privacy” where Google clearly has no concept.

    If you’re publishing them for pay-to-play, then there is no privacy.

    In addition to your protest, I think all Search Engine Bloggers – especially sites like SE Land and SE Journal should feature other search engines.

    We’ve lost choice to a monopoly, and even though it sounds like I’m agreeing with Steve Balmer, I’m happy to share this idea with him!

  2. Alex Miklin
    Oct 1, 2013

    How could anyone ever even pontificate about another search engine substituting for Google? Is the SEO community really going to backlash against Google Web Spam i.e any differently than in the past?

  3. Kyle Alm
    Oct 7, 2013

    Sure seems like it was executed strategy.

  4. SEOEnquirer
    Oct 8, 2013

    I have been saying the same for quite a while. Matt is just a cheap way to keep SEO’s in-line. Rather than spend stacks of cash on making changes to the algorithm just get Matt to tell us it was made and bam we end up doing the leg for him by writying articles about how Google has destroyed a link building method.

    An awesome example of that is press releases. Google has apparently hamstrung press releases yet we see every day sites that almost solely rely on press release links ranking in the SERP’s. Personally I wouldn’t rely on only one strategy like this as Google will probably eventually get it right but in the meantime Matt says they have done it and the SEO community believes it.

    Another example of the BS that is coming out of Google and many of FUD retweeting heads of the SEO industry is Knowledge graph. I have been saying this since they announced it. Knowledge Graph will be the end of SEO, forget about pandas and penguins, it is the hummingbird we need to fear as it was aimed at making Google the destination and not just the journey.

    Even Danny Sullivan will not be happy with Google when you type a search “where is my nearest SMX event?” and Knowledge graph gives “Forget SMX, SEO is dead”


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