Search Engine Optimization

Let Them Eat Cake

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette with a Rose
“Marie Antoinette with the Rose,” a 1783 painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun of the queen who is said to have uttered “Let them eat cake!”


Developing the skills that have helped me understand the impacts of Google’s algorithm tweaks has been a journey that’s not for the faint of heart. First, there is the secrecy with which the company treats its updates, which means those of us who pay close attention to SEO never know when the material we are creating online will get a leg up or be kicked to the curb. They may happen as infrequently as five a year or they may roll out as frequently as five in a week.


How to Build Legendary SEO

In the past I have struggled to find ways to explain what I do because the subject demands a bit of “tech jargon” to describe. Recently, it occurred to me that I can make the subject fun by using historical figures as the “brands” hoping to gain traction. I’m calling it an exploration of legendary SEO, which I begin today with one of my favorite queens, Marie-Antoinette, and her now infamous pronouncement “Let them eat cake!”

Bringing the queen into the modern era already has a winsome face: Kirsten Dunst plays a seriously social queen in Sophia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette, her utterance of what was such a shocking dictum (if she did indeed say it) showcased in this scene:



My aim today is to use this phrase to explain how Google continues to move toward greater intelligence, which it ramped up with its roll outs of the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms beginning in 2012. Their intent, as they explain on the Google Webmaster Central Blog when they announced the last Penguin update in September 2016, was to increase the smartness of their spiders crawling the internet by being more specific about the “clues” they should gather: “These signals include things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank.”


Let Them Eat Cake


Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette
Kirsten Dunst, center, plays a vivaciously young Marie-Antoinette.


Any educated human would know that “Let them eat cake” is an historical reference relating to the French Queen. Before Google was able to reach the level of intelligence its mechanisms have garnered now, SEO specialists would “game” the algorithm system by inserting a phrase like this into the backend of a bakery’s site because he or she knew that the number of searches for a phrase like this would draw significant amounts of traffic, giving the site of the banking company more power to come up in searches before other bakeries that weren’t using tricks such as this.

Google set out to stop this because its aim is to have its community (those searching for whatever it is they want online) feel satisfied with a search experience. They would want Marie-Antoinette, for instance, to land on a page that describes the danger she would unleash with the adage “Let them eat cake” (an Informational search) rather than landing on a bakery’s site (a Transactional search) because she could get so distracted with all the sweets, she’d eventually (literally) lose her head! If you need proof why history is so convinced of this, this clip from Coppola’s film, which she directed from her own screenplay, is a fine example of visual storytelling representing the gluttony that continues to cement the Queen’s reputation:



No one outside the walls of Google knows exactly how these tweaks are being implemented—the blog post mentioned above notes there are over 200 unique signals that make up their algorithms—but it’s fascinating for those of us who are dedicated to producing “White Hat” SEO (good organic strategy and high quality content) watch the days when the “Black Hat” SEO gods (those who would, and still, game the system) fall from grace.


Bernardaud will let them eat cake!
The Marie Antoinette cake platter manufactured by Bernardaud of Limoges porcelain: let them eat cake, indeed!


We continuously watch what updates roll out so we know when the major tweaks take place. These vary depending upon the types of SERP, which we mention above, being requested. You can learn more about these by downloading the What Are SERPs? Tutorial on adroyt LABS. I thought I’d end this post with a salon question in honor of the gatherings that flourished during the ancient régime. Do you believe Marie-Antoinette actually did make this glib statement that many say began the unraveling of the monarchy in France?

Text of Let Them Eat Cake © adroyt, all rights reserved. Unless otherwise stated, the adroyt blog is written by adroyt’s CEO Saxon Henry. Our downloadable knowledgebase can be found at adroytLABS.

2 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Cake

  1. No, I don’t believe she ever said that. More likely it was manufactured by some enemy she had in the castle, or some unhappy servant.
    On the other hand, I’ve not written a post since January. Partly due to being busy, partly due to being tired of it all. The one post getting comments is the one about scams being run on interior designers.

    1. It’s difficult to know, looking so far back into history, Heather, what was said when, especially because many of the memoirs written then were produced by courtiers. I hope your largesse will let up soon. We all want to know what smart people think. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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