A Keynote Conversation with Google's Matt Cutts

Feb 14, 2007 - 6:40 am 3 by
Filed Under SES London 2007

I know I am not in London now, but Liana “Li” Evans is and she has sent over the keynote session from SES London for me to post.

Keynote Speech with Matt Cutts of Google Chris welcomes everyone, introduces Matt

Chris: Matt you went to school on the east coast, how did you make it to the west coast and make it to google

Matt: My wife and I eloped to come to Google, he took classes in library and information sciences. Wrote to Google and asked how much do you have to pay. They finally wrote back and started negotiated for a position and he started at Google in 2000.

Chris: You’re head of the web spam team, take us through a typical day

Matt: I’m different, he really spends time in email and spotting trends. Look at bad search reports, and assess, what’s the worse things, how can we prioritize. What can we do to help the users.

Chris: Spam is in the eye of the beholder. They think it’s ok content, but it is spam. Where do you draw the lineMatt: That can be tough. Litmus test – what was the intent and how was it done. Spammy techniques – sneaky java scripts, techniques that are use help to determine the intent. Measuring how happy users are is important. Spam can be defined as noise, noise from your signal. Off topic spam – you type in your name and get porn. That isn’t in anybody’s interest.

Cookie cutter sites that don’t add any value – 50 sites that there’s now diversity. No value add for the customer. There are definitely shades – some are more serious and some less

Chris: You spend a lot of time on your blog . Can you clarify what’s going on with algorithm updates and index updates.

Matt: When I first started, it took a long time because it didn’t have checkpoint. In mid 2000 they went to a monthly update for 3-4 years, and people got a lot of value. With a monthly update, you get a lot of new things, and gets combined together, therefore things get ranked differently every month.

Then in 2003 we started incremental updates. This made things better.

Back when it was back

Now Google has Everflux, index update happens ever day. Then Google data pushes, can include daily but can also include 3-4 month information.

Search for “Barry Schwartz” use to show sitelinks but that changed last Friday. That’s a data push.

Then there’s algorithm updates – and those take longer to update

There’s always changes going on – majority happen everyday, then every few weeks data pushes happen, algo updates – those are large update and happen less frequently

Chris: You spend a lot of time debunking on your blog, What are some of your favorite things you’ve debunked?

Matt: Email from 9/11/2000, someone was showing up on a forum. “just got off the phone with Google and they said, advertising will help your rankings” – which was totally false

Tool bar – experiment anyone can run. Try things, to see how they are weighted, toolbar helped debunked a lot

Chris: Undetectable Spam is a recent thing you’ve debunked– what other stories do you have that are pretty interesting.

Matt: There was this guy who claimed there no way his cloaking could be detected because he used “super duper” cloaking. His “super duper” cloaking had pages name “Doorway-Page-Alta-Vista”, my mom could detect that.

Then sometimes people will email you – “link to my site, sell links on my site” or “try out our link buying program”. I follow up with these emails and ask “do you have any examples”, “can you show me some of your work?” They write back and supply me with a whole list of their websites you can buy links from,

Anything that someone claims in undetectable usually isn’t..

Then even Google itself gets email span claiming “We can increase the visibility of Google.com”

Chris: You’re involved with the Adversarial Information Retrieval group, can you talk about it? It helps to Fight Spam, can you give us some of your insight?

Matt: AIR Web usually happens with academic conferences, example of hopping on SIG IR, I’ve been involved with AIR Web for about 3-4 years. It essentially reviews papers. First were about taxonomy, now more quantitative. This year AIR Web is doing a Test Set. Now there’s an external test set that testers can use. The more the world knows about spam the better for the users

Chris: There is a trend we are seeing where the search engines are working together, sort of a Co-Opp-Itition?

Matt: Search Engines in general benefit from standards like robot.txt. That is just incredibly helpful. Although they compete very hard to have the best relevance. But at the same time, a regular webmaster shouldn’t have to deal with a lot of different things from everyone. It took about 10 years from robots to nofollow and then sitemaps followed very soon after and this is good fro a lot of people

Chris: Talk about what Google is doing, as we are seeing a trend toward s personalized search. To me it’s a great thing, gives me better results. But this is a huge threat to SEO. How do you go about optimizing a web page to personalization?

Matt: The beatuy of SEO is that is always changing and those people who can adapt and be ready for the changes, won’t have a problem with personalization. Black hat becomes a lot more difficult. Trying to find white hat SEO options such as Linkbaiting becomes more popular.

Personalization also means that there will no longer be one monolithic set of results in Google.

Lets go back to 2000, people were happy for 1 month (30 day updates). The difference with personalization – everyone can rank in some niche. Before you win big or you loose big. Now you can target specific niches. Trying to show up for your trophy phrase might now work as well – going after the long tail will be better with personalization. You can’t rank that (trophy keyword) for everyone anymore.

Searching for football in the UK as opposed to USA – you get soccer in the UK, and then NFLl in USA, as you should. Different languages will also affect personalization – big win for users. Figuring out the niches will be very important

Chris: Sounds like niches are more like local, and mobile are becoming big?

Matt: Danny [Sullivan] has long been preaching “don’t just go after just the search engines”. Now searchers are getting one boxes. Showing up in Google Local will be important. Too many people don’t look at their own site in a mobile – making small changes will make you ready for the next innovation

Chris: Google has to work in framework of different laws within different countries such as China. Google sensors results in China, but there’s a link right to google.com on that page. How do you balance the rights, and giving the unfiltered information, but abide by the country’s law

Matt: take me w/ a grain of salt, as this is not my area of expertise.

In 2002 Google received a DMCA complaint from Scientology, about a anti-Scientology site. Because of this we now have the a process of counter notification.

Next step – if the site is outside of the US, Google now include disclosures, with the DCMA information – so people can still get context.

It is tough, a lot of different laws, and Google does have to respect the law of the lands, but have to balance that with wanting to give users as much information that Google can.

Chris: Googlers in China very passionate about search. I’ve asked them what the biggest problem – organized crime – spamming is their biggest concerned, not censorship.

Matt: There’s a big focus on Chinese spam this year. Until you have a good service, that’s the focus. Search quality in every language is very important to all Googlers.

Chris: Daniel Branch claims you once worked at the CIA and that its part of what you do now, that you have a top secret clearance and that Google is in bed with the CIA. Can you comment to that?

Matt: When I was in college, I did a co-op tour with the CIA, where I worked for them for a semester and then went to classes for another. Part of that required getting a security clearance, however, that has lapsed now and it’s not active.

I really enjoy working at Google. There’s no need to worry about any black helicopters.

When the Department of Defense subpoenad Google, (one of over 30 companies) Google was the only one declined and I helped with that. Google, we viewed it as a violating our users’ privacy, the judge agreed..

Chris: So you’re not a spook? Matt: Nope, not a spook.

Chris: What tools do you like using? Matt: Google’s Browser Synch, Google browser synch lets you keep all of your bookmarks in synch at work or home. If you are worried about privacy you can encrypt it. My laptop died, right before coming to the UK, I easily got all my bookmarks back because of Google Browser Synch.

I also like Google Reader and GMAIL. I use to use Bloglines, but now I really like Google Reader.

Chris: You mentioned Ask’s Bloglines – what are other Non-Google tools do you use? Matt: Yahoo site explorer, I really like how you can explore the back links to your site. Google’s webmaster console now added that feature to webmaster toolset and continue to look for it to improve.

MSN image search – fun to be able to scroll and get fine detail

Ask’s Blogline and them hiring Gary Price was very smart. And Ask’s smart answers – how searching for a blogger you’ll get their rss feed links.

Chris: Most everybody here, is in extreme learning mode, going to go back home to improve – what single nugget of advice could you give to them? Matt: If I can only give one nugget – it would be to try out webmaster console because its great now and it will only get better. Show how long it takes pages to load, there’s info on back links and will even show some kind of spam penalties. It’s a one stop shop – points out Vanessa Fox– applauds Vanessa.

And now, an announcement, Webmaster Central is coming out of beta – Vanessa going to post on this. And Google webmaster blog is going to turn on comments – first Google blog to do this.

Chris: Google use to be monolithic and not say anything is that changing? That has changed a lot over the recent time, can you talk to that? Matt: Our first goal is our users, so we had deal with the spam first. We didn’t have a lot of people at Google so all the resources were dedicated to dealing with that. But after that was dealt with to a manageable degree, we wanted to give as much help, and advice as to webmasters to get better pages. So this is the trend Google is going to – before they couldn’t – now they are

Chris: The original computers that Larry & Sergei used to build Google was still operating when I last got a tour of Google, is this still the case? Matt: Not sure, even a machine that is relatively old still have use. We try to use them as long as possibly. But eventually they become a tax right off or donation.

Chris: Crystal ball time, where do you see Google going in the next 3-5 years? Matt: Fantastic question, in my own opinion – personalization, and localization. Also if you have your data, you can store it at Google. You can almost start your own business of 5-10 business for free. Google’s ambition to organize the worlds information, this is really where its going

Google desktop is also a huge benefit – no privacy issues. Helps to find old searches – makes things more accessible.

Chris: Matt Cutts thanks very much Matt: Your welcome, thank you for having me here.

Contributed by Liana “Li” Evans, of Commerce360 and Search Marketing Gurus.com.


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