The Tree Versus the Shadow (Alternate Interpretation)

Yesterday Google announced their new Google Ventures blog to engage and  give  the company a platform to communicate more specifically with entrepreneurs. Google Partners managing partner Bill Maris chose an interesting quote that I think demonstrates more of Google's overall philosophy:

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
— Abraham Lincoln

How does this metaphor relate to Google's larger strategy? Think about it this way: the tree is your website, and its shadow is your link portfolio. Thinking about it in this light illustrates why Google has become so unfriendly to black and gray hats in the last year.

Panda gave Google the tools it needed to look at a website and understand the character of a website in clearer detail than before. Now they know what kind of tree your website is, how well maintained it is, and how unique and awesome that tree is in the forest.

To Google, a website is like a tree and its shadow. Image credit:

To Google, a website is like a tree and its shadow. Image credit:

At the same time, nothing casts a shadow of a tree like the tree itself. That said, if Google truly understands your website (and they probably do), then they know what its shadow (and backlink portfolio) should look like. Penguin is simply all about refining the algorithm and discounting links until Google believes the reputation of your website matches its character.

Clearly I'm reading into the quote used by Maris, but I think we can pick up on important cues if we listen hard enough to the philosophies of a company and its employees. How is your tree looking these days?  Does the shadow match?