Forget Google’s Matt Cutts, It’s Amit Singhal We Should Be Trying To Get Drunk

During my daily scan through the day’s headlines, I ran across this most-excellent article in the New York Times: Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine.

I thought the title could be a bit better, but I suppose I’m not making the best example with my title either. 😛

As for Matt Cutts, I’ve gotten as far as shaking his hand a few times and I love what he’s done to close the communication gap between the search engines and webmasters, but this article spotlights a couple of other key players at Google that we’d all love to get inside the heads of.

Key players:

  • Amit Singhal – engineer in the search-quality department, master of the Google ranking algorithm, joined Google in 2000, designated a Google Fellow.
  • Udi Manber – VP of engineering, oversees Google’s entire search-quality group.
  • Matt Cutts – engineer in the search-quality department, head of Google’s efforts to fight web spam.

From the NYtimes:

Mr. Singhal is the master of what Google calls its “ranking algorithm” — the formulas that decide which Web pages best answer each user’s question. It is a crucial part of Google’s inner sanctum, a department called “search quality” that the company treats like a state secret. Google rarely allows outsiders to visit the unit, and it has been cautious about allowing Mr. Singhal to speak with the news media about the magical, mathematical brew inside the millions of black boxes that power its search engine.

I think this article is so good that just about every paragraph is quotable:

Users, of course, don’t see the science and the artistry that makes Google’s black boxes hum, but the search-quality team makes about a half-dozen major and minor changes a week to the vast nest of mathematical formulas that power the search engine.

Cutts’ first of two appearances in the article:

“Someone brings a query that is broken to Amit, and he treasures it and cherishes it and tries to figure out how to fix the algorithm,” says Matt Cutts, one of Mr. Singhal’s officemates and the head of Google’s efforts to fight Web spam, the term for advertising-filled pages that somehow keep maneuvering to the top of search listings.

Interesting new buzzwords I took away from the article (in order of appearance):

  • Google Fellow = a designation Google reserves for its elite engineers.
  • Buganizer = an internal system that any of Google’s 10,000+ employees may use to report a search problem. This is used about 100 times a day.
  • Debug = a prized and closely guarded internal program that shows how its computers evaluate each query and each web page.
  • QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) – a mathematical model that tries to determine when users want new information and when they don’t.
  • Classifier = a formula that tries to infer useful information about the type of search, in order to send the user to the most relevant pages.
  • Topicality = a measure of how the topic of a page relates to the broad category of the user’s query.

Most interesting to me is the QDF initiative. From what I took out of the article, it sounds like one of the goals of QDF is to basically alleviate what many of us have been dealing with trying to rank fresh content while competing with old, trusted sites that do not seem to budge from the top of the rankings.

Google BoobsThe QDF formula will factor in activity from news sites and blog posts along with search query data to determine when users want new information and when they don’t.

Anyway, like I said before, I thought the article was great and there are too many quotable excerpts to include in a blog post without essentially duplicating the entire article, so I urge you to check it out. I found a few gems in it as an experienced SEO, but I think it is also a great and easy read for even the layperson to gain some insight into the mechanics of Google and what we are dealing with as SEOs, as well.

Check it!
—kid disco

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