Jan 19 2017

‘GoogleGuy’ Matt Cutts Leaves Google, Will Continue with the US Digital Service

Matt Cutts , who was once believed to be the mysterious GoogleGuy on Webmaster World forums and later became the main conduit of information to webmasters about Google search updates, has resigned from Google. For the last few years Cutts has been on leave from Google and has more recently worked for the US Digital Service . He announced on his blog that he had resigned from Google as of December 31, 2016: When I joined the US Digital Service, I only planned to stay for three months. That quickly turned into six months after I saw the impact of the USDS. In the last month, I made a big decision. On December 31, 2016, I resigned from Google. I’m currently serving as director of engineering for the USDS. Mikey Dickerson, the first administrator of the USDS, is a political appointee, so he’ll step down on Inauguration Day. When that happens, I’ll serve as acting administrator of the USDS. The work that the USDS does is critical to the American people, and I’m honored to continue that tradition. The USDS played a pivotal role in rescuing the Obamacare website healthcare.gov that was beset by huge cost overruns while still not working. Cutts also notes that “the US Digital Service has helped veterans get their health benefits, brought bug bounties to the federal government, and helped the IRS protect taxpayer info.” He posted this video to illustrate the important work and accomplishments of USDS: “Working for the government doesn’t pay as well as a big company in Silicon Valley,” writes Cutts. “We don’t get any free lunches. Many days are incredibly frustrating. All I can tell you is that the work is deeply important and inspiring, and you have a chance to work on things that genuinely make peoples’ lives better. A friend who started working in this space several years ago told me “These last five years have been the hardest and worst and best and most rewarding I think I will ever have.”” For those in the search engine space Cutts is very familiar, having attended many Pubcon , SearchEngineStrategies and SearchEngineLand conferences. WebProNews has video interviewed Cutts and written about things he has said hundreds of many times over the years while covering the search industry and Google. Here are a few of our WebProNews exclusive video interviews with Matt Cutts : PubCon: Exclusive Interview With Matt Cutts (2006) PubCon Las Vegas 2007: Matt Cutts of Google and Vanessa Fox (2007) WPN Exclusive: Matt Cutts Apologizes on Behalf of Google’s Penalty against Google Japan (2009) Breaking News: Matt Cutts Explains “Canonical Tag” from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (2009) Matt Cutts on Changes at Google (2008) The post ‘GoogleGuy’ Matt Cutts Leaves Google, Will Continue with the US Digital Service appeared first on WebProNews .

Nov 6 2014

Is The Matt Cutts Era Over?

It’s not 100% clear yet, but it’s looking like for webmasters and SEOs, the era of Matt Cutts is a thing of the past. His career at Google may continue, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be the head of webspam going forward. Would you like to see Matt Cutts return to the role he’s held for years, or do you look forward to change in the search department? Share your thoughts in the comments . It’s a pretty interesting time in search right now. Matt Cutts, who has been the go-to guy for webmaster help and Q&A related to Google search for quite a few years, has been on leave from the company since July. Meanwhile, his counterpart over at Bing has been let go from his duties at Microsoft . @DuaneForrester sending you good thoughts today. Thanks for providing info to so many people and tough love when needed. — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 30, 2014 When Cutts announced his leave , he didn’t really make it sound like he wouldn’t be back, but rather like he would be taking a nice,long, much-deserved vacation. He wrote on his blog : I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. Scheduled to be gone through October. See? Pretty much sounds like a vacation. As you know, October has since come and gone. On October 31, Cutts provided another update, saying he was extending his leave, and wouldn’t be back at Google this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Ok, fine. Cutts has been at Google for fourteen years, and can probably take a considerable amount of time off with no problem. But he’d be back in the swing of things in the new year, right? Well, he might be back, but what he’ll be doing remains to be seen. Cutts appeared on the web chat show This Week in Google , hosted by Leo Laporte, who asked him if he’ll go back to the same role, or if this is a chance for him to try something different. This part of the conversation starts at about 9 minutes and 50 seconds in to the video below (h/t: Search Engine Roundtable ). “Well, I really have been impressed with how well everyone else on the team is doing, and it’s created a little bit of an opportunity for them to try new things, explore different stuff, you know, approach problems from a different way, and so we’ll have to see how it goes,” Cutts responded. “I loved the part of my job that dealt with keeping an eye on what important news was happening related to Google, but you know, it’s not clear that having me as a lightning rod, you know for, you know unhappy black hat SEOs or something is the best use of anybody’s time compared to working on other things that could be making the world better for Google or in general. So we’ll see how it all works.” It doesn’t really sounds like he intends to go back to the classic Matt Cutts role. In fact, later in the discussion, he referred to the initial leave as the “official” leave, implying that the one he’s now on is open-ended. Laporte asked him if he has the ability at the company to just do something different if he wants to. He said, “The interesting thing is that at Google they try to get you and go do different projects, so the product managers, they encourage you to rotate every two or three years, and so it’s relatively rare to find people who have been around forever in a specific area. You’ll find Amit [Singhal] in search, Sridhar [Ramaswamy], you know, some of these people that are really, really senior, you know – higher ranking than me for sure – they do stick around in one area, but a lot of other people jump to different parts of the company to furnish different skills and try different things, which is a pretty good idea, I think.” Again, it sounds like he would really like to do something different within the company. He also reiterated his confidence in the current webspam team. On his “colleagues” (he prefers that term to “minions”), he said, “I just have so much admiration for you know, for example, last year, there was a real effort on child porn because of some stuff that happened in the United Kingdom, and a lot of people chipped in, and that is not an easy job at all. So you really have to think hard about how you’re gonna try to tackle this kind of thing.” Jeff Jarvis, who was also on the show, asked Cutts what other things interest him. Cutts responded, “Oh man, I was computer graphics and actually inertial trackers and accelerometers in grad school. At one point I said, you know, you could use commodity hardware, but as a grad student, you don’t have access to influence anybody’s minds, so why don’t I just go do something else for ten years, and somebody else will come up with all these sensors, and sure enough, you’ve got Kinect, you have the Wii, you know, the iPhone. Now everybody’s got a computer in their pocket that can do 3D sensing as long as write the computer programs well. So there’s all kinds of interesting stuff you could do.” Will we see Matt working on the Android team? As a matter of fact, Laporte followed that up by mentioning Andy Rubin – the guy who created Android and brought it to Google – leaving the company. News of that came out last week . Matt later said, “I’ll always have a connection and soft spot for Google…” That’s actually a bit more mysterious of a comment. I don’t want to put any words in the guy’s mouth, but to me, that sounds like he’s not married to the company for the long haul. Either way, webmasters are already getting used to getting updates and helpful videos from Googlers like Pierre Far and John Mueller. We’ve already seen Google roll out new Panda and Penguin updates since Cutts has been on leave, and the SEO world hasn’t come crumbling down. I’m guessing Cutts is getting less hate mail these days. He must have been getting tired of disgruntled website owners bashing him online all the time. It’s got to be nice to not have to deal with that all the time. As I said at the beginning of the article, it’s really not clear what Matt’s future holds, so all we can really do is listen to what he’s said, and look for him to update people further on his plans. In the meantime, if you miss him, you can peruse the countless webmaster videos and comments he’s made over the years that we’ve covered here . Do you expect Matt Cutts to return to search in any capacity? Do you expect him to return to Google? Should he? Do you miss him already? Let us know what you think .

Nov 3 2014

Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon

Back in July, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he was taking an extended leave from work to enjoy his personal life. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet (via Search Engine Roundtable ) that he won’t be back to work at all this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Cutts didn’t really elaborate on why he’s extending his leave, but if you could do it, why not, right? He did say this on his blog back in July: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. In Matt’s absence, the industry had relied on updates from people like Google Webmaster Trends analysts John Mueller and Pierre Far. There have been both new Panda and Penguin updates to roll out during Matt’s leave. It remains to be seen when Cutts will return, but there’s not really that much of 2014 left. I’d expect him to return after the New Year. We’ll see. Webmasters must be itching for more of Cutts’ famous YouTube videos. Image via YouTube

Nov 3 2014

Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon

Back in July, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he was taking an extended leave from work to enjoy his personal life. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet (via Search Engine Roundtable ) that he won’t be back to work at all this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Cutts didn’t really elaborate on why he’s extending his leave, but if you could do it, why not, right? He did say this on his blog back in July: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. In Matt’s absence, the industry had relied on updates from people like Google Webmaster Trends analysts John Mueller and Pierre Far. There have been both new Panda and Penguin updates to roll out during Matt’s leave. It remains to be seen when Cutts will return, but there’s not really that much of 2014 left. I’d expect him to return after the New Year. We’ll see. Webmasters must be itching for more of Cutts’ famous YouTube videos. Image via YouTube

Nov 3 2014

Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon

Back in July, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he was taking an extended leave from work to enjoy his personal life. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet (via Search Engine Roundtable ) that he won’t be back to work at all this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Cutts didn’t really elaborate on why he’s extending his leave, but if you could do it, why not, right? He did say this on his blog back in July: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. In Matt’s absence, the industry had relied on updates from people like Google Webmaster Trends analysts John Mueller and Pierre Far. There have been both new Panda and Penguin updates to roll out during Matt’s leave. It remains to be seen when Cutts will return, but there’s not really that much of 2014 left. I’d expect him to return after the New Year. We’ll see. Webmasters must be itching for more of Cutts’ famous YouTube videos. Image via YouTube The post Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon appeared first on WebProNews .

Nov 3 2014

Matt Cutts Won’t Be Back At Google Any Time Soon

Back in July, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he was taking an extended leave from work to enjoy his personal life. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet (via Search Engine Roundtable ) that he won’t be back to work at all this year. I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014 Cutts didn’t really elaborate on why he’s extending his leave, but if you could do it, why not, right? He did say this on his blog back in July: I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. In Matt’s absence, the industry had relied on updates from people like Google Webmaster Trends analysts John Mueller and Pierre Far. There have been both new Panda and Penguin updates to roll out during Matt’s leave. It remains to be seen when Cutts will return, but there’s not really that much of 2014 left. I’d expect him to return after the New Year. We’ll see. Webmasters must be itching for more of Cutts’ famous YouTube videos. Image via YouTube

Jul 7 2014

Matt Cutts Is Disappearing For A While

Just ahead of the holiday weekend, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts announced that he is taking leave from Google through at least October, which means we shouldn’t be hearing from him (at least about Google) for at least three months or so. That’s a pretty significant amount of time when you consider how frequently Google makes announcements and changes things up. Is the SEO industry ready for three Matt Cutts-less months? Cutts explains on his personal blog : I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work. So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score. He says he wont’ be checking his work email at all while he’s on leave, but will have some of his outside email forwarded to “a small set of webspam folks,” noting that they won’t be replying. Cutts is a frequent Twitter user, and didn’t say whether or not he’ll be staying off there, but either way, I wouldn’t expect him to tweet much about search during his leave. If you need to reach Google on a matter that you would have typically tried to go to Matt Cutts about, he suggests webmaster forums, Office Hours Hangouts, the Webmaster Central Twitter account, the Google Webmasters Google+ account, or or trying other Googlers. He did recently pin this tweet from 2010 to the top of his timeline: When you've got 5 minutes to fill, Twitter is a great way to fill 35 minutes. — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) May 11, 2010 So far, he hasn’t stopped tweeting, but his latest – from six hours ago – is just about his leave: I got my inbox down to zero for a shiny moment, then unpinned and closed the tab with work email: http://t.co/o7zBOvskBE — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) July 7, 2014 That would seem to suggest he doesn’t plan to waste much of his time off on Twitter. So what will Matt be doing while he’s gone? Taking a ballroom dance class with his wife, trying a half-Iornman race, and going on a cruise. He says they might also do some additional traveling ahead of their fifteen-year wedding anniversary, and will spend more time with their parents. Long story short, leave Cutts alone. He’s busy. Image via YouTube

May 30 2014

Google’s Transparency Called Into Question Again

Though it’s back in Google’s results now, another company is making headlines for being penalized by Google. This time it’s Vivint, which produces smart thermostats, and competes with Nest, which Google acquired earlier this year. PandoDaily’s James Robinson wrote an article about it , noting that Vivint had received warnings from Google about external links that didn’t comply with its quality guidelines, but didn’t confirm what the links were. Rather, the company was “left to fish in the dark to figure out what i had done to upset its rival.” As Robinson correctly noted, Rap Genius was removed from Google’s search results last year for violating guidelines, and was back in business within two weeks. At the time, Google was accused by some of employing a double standard for letting the site recover so quickly compared to others. Google’s Matt Cutts had some comments about the Pando article on Hacker News . He wrote: It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me, because the suggestion that Google took action on vivint.com because it was somehow related to Nest is silly. As part of a crackdown on a spammy blog posting network, we took action on vivint.com–along with hundreds of other sites at the same time that were attempting to spam search results. We took action on vivint.com because it was spamming with low-quality or spam articles… He listed several example links, and continued: and a bunch more links, not to mention 25,000+ links from a site with a paid relationship where the links should have been nofollowed. When we took webspam action, we alerted Vivint via a notice in Webmaster Tools about unnatural links to their site. And when Vivint had done sufficient work to clean up the spammy links, we granted their reconsideration request. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Nest. The webspam team caught Vivint spamming. We held them (along with many other sites using the same spammy guest post network) accountable until they cleaned the spam up. That’s all. He said later in the thread that Google “started dissecting” the guest blog posting network in question in November, noting that Google didn’t acquire Nest until January. In case you’re wondering when acquisition talks began, Cutts said, “You know Larry Page doesn’t have me on speed dial for companies he’s planning to buy, right? No one involved with this webspam action (including me) knew about the Nest acquisition before it was publicly announced.” “Vivint was link spamming (and was caught by the webspam team for spamming) before Google even acquired Nest,” he said. Robinson, in a follow-up article , takes issue with Cutts calling Pando’s reporting “silly,” and mockingly says Cutts “wants you to know Google is totally transparent.” Here’s an excerpt: “It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me,” Cutts writes, insinuating we didn’t contact the company for comment. Pando had in fact reached out to Google’s press team and consulted in detail with the company spokesperson who was quoted in our story. It is now clear why Google didn’t pass on our questions to Cutts. He goes on to say that Cutts’ assessment of VIvint’s wrongdoing is “exactly what we described in our article — no one is disputing that Vivint violated Google’s search rules.” He also calls Cutts’ comments “a slightly simplistic version of events, given the months-long frustration Vivint spoke of in trying to fix the problem.” Robinson concludes the article: The point of our reporting is to highlight the unusual severity of the punishment (locked out for months, completely delisted from results until this week) given Vivint’s relationship to a Google-owned company and the lack of transparency Google offers in assisting offending sites. Multiple sources at Vivint told us that the company was told that it had “unnatural links” but was left to guess at what these were, having to repeatedly cut content blindly and ask for reinstatement from Google, until it hit upon the magic recipe. To these charges, Cutts has no answer. That’s a shame. Now, I’m going to pull an excerpt from an article of my own from November because it seems highly relevant here: Many would say that Google has become more transparent over the years. It gives users, businesses and webmasters access to a lot more information about its intentions and business practices than it did long ago, but is it going far enough? When it comes to its search algorithm and changes to how it ranks content, Google has arguably scaled back a bit on the transparency over the past year or so. Google, as a company, certainly pushes the notion that it is transparent. Just last week, Google updated its Transparency Report for the eighth time, showing government requests for user information (which have doubled over three years, by the way). That’s one thing. For the average online business that relies on Internet visibility for customers, however, these updates are of little comfort. A prime example of where Google has reduced its transparency is the monthly lists of algorithm changes it used to put out, but stopped. Cutts said the “world got bored” with those . Except it really didn’t as far as we can tell. Image via YouTube The post Google’s Transparency Called Into Question Again appeared first on WebProNews .

May 30 2014

Google’s Transparency Called Into Question Again

Though it’s back in Google’s results now, another company is making headlines for being penalized by Google. This time it’s Vivint, which produces smart thermostats, and competes with Nest, which Google acquired earlier this year. PandoDaily’s James Robinson wrote an article about it , noting that Vivint had received warnings from Google about external links that didn’t comply with its quality guidelines, but didn’t confirm what the links were. Rather, the company was “left to fish in the dark to figure out what i had done to upset its rival.” As Robinson correctly noted, Rap Genius was removed from Google’s search results last year for violating guidelines, and was back in business within two weeks. At the time, Google was accused by some of employing a double standard for letting the site recover so quickly compared to others. Google’s Matt Cutts had some comments about the Pando article on Hacker News . He wrote: It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me, because the suggestion that Google took action on vivint.com because it was somehow related to Nest is silly. As part of a crackdown on a spammy blog posting network, we took action on vivint.com–along with hundreds of other sites at the same time that were attempting to spam search results. We took action on vivint.com because it was spamming with low-quality or spam articles… He listed several example links, and continued: and a bunch more links, not to mention 25,000+ links from a site with a paid relationship where the links should have been nofollowed. When we took webspam action, we alerted Vivint via a notice in Webmaster Tools about unnatural links to their site. And when Vivint had done sufficient work to clean up the spammy links, we granted their reconsideration request. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Nest. The webspam team caught Vivint spamming. We held them (along with many other sites using the same spammy guest post network) accountable until they cleaned the spam up. That’s all. He said later in the thread that Google “started dissecting” the guest blog posting network in question in November, noting that Google didn’t acquire Nest until January. In case you’re wondering when acquisition talks began, Cutts said, “You know Larry Page doesn’t have me on speed dial for companies he’s planning to buy, right? No one involved with this webspam action (including me) knew about the Nest acquisition before it was publicly announced.” “Vivint was link spamming (and was caught by the webspam team for spamming) before Google even acquired Nest,” he said. Robinson, in a follow-up article , takes issue with Cutts calling Pando’s reporting “silly,” and mockingly says Cutts “wants you to know Google is totally transparent.” Here’s an excerpt: “It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me,” Cutts writes, insinuating we didn’t contact the company for comment. Pando had in fact reached out to Google’s press team and consulted in detail with the company spokesperson who was quoted in our story. It is now clear why Google didn’t pass on our questions to Cutts. He goes on to say that Cutts’ assessment of VIvint’s wrongdoing is “exactly what we described in our article — no one is disputing that Vivint violated Google’s search rules.” He also calls Cutts’ comments “a slightly simplistic version of events, given the months-long frustration Vivint spoke of in trying to fix the problem.” Robinson concludes the article: The point of our reporting is to highlight the unusual severity of the punishment (locked out for months, completely delisted from results until this week) given Vivint’s relationship to a Google-owned company and the lack of transparency Google offers in assisting offending sites. Multiple sources at Vivint told us that the company was told that it had “unnatural links” but was left to guess at what these were, having to repeatedly cut content blindly and ask for reinstatement from Google, until it hit upon the magic recipe. To these charges, Cutts has no answer. That’s a shame. Now, I’m going to pull an excerpt from an article of my own from November because it seems highly relevant here: Many would say that Google has become more transparent over the years. It gives users, businesses and webmasters access to a lot more information about its intentions and business practices than it did long ago, but is it going far enough? When it comes to its search algorithm and changes to how it ranks content, Google has arguably scaled back a bit on the transparency over the past year or so. Google, as a company, certainly pushes the notion that it is transparent. Just last week, Google updated its Transparency Report for the eighth time, showing government requests for user information (which have doubled over three years, by the way). That’s one thing. For the average online business that relies on Internet visibility for customers, however, these updates are of little comfort. A prime example of where Google has reduced its transparency is the monthly lists of algorithm changes it used to put out, but stopped. Cutts said the “world got bored” with those . Except it really didn’t as far as we can tell. Image via YouTube

May 30 2014

Google’s Transparency Called Into Question Again

Though it’s back in Google’s results now, another company is making headlines for being penalized by Google. This time it’s Vivint, which produces smart thermostats, and competes with Nest, which Google acquired earlier this year. PandoDaily’s James Robinson wrote an article about it , noting that Vivint had received warnings from Google about external links that didn’t comply with its quality guidelines, but didn’t confirm what the links were. Rather, the company was “left to fish in the dark to figure out what i had done to upset its rival.” As Robinson correctly noted, Rap Genius was removed from Google’s search results last year for violating guidelines, and was back in business within two weeks. At the time, Google was accused by some of employing a double standard for letting the site recover so quickly compared to others. Google’s Matt Cutts had some comments about the Pando article on Hacker News . He wrote: It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me, because the suggestion that Google took action on vivint.com because it was somehow related to Nest is silly. As part of a crackdown on a spammy blog posting network, we took action on vivint.com–along with hundreds of other sites at the same time that were attempting to spam search results. We took action on vivint.com because it was spamming with low-quality or spam articles… He listed several example links, and continued: and a bunch more links, not to mention 25,000+ links from a site with a paid relationship where the links should have been nofollowed. When we took webspam action, we alerted Vivint via a notice in Webmaster Tools about unnatural links to their site. And when Vivint had done sufficient work to clean up the spammy links, we granted their reconsideration request. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Nest. The webspam team caught Vivint spamming. We held them (along with many other sites using the same spammy guest post network) accountable until they cleaned the spam up. That’s all. He said later in the thread that Google “started dissecting” the guest blog posting network in question in November, noting that Google didn’t acquire Nest until January. In case you’re wondering when acquisition talks began, Cutts said, “You know Larry Page doesn’t have me on speed dial for companies he’s planning to buy, right? No one involved with this webspam action (including me) knew about the Nest acquisition before it was publicly announced.” “Vivint was link spamming (and was caught by the webspam team for spamming) before Google even acquired Nest,” he said. Robinson, in a follow-up article , takes issue with Cutts calling Pando’s reporting “silly,” and mockingly says Cutts “wants you to know Google is totally transparent.” Here’s an excerpt: “It’s a shame that Pando’s inquiry didn’t make it to me,” Cutts writes, insinuating we didn’t contact the company for comment. Pando had in fact reached out to Google’s press team and consulted in detail with the company spokesperson who was quoted in our story. It is now clear why Google didn’t pass on our questions to Cutts. He goes on to say that Cutts’ assessment of VIvint’s wrongdoing is “exactly what we described in our article — no one is disputing that Vivint violated Google’s search rules.” He also calls Cutts’ comments “a slightly simplistic version of events, given the months-long frustration Vivint spoke of in trying to fix the problem.” Robinson concludes the article: The point of our reporting is to highlight the unusual severity of the punishment (locked out for months, completely delisted from results until this week) given Vivint’s relationship to a Google-owned company and the lack of transparency Google offers in assisting offending sites. Multiple sources at Vivint told us that the company was told that it had “unnatural links” but was left to guess at what these were, having to repeatedly cut content blindly and ask for reinstatement from Google, until it hit upon the magic recipe. To these charges, Cutts has no answer. That’s a shame. Now, I’m going to pull an excerpt from an article of my own from November because it seems highly relevant here: Many would say that Google has become more transparent over the years. It gives users, businesses and webmasters access to a lot more information about its intentions and business practices than it did long ago, but is it going far enough? When it comes to its search algorithm and changes to how it ranks content, Google has arguably scaled back a bit on the transparency over the past year or so. Google, as a company, certainly pushes the notion that it is transparent. Just last week, Google updated its Transparency Report for the eighth time, showing government requests for user information (which have doubled over three years, by the way). That’s one thing. For the average online business that relies on Internet visibility for customers, however, these updates are of little comfort. A prime example of where Google has reduced its transparency is the monthly lists of algorithm changes it used to put out, but stopped. Cutts said the “world got bored” with those . Except it really didn’t as far as we can tell. Image via YouTube