It's not 100% clear yet, but it's looking like for webmasters and SEOs, the era of Matt Cutts is a thing of the past. His career at Google may continue, but it doesn't sound like he'll be the head of webspam going forward.
Would you like to see Matt Cutts return to the role he's held for years, or do you look forward to change in the search department? Share your thoughts in the comments.
It's a pretty interesting time in search right now. Matt Cutts, who has been the go-to guy for webmaster help and Q&A related to Google search for quite a few years, has been on leave from the company since July. Meanwhile, his counterpart over at Bing has been let go from his duties at Microsoft.
@DuaneForrester sending you good thoughts today. Thanks for providing info to so many people and tough love when needed.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 30, 2014
I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work.
So we’re going to take some time off for a few months. My leave starts next week. Currently I’m scheduled to be gone through October. Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score.
Scheduled to be gone through October. See? Pretty much sounds like a vacation. As you know, October has since come and gone. On October 31, Cutts provided another update, saying he was extending his leave, and wouldn't be back at Google this year.
I'm planning to extend my leave into 2015: https://t.co/T5adq50x4L
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) November 1, 2014
Ok, fine. Cutts has been at Google for fourteen years, and can probably take a considerable amount of time off with no problem. But he'd be back in the swing of things in the new year, right? Well, he might be back, but what he'll be doing remains to be seen.
Cutts appeared on the web chat show This Week in Google, hosted by Leo Laporte, who asked him if he'll go back to the same role, or if this is a chance for him to try something different. This part of the conversation starts at about 9 minutes and 50 seconds in to the video below (h/t: Search Engine Roundtable).
"Well, I really have been impressed with how well everyone else on the team is doing, and it's created a little bit of an opportunity for them to try new things, explore different stuff, you know, approach problems from a different way, and so we'll have to see how it goes," Cutts responded. "I loved the part of my job that dealt with keeping an eye on what important news was happening related to Google, but you know, it's not clear that having me as a lightning rod, you know for, you know unhappy black hat SEOs or something is the best use of anybody's time compared to working on other things that could be making the world better for Google or in general. So we'll see how it all works."
It doesn't really sounds like he intends to go back to the classic Matt Cutts role. In fact, later in the discussion, he referred to the initial leave as the "official" leave, implying that the one he's now on is open-ended.
Laporte asked him if he has the ability at the company to just do something different if he wants to.
He said, "The interesting thing is that at Google they try to get you and go do different projects, so the product managers, they encourage you to rotate every two or three years, and so it's relatively rare to find people who have been around forever in a specific area. You'll find Amit [Singhal] in search, Sridhar [Ramaswamy], you know, some of these people that are really, really senior, you know - higher ranking than me for sure - they do stick around in one area, but a lot of other people jump to different parts of the company to furnish different skills and try different things, which is a pretty good idea, I think."
Again, it sounds like he would really like to do something different within the company.
He also reiterated his confidence in the current webspam team. On his "colleagues" (he prefers that term to "minions"), he said, "I just have so much admiration for you know, for example, last year, there was a real effort on child porn because of some stuff that happened in the United Kingdom, and a lot of people chipped in, and that is not an easy job at all. So you really have to think hard about how you're gonna try to tackle this kind of thing."
Jeff Jarvis, who was also on the show, asked Cutts what other things interest him.
Cutts responded, "Oh man, I was computer graphics and actually inertial trackers and accelerometers in grad school. At one point I said, you know, you could use commodity hardware, but as a grad student, you don't have access to influence anybody's minds, so why don't I just go do something else for ten years, and somebody else will come up with all these sensors, and sure enough, you've got Kinect, you have the Wii, you know, the iPhone. Now everybody's got a computer in their pocket that can do 3D sensing as long as write the computer programs well. So there's all kinds of interesting stuff you could do."
Will we see Matt working on the Android team? As a matter of fact, Laporte followed that up by mentioning Andy Rubin - the guy who created Android and brought it to Google - leaving the company. News of that came out last week.
Matt later said, "I'll always have a connection and soft spot for Google..."
That's actually a bit more mysterious of a comment. I don't want to put any words in the guy's mouth, but to me, that sounds like he's not married to the company for the long haul.
Either way, webmasters are already getting used to getting updates and helpful videos from Googlers like Pierre Far and John Mueller. We've already seen Google roll out new Panda and Penguin updates since Cutts has been on leave, and the SEO world hasn't come crumbling down.
I'm guessing Cutts is getting less hate mail these days. He must have been getting tired of disgruntled website owners bashing him online all the time. It's got to be nice to not have to deal with that all the time.
As I said at the beginning of the article, it's really not clear what Matt's future holds, so all we can really do is listen to what he's said, and look for him to update people further on his plans.
In the meantime, if you miss him, you can peruse the countless webmaster videos and comments he's made over the years that we've covered here.
Do you expect Matt Cutts to return to search in any capacity? Do you expect him to return to Google? Should he? Do you miss him already? Let us know what you think.