OK, maybe Matt Cutts isn’t exactly a Magi in the biblical sense of the word. But he’s definitely a wise man. A very wise man. A well-educated wise man with summa cum laude bachelor’s degrees in math and computer science and a master’s degree (also summa cum laude) in science.
Exactly how wise is Matt Cutts? Wise enough to join Google in January of 2000 when it had less than 100 employees and was no bigger than a fly on Yahoo’s Figgy Pudding. And while we have no clue what, if any, stock options and other inducements Larry Page and Sergey Brin used to entice wise guys like Matt Cutts to quit established tech companies and stake their careers on a shaky startup, we have no doubt that Matt, in his wisdom, took max advantage of whatever was offered.
Whatever the bonus it took to sign Cutts, Page and Brin bought themselves a bargain. Beginning as a generalist software engineer, Matt wrote many of Google’s early content filters — including their highly regarded SafeSearch pornography blocker.
By 2004, Matt Cutts had moved up the career ladder to become Senior Staff Software Engineer and head of the Webspam group, which serves as the prosecuting attorney, judge, jury and parole board for web pages accused of violating Google guidelines by the Webspam group’s URL police.
Equally important, and the real reason he’s worth more to Google than whatever it cost to get him and keep him, is his role as corporate lightning rod. Whether it’s in the responses to his own blog posts or on the pages of hundreds of other blogs, Matt Cutts is the guy who gets flamed for whatever real and imaginary indignities Google and its assorted bots and algorithms are accused of.
If a webmaster whose scammy, spammy site has just landed in the sandbox wants to get in somebody’s face about, he’ll find Matt Cutts — live and in-person — at just about any halfway major internet expo or web conference.
And while many of us, if we were Matt Cutts, would attend such an event wearing at least a mask, if not a full disguise, he doesn’t. His convention name tag always says “Hi, I’m Matt” just as bold as brass and his company affiliation is always given as “Google.”
It was at one such gathering of the webmaster tribes held earlier this month (Pubcon 2007) that Matt gave individual web entrepreneurs, professional webmasters, legitimate SEO practitioners and everyone else who understands and utilizes the power of reciprocal linking, an early — and greatly appreciated — Christmas present.
The gift was small — only 11 words — but it may just be the best present under many web professionals’ Christmas trees this year.
What Matt Cutts said was this: Trading links is natural and it’s natural to have reciprocal links.
At first glance, that doesn’t seem like such an earth-shattering pronouncement. After all, Google has never said anything bad about legitimate, relevant, natural reciprocal links ethically established and maintained. Their guidelines warn against scams like excessive link exchange via link-farming, automated bulk linking and pay-for-play links, but what honest web businessperson lives that far on the dark side?
What makes Matt’s words such a sudden, unexpected, and powerful gift is that they provide the ultimate repudiation of the anti-linking FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) sown by legions of competency-challenged search engine optimization “consultants” whose incomes depend on finding scapegoats for their own ineptitude.
In the world according to the FUD mongers, reciprocal links that provide useful information to your customers and drive non-search-engine-dependent traffic to your site will somehow get you in trouble with Google even though neither Google as an entity nor any of its key executives has ever said anything of the kind.
Matt Cutts has a different world view. He says enhancing your site with reciprocal links in a deliberate, ethical manner is just plain “natural.”
So the question is “who ya gonna trust?”
The FUD suckers sullenly hoofing it through the Sinai with holes in the bottom of their sandals or the Wise Man from Google serenely riding atop the Webspam Group camel?
And a merry Christmas to you, too, Matt.