Much has already been written about the Great Debate last week at SES: Are Paid Links Evil? I won’t get into the debate itself; you can read the recaps, and you can download the presentation that stirred the pot. Here’s what I want to say, instead:
I sat in the front row for this one. As Matt Cutts took the stage, I told Tamar (or maybe it was Rhea?), “It’s like watching the defendant being led to the witness stand.” That was the atmosphere. And after Matt’s presentation, when Michael started laying down the proverbial hammer, it was like watching the lamb get led to the slaughter. After Michael’s presentation, Todd, Todd, and Greg spoke about the problem with Google’s algo and Google’s stance on paid links, and how paid links dominate the SERPs. Much hooting and hollering ensued.
I ended up watching Matt C. through most of this. He was noticeably uncomfortable on several occasions, which made me wonder if perhaps some of the comments from the rest of the panel hit too close to home.
It also made me realize how much this stuff matters to him. A guy who doesn’t care would let the speakers’ comments and the audience’s cheering bounce right off him, right? I think so.
So, here’s what I took away from this session:
1.) It was a good debate that needed to be had, but in that atmosphere, I don’t think it solved a damn thing.
2.) I admire Michael, Todd, Todd, and Greg … and I tend to agree (for the most part) with their stance on the issue.
2.) I really admire Matt for accepting the invite to speak on this panel. He knew what was coming. He knew what the audience makeup would be. He knew he’d essentially be fighting this battle alone. And he did it anyway.
Well done, Matt. You deserve our respect for that. You’ve got it from me.