In Google’s Matt Cutts latest video, he answers a question I personally asked about what he regrets, what decision he regrets making in the past related to webspam. My question specifically was:
Was there a key moment in your spam fighting career where you made a mistake that you regret, related to spam?
Matt answered it in than four minutes explained he regrets not acting sooner on (1) paid links and (2) content farms.
Matt explained that several years ago at a search conference in San Jose, a well-known SEO told him that paid links are too common and there are no ways for Google to fight against it. That is when Matt said he realized that Google has made a mistake and they allowed paid links that passed PageRank to go too far. So in 2005 or so, Google cracked down heavily on paid links and now at this point, Matt said “most people” realize paid links are against Google’s guidelines, possibly against the FTC’s guidelines, that they have algorithms that fight against it and also manual actions around paid links. But Matt regrets not taking action sooner and waiting too long.
The second regret Matt admitted to was around not acting sooner on content farms. Matt Cutts explained that early on, he did get some user complaints about the horrible user experience some of these content farms had. But when Matt himself went to one of the sites based on a search on how to fix a toilet in his home, he felt the user experience was good. He said he “over generalized” based on that one example, when he should have looked at the site overall and not just one page.
Because of that over generalization, Google didn’t act as fast as they should have on content farms and thus it became more of an issue on the web and for Google to deal with. Here Matt is specifically talking about Panda.
Matt did say that Google does do a lot of “great work” and finds it “rewarding” on the whole. But at the same time, he said he always “wonders” if you could do better by acting one way or another.