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When first introduced to the world of SEO, I began scouring the Internet for information to become familiar with current topics and ideas. I had a lot of questions. Some were impractical and merely amusing, like: “Is there an SEO God and do they really care about my PageRank?” “Why do bad rankings happen to good SEOs?” However, one question in particular interested me. It can be formulated in so many ways, but basically it translates into, “Who, or what, defines the rules for the SEO world?”

If you are familiar with the text of Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged you may recognize the infamous question, “Who is John Galt?” This phrase carries a deeper meaning than that of a simple question but it also provides a subtle introduction to a heroic, yet elusive figure named John Galt. Suffice it to say, his labors and influence impact the world and society as a whole as he threatens to bring the “motor” of the world to a halt. So what does this have to do with Matt Cutts and SEO? I will expound upon this shortly.

During my online reading I continually encountered a name everywhere in statements like, “Matt Cutts said this,” “no, Matt Cutts says that,” and “we are waiting to hear what Matt Cutts says.” And as a newbie in the industry I wondered, “Who is Matt Cutts?” I would not endeavor to construct a profile on Mr. Cutts. Nor would I pretend for that matter, to answer all of the questions posed here. Who is Matt Cutts? Well, I can easily know what any Internet search will tell me. But oddly enough, asking this question triggered a comparison to Ayn Rand’s iconic phrase, and cultivated my earlier thoughts, “Who, or what, defines the rules for the SEO world? Does Mr. Cutts determine and control what is good SEO? Is he the motor of the SEO world?” You can draw your own comparisons here as well, but while this post may not be as instructional as it is inquisitive in nature, I would like to share several ideas concerning these questions.

Search Engines are the Key are They Not?

I know I am preaching to the choir, but obviously search engines determine page rankings through their algorithms. However, I wonder if said algorithms are really so simple anymore. We have the tendency to think that we feed the data into one end and receive a magic page score out the other. It seems that there is a lot more to it than that. Regardless, surely if we only knew Google’s algorithm, we could then perform excellent SEO based upon that knowledge, right? As great as this might sound, however, I guarantee the major search engines are not about to spill all their inner algorithm beans and guidelines. Does this mean we are left to swing in the dark only hoping to land a correct SEO hit every now and then? Not entirely.

We can acquire valuable SEO information from various sources. Individuals constantly strive to reverse engineer and piece together the puzzles of search engines. Through trial and error experimentations, and industry experts closely tied to algorithms themselves, we can discover further bits of information and insight into what search engines are looking for. You be the judge on what is credible and what is not.

And then we have Matt Cutts with an industry seemingly at his behest, throwing out SEO candy to eager ears awaiting further knowledge on how to improve their SEO efforts. In any case, I believe it is essential to learn all we can about the Search Engines and be able to adapt to the continual changes they present. Part of that process includes staying informed on present day topics.

Stay Current and Be Informed

I think it is safe to say that serious SEOs know what is happening in the industry today and not merely what happened yesterday. I confess that my browser is not set to auto refresh on Matt Cutts’s blog. Nor am I giddily awaiting his next revelation to clarify an aspect of SEO doctrine (no offense to anyone who might be). Regardless, whatever the methods, seeking out credible sources of SEO information to stay current is essential in understanding what works and what does not. One can then adapt accordingly using correct practices.

Use Good Time Tested Principles

Adherence to correct principles creates a foundation for success. We may not understand or know everything Search Engines might do to rank pages, yet we can exercise proven practices that we know to work. What exactly these principles consist of can be left for another discussion. Utilizing good and basic SEO principles can provide a foundation upon which to build. In this manner, as we incorporate other methods, we still have the confidence that at least the foundation is Search Engine friendly.

Will we ever be able to completely piece together the continually changing SEO puzzle? Perhaps not, and maybe we don’t really need to. But like the saying, “the hinge of a door that is constantly opened never rusts,” we cannot stop asking questions, searching for answers, and learning. Otherwise, one day we may come to find an SEO door rusted shut.

So who really determines the rules and directs the SEO world? Again I won’t pretend to answer, but if Matt Cutts announced that Google will penalize any site that doesn’t have “Google is the best” in the title, and “change your titles now,” I wonder how many would comply? And if one day Matt shrugs and says “I don’t know anymore,” what then? Does he or anyone else possess the influence to bring the SEO world to a halt?