Santorum & Google’s Search Quality Czar Matt Cutts Makes The Colbert Report

The search industry is getting a little more mainstream recognition every day, as tonight’s episode of The Colbert Report picked on Google’s handling of the Spreading Santorum situation.

This time the target was software engineer Matt Cutts, long known to search industry insiders as head of Google’s Web Spam and search quality team, he doesn’t often get the same national media spotlight as Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin or Larry Page.

But as the man responsible for weeding out poor quality content from Google results, Cutts made the late night news desk.

First notified of his Comedy Central debut on Twitter by @LornaHarris (Danny Sullivan’s better half, btw), Cutts apparently didn’t have any prior indication that Colbert’s team of writers would go so far into investigating the history of Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem”.

In his usual brand of snarky political commentary in “the Word” segment, Stephen Colbert mentioned Matt Cutts (at in the video below) as he cut into Google over this week’s anti-trust Senate hearings and raised potential free speech issues around changing search results.

Cutts is mentioned at 2:45 in the clip below:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – I Think, Therefore I Brand
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Colbert cited a blog comment made by Cutts back in December 2010, on John Battelle’s blog:

The quote reads:

“our web search results are protected speech in the First Amendment sense”

Of course, Colbert mocked the statement with a jab about how the founding fathers surely thought ahead to protect Web documents as free speech:

We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of hacked Scarlett Johansson nude pics.

Congratulations Mr. Cutts, you’ve made the big time now! (Maybe next time you’re in New York, you’ll have an easier time getting those tickets you wanted to the Colbert show.)

(For those keeping score at home, Bing was also mentioned in the same segment.)

Postscript: There have been many updates to this story. See our Santorum’s Google Problem category for the latest articles.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Employees | Google: Web Search | Search & Society: Santorum Google Problem | Top News


About The Author: is Director of Audience Development for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. She is responsible for increasing readership through owned, earned and paid media channels. In addition, she assists in programming sessions at Third Door Media's Search Marketing Expo conference series and manages speaking engagements for editorial staff. Follow her on Twitter @elisabethos.

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  • KenEvoy

    Good for Colbert!

    It’s time for someone to stand up to Google-Bully’s insane “form replies” to this serious weakness in Google’s algorithm. “Censorship” is one of their favorite replies, it’s such a “golden” answer (even if it does not apply to a weakness in their algorithm).

    I pointed out the seriousness of this particular version of Google’s vulnerability in Danny’s earlier post on Santorum. It’s time for Google to stop hiding behind it’s copy-and-paste answers on this issue and to, instead, fix it.\

    Here’s the insane update to our own “Site Build It! scam” Googlebomb story, about which we posted and of which we continue to be a victim (as explained at SiteSell Blog). The key part of this part of the story is the final answer from Google, given the circumstances.

    That post has gathered excellent support, including many reports to Google directly using their new webspam form (you know, the one that says how seriously they take webspam). Here’s our letter to them…

    Daniel Kornitzer, SiteSell CEO, e-mailed Google directly on the 2nd of September…

    Dear Google Team,

    This is a follow up to the exchanges we had six months ago (see below) regarding the Google bomb of which we continue to be a victim, and that we thoroughly documented, including the self-admission by the perpetrators of the link scheme to manipulate Google rankings.

    At the time, you took prompt action to remove the offending URL from the results, but when we asked to extend the same treatment to, we received a “form letter” answer with little substance.

    We’ve now waited long enough for your ranking algorithm to pick up this Google bomb and stop delivering a poor search experience to end-users. Consequently, we’ve begun to blog about this unacceptable situation…

    In this context, we request your official reply. In other words, what do you intend to do to remedy this case of web-spam which clearly violates Google guidelines?

    I thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.


    Daniel Kornitzer
    Chief Executive Officer,

    No answer, so Daniel re-emailed them 2 weeks later, on the 16th…

    Dear Google Team,

    As I did not receive an acknowledgment that you received our email below sent on September 2nd, I ask that you kindly confirm receipt.

    Best regards,

    Daniel Kornitzer

    Google’s answer came on the 22nd…

    Hello Daniel,

    As we have already mentioned Mr. Levy in our email dated 2/8/11, while we may not take manual anti-spam action against the sites you’ve reported, reports like these are extremely helpful in helping us continue to improve our ranking algorithms and improve the quality of our results.

    If you identify sites you believe have achieved a high ranking due to web spam, you can submit that report more directly to the appropriate people within Google at:

    The Google Team.

    That’s a long time to wait for a form letter. And it’s an inappropriate letter since they KNOW the history of this bomb…

    1) Detailed documentation and proof has been provided to them, including some REAL communication with them

    2) The beneficiary of the Googlebomb has publicly admitted it (yet more communication with them — they understand)

    3) Google admitted it by removing the “Googlebombed” page from Google CANADA(?!)’s page, while refusing to explain why they would not extend the same logic around the globe.

    So we are way past that form letter.

    I’d love to see them try that shut-out with Colbert.

    By now, they have received a ton more complaints from readers of our post to their webspam form. So just how seriously do they take these “reports.” Here’s the bottom line…

    Up to now, Google “fixes” the problem only when there’s enough public pressure on it do so so (ex., Vitaly Borker and Michelle Obama). I’m not sure Santorum is public enough yet, although it just may be salacious enough to hit mainstream.

    When it does, expect Google to either admit making a “hand change” or running their non-existent Google algorithm, the one they run “infrequently” (i.e., when publicly embarrassed), the one that fixes the particular bomb in the public eye but no others.

    Who knows, Google may yet prioritize truly fixing this weakness for link schemes involving easier-to-win keywords. Until then, they’ll continue to fix only the ones that embarrass it publicly to the point where “real” people may doubt the quality of Google’s search results.

    All the best,
    Ken Evoy

  • TimmyTime

    I know it’s complicated but Google does manually change results, or make the algo do exactly what Google wants. Many “city” searched return cityof…org for example. So this it’s all automatic isn’t all that’s cracked up to be. Do most users find this site as best when searching for Santorum? It’s all about the user, isn’t it?

    “our web search results are protected speech in the First Amendment sense”
    Uh, huh

  • Chavez

    If you have been following semantic technology developments and Web 3.0 then I came across an interesting forthcoming internet search engine, the first of it’s kind to understand concepts instead of keywords, pretty interesting stuff.

  • Durant Imboden

    “Our Web search results are protected speech in the First Amendment sense”

    That’s correct, according to a federal court decision:

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