Suite101 CEO Writes Open Letter to Google’s Matt Cutts

Peter Berger on Being Insulted Over Panda Update

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Google basically called out Suite101 as the poster child site of what its “Panda” algorithm update was aimed at. Reports have found the site to be one of the hardest hit, and while the site has often been mentioned in the same breath as sites like eHow in the past, eHow has apparently gained from the update.

When asked about it in a recent Wired interview, Google’s Matt Cutts said, “I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101.”

We had reached out to Suite101 prior to the publication of that article, but only since it was published, have we heard back. A representative for Suite101 pointed us to an open letter to Matt Cutt from CEO Peter Berger, in response to the comments from the Wired piece. Here is a sample of the letter (read the whole thing in its entirety here):

Peter Berger, CEO of Suitie 101 Talks about SEO , Quality, and the long tailWe have certainly noticed that within the last week Google has stopped sending our content as many readers as it had in the past, resulting in a decline of 30% in overall traffic. We have been working to understand what separates successful content on our site from negatively impacted content, and have also tried to compare how other sites on the web rank for given Google queries.

We do not get the sense that this “Panda” algorithm update is about filtering out “low quality” content. We do appreciate that Google is constantly trying to improve immediate user relevance for given search queries. That means that Google has to experiment with evaluating measurable properties of content in alternative ways. Engineers might refer to these properties or signals as “quality” (within the context of a given search query), but please do understand that when a representative of Google describes entire sites as “low quality” outside of engineering circles, this can be perceived as insulting by people who associate “quality” rather with an individual piece’s execution, angle and craft, and who have taken great pride in creating it.

We take it that concise, high quality writing is a signal that Google de-emphasized with its algorithm update. That is a legitimate business decision, even if some of the content we currently publish does not benefit from it. Other factors have become more important, and we will try to understand them, and work to help those of our writers who feel that Google is the best distribution channel for their thoughts to improve their articles.

For the sake of the web as the rich ecosystem it is, we hope that Google stays committed to:

* a page-by-page evaluation of the web’s content, emphasizing its actual “content” over its display and polish

* respect of copyright, diligently ensuring original content is not outranked by scraped content

* impartiality in terms of content’s ownership, including treating publicly listed corporations’ as well as Google’s own content not differently from the rest of the web

Another level of depth may be added to this discussion if the word “quality” were more fully defined. “Quality” without much more precisely defining it, especially when the quality mentioned does only seem to be a quality signal relating to a given search query, leaves a lot still misunderstood…

We spoke with Berger last year, long before this update was realized, but during a time when search quality was really starting to come into question as content farm sites were really on the rise.

Berger told us, “Every week, several thousand people apply to become Suite101 writers. While we only accept a portion of applicants based on our non-negotiable quality standards, we do have many successful writers on our site who do not consider themselves ‘writers.”
“We see it as Suite101′s mission to enable people – anyone who can write well and with deep understanding of a subject – to achieve their goals,” he said. “These might be earning money, addressing large audiences, building up a personal professional brand, or simply enjoying creative freedom in a nurturing, peer-oriented environment.”

Cutts has yet to respond to the letter, at least in the comments section, but it hasn’t been live very long, and Cutts is keeping pretty busy from the sound of things.

Suite101 CEO Writes Open Letter to Google’s Matt Cutts
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  • http://www.laokay.com Adsense Publisher

    Google is great at making it’s own definitions of what is good and what is bad instead of letting people decide. It’s not just about content farms either, Google is promoting it’s own results over the organic by interjecting things like Google map searches, and even Google book searches into it’s organic results. They even have plans to throw their own social networking platform content into the organic results. Remember when Google told us that they were going to take the clutter of the internet and display our search results in a way it would be less cluttersome? It seems with more competition on the rise, Google is back to playing dirty by using the advantage of their search engine to promote their websites over others, instead of playing fair. I mean if their book search is better than anybody else’s then why not just have a button for it? I liked searching when searching didn’t throw up all this other junk I was not interested in and if I wanted to search for the same query in Google maps, books, or whatever, well I just had to click a single button. Maybe I wanted to see only blogs? We’ll that’s another button. Simple. Instead of a cleaner page with organic results, Google is giving the world attention deficit disorder by plastering as much as they can of their own stuff. It’s almost like Google doesn’t want the world going anywhere else, even if somewhere else has a better site.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      They may start letting people decide what is good vs. bad to some extent eventually. They launched the Chrome extension that lets you block sites you don’t want in the results. That’s a start at the personalized level, but they have suggested that this data could be used as a signal in the algorithm in the future (though it’s not been used yet, they say). I’d be interested to know how many people are actually using the extension. Many don’t even use Chrome (though the number is on the rise).

    • http://www.freeguninfo.com Adsense Publisher

      They need to stop interjecting their stupid place page stuff into the organic results. It gives an unfair advantage to their websites over everybody else’s websites. This is way beyond the content farming issue. It’s Google saying everything is organic and there are rules to follow, and then they turn around and have the system break the rules just for their websites. If quality pages and backlinks is what primarily gets you to the top, how do they justify their own index having links to their sites appearing on page 1 when organically they never should?

  • http://www.xwise.co.il/ Omer Lev

    I realy dont think Matt will Respond to that letter, but google will adapt and apply changes and fix their buggy update, you can see for example that Ezine got down to 10.5 Million pages on google , and today rised back to 30M pages indexed in google which means a lot in traffic manners.

    guess the update wasnt that accurate after all.

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  • http://www.inetseo.co.uk iNET SEO

    I am not surprised Suite 101 have been hit – on any of their pages there are no less than 6 adverts!

    A header ad, 3 x Google Adsense and 2 more random ads down the left hand side.

    Google most definitely seems to be targeting those sites who use random articles with no real focus for the site, to draw in traffic that will (hopefully) then click on the adverts.

    • http://www.netentropy.com Net Entropy

      @ iNET SEO Yes but at the same time, if you are an Adsense user you get an email once a month reminding you that you can use one more banner ad or two more text links. Seems they should get in sync on this.

  • http://whcng.net Rich B

    This is exactly why I no longer make Google my focus, I make every possible means to drive traffic my focus and put Google second. For content farms, well I am sorry for you all really. Google screamed for quality relevant content and you provided the greatest avenue to load the internet with good information. I feel the burn right along with you but it helped me wake up to realize how futile article marketing is. Now I suggest you take those resources and put them into social media and video marketing because then you can diversify the share of power one provider has over your traffic flow. Google penilized us all…

  • http://www.jigsawaday.com Wayne

    The update has hurt a lot of other folks as well.
    My website, www.JigsawADay.com, abruptly fell from 6,000+ to only 14 inbound links on Google while Yahoo stills shows over 6,000+ links.
    I believe this was because of the very narrow focus on my website, which is jigsaw puzzles you play on the computer. I guess I’m getting penalized for not including tons of things completely off topic from my site’s intent.
    The good news is that I’m still ranked #1 for the keyword “free daily jigsaw puzzles.” The bad news is I don’t even rank in the first 20 pages for “jigsaw puzzles” anymore (I was on page one or two depending on which way the wind was blowing) and “daily jigsaw puzzles” has me dropped down to page 4 from a page one listing.
    With this update my repeat traffic (85%+ of my visitors) hasn’t noticed the change at all. New visitors, on the other hand. has been cut to a fraction of it’s previous numbers.
    I guess what I am saying is the people who visit and seek out your website no longer seem to count as far as what Google is considering important. Repeat visitors show that you have something people are actually interested in, and as such new visitors are likely to become repeat visitors too, unless they can’t find you to begin with. This update has clearly hidden websites that people enjoy coming to over and over again.

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  • http://forum.caplay.com/member.php?u=41341 Wava Rubinoff

    This is fantastic stuff i love reading about all this stuff. cheers

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    Google panda membuat para blogger jadi ketakutan

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  • Just Me

    Google has really lost its way as of Panda. Junk sites have risen to the top with content stolen from quality sites which have been pushed to the bottom. I’m now using DuckDuckGo.com when I search the web. It gives the quality results Google USED to provide.Try it and you may be a convert too. Tell your visitors to use it too. Lets take back the web from the cess pool Google has turned it into. Note: I have no affiliate whatsoever with DuckDuckGo – I’m just a very satisfied user & I think its a hidden gem.

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