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Dear Googler: You’re likely Millions Richer, but any Smarter?

Okay so this post is really about Matt Cutts, but to be fair, it’s not personal. As an SEO/Compettive Webmaster, I’ve been working with Google for at least as long as Matt has, and we are all growed up now. Matt’s likely millions richer than he was when we started. But is he any smarter? I just read this post on Matt Cutt’s bog.

Years ago I got an email from Google letting me know, curtly and directly, that my corporation was banned from using Google.com. Not just me, but anyone on my NAT’ted network was blocked. And it wasn’t simply consequential – the Googler knew that it was a network block for us, and upon my inquiry, admitted that yes, he knew that and it was to be so. You see, someone had run WebPosition a few times more than Google liked, and he banned us from using Google because of that. Eventually he stated (very directly, as a neighborhood bully would) that if we wanted to be allowed to use Google.com again, we would have to promise never to use that webposition or similar programs again. We did, of course. A few days later (without Google.com) and we were unblocked. A few days more and we had our proxies in place for WebPosition to continue it’s work undetected.

Matt knows this story of mine, and once commented that Google is less obnoxious than it was back then. Back then Google was young and obviously bold. Too bold in my opinion. Based solely on the in-your-face authoritarian statements made by the Googler at the time, we pursued a proxy strategy. Looking back, it could have been very different.

Today, Matt’s post was again in-your-face authoritarian. Matt is likely millions richer than he was when he started way back when I tussled with Google for the first time,  but I’m not seeing as much “smarts” as I would expect to see. In Matt’s post, he speaks of V7N’s advertising system, and says things like :

Suffice it to say, if “undetectable to search engines” is listed as one of the major selling points of a particular link scheme, it probably violates our quality guidelines and the guidelines of other major search engines.

Now that might be okay for street talk, but in traditional business, them’s fightin’ words. Matt Cutts, through inference, just slammed V7N’s commercial product. Where is the evidence? Where is the factual basis for this statement? Oprah got into trouble for her “irresponsible” statements about beef, and was saved really by some very expensive legal maneuvers and a PR effort that wisely raised the cost of pursuit for the meat industry. In the real world, you simply can’t exercise your political might for commercial gain, irresponsibly, or you may have to pay a price.

Matt also says things like this:

The “undetectable” claim brought up fond memories of another time someone claimed to me that their spam was undetectable.

Again, through what appears to be irresponsible inference, Matt just called V7N’s contextual advertising network “spam”. Read it again… he suggests that this (V7N) is “another time” dealing with spam.

As I recall, Claria/Gator/180Whatever successfully used the legal system to defend against libelous references to Spyware and Malware. And they had such a right, based on commercial law. If it’s not true, and you say it is, it’s potentially slanderous. Matt Cutt’s is still bolder than I suspect he should be. But hey, I am not a lawyer.

Now just in case the reader of Matt’s bog was unclear about Matt’s authoritarian demeanor, he relates a story from the past that he says is similar to this V7N incident. In that story, Matt relates his communications back then on the topic of overly zealous SEO efforts:

Pages like *** appear to have garbage doorways with text about random SCSI things. Visiting those pages in Internet Explorer just redirects to your homepage. Using doorways + sneaky redirects is a serious violation of Google’s spam guidelines. In order to relist you (and it will take about 7-8 weeks), we need to have clear evidence that all these pages are gone, and that we won’t see these sort of tricks on your domain again.

Note Matt’s use of the undefinable word “sneaky” which imparts intent upon the webmaster (sans any evidence to support such a claim). Also note the final statement “we need to have clear evidence…that we won’t see these sort of tricks on your domain again“. In other words, “beg me.” Again, them’s fightin’ words, Mr. Cutts. Are you sure you wants to treat the pubic this way?

I think the accusatory tone is a problem. Matt re-emphasizes by summarizing the way it works according to Google:

“remove the spam and find a way to assure us it won’t happen again”

After this IMHO too-casual post, Matt added some of his opinion about how much “fun” he has dealing with the people he calls spammers. He relates:

I laughed so hard, I nearly bust a gut. His old system was undetectable, but he was worried he might be caught, so he was working on a spiffy new scheme which was really *really* undetectable. But only 99% bulletproof. :) As you might be able to guess, I was easily able to find all of the fellow’s “undetectable” doorway pages and all of his clients with a single Google query — I didn’t even have to use any of my internal tools. I still chuckle when I hear the word “undetectable.” One thing I do like about working on webspam at Google is that you collect really good stories. I don’t always tell the funny ones, but I share this one to make a point. The moral of this story is that “undetectable” spam sometimes stands out a lot more than you’d think.

Aside from the fact that I feel compelled to inform Matt that the expression is really “bust a nut” and not “bust a gut”, Matt seems to be making fun of this person behind his back. He is exposing an unpublished email which was sent to Matt in error, and mocking it. Matt adds his own editorial color to help it better support his mission of writing a fun, spammer-mocking post, where he says “I like to imagine that they said something like… ” (which, according to my understanding of the law, falls once again into the area of irresponsible behavior and perhaps, negligence). Matt also removes the so-called spammer SEOs name, saying “name trimmed so as not to reveal the identity of the SEO” but which also means the SEO can’t defend himself or clarify what Matt may have mis-represented here.

Is that gutsy, or cowardly? I suggest it is more foolish than either of the former.

Now in Las Vegas Matt assured me that “they” don’t take actions against web sites that disparage Google or Matt Cutts. Really? Human behavior is an interesting thing. I know more than a few professional counselors whom I am pretty sure would side with me in thinking that the bully behavior exhibited here in one context is likely to carry over to other contexts.

It is my opinion that V7N’s commercial product was irreparably harmed by Matt Cutt’s blog post. It is also my opinion that high-profile SEOs should not put their names on non-SEO endeavors, because Google acts like a Bully, and appears poised to act irresponsibly. Why provoke the bully if you are not prepared to pull a Ralphie and settle the score for good?

Some people retire because they get bored;things got stale. Some retire in order to exit at the top of their game. Some retire because they cannot continue to work. Some retire to explore other aspects of life. All good reasons to retire.

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8 Responses to “Dear Googler: You’re likely Millions Richer, but any Smarter?”

  1. JLH Says:

    Now that you’ve dissected his post, it is a very different tone from him that you usually read, much more childish.

    Now let’s get someone on that pricing structure…You’d think a guy would get a break of a buck or two if he’s buying 200 links at a time.

  2. Jeremy Luebke Says:

    I fell the same way John. Google is just a little to big for their britches now that they own most of the search traffic.

    JLH, a price break? Hell they need to change to a monthly fee. Their current pricing structure is going to turn those publisher site’s into link farms to make any money. If they wen’t to $20 a month a publisher could actually make some decent money and afford to be picky with the links they accept.

  3. Matt Cutts Says:

    John, running rank-checking programs against Google can cause considerable load on our servers. That’s why it’s against our terms of service. For your IP to be blocked from Google, that meant that we saw a considerable volume of queries. The fact that someone at Google mentioned that it was Webposition Gold means that it was such a heavy volume of queries that someone at Google had to check into it by hand and say, “Wow, why is this IP causing so much server load for us?” The message that you got back in (2001? 2002?) may have been brusque, but when someone has to take manual action to block and IP because it’s hitting you so hard, that probably accounts for part of why the message was curt.

    We do consider building doorway pages filled with keyword gibberish that then redirect people to a completely different page to be “sneaky,” and I think most users would agree that it is sneaky. And I admit that I did find it funny that the SEO in question send his email to me instead of to his client.

    When someone sends out a press release claiming that they can sell links in a way that is undetectable to humans and search engines alike, I felt the need to contribute an alternative point-of-view. I chose to do by telling a story that I thought was germane and humorous. I’m sorry if my post offended you, but of course that’s your call.

  4. IncrediBILL Says:

    @Matt, why is it scraping Google is bad and you punish people for doing it because the “load” it puts on YOUR servers, but when people scrape US, the scrapers are rewarded by being indexed in Google. Sometimes I wonder how can you keep a straight face with such duplicity?

  5. Google SEO Says:

    Great post – While I applaud Google’s efforts to make the web a better place, as a user, if I get to the content I searched for, I am happy regardless of the way I got there.

  6. john andrews Says:

    Matt: I doubt the specifics of my WP ban are important here. The Google engineer didn’t mention WP specifically. I had to go back and forth in email to get an acknowledgement that it was WP. Also, back then it was common for marketers to run WP as a means of learning how search and Internet worked. I doubt the use we had at that time exceeded 100 keywords and I doubt it was run more than once per day at most. But it was very early in Google’s history, so it may have stood out. But let’s stick with the issue here, which is a shortage of facts, an assumption of guilt sans explanation, and no shortage of righteous language in your post.

    Maybe I am mis-reading your blog, Matt? Even in your comment I am not sure I understand why you say “We do consider building doorway pages filled with keyword gibberish that then redirect people to a completely different page to be sneaky, and I think most users would agree that it is sneaky”. I’ll ignore the inflammatory language (I don’t think the example you cited is properly described as “keyword gibbersih” nor did the landing pages seem “completely different” since they were all on topic). But Matt — last I checked, most users don’t understand much about the Internet at all. These days “most users” type their destinations into the Google search box presented by Google on the Firefox homepage, even though they had no intent to “search” for that domain. We can’t base our competitive webmaster guidelines on what “most users” would think, can we Matt? Do we even want to do that?

    It sure seems that either you or Google is out to stifle innovation here. I can see how there can be dual meanings to the word “undetectable” as published by V7N accordng to the article you referenced. To V7N and the competitive webmaster audience it serves, “undetectable” in that context may mean that the V7N system does not violate Google’s established spam guidelines, and so will not be flagged by Google’s spam awareness system. To me, that sounds like innovation. But to you, it seems to have sounded like a threat (please correct me if I am wrong).

    The web site you referenced concluded the V7N system was a “no brainer” for testing, because it had potential to be good, and low risk. You have certainly stomped that opportunity to death wth your post. Isn’t that stifling innovation, Matt?

    I am reminded of the Microsoft marketing machine of the mid 1990’s, which seemed to execise it’s monopoly powers by issuing pre-emptive pre-market announcements, effectively stifling innovation. If a company was coming out with an new program for Windows, Microsoft would announce it’s intent to go into that market, effectively cutting off the available investment money for the start-ups, since no one in their right mind would invest in something that Microsoft already planned to dominate. Consumers would think twice and many would “wait for the Microsoft version”. When it worked, Microsoft didn’t even have to develop the product (and we users suffered). Take a look at the accounting software space to see how that behavior damaged the viability of a thriving market segment.

    Following your post, Matt, who in their right mind would use the V7N system? And as a follow up, do you think there may have been a better way to communicate directly with V7N on this issue, in advance of a public trouncing? I do.

  7. V7N | Adsense - Ethics and Money : Blog Archive Andy Beard Says:

    [...] John Andrews gives his strong views on Matt Cutt’s current attitude:- Today, Matt’s post was again in-your-face authoritarian. Matt is likely millions richer than he was when he started way back when I tussled with Google for the first time, but I’m not seeing as much “smarts” as I would expect to see. In Matt’s post, he speaks of V7N’s advertising system, and says things like : [...]

  8. Kevin Says:

    Now that you’ve dissected his post, it is a very different tone from him that you usually read, much more childish