Search Marketer of The Year (1)

This week I won Search Marketer of the Year, an award given by Search Engine Land.

It was (is) an honor.

I appreciate the award greatly and wanted to take this opportunity to share some information about the backstory, as well as the SEO industry.

First, a Few Things I Want to Get Out There

There are thousands of smart people who work in this field.

Picking two people to win the award (one male and one female: shout out to Genevieve Head-Gordon, the female winner) is almost impossible, especially, when you consider how SEO has evolved today. There is local SEO, national SEO, enterprise SEO, lead generation SEO, eCommerce SEO, news site SEO, content marketing, etc.

My point: There are so many specialties in the field, and many smart people working in each niche. Furthermore, SEO bleeds into every type of digital marketing.

That being said, I still think it is a great award to have in the industry, and I commend Search Engine Land for all that they do. I’ve been a columnist for Search Engine Land for 6 years. I also write for Inc., Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and countless other blogs. Search Engine Land, hands down, has the toughest editorial process (nothing against the other publications, they just have different publishing stances). Search Engine Land watches every detail, and this has resulted in excellent quality content. Shout out to Pamela and Jessica who I interact with the most—I’ve worked in publishing, and it is a demanding job. They are true pros.

But that is not why I won the award…

The Backstory

So, here is the story of Ignite Visibility and how I (really we as a company) came to win this award. Special shout-out to our team at Ignite for the hard work and support. 

In January 2013 I left my Director of SEO and Social Media job to try my hand at running my own company. My business partner, Krish Coughran, joined me shortly after.

Search Engine Optimization back in the early 2000s was dirty business on the external linking side. I really never cared for it—in fact, I hated it. Really, to be really successful back then you needed to do things that Google now lists as against their quality guidelines.

Yes, these things worked very well.

  • Spinning content
  • Doorway pages
  • Buying links
  • Massive directory submissions
  • Reciprocle linking
  • Widget links
  • Etc

I could go on.

But that type of stuff just always felt wrong.

At the same time, social media was on the rise, content marketing was catching on, creative campaigns were becoming easier to run and you could really feel the web changing from that black hat, affiliate run, spammy place and evolving into something more pure.

Matt Cutts, the previous head of web spam, gets so much credit for that. He worked tirelessly to combat web spam. Many SEO professionals were mad. They hated him. He was destroying their business, their livelihood and way of life. But frankly, it had to be done.

Krish and I started Ignite Visibility, designed quality 100% white hat SEO services mixed with social media, conversion rate optimization and real digital marketing. We threw out all that old stuff, and started doing it right.

The first two years are hard when you start a business: Sleepless nights, lots of hustling, testing yourself and pushing yourself. We went from nothing in 2013 to over 45 employees, 150 clients and now the 698th fastest growing company in the Inc. 5000.

Client Work

What we do here at Ignite Visibility is grow businesses online. The way we do that is by using our own minds, our own research, our own testing to design the strategies clients need to be successful. We then match those strategies with the services that complement them the most. We have the option to work with the full capabilities of the Internet to deliver results for clients.

In any service business, you need to work to refine these strategies and services for clients daily.

You need to move fast.

We did that, and ended up with some excellent case studies and client testimonials.

We eventually attracted larger and larger clients.

SEO: The Movie

People in Hollywood get filmed sitting around and stroking their cat or drinking a coffee.

That’s fine. That’s entertainment to some.

What people don’t do is tell the story of industry enough. It’s not just SEO—every industry has a story of people living their lives trying to win the space. In many of these industries, these stories are amazing, inspiring and deserve to be told and remembered.

When I came up with the idea for SEO: The Movie, I knew it had to be told.

The main cast, Danny Sullivan, Rand Fishkin, Jill Whalen, Brett Tabke, Rae Hoffman and Barry Schwartz, have given so much to the field. They are true rock stars. But they are not the only ones, John Muller, Maile Ohye, Aleyda Solis, Cindy Krum, Will Reynolds, Brian Dean, Michael King, Bruce Clay, Loren Baker, Eric Ward, Cyrus Shepard, Bill Slawski, Garry Grant, Chris Sherman, Jim Boykin, Shawn Hogan, Mike Graham, Eric Enge are also examples of others who have made big contributions. That is just the tip of the iceberg, there are thousands of people who work in this industry. Many of which have made less public impacts.

It was a very interesting feeling really. It almost felt as though the end of an era was coming and it needed to be captured.

Turned out, it was.

  • Black hat SEO had been significantly decreased
  • The Rockstar days of the past had died down
  • The older people in the field had retired
  • A new wave of search marketing was emerging

Even the cast was on brink of making major changes. I had no idea these things were about to happen. But they did.

Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Land to join Google.

Rand Fishken left his day-to-day role at Moz.

And Eric Ward, link Moses himself, passed. That was truly sad. I always enjoyed interacting with him and looked up to him a great deal.

I thought it was hilarious when he reached out to me with that final clip for SEO: The Movie. You have to love someone like that, always looking to bring joy and value to others. You can watch that clip here.

I feel honored I was able to play some small role in documenting SEO before these major changes.

I Have To Say It: SEO Is Not Dead

One thing I want to end with here is this: SEO is not dead.

What is dead is blackhat old school spammy SEO, and good riddance!

Yes, there is still a little of that here and there. But with search engine optimization professionals now concentrating on building links with PR, writing the best piece of longform content possible, refining click-through rates in Google Search Console, analyzing heat maps and content analytics, building out content marketing strategies that target the exact persona we want to get into our funnel and pros pushing the limits of great content—this is certainly a new and exciting time for the field.

Our services drastically change each year.

To win in digital marketing, you always have to evolve. Whether you do Paid Media SEO, CRO, email, social media, Amazon, affiliate marketing, etc., if you work at it each day, constantly learn, test, innovate, refine and execute, you are going to win online.

Thanks for the award, Search Engine Land. Thanks to all of you in the digital marketing community for being a part of this amazing journey to push strategy and services forward. I certainly love the field and working with each of you.