Danny Sullivan, You Changed My Life. Thank you.

Heather Lloyd-Martin and Jill Whalen

Me and Jill Whalen after our first SEO speaking gig — in Amsterdam!

Last week, I read the news that Danny Sullivan is shifting away from his role as Chief Content Officer of Third Door Media, and is taking an advisory role.

I was shocked.

Sure, Danny isn’t the first “first generation” search marketer to step away from the industry (I believe my first business partner, Jill Whalen, was the first.) But, he’s the biggest. He’s called the “Godfather of SEO” for a reason.

Danny’s been neck-deep in this search engine stuff since the very beginning.

And, it’s because of Danny that I got my SEO start.

Once upon a time, in the late ’90s, Jill Whalen and I published a newsletter called RankWrite. She wrote about SEO. I wrote about content. The newsletter did well, and we grew our subscriber list fairly quickly.

Back then, there were only a handful of “SEO experts.” Heck, back then, most folks didn’t know what SEO was! The old guard included Greg Boser, Bruce Clay, Disa Johnson and Shari Thurow.

And of course, Danny was included too. He had already published A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines and was reporting on the industry.

Because of Danny, my first industry speaking gig was with Jill Whalen in Amsterdam (I believe Danny’s wife was due soon, and he didn’t want to fly.) I was as green as could be, completely freaked out, and I was convinced I’d be gonged during my presentation (yes, the moderator would hit a big gong if the speaker ran overtime.)

I am so grateful the video of my presentation is no longer online. :)

That conference changed my life in so many ways. It was the first time I traveled internationally by myself and the first time I spoke to a huge crowd.

And despite my speaking glitches, my presentation gave me the confidence to know that I was on the right path. I had found my passion.

Plus, I had more to look forward to! Danny had invited Jill and me to speak at Search Engine Strategies (SES) Boston a couple of months later. Back then, SES was THE SEO event. First Amsterdam, then Boston. I was on a roll!

However, life likes to throw you a curve now and then.

Two days after I returned from Amsterdam, my husband committed suicide. I was left virtually penniless, in shock, and wondering what to do next. If it weren’t for Danny’s pre-existing invitation (and a lot of help and encouragement from Jill — thanks, Jill,) I would have passed on the Boston conference. I would have stayed home and licked my wounds.

But, I went. And I had fun. Life felt a little lighter.

Because of that event — and the opportunities that came from it — I built an income. I built a brand. I turned a crappy situation into a wonderful career.

Danny continued to invite me to SES conferences. Because of him, I was able to travel the world and talk about what I love. I met amazing people, and had incredible experiences.  The “old-guard” SEO folks –the first and second generations — are like family to me. We grew up together.

I wouldn’t have found my family — my tribe — without Danny.

(As a quick shout-out to Danny, he always invited smart, female speakers. Women like Shari Thurow and Christine Churchill rocked the house back then, and they still do today. We may have been outnumbered, but we never felt tokenized.)

Along with Disa Johnson, I even got to visit Danny when he was living in the U.K. and meet his family. I’ll always remember an early-morning trip to Stonehenge, which still ranks as of my coolest memories ever.

I have a lot of cool memories.

I have to admit: I cried when I read Danny was transitioning to an advisory position. Immediately, my brain cycled through 19 years of search memories, places and faces. I don’t know why I reacted like that. I’m happy for Danny.

But, the emotion still hit me. Hard.

I know Danny’s not going away, and he’ll excel somewhere else. If anyone deserves to take time off and to reflect, well, that’s Danny. He’s done a lot over the last 21 years.

How many other careers did Danny launch? How many people can track their success back to Danny’s help? How many times have we been frustrated with Google, and we’ve relied on Danny’s calm, in-depth take?

For many of us, Danny has been a part of our lives for over two decades.

I know it’s not goodbye –Danny’s “taking a break.” But, the news does feel like the end of an era.

Thank you, Danny, for everything.

Your help, encouragement and support changed my life.

Update: Kim Krause Berg wrote a wonderful post about Danny’s role in her life and career. You can read it here.

The Women Who Made SEO Great

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 2000 and I was invited to speak at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies conference. Back then, SES wasn’t the huge, three-day monstrosity it is today. In fact, imagine a really big room with a bunch of roundtables. Yeah, that was the conference.

I was speaking with Jill Whalen on writing for search engines – and boy, was I nervous! I have a clear memory of saying a silent prayer before we started our session. I was that stressed out! :)

Back then, I didn’t know many women in SEO (and the ones I did know about were faithful subscribers/commentators in I-Search, the main discussion list for our industry.) I remember meeting Barbara Coll during SES Dallas. I also met Shari Thurow. But it seemed like the majority of the SEO crowd back then were men.

My, how times have changed.

Today, women rock the SEO world. When I go to conferences, the gender ratio is 50/50 – and many more women are leading companies and hold some pretty nice power positions. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

This post (and there will be a follow-up, too) features the women who made SEO great. These smart females were in the trenches back at the beginning and deserve to be celebrated. They have unselfishly led discussion lists, built resources, and helped set best practices. I am proud to call many of them my close friends.

Get to know these women and definitely follow them on Twitter. They have a lot to share and teach you.

Thank you, ladies. You inspire me every day.

-Heather

Kim Krause Berg– Kim began designing websites in 1995 and within a year launched her own SEO/Usability consulting business. Her impressive client list includes Geico, USC Information Technology Program, and the Discovery Channel – Travel. Kim is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Land, creating articles from successful marketing and web design to why blending usability and SEO really matters. Follow Kim at @kim_cre8pc.

Christine Churchill  – Hands down, Christine is one of the nicest folks in SEO. As president of KeyRelevance, Christine has well over a decade of experience in the online marketing world. She has marketed cruise lines and hotels, steel foundries, schools, ecommerce sites – the list goes on!  A well-known industry speaker, Christine has appeared at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, and is a regular contributor to industry publications including SearchDay, Search Engine Guide and more. Follow Christine at @ChrisChurchill.

Barbara Coll – An early advocate of web marketing, Barbara started WebMama in 1996 because she “didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic.” From there, she quickly became a recognized leading expert in Search Engine Marketing. As the founding President and Chairperson of the Board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Barbara has helped to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide. Follow Barbara at @webmama.

Debra Mastaler – With a diverse background – including 15 years’ marketing Anheuser-Busch and operating an organic food and clothing directory – Debra transitioned to being the link goddess we know and love today. As President of Alliance-Link, Debra trains Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms on link building best practices. Among her many accolades, Debra was featured among Search Marketing Standard Magazine’s 2011 “Women of Internet Marketing” and voted one of Level 343’s Top SEO Women of 2011. Debra is also a featured guest speaker at SES conferences and SMX expo’s. She is a columnist for Search Engine Land and Search Engine Guide, and blogs at her own site, Link Spiel. Follow Debra at @debramastaler.

Susan O’Neil – As CEO and Founder of Website Publicity (later acquired by Paragon Digital Marketing,) Susan established a digital marketing agency in 1998, long before the internet marketing explosion. She also co-authored Maximize Website Traffic, one of the first books on SEO ever published. Follow Susan at @suejon.

 

Jessie Stricchiola – One of the founding board members of the esteemed Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEMPO, Jessie has been “toying around” with search engines since 1997. The Principal at Alchemist Media – which is consistently ranked by B2B Magazine as one of the Top 100 Search Marketing Companies – Jessie pioneered the charge against PPC click fraud and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and NPR.  She co-authored the book, The Art of SEO, and serves as a litigation consultant on internet related issues. Follow Jessie @ltstricchi (protected account).

Laura Thieme – A 15-year veteran of SEO, PPC, and website/keyword conversions, Laura is the CEO of  Bizwatch Search Analytics and owner of Bizresearch, which she started in 1997. She is a frequent speaker at SMX conferences, and has been featured in the New York Times, Internet Retailer, TechNewsWorld and Search Engine Watch. A http://www.bizwatchsearchanalytics.com/reporting/index.php/laura-thieme-president-a-visionaryrenowned Google Analytics guru, Laura was called as an expert witness in a case involving trademark and metatags. Follow Laura @bizwatchlaura.

Shari Thurow – Shari was the first person who made people think about “search engine friendly websites,” and has been designing sites since 1995.  Today, she’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. Shari has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wired, and PC World. Her search usability site, Omni Marketing Interactive, offers fantastic resources. Shari is the author of Search Engine Visibility and co-author of Where Search Meets Web Usability. Follow Shari at @sharithurow.

Dana Todd – Known for her creative hair color (currently a brilliant jewel tone purple), Dana has over 17 years experience in digital marketing and is appreciated for her intelligent, no-nonsense speaking style. She’s also a past chairwoman for SEMPO after serving on their board. Dana has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The StreetFollow Dana at @danatodd.

Amanda Watlington –  Amanda is one super-smart woman. Her impressive resume includes working with 3m, Sharp Electronics, Mercedes Benz and Washington Mutual. She’s also a prolific writer, and has authored scads of articles and two books including Business Blogs: A Practical Guide (co-authored with Bill Ives.) Her site, Searching for Profit, says it all – she’s helping companies build long-term profitable relationships with their clients. Follow Amanda at @amandaw.

Jill Whalen – Jill and I started our SEO conference journey together and we were business partners for quite a few years (who remembers the RankWrite newsletter?) Jill was the CEO of High Rankings and started her SEO journey 1995. Today, she’s on a new journey and is owner of the site What Did You Do With Jill?

 

There were so many smart SEO pioneers, we even came up with a part two — enjoy!

Ladies, you have my sincere gratitude for building the SEO industry, blazing the proverbial trail, and guiding the rest of us! You rock! :)

Photo thanks to Brett Jordan

18+ Ways to Tell if You’re an SEO O.G.

Are you wondering if your “SEO expert” has been around as long as he claims? Feeling like you’ve been in the business since the beginning of SEO time?

Here are 18 ways to tell if you’re an SEO O.G. (“old guard” or ‘original gansta”.) Plus, you’ll find even more tips, thanks to a little help from my SEO friends.  If you’re new to the SEO world, you’ll enjoy reading how much things have changed. And if you’re an O.G. SEO too – enjoy! Here’s your trip down memory lane.

  1. You remember when getting a Yahoo Directory listing was a big deal.
  2. You have a robot t-shirt from the original Googledance.
  3. You remember when Search Engine Strategies was so small that roundtable sessions were the norm.
  4. People didn’t know who Danny Sullivan was.
  5. One word: Looksmart
  6. You didn’t optimize for Google – because Google didn’t exist.
  7. RankWrite was the only resource that discussed SEO copywriting.
  8. You remember prospects telling you, “We won’t pay you, but we’ll give you a piece of the company. Our company is gonna be huge.”
  9. You remember the dotcom crash, the F*cked Company site and a bunch of companies going out of business.
  10. A little engine called GoTo.com launched – and you debated whether PPC was really viable.
  11. “Big Boy” reminds you of Inktomi first – then the hamburger chain.
  12. I-Search was THE email newsletter to read. Having your post featured was a big deal, too (thanks to @mdsimmonds and @airdisa for the fantastic I-Search moderation!).
  13. Search Engine Strategies San Francisco was at the Fairmont – complete with a sit-down, steak lunch.
  14. “Content optimization” meant making sure that you had a 5.5% keyword density for AltaVista.
  15. You remember when Bruce Clay was featured in Wired magazine.
  16. You remember answering the question,”Commas or spaces in the meta keywords tag?”
  17. You didn’t need glasses when you first started your SEO career (after all, you were probably in your late 20’s or early 30’s!).
  18. Danny Sullivan called you a “first generation” search marketer way back in 2006.

Plus, here are some more – thanks to all of my O.G. friends who contributed!


HUGE thanks to David Burke of VisualFuture (and Sally Burke, too!) who let me post this pic from “back in the day!’ Folks pictured are David Burke, Sally Burke, Jill Whalen, Craig Paddock, me (back when I was a blonde) and Chris Sherman.