Google’s Matt Cutts On Selling Links, Advertorials, Using No Follow, ccTLD, Widgets…And More…

Here at the official blog of Amplitude Digital, we’ve devoted a few blog posts to the philosophy and work of Google Webspam Czar Matt Cutts

– along with some stuff that’s been inspired by internet innovators like Cutts.

And with good reason. For starters, Cutts is a very smart guy. He’s been a valuable part of the Google team since 2000, when he came on board as a software engineer. Before that, Cutts received his Ph.D. in computer graphics from the University of North Carolina. And he also holds a M.S. from UNC and B.S. degrees in both mathematics and computer science from the University of Kentucky.

Among his many other accomplishments at Google, Cutts wrote the first version of SafeSearch, Google’s family-friendly filter, and he’s worked extensively and enthusiastically – others might say too enthusiastically – on enhancing search quality and cracking down on webspam at Google for the past several years.

And 2013 seems to have been a particularly busy, active and interesting one for Cutts and his webspam team. Back in February, Cutts and his team slapped some sanctions on U.K. floral giant Interflora for “selling links that pass PageRank” – i.e. paying bloggers to favorably review and write about their products and services, but not disclosing this content as “advertorial.”

Then in March, Cutts used the forum of SMX West to not only announce new updates with Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithms, but to discuss new link network targets as well. Regarding the link network, Cutts confirmed that Google had recently targeted a link network for penalization, and would go after even more as 2013 unfolds.

In June, Cutts made many a “native advertiser” restless by once again warning brand marketers and agencies about clarifying the “advertorial” nature of much of the “native ad” content they are serving up to consumers.

Cutts delivered this address via the GoogleWebmasterHelp YouTube page, where he explores the issues surrounding advertorials, editorial content, and native ads in his usual laid-back yet informative fashion.

More recently, Cutts and his team at Google updated their link schemes webmaster guidelines in late July. Included within these guidelines, among other things, was the instruction that links in press releases should use “no-follow,” just like paid links. This came on the heels of Cutts previously stating Google’s position that links within press releases do not pass value.

Also in late July, Cutts took to the Google Webmasters YouTube page again to address whether or not it’s a good idea for a website to use a ccTLD (country code top level domain) as a novelty domain. In the video, Cutts basically says, “NO”. He articulates Google’s position that most domains at a country level contain content specific to that country. Hence, when a site uses a ccTLD, Google will assume that the site’s content applies to the geo-targeted area specified by the domain. And if the content is not relevant to the ccTLD…then the site is doing a “disservice” to that domain. It sure sounds like a logical, common-sense and fair position to us here at Amplitude Digital.

Finally and most recently – last we checked, at least – Cutts made the news for another video announcement, this one strongly recommending that people who place widgets on their sites, or those who distribute widgets, should also place a nofollow on the links within the widget code. Cutts’ reasoning here was that most people who embed a widget on their sites don’t realize what else they’re embedding – outside of the widget’s functionality. So, if the widget was to also embed something like a poll on your site, it may contain a link back to the poll website…without a nofollow on that link.

Again, makes sense to us. In fact, as we’ve stated before and will surely proclaim again, much of what Cutts says and does makes perfect sense to us.

And we hold firm in our belief that, regardless of how many voices might hem and haw and cry and curse the heavens when it comes to Google and its Top SEO Cop Cutts, almost all of these dictates, crackdowns, positions and philosophies have been pretty well-known, accepted and practiced by “White Hat SEO” for quite some time now. And if not, common sense and decency dictate the proper course of action.
Now, the “Black Hat SEO,” on the other hand, are like The Bad Kids in school. You know, the ones whose poor behavior and utter lack of discipline or common sense results in the whole class being made to stay after school and think about what they’ve done wrong.

The bottom line is, if you’re doing things the right way as a marketer, advertiser, brand  or business, there’s really no need to lose sleep – or your cool – when it comes to any of these “controversies” or “issues” around SEO as we know it today. Or SEO as it existed in, say, 1995.

And there’s also really no need to worry about the Bad Apples in our bunch. Especially the various, often always nefarious types of “link-builders” out there. In the end, those who can’t hang by virtue of their own talent, merit and hard work will all end up lost in the thick, dark recesses of The Google Jungle anyway.

That’s our position, and we’re sticking to it.

What do YOU think? Do you have anything to add, subtract, praise or take issue with?

We’d love to hear from you – including any insightful and relevant personal stories and experiences – in the comments section below this blog post.

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