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The Human Process Behind Google's Algorithm

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Matt Cutts, Google

Matt Cutts, Google's antispam search engineer and part of the team that decides the strategies behind Google's algorithms.

Stephen Shankland / CNET

Google is famous for evangelizing the power of the algorithm. It spends less time talking about the several hundred human beings who influence its algorithm.

To work at Google is to believe in the power of automation. "We've found the best approach to search is algorithmic, it's the only thing that works at scale," said Matt Cutts, a principal engineer at Google responsible for keeping spam out of search results. "We want to use computers all the time."

The obvious reality that never seems to come up quite as often is that even algorithmic Internet search is very much driven by humans. Computers and algorithms may be what handle incoming queries and generate search results hundreds of times a second, but just as Porsche engineers design their engines with slightly different requirements than Ford engineers, Google engineers are constantly tinkering with the recipe for search results that can make or break Web businesses.

Earlier this year, Cutts said that Google "tends to make a change to our core search algorithms at least once a day." In a recent interview with CNET, he reiterated that that pace continues: just last week Google search engineers met to consider 27 separate changes to the more than 200 factors that Google uses to rank search results.

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