Matt Cutts talks about what it’s like fighting spam

|13th Feb 2014

I’ve always admired the head of Google’s anti-spam team Matt Cutts. When I started out as an SEO, most of the old hands either hated him or had thinly veiled contempt for him. I’ve always liked him though for a number of reasons:

  • As an end-user, he’s trying to make Google a better end-user product and I really appreciate that.

  • As an SEO, he helps give the industry legitimacy. Google is not perfect and loopholes exist that people can exploit, and while closing these loopholes means it can be more difficult to compete in the SERPs if you are not a massive brand (which is a legitimate complaint), it also means that the SERPs are less ‘wild west’ and more ‘Crufts’.

The end result being that, as a discipline, SEOs are able to provide a product that will make money for a client, but also will improve a client’s brand over the long term.

Yesterday, Matt posted a youtube video that answered this question:

What’s it like to fight webspam at Google?

With all the angst and anxiety around Google’s next updates and SEO best practice, it seems good to keep in mind what ‘the other side’ is working towards. Without providing specifics (besides hinting at algorithm updates that would better detect hacked sites), Matt talked about the preference of pattern detection instead of manual ban-hammering—the best spam fighting coming from the ability to recognise when a loophole exists, how it’s been exploited, and then the ability to ‘plug that hole’ permanently because ‘you never want to play whack-a-mole with a spammer’ (which seemed to accurately describe the early years of spammy-SEO).

Granted, it’s in Google’s best interest to protect organic results not directly because it benefits the world, but because it means there is traffic available to rationalise PPC spends for Google’s real customers. So it’s difficult to buy Matt’s altruistic stance when he says that “there’s a massive amount of spam on the web and there’s always people trying to make more spam but it is really rewarding because you’re trying to do something good for the world”. But it’s still comforting that the spam team is working hard to make the SERPs, if not a level playing field, then at least a game that’s refereed.

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