On June 3rd, Matt Cutts freaked the technical SEO community by casually stating that PageRank sculpting, the subtle art of flow-managing page value distribution, had changed significantly from what Google had been prescribing.
Who cares, we don’t need noFollow. What bothers many is that know we’ve learned Google flipped the switch a year ago, all the while offering misleading public information.
Industry journalist Danny Sullivan, organizer of the SMX conference series and Editor-in-Chief of SearchEngineLand highlighted missed opportunities for Google to retract what had previously been stated as best practices. (BTW, I would have linked to SearchEngineLand in this paragraph too, but now I’m counting links.)
I note Danny’s graciousness, even as he outlined the delay in disclosure:
“There were plenty of opportunities for this [Google disclosing]. PageRank sculpting was discussed at no less than four different conferences after the change happened, including our SMX Advanced search marketing conference in 2008. There was no end of articles and commentary on the web about it. In Matt’s video from May 23 of this year, specifically about PageRank sculpting, he said nothing about the change.” –Danny Sullivan–
Did Google Throw Matt Cutts Under the Bus?
There might be 2 possibilities and hybrids thereof for this debacle: 1) Matt Cutts, Google’s affable spam ambassador knowingly gave us misleading information. 2) Maybe his relationship with Google is somewhat detached, more insular than other insiders on the WS team. Either way, we don’t care about noFollow, my feelings are hurt.
Advanced SEOs were out there striving to work within Google’s TOS, having just finished nearly a generation of websites, built the way Google told us to do it. When Google told SEOS it works to flow PR by noFollow, we used noFollow out of trust.
Is Google suggesting that somehow we should have caught the change? For goodness Google, do you want us to test everything you tell us to do and prove that it works or find out your ambassador might have mislead us? Or was he in the dark?
So What About NoFollow?
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve used do/noFollow lightly, always asking the question “is this link an important citation, needed for the content, one that flatters the reputation of ours and the destination publication?” The method by which Google public relations mishandled the SEM community sure points to poor etiquette on somebody’s part.
We relied on no/doFollow for the basics, ya’ know not being completely stupid with where we want to recommend content. Like lovers that failed together (SEOS & Google), I can honestly say that nearly every SEO I’ve ever met truly cares about offering authentic citations, just like Google.
“@netmeg @aimclear plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. in other words, we didn’t worry about it before, and we’re not worrying about it now.”
“@SebastianX to complete it: As always: […]. Don’t bother w/ rel-nofollow for anything else. For advanced SEO purposes just cloak nofollow properly.”
The SEO Changes are Good
They impel us to police the integrity of links from sites within and without. My sadness is more about the concept of an ambassador 1) not telling the truth 2) getting hung out to dry in front of the industry the ambassador serves.
The last thing I ever want to do is call anybody out. Google owns the machine and it’s a damn fine one. For goodness sake they’re a small country! Countries have ambassadors who represent positions to citizens of communities.
Colin Powell, a truly great American, seemingly got hung out to dry. The community was mad. Sound familiar? After stewing on this for a couple of days, having attended the session, I just felt it important to point out that partnerships work both ways between ambassadors and the communities they serve.
“There are times in public life as in private life when one must protest, not solely of even primarily because ones’s protest will be politic or materially productive, but because one’s sense of decency is offended, because one is fed up with political craft and public images, or simply because something goes against the grain. “The Arrogance of Power by —Senator Fulbright– (New York, Random House, Inc., 1966)
Maybe there are 2 agendas, one from Webmaster Tools & other divisions – and one from Matt himself. Google’s a pretty big company and never underestimate the propensity of freaky politics to bubble up from the holistic ooze. I’d rather eat a live chicken than prognosticate what it’s like to be inside any of these people’s heads.
Maybe some Google IT-rock stars would have preferred that there never be any sculpting or talk of noFollow for link sculpting. Maybe Matt’s an awesome guy who has the privilege of operating outside the team and didn’t know. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter.
Google’s ambassador seems like the kind of guy who operates in the interest of community, and can handle the gig. WTF? Are we at a place now where SEOs ask questions like “who’s on our side and who’s not?” Or can we put this cloak and dagger bullshit to bed?