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.