12 01, 2015

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

By | 2018-05-01T08:25:56+00:00 January 12th, 2015|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

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.

4 01, 2011

Automated Spam…a Case Study

By | 2016-11-18T14:46:55+00:00 January 4th, 2011|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

In all honesty, I planned this as a blog post on how ineffective automated spamming is. It’s unethical and annoying. It’s poorly targeted, rarely varies anchor text, and can’t get past a site that moderates comments (as all sites should). On top of that, Google recommends against it. In light of all these, it is amazing that anybody would even waste the time to set up a program to generate comment spam that would provide zero benefit.

To prove that auto-spam is a complete waste of effort, I went through a drew a random sample of 50 obviously automated spam comments that I have received to my personal blog over the past 6 months. I compared the sites that were being represented to the anchor text that the spam posts were trying to push and I then analyzed the rankings. The results were surprising, if not outright shocking. Some sites create and push this generic (and often offensive) spam…because it works.

Results (note: given the nature of many sites that spam, and the internet in general, some of the targeted anchor text is a bit risque, so please don’t click on the jump if that is something that you would prefer not to read):


2 12, 2010

Analyzing the Mayday YouTube post

By | 2020-01-29T13:19:05+00:00 December 2nd, 2010|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , |

Mayday!  Mayday! We are sinking!

Matt Cutts did a Google Webmaster Central  YouTube video post on the recent Google algorithm Mayday update.

In his reply to the update on rankings for long-tail searches, Matt stressed the impact on the improved “quality” of search queries.  He also stressed that the “change” was “algorithmic” and not temporary.  The change is separate from the upcoming caffeine update, and that the caffeine update is  still on track.

What exactly is the main thrust of the Mayday algorithmic change? We do know that long tail rankings went down which may have something to do with a dampening of PageRank for internal on-page site maps. Doing a survey across websites with PageRanks of 4 or less, I’ve noticed a pattern of site map links in the footer not passing PageRank. Although the pages are indexed, there is not the expected ranking boost associated with having a site map link off the home page.  It may be very likely that additional stop words have been added to the algorithm to not allow anchor text to pass PageRank for a site that has a low score for trust.

I’m sure the algorithm change is not that straight forward but  I do believe that site trust plays a major factor.  A new combination of factors are now in play that affect long-tail search queries.

16 12, 2009

Return from Pubcon

By | 2017-02-23T17:01:49+00:00 December 16th, 2009|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , , , |

Pubcon is the Las Vegas conference that deals with Web Marketing, Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Web Tools, and every intersection of the aforementioned.  For three days, we spent 8 hours going from session to session to get advice and interact with some of the biggest names in the industry (Matt Cutts, the exalted one himself from Google, was in attendance).

So what did I learn in my time in Vegas? Good question. Contrary to what may be popular belief, it had nothing to do with a roulette wheel, the sports book (although I am kicking myself for not laying down $50 on the Spurs over the Mavericks), or how to spot a lady of the evening along the Strip. No, my new knowledge is more boring, but applicable to the job that I do. First, I learned that Beacon is well ahead of the curve on many industry practices. With only six months here, I expected to get a bit overwhelmed with new knowledge and competitors’ insights. Instead, I saw that many presenters were reinforcing practices that we already do (i.e. extensive keyword analysis) and many of our competitors were asking questions that I could have answered with ease.

On the new information front, I did get exposure to some programs, such as Majestic, that I have not been using that I am itching to try moving forward.  In addition, while they may not be practices directly suggested by the speakers, I was able to step away from some of my standard techniques and look at how I can introduce some new items with my current clients.  Sometimes, one can get so wrapped up in SEO that he forgets that it is a means to an end, not the end itself. I have some great ideas that will be very applicable for some of the companies I work with heading into the winter season.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile trip.  I am looking forward to going back next year.  Next time, I will remember to bet on the Spurs.

beacon technologies at pubcon

(logo courtesy of pubcon)

– EW