As Google’s webspam meister he’s used to dealing with techie issues on a day-to-day basis…but where did he start out, and what does he see as the current/future state of search?
The name Matt Cutts may or may not be familiar to you, but if you’ve used the internet (and we’re making a fair assumption that you probably have given that this is a newsletter that’s all about said medium!) then at some point or other you’ll have come into contact with his work. As Google’s head of web spam he is heavily involved in the tweaks to the system that are designed to filter internet detritus. Not unsurprisingly this background makes what he has to say compelling reading for search engine optimisers, web designers and content marketers.
Cutts involvement with computers and the internet goes back to his student days. After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in computer science, he moved on to specialise in information retrieval at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Success came early: as one of Google’s first one hundred employees, he was initially hired as a software engineer working with the ads engineering group. Most people who use the internet today would recognise the term SafeSearch; Cutts was a key player in that initiative and spent many an hour working on filtering the information generated by Google’s search engine. The corpus of the work focused on removing pornographic results, to the point where he was dubbed the “porn cookie guy” as a consequence of his penchant for handing out his wife’s cookies if any other member of his team could still find porn in the search results.
SafeSearch represented a real success for Cutts and Google and he rapidly ascended to more senior positions. He now works with the search quality group as they try to keep the most relevant responses to queries at the top of the search engine rankings.
How much profile does he have?
Quite a lot is the honest answer. As well as a blog and a presence on Google+, Cutts is also renowned for addressing conferences and recording video insights detailing the finer nuances of Google’s evolving technologies. A recent example of his willingness to fight the good fight in public was his appearance at the PubCon in Las Vegas. Here he outlined some of the current initiatives at Google and outlined a roadmap for future developments.
So what’s in the pipeline?
Plenty. Google’s stated mission is to keep providing users with the most accurate results that it can, but with so much changing in terms of the way that users input search terms, making the tech respond to increasingly subtle nuances of meaning is vital. To accommodate this, Cutts said Google’s approach to ‘deep learning’ – or how a search engine analyses and understands the relationship between words – is high up the list of company priorities. Some of this has already found its way into the Hummingbird update – Google is now more sensitive to redundancies in the search terms – but it will go on developing, particularly now that voice search is becoming more prevalent.
Elsewhere, Cutts was keen to point to the growing importance of authoritative content as a key plank in increasing a perception of a site’s worth. This is partly due to core quality changes that enable search to detect sites with genuine authority in a given area. It is also true of Authorship and the signals it provides to the rest of the internet that you are someone with a degree of expertise who ought to be taken seriously.
The final Cutt…
As well as highlighting mobile as a rapidly expanding area of search, Cutts did what all good employees do in issuing a sterling defence of Google and their aims and ethics. Like all these things time will tell how they shape up, but one thing is for sure – the internet has not heard the last from Matt Cutts.