June 2015 Update:
Matt Cutts, the "face" of Google, who has been on leave since July 2014, recently announced on This Week in Google that Google has approved an extension of his leave through 2015. While Cutts does not receive a salary from Google, the search giant does still cover his health benefits.
In the meantime, Google has named a new "Head of Web Spam" but has not revealed who that individual is. As I mention in my original article below, allowing the search giants to have a face and a voice is a good thing. The digital marketing community needs a personal, direct connection from Google and Bing. Duane Forrester is currently serving that role for Bing, but it's unfortunate to see Google shy away this. Hopefully Cutts will return and continue to interact with digital marketers via the web and in person.
Dec 2014 Update:
In an interesting turn of events, Duane Forrester, the "face" of Bing, has been hired back by Microsoft after being laid off for two months. Forrester announced a few details on his personal blog, noting that he was happy to be back in a similar, comfortable role. Forrester's return is a welcome one. Now to see if Matt Cutts will be back...
Nov 2014 Update:
This past week, Matt Cutts opened up about his extended leave away from Google in an interview on "This Week in Google." When asked if he would return, Cutts mentioned that the team was doing well without him, continuing, "...it's not clear that having me as a lightning rod for unhappy black hat SEOs, or something, is the best use of anybody's time compared to working on other things making the world better for Google."
Clearly, Cutts hasn't been savoring the negativity that angry SEOs send his way when Google's algorithm changes negatively affect their websites. This offers some insight into his departure, but it's still unclear as to if he will return his role (or another role) at Google. You can view the video below and read more about the interview here.
Google's Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, has recently announced that he's extending his leave from Google into 2015. He originally took time off in July of 2014, making this quite a lengthy break. In a recent statement on his blog, Cutts said:
"When I went on leave, I wanted to see how webspam would go without me. I've been talking to people on both the algorithmic and manual webspam teams during my leave, and they've been doing a top-notch job. So I'm planning on extending my leave into 2015."
This is especially interesting to those in the search marketing industry since Cutts has essentially been the public face of Google Search for years now. With such a lengthy break, many are now wondering if he will return at all. Making matters even more fascinating is the fact that Microsoft's equivalent, and the face of Bing, Duane Forrester, recently lost his job in layoffs.
I've met both Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester and have heard them speak on multiple occasions. Both are very genuine, intelligent guys who were generally liked by people in the SEO industry. While they and their companies might not have always made decisions that digital marketers agree with, Cutts and Forrester have been very interested in hearing and communicating with SEOs. They have listened and responded to many of the critiques and concerns of search marketers, which I have always appreciated (Matt Cutts has even tweeted with our CEO, Cary Coppola!).
Have Google and Bing decided it's best not to have a public face which must be accountable for their brand? If that's the case, it's certainly a loss for our industry. Hopefully Matt Cutts will make his return in early 2015, but I'm a bit more skeptical of the direction that Bing seems to be taking. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months of search.