Richard Rossi

Matt Cutts Shares His 6 Lessons From The Early Days of Google

Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

From his presentation at University of North Carolina, January 8th, 2015

It was a long walk from the parking lot, down the brick sidewalk to the mostly glass edifice called the FedEx Center. On the way there, I met two UNC computer science professors, one rather tall and thin and the other short and stocky. Once having learned why I had come, they offered to show me to the auditorium where Matt Cutts would soon speak. That’s when it hit me. Brick sidewalk, tall and short, Matt Cutts….

We were off to see the Wizard.

While walking into the auditorium with said professors, I ran into a colleague from Beacon. The picture was nearly complete. If only she were carrying a miniature dog in one hand.

The event was well attended – so well in fact, that a good number of students (having neglected to register in advance) were being held out until it was determined that there would be enough room to accommodate them.

The Wizard was busy…Go Home.

lessonsIt was clear from the outset that Cutts was there to speak primarily to the students of his alma mater. There would be no pulling back of the SEO curtain or uncloaking of Google’s algorthm for the SEO’s in attendance. Still, Cutts would share some interesting stories from his experiences on the front lines of the war on Spam. Best of all, there would be a Q&A session (see details below).

Within the framework of his 6 lessons for students (and presumably those who wish a long, fruitful career in SEO), Cutts shared a number of fascinating experiences culled from his many years at Google – from his first major controversy involving the Digital Marketing Copyright Act (DMCA) and Church of Scientology to public policy and how it reshapes the environment under which start-ups operate.

The Wizard’s 6 lessons from the early days of Google were as follows:

1) Find creative solutions to apparent constraints

2) Be proactive – ask for what you want 3) Question your assumptions 4) Weird, bad things will happen 5) Take more pictures and have fun

successSpeaking for the majority of the 40+ minute session about his career evolution from Google’s ad department to Chief Spam Cop, Cutts covered a wide variety of subjects from data volume and AI to data safeguards and Fred Brooks. He impressed upon the attendees the fact that there are, indeed, faces behind Google – not every reconsideration request is answered via form letter. He shared the fact that every Google employee must spend some period of time on the user support team.

Take more pictures along your journey. That was another point of emphasis. You’ll want to remember the good times. And even if you love what you do, there will be dark days, too.

Click here for appropriate sound effect

While Cutts’ monologue was entertaining, it may have been the Q&A portion that was most interesting. Read on and you’ll find just a few of the questions posed to Matt along with his answers as I can best recall / summarize them. If you were there and feel I didn’t quite get it right, please put the record straight by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.

Q: Safesearch – How insulated are you from backlash when it occurs?

A: Not as insulated as one would think. Matt has actually fielded parent complaints as part of the user support team. This and other lines of communication were the genesis for his debunking of popular internet myths through his Google Guy posts.

Q: What do you see as the future of search? A: Voice is important as well as context. With the informed consent, Google can make the user’s life a whole lot easier.

Q: What Safeguards are in place to protect emails and other proprietary information on Google servers? A: 1. The marketplace. People can move to Yahoo if Google does not do its job adequately. 2. Takeout.google.com. One can download all of their information, export it and take it to another company if they wish. 3. Regulators like the FTC.

Q: Have you given thought to when you’ll return to Google? A: His answer was somewhat vague. Cutts stated that while he had been a workaholic for some time now, he felt that his family should “get the relaxed version of myself for a little longer”.

Q: When the University of Kentucky plays North Carolina Chapel Hill, who do you root for? A: Much to the disappointment of the students on hand, Matt stated that he finds himself rooting for Kentucky but offered this nugget to appease the UNC faithful; “We can all agree on one thing…Duke sucks”.

Cutts’ presentation had it all – heart, courage and brains. And when all was said and done, everybody got what they came for, I suspect. Now for the long trek home from Emerald City…

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

Thanks to Andrea Cole for the nifty pics of Matt.