Google's Matt Cutts Drops Hints on PageRank Update & Scares Link Buying Panel at PubCon

Dec 6, 2007 • 8:01 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Before beginning this post, I will be honest, I struggled if I should post anything at all, because I feel like I have been writing about this PageRank update way too often in the past three months. But I found the coverage of the Link Buying Panel at PubCon Vegas 2007, from Tamar to be interesting.

Besides for Matt Cutts of Google reportedly scaring the panel (this was a saractic post by Raven-SEO) by walking in and acting all intimidating (sounds funny writing that, knowing Matt to be a nice guy) - Matt actually spoke about the recent PageRank update. Let me quote Tamar's coverage, knowing that it is not a word for word transcription of Matt's discussion:

The toolbar update was intended to reduce visible PR based on sites selling links. Google DID NOT visibly reduce PR of all sites that they caught and Matt didn't want to give a percentage. Going forward, Google is likely to continue this practice of visibly showing some portion of sites where it feels the owners have violated link selling protocol.

So Google seemed to have reduced the visible PageRank of select sites only. It seems like sites were hand selected. Is this visible PageRank reduction a true penalty? If dropping the visible PageRank is not considered a penalty, Matt said that it is possible for Google to remove the "ability of links [from a site] to pass value, but [not] show [this penalty] visibly; [or] remove the ability of the links to pass value and downgrade the visible PR in the toolbar; remove the ability of the links to pass value AND penalize the rankings of the sites/pages being linked to AND/OR the site(s) selling links; remove the ability of the links to pass value AND remove the offending site(s) from the index."

So anything is possible, but currently there have not been reports of sites losing traffic in relation to the drop in PageRank from this recent update.

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums and Sphinn.

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David Eaves

12/06/2007 01:36 pm

At 1st a few sites were penalized in the rankings including one called A week or two later the sites that I noticed came back into the rankings. Now it is just the directories that are suffering with ranking penalties such as my


12/06/2007 02:49 pm

With all of this said, did Matt indicate whether they would pardon the toolbar PR of those sites who became good little Cuttlets and removed paid links from their sites?


12/06/2007 02:55 pm

duuu du... duuuu du... I can hear the tune from jaws :D


12/06/2007 03:06 pm

The "scaring the panel" link has an extra " at the end.

Barry Schwartz

12/06/2007 03:30 pm

Mack, fixed, thanks!

Matt Cutts

12/07/2007 07:19 pm

Barry, if you read the post that Jon Henshaw did about "scaring the link buying panel," you'll notice that it was filed under "Humorous." When Jon says that I ate a candy bar aggressively, I think he was kidding. I was just eating a protein bar and talking to someone else; I didn't even know that my picture was being taken.

Barry Schwartz

12/07/2007 07:59 pm

Matt, yea, I know it was humorous. Do you think I need to clarify that above?

Matt Cutts

12/07/2007 08:00 pm

Jon Henshaw mentioned in his comments that his post was a joke, and was even nice enough to add an update to make it crystal clear that he was being humorous in his write-up: Barry, is there any way to update your post to reflect that Jon's post was humorous, and not serious? A few people who weren't at the conference thought that Jon Henshaw's post was serious and are taking your post as verification that I somehow ate a candy bar in a scary way that came across as threatening. :)

Matt Cutts

12/07/2007 08:04 pm

Barry, I would appreciate if you would clarify. e.g. is reporting this as serious fact, e.g. "Your secret is out Matt! Your scare tactics may have worked for a little while but come on out and own up to it, remember what happens when little boys don't tell the truth." And that quote includes a link to your story. So evidently not everyone got the joke, and they're using your story to back up the idea that I was somehow being scary in that session. If you'd be willing to clarify, that would make it crystal clear that Jon Henshaw's post was joking. I'd hate for people who weren't at the conference to get the wrong idea.

Barry Schwartz

12/07/2007 08:05 pm

Is my update good?

Matt Cutts

12/07/2007 08:07 pm

Much appreciated, Barry. It's clear not everyone realized that Jon Henshaw's post at Raven SEO was a joke, e.g. Someone actually wanted to get a press comment to see whether I ate a candy bar in an intimidating way. Sheesh. Humor on the internet doesn't always translate well, I guess. :)

Barry Schwartz

12/07/2007 08:18 pm

100% Matt. Hope it works out.

Jon Henshaw

12/15/2007 10:26 pm

Great gravy! The Internet is spinning out of control! I had been hoping that categorizing it under "humorous" would be enough, and I never thought it would get the coverage it did. Matt Cutts is awesome and no, he wasn't eating a candy bar (I really don't know what he was eating – for all I know he picked up the wrapper off the ground trying to clean the place up). He's a nice and helpful person, and I like having him at the PubCon conference. And that's not a kiss up, I really mean it. The only seriousness of the post was that it did appear that having Matt in room did have an impact on what some of the panelists said (or didn't say). In particular, I've seen Jim Boykin speak several times, and I can tell you, I've never seen him say so little. It really boils down to the tension between Google's paid linking stance and the link building methods that many search marketers prefer. If in fact Jim really didn't have anything to say, then so be it. However, if he did, and he chose not to go into detail about anything that could have actually helped people, then I was correct in my assumption – one that was expressed to me by several other people who attended that session. What does this mean for PubCon? It just means I probably won't go to the paid link building session next time – assuming Matt is there (no offense Matt). Which is not a big deal, but for those who say that you can't get good info from PubCon sessions, you're wrong. When the right panelists are there and the audience is just right, you can learn a ton of things. Albeit, in the past when the conference was much smaller, it was more common (or maybe I just didn't know that much back then – yeah, that was probably the case). Also, on the flip side, Matt did a site review session with Greg Boser that was awesome this year. So this whole controversy, in my mind, really just surrounds the issue of paid links and the tension between marketers/optimizers and Google.

No Name

11/10/2009 10:37 pm

With all of this said, did Matt indicate whether they would pardon the toolbar PR of those sites who became good little Cuttlets and removed paid links from their sites? Any replies?

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