I really like Matt Cutts. He’s one of the most personable people in the search business while at the same time discussing and blogging complex search topics in an articulate and authoritative way.
Two really interesting issues are in discussion over at Matt’s blog. The first is Lauren’s controversial “official” Google post criticizing the movie Sicko and suggesting that advertising purchases at Google are the best way to win the info wars. Here’s my take on that little episode:
The challenge with big company “official” blogs is that they tend to suck. They are at best basic information outlets and at worst bad PR nightmares. Not because the authors are bad people, but because “official” company blogs reverse the optimal relationship between blogger and reader. For example here, at Jeremy Zawodny, and at Scoble (when he was with MS), the blogger develops a trusted, somewhat personal relationship with the reader. A company blogger can’t really do that. They are generally trustworthy honest people but they are constrained by not being able to bite the hand that feeds them and also contrained by our expectation that they are beholding to the employer.
Ironically Lauren crossed this line in both directions by giving her own personal opinion (good) at a corporate blog (unusual). But her opinion happened to line up very well with Google’s advertising agenda (hmmmm) and her own personal agenda of selling more ads (hmmmm).
The debates over conflict of interest at blogs are really heating up as they should until we can find ways to keep things transparent, honest as we continue to keep the discussions lively and robust.
The second issue is one I need to digest a bit more. Matt is rejecting the idea that Google’s webspam fight is a sham. Certainly Matt’s team works hard to fight search junk but the spam issue is a lot more nuanced than Matt acknowledges. Clearly there are conflicts between maintaining profits and providing users with the optimal experience. Lighter shading of Google advertising is a good example where it is unlikely users benefit from the lighter shading, yet it is certain Google gets a lot more activity from that User Interface “improvement”. Also, the definition of spam itself is very subjective and also very query dependent. If I’m searching for “Hotels” and get a list of Viagra sites the results are clearly “spammy”, but if I’m searching for Viagra those same sites may be exactly what I want.