What’s FUD?

July 2nd, 2007 by Joost Schrier

One of the blogs I read regularly is garrycon.com. Last week Garry posted a somewhat panicky post about how he thought that he’d been doing all the wrong things on his website.

He wrote about how he thought schemes like Text Link Ads were bad, links without rel=”nofollow” would make him lose PageRank and how duplicate content on his own site was making pages in his site go supplemental.  As Andy Beard told Garry in the comments; he was effectively the victim of Google FUD.

FUD is an abbreviation for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. The idea is that you use people’s fears to sell a product by casting doubt on the competitor’s product. IBM used it very effectively during the 70’s to discredit Amdahl. Even though Amdahl’s products were better and more cost-efficient than IBM’s products people preferred IBM computers because of the FUD.

Google FUD is slightly different though. Google uses it to spread fear in the hearts of SEOs that try to bend the rules. The method is that they tell webmasters just enough to know what is the right way to do things but they leave room for speculation. Then when people address the holes or, try to, take advantage of the apparent holes in the algorithm they hint that those tactics might get people banned.

One of the front men in the spreading of FUD is Matt Cutts. He is the head of Google’s webspam team and maintains a blog in which he acts as a friendly spokesperson for the webmasters and SEOs that want to learn.

Recently there was a big debate about paid links and whether or not Google would ban websites that have paid links without the rel=”nofollow” tag. If you read between the lines of some of the posts he did on the subject it seems like quite some websites are in trouble, but then again… he doesn’t say it out loud. You can imagine the consternation this caused.

My personal favorite is where he makes one comment about PageRank (PR)  being “sucked away” in a post about crappy doorway pages and a large portion of the comments on that post is of webmasters who are afraid that outbound links suck PR from the page the link is originating from. Instead of responding to the questions directly he ignores those questions and answers other ones. And he calls somebody an assclown (the best insult ever!)….

One of the bloggers who seems to be on Google’s case constantly is Michael Gray (Graywolf). Whenever something that smells like FUD is going on he is there to comment on it. He is always demanding straight answers and once in a while he even gets them.
So, if you hear or read something that makes you worry about whether or not you’re doing the right thing on your website you would be wise to check out Matt Cutts’ and Graywolf’s blogs to hear both sides of the story. In SEO you never know for sure if what gets you high rankings now will not bite you in the behind a year from now, but you should at least be able to distinguish between FUD and good practice.

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