Google's Matt Cutts announced July 3 that he is taking a few months' leave of absence from his position as head of web spam to spend more time with his wife. He assured webmasters and SEOs that there are still a ton of resources people can use to keep up to speed and contact Google while he's away.
Even so, some couldn't resist cracking jokes in the comments on his post about the black-hat mice playing while the web spam cat is away.
No, you shouldn't run out and buy some links now. What you can do is take this time as an opportunity to give your online presence and SEO strategy an overhaul. When Matt gets back, he'll be so proud of all the hard work you've done! (And in the meantime, this is really something you should stop and do once in a while – it's good for your business. People get busy though and forget.)
So what can you do while Matt Cutts is away? Start here:
How do you manage your keyword strategy? We found that keyword optimization was one of the top 5 places SMBs could improve their paid search strategy in 2014 and suspect that many could use a keyword refresh for organic, as well.
Search is constantly evolving and your keywords should, too – it's definitely not a place to "set it and forget it." If you aren't using the keywords people are actually looking for now, you're selling yourself short.
Check out Johnathan Dane's recommendations on 8 different keyword research tools, some free and some paid, to find a tool that works for you. Megan Marrs also offers a great resource for those struggling with a lack of internal keyword data in 9 Ways to Steal Your "Not Provided" Keyword Data Back.
We all know how much Matt Cutts loves relevance. Keep your keyword research up to date and update your site content as needed to stay relevant to searchers!
Get to Know Schema
Schema is a type of microdata that makes it easier for search engines to parse and interpret the information on your website. It helps the search engine understand what's on your pages and how it should be treated. Its use is not a ranking signal, so adding markup to your site won't instantly boost your rankings. However, it is a best practice to help the engines better understand your site content, enabling them to show your content for more relevant queries.
If you're not using microdata yet, you're not alone. It can seem intimidating, but it's not overly complicated. Dan Shewan wrote a comprehensive guide to Schema Markup for SEO – start there and show Matt Cutts you learned something new while he was gone!
Get Sticky and Improve Your User Experience
Your internal linking strategy should be a priority, if it isn't already. Webmasters used to think of this as PageRank sculpting, but it's really just good user experience and helps people navigate to other relevant information on your site.
Elisa Gabbert wrote a good explanation of how internal linking works, with a helpful example, in her tips for non-SEOs article.
Wherever you're mentioning an idea or concept you've expanded on elsewhere, or referring to a person or entity you have more content on, or referencing previously published material, you have an opportunity to link. Don't make people search out more information – just give them easy access to keep perusing your site with a logical internal linking strategy you employ every time you create new content.
Matt Cutts will thank you.
Get Up to Speed with the Declining Value of Backlinks
Links may not continue their reign as the international currency of SEO. Early in 2014, Matt Cutts confirmed that Google had been internally testing versions of their search algorithm that would work entirely without links.
What are you going to do when the algorithm no longer relies on the link graph?
13 SEO experts shared with WordStream readers their opinions on the dwindling value of backlinks. Aaron Wall, Rae Hoffman, Brett Tabke and others all shared their recommendations for SEOs who want to get ahead of the game and prepare.
Check it out. Don't let Matt catch you off guard. He warned you and will be pleased that you listened!
Revisit Your SEO Strategy Often to Stay in Matt's Good Graces
SEO is constantly evolving and you have to, as well. While we don't believe it's open season because the boss is away, the next few months would be a good time to go over each facet of your online presence with a fine-tooth comb and make sure your in adherence with current best practices.
If you're not motivated by the common fear of the iron fist of Matt Cutts, think of what it will do for your business!