Matt Cutts Keynote from SES London

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Posted by Jim Hedger @ 10:25 am

Victoria British Columbia often looks, feels and acts like its great-grandparent, London England. If you closes your eyes on Government Street and listens to the pattern of traffic over cobblestone streets and the slightly clipped accent of surrounding voices, you can almost pretend you are 7674 km to the east on Kings Road in Chelsea. Almost.

Metamend founder and Enquisite CEO, Richard Zwicky is in London. So are hundreds of search marketing colleagues and thousands of interested webmasters. Search Engine Strategies London opened yesterday. The three day conference is the largest annual search marketing meeting held outside the United States and, as such gathers a great deal of interest and extremely strong speakers.

All good conferences have great keynote speakers. One of the features of Search Engine Strategies is the keynote conversations which tend to be relaxed interviews between Chris Sherman or Danny Sullivan and a whatever tech-leader they are speaking with. Sometimes controversial and always informative, the keynote conversations are highlights of any SES conference.

This morning’s keynote conversation featured Google’s benevolent Czar of Quality Control Matt Cutts. Over the past three years, Matt has come to personify Google to the SEO community by acting as Google’s primary voice in the industry. From what I’ve read thus far, a packed room greeted Matt and Chris Sherman as they took the stage for what turned out to be an incredible conversation. (As you might have guessed by the tone of my opening paragraph, I am in Victoria.)

Fortunately, some of the folks from the Search Engine Round Table are there. The Search Engine Round Table has long provided extraordinarily detailed session coverage from SES events. Liana “Li” Evans from Search Marketing Gurus took notes at Matt’s keynote conversation with Chris and sent them to Barry Schwartz who put them on the Table. (Why hasn’t anybody used that pun in relation to SERoundtable before?)

Here are a few interesting snippets. I strongly recommend checking out the entire conversation.

– on spam –

Chris: Spam is in the eye of the beholder. They think it’s ok content, but it is spam. Where do you draw the line

Matt: 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.

– on algo and index updates –
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.

– on personalization –
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.

– on CIA rumours –
Chris: Daniel Branch [sic] (ed note: the actual name is Daniel Brandt of 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.

Again, the entire conversation is well worth the read. Thanks to Liana “Li” Evans and the Search Engine Round Table for the coverage.

1 Comment »

  1. What… like Matt would really tell us if he was a spook? Thanks for getting the highlights out to us so quickly Jim. Do keep us posted on future highlights as well.

    Comment by Travis Blotsky — Wednesday, February 14, 2007 @ 11:22 am

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