Saturday, January 21, 2017

Matt Cutts' Legacy Proves: Google and SEO are Natural Partners

This Thursday various news outlets, including Search Engine Land, reported that Matt Cutts, Google's former head of webspam (or "head of search quality," per Search Engine Land), has officially resigned from Google. The move was no surprise: Cutts had been on sabbatical for a few years; his position had been replaced; and in May, 2016, he had started working for the US Digital Service.

Cutts will now continue his work with the U.S. Digital Service as acting administrator. The service, Fortune reports, is "a swat team", created by the Obama administration in the wake of the HealthCare.gov IT failures, "that transformed how the federal government uses computers and the Internet." It has been responsible for several innovations, including, as Fortunte notes, "bug bounty programs" and software pilot projects that aim to reduce the issues related to launching complex programs like HealthCare.gov.

It is hard to say if Cutts ties to Google will lead to government-based search innovations. Cutts resignation from Google, however, offers a perfect opportunity to reflect upon his tenure at Google, which was marked by a close relationship with the digital marketing community. As Search Engine Land wrote:

"He was one of the most well-known Googlers within the search marketing industry. He has spoken at many of our conferences and provided invaluable contributions to our industry and to Google."

Cutts' Google legacy, in fact, stands as a shining endorsement of evidence-based digital marketing. As a Googler, his example will continue to highlight a crucial truth about Google and SEO.

Matt Cutts offered much wisdom to the SEO community [Photo Source]

Google and SEO are Natural Partners 

The biggest falsehood about SEO is that the practice and Google are somehow at odds. The opposite is true. SEO and Google are natural partners. The key, of course, is the quality of the optimization, a view that Cutts has endorsed.

Over the years, Cutts quotes have offered much fodder for the digital marketing community, and for many he served as a guide to the complex world of SEO.

In one way, he used his position at Google to create a bond between the search engine and the digital marketing community--especially the SEO community.

As Fortune notes: "Cutts himself is well known in the tech world...for his ability to explain arcane engineering topics in clear language."

Most of Cutts tutelage came in the form of his "webmaster videos," which received a lot of attention. In these videos, he answered very specific questions about Google's views of different SEO-related topics. For example, in the following video Cutts describes the problems with duplicate content--content copied and pasted from others sites without attribution.



As Cutts explains, some duplicate content is benign: "We do understand that lots of different places across the web do need to have various disclaimers, legal information, terms and conditions, that sort of stuff, and so it’s the sort of thing where if we were to not rank that stuff well, then that would probably hurt our overall search quality..."

However, many sites copy and paste product information or chunks of text from other sites without the slightest thought of attribution or originality. Differentiation is key--especially for affiliate sites.

As Cutts explains: "Hopefully you’ve got a different page from all the other affiliates in the world, and hopefully you have some original content – something that distinguishes you from the fly-by-night sites that just say, ‘Okay, here’s a product. I got the feed and I’m gonna put these two paragraphs of text that everybody else has.’ If that’s the only value add you have then you should ask yourself, ‘Why should my site rank higher than all these hundreds of other sites when they have the exact same content as well?'"

The question Cutts asks here speaks to his prime preoccupation: quality content. The Content Marketing Institute has collected "7 Key Pieces of Advice About Web Content Strategy" from Cutts. We suggest reading the article for more insights.

Cutts' question here also highlights the essence of his style--a style echoed in Google's own pages about SEO. The style is partly about advising webmasters, but also about warning webmasters of the dangers of bad SEO. As Google notes:

"Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site."

The key for Google, and for any webmaster, is simple: SEO is about quality and integrity. Over the years, Cutts and Google repeatedly noted the distinction between organic SEO and irresponsible SEO.  For Google the only acceptable form of SEO is organic or natural website optimization. Listening to Cutts, ethical webmasters had the opportunity to learn precisely what Google prefers--and to optimize websites to meet those preferences.

Please read "What Makes SEO Organic" or "Google's Algorithm: Why Only Organic Website Optimization Works." 

Cutts' legacy, then, should be an inspiration for the digital marketing community, and especially SEO firms: Organic SEO is Google's true partner. Both work to deliver relevant and high-quality results to browsers. As Cutts' repeatedly suggested: algorithm updates are not meant to stymie SEO. The algorithm changes dissuade Black Hat SEO and encourage organic SEO.

For more information about Google's views on SEO, read any of the following links, suggested by Cutts when he first went on sabbatical:

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