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An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Holly Miller

Sponsorships Holly Miller

Holly Miller: Bay Area SEO

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Holly Miller: I find it fascinating that SEO has become incredibly pervasive in online business today but it didn’t become “a thing”– let a lone a profession — until around the time I was entering the workforce.

SEO was gaining momentum in the early 2000s with what is known as “white hat” SEO. But at the time, I was still navigating college as a film student turned broadcast journalist turned marketer so I got into SEO by way of a variety of informal training. I studied journalism and delivered content in a way that grabbed the reader or viewer’s attention and made the story relatable. I also interned at major ad agencies in LA where I’d work on creative briefs that had elements of keyword research. I was essentially gathering search topics trying to understand the interests, needs and intents of different market personas.  Much of my early training in advertising and journalism gave me the soft skills of SEO.

The turning point was in 2009 when I caught up to SEO. That’s when the search engine world was introduced to Bing and there was real competition in the market.  That same year, I started working for a major online business directory, Local.com. That’s where I started gaining the hard, technical skills of SEO.

Since then, I’ve continued to grow my experience and curiosity around optimizing for search engines working at a search & PPC agency and, recently, one of the leading enterprise SEO software platforms.

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Holly: I enjoy apply all aspects of search that help move the needle for a business to get more revenue and clients and customers that are right for them. Because I have been exposed to many types of marketing campaigns and innovative strategies for creating awareness, my strength is in bringing together the right combination of tactics that will make a business successful.  At that point, SEO is the tip of my spear.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Holly: I’m inspired by many of the current BayAreaSearch.org Board of Directors like Andrew Shotland and AJ Kohn (Micah’s note: go write another post, AJ!). Their blogs were the ones being recommended to me when I was first starting out. I’m a fan of Avinash Kaushik (Occam’s Razor blog). I also get inspired by in-house SEO talent that’s here in Silicon Valley and the great community of SEO’s on Twitter.

Micah: Why did you decide to join Searchmetrics and what has it been like working for a known SEO brand?

Holly: The opportunity to consult with enterprise level clients using one of the industry’s top SEO software platforms was something I couldn’t pass up. I spent at least the first 6 months immersing myself in the platform learning everything I could.

The biggest thing I learned was that it didn’t matter that I knew where to get data within the suite. What mattered was applying the data to provide a solution to real problems that my clients and their business were facing. Updating title tags is helpful to a degree, but I’m much more focused on broader solutions that can impact the bottom line.

Micah: What advice would you give to SEOs to advance their career into the top tier?

Holly: Now that I’m freelancing as a consultant, I’m always looking to improve upon marketing strategies that start with technology and end with the user.  My advice would be to get experience towards an understanding of each of the channels across search, social, email, events, ads etc. Do a mini SWOT analysis even so that you see how and where each one(s) is effective in meeting the business or project goal. Some channels are great for creating awareness, others at adoption and engagement. Awareness of how each channel performs will help you build the right strategy that’s effective for the business where SEO is built in.

My other piece of advice is to always be working to build relationships and improve communications between cross-functional teams. Websites are the virtual storefront of every business. This means lots of teams contributing, working on the site or driving traffic back to it. The overall quality of a website improves when teams across an organization integrate small amounts of SEO best practices into the work they do on the site.  If you’re looking to advance your career in SEO, you must first seek to share your knowledge and help others succeed.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Holly: In my hypothetical world, I wish the algorithm would rotate the URLs sitting in position 11-20 onto page 1.  Wouldn’t that be interesting? Like everything sitting on page 2 would become page 1 for a week or so. I’d be curious to see the engagement metrics if that happened.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Holly: We do so much networking online that I love any excuse to get out and meet people in person. I want to meet as many people as I can in this industry because it’s constantly evolving and I enjoy learning something new from every SEO I talk to.  The Bay Area is one giant sandbox and it’s thrilling to think we’re part of shaping an industry and you’re one connection away from meeting your next great contact.

I hope to meet you at our next event!

Micah: Thank you Holly and best of luck in your continued SEO career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Jeff Chen

Member At Large Jeff Chen

Jeff Chen: Bay Area SEO at UpCounsel

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Jeff Chen: I got into SEO while doing product marketing at Platform9, an enterprise IT startup. I managed all the marketing channels including emails, events, AdWords, content, etc., but wanted to specifically learn more about SEO since it was unlike other marketing channels with its product-oriented focus.

I took the night SEO course at Stanford after work with Jason McDonald, read every article I could about SEO online, and started implementing some SEO strategies at Platform9. I also previously built multiple small websites and knew basic HTML and CSS from high school and college.

From there, I got a job offer to do full time SEO at UpCounsel and have been doing SEO for ~2 years.

Micah: Was the night SEO course under computer engineering or was it actually listed as under marketing?

Jeff: I just looked through the course catalog and I see it listed under internet marketing. Here is a link to the course if interested!

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Jeff: I would say my strengths are in growing organic traffic by ranking for new keywords using content.

I prefer automated SEO and have built full web applications using Django and various other web technologies. I also write custom Python scripts to automate internal workflows and increase efficiencies.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Jeff: I think Brian Dean is my favorite well known SEO.

Interesting websites that inspire me include Yelp, TripAdvisor, Avvo, NerdWallet, OpenTable, Zillow, and hundreds more – far too many to list. I spend a lot of time analyzing different SEO strategies and each website has its own strengths and specialties.

Micah: Why did you decide to join UpCounsel and what’s it like working for them?

Jeff: I joined UpCounsel because I knew I would be given a lot of ownership and responsibility in the biggest channel for the company. Also, with the strong support from the CTO, I knew we would be able to get things done.

Working for UpCounsel has been super interesting, I think we (me and the SEO Director, an ex-Amazon SEO) have really pushed the boundaries of SEO.

In addition to dozens of SEO projects we launched, I have personally been responsible for all the SEO logic behind 2 SEO SaaS applications: 1) automating keyword research to keep up with my writing team producing 1000 articles/month: http://www.keywordjuicer.com/ and 2) automating white hat link building using machine learning to scale up the process of increasing keyword rankings: https://syftseo.com/

While I can’t go into specific metrics, 3rd party SEO tools would tell you that UpCounsel 10x’d organic traffic in the last 12 months, driving an additional 2+ million views/year. While we still have a long way to go, it has been very exciting.

Micah: We always need more SEO tools built by actual SEOs! Any others I should keep an eye out for or you would recommend?

Jeff: Ah, the most important tools that I use are fairly simple and ones that everyone knows: SEMRush and SimilarWeb. I have tried pretty much tried every SEO tool under the sun, but when it comes to what I actually need, I just use those tools mostly.

A lot of tools aside from the 2 big ones that I’ve been a part of (Syft for link building and Keyword Juicer for content) are just scripts and spreadsheets that I’ve built for internal use to automate certain workflows.

Things like automatically adding links into articles when certain keywords are detected, scraping google search results, or just analyzing data faster with structured spreadsheets etc.

Data analysis speed has been key for us as we want to immediately report on progress and adapt as necessary so we can either run new experiments or double down on successes.

Micah: What advice would you give to SEOs to advance their career into the top tier?

Jeff: SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum since it touches so many parts of the company. You should peer review your ideas and get buy in with different parts of the organization such as Engineering, Product, Operations, Data Science, Marketing, etc. to make the best choices for the company.

Also, you most likely need to expand beyond only SEO duties. I have been responsible for all sorts of activities from negotiating large contracts with vendors, building my own content team, sending thousands of emails, etc.

Micah: I can attest to expanding one’s skill sets to do better in SEO. How would you say it has improved your mindset around SEO?

Jeff: I think expanding skill sets greatly helped me better understand the true business impact of SEO.

On the engineering side, by learning to code, I am able to identify what product specs are inherently easy and what product specs are inherently difficult. There have been multiple times where we were able to find a simpler ticket to file than we originally thought by focusing on the problem and determining the minimum requirements.

On the marketing side, from my past experience creating content (articles, white papers, blog posts, social media posts, webinars), I was able to build trust from creating high quality content while making sure it had all the SEO markup that we needed.

Also, at my past company I was the primary Salesforce and Marketo user who expanded our lead database to hundreds of thousands of leads and sent out hundreds of thousands of emails to those leads. Thus, when I was link building, I knew the tools and had the skill set to send out thousands of emails to people and get backlinks.

Another skill for link building that I developed was that I used to be in enterprise sales selling enterprise IT software with an average transaction value of $20,000+. Coming from a world where I used to make 140 phone calls a day selling software to just asking someone for a backlink, which is free, was relatively easier.

In addition, I used to also manage AdWords and multiple advertising channels. Through this and sending emails, I understood how good copywriting and titles could easily 2-3x conversions which helped me craft a meta title change that doubled conversion from SERPs across our most important page type.

In general, I think SEO is an interesting intersection of both marketing and engineering. By developing broad skills in both those disciplines, I have been able to apply the learnings from other verticals to make me a better SEO and drive business impact.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Jeff: I think in general from my understanding of Google’s algorithm, it is a relatively smart solution to the complex problem of solving user problems.

I do think that Google could add more emphasis on testing the quality of content with users and whether or not it solves the user problem. I think we own a lot of quality content that has not been tested high enough in the SERPs to show that it can solve user problems.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Jeff: I think SEO is an interesting field that gets more complex the more I learn and like to stay updated on new strategies. I also enjoy practicing web development skills.

Micah: Thank you Jeff and best of luck in your continued SEO career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Clint Borrill

Member At Large Clint Borrill

Clint Borrill: Bay Area SEO at Balsam Brands

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Clint Borrill: By chance actually. I started at my current company, Balsam Brands, in more of an operational role. At some point I mentioned that I wanted to get more involved with the actual (ecommerce) websites themselves. There were gaps on various teams, one of which was the SEO team. I was given the opportunity to get more involved with the SEO function and began helping out with various SEO projects. Over time, I began spending more and more time with Greg Moro and the SEO team and today that is primarily where I focus.

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Clint: Having only been in the field for a few years, I think I still have a ton to learn. But as a result of my previous role, I worked with a number of the different functions throughout the company, and therefore have a good understanding how integrated all the various functions are. I think this puts me in a good position because I have a decent sense of how SEO can be impacted/influenced by the various functions and vice versa.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Clint: Anyone I can learn from. I really appreciate being able to connect with other SEOs and learn about their experiences. It is always interesting to hear about what others are doing and how they are doing it – what challenges they experienced and what solutions they explored. Being able to personally connect with others and have real conversation is always great. You end up with tangible takeaways that really can impact the work that you are doing.

Micah: Why did you decide to join Balsam Brands and what’s it like doing SEO for an ecommerce company?

Clint: When I joined Balsam Brands my primary focus was helping to build out our international team in the Philippines. At the time, I had no clue what SEO was really about. Once I started getting involved it was a matter of learning as you go and that trend still continues today. Getting to work on a webstore like Balsam Hill is a privilege, but it also comes with a little (self-inflicted) pressure. We have experienced significant growth these past few years and that in itself has its challenges. That growth brings about new priorities, new projects and new experience – all of which are good things.

Micah: What advice would you give to SEOs to advance their career into the top tier?

Clint: Take on projects that outside your comfort zone. Take on projects that require you to seek out advice and guidance from external peers and partners. You can go to all the conferences you want and read all the online articles you want, but nothing compares to hands on experience that requires you to work with other team and functions in order to get things done.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Clint: I would change the layout of the SERPs to make more of a distinction between paid listings and organic listings. I know that it wouldn’t help them in terms of revenue generation, but I think that they could put more effort into showing users what is a paid ad and what is potentially a good organic result.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Clint: The Bay Area has been good to me in a lot of ways since I arrived here in 2011. Balsam Brands, my colleagues and professional network have all been very supportive and helped shape the path my career has taken. I would like to do what I can to help build the profession of SEO and the SEO community. I hope that I can do that with BayAreaSearch.

Micah: Thank you Clint and best of luck in your continued SEO career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Season Hughes

Secretary & Event Chair Season Hughes

Season Hughes: Bay Area SEO at Atlassian

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Season Hughes: 6 months – I am completely new to SEO. But it’s something I’ve always been interested in. I have a background as a Taxonomist and it’s important to consider the customer and search engine experience when building navigation. Before making a decision, I’d consult the SEO team and shape my taxonomies based on their input. I was ready to try something new, and Atlassian was willing to take a chance on training someone with my background.

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Season: I’m learning Technical SEO. It’s exciting to have completed my first technical audit of two of our Atlassian properties. I’m also extremely interested in schema: as someone who loves metadata and organization, I feel like it’s an interesting balance between SEO and taxonomy.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Season: I’m lucky to be part of a strong team at Atlassian. My manager, Kevin Indig, has been very patiently teaching me SEO concepts from the ground up. I’m inspired by his passion for SEO outside of work, speaking at conferences and writing a newsletter. Mark Argyle has taught me a lot about the importance of content. At my previous job at TripAdvisor, Matt Storms, Allison Myers, and the entire SEO team were invaluable allies in building navigation and considering the customer experience. And I’m inspired by the knowledge, wisdom, and humor of the board and members of BayAreaSearch.

Micah: Why did you decide to join Atlassian and what’s it like doing SEO for a known brand?

Season: SEO itself is a crazy, changing world and on top of that, we’re doing SEO for multiple products and teams… keeping up with it all is challenging, overwhelming, and delightful. I joined Atlassian because I used their products (Jira and Confluence) and was looking for a transparent culture that supports employees’ growth and allows them to just be themselves. I have not been disappointed.

Micah: What advice would you give a beginning SEOs to advance their career?

Season: I would say to them if you have no idea what you’re doing and you feel like the rules are always changing, then you’re exactly where you should be. Read, a lot. Find a community where you can ask questions. Learn different tools and find out which ones work for you. And I’ve found that the best way to know if you’ve learned a concept is to try to explain it to other people. That’s why I started a beginner SEO blog at https://seasonhughes.com/.

Micah: What would you recommend reading? Any communities recommended?

Season: I started with Ahref’s How to Learn SEO (and Stay Sane). It’s valuable reading in itself, and it links to a ton of different articles, all of which I have printed in a giant stack on my desk. I’m still going through it. BayAreaSearch is the only community I’m active in, but I do pay attention to SEO news on Twitter, and I have a feed on Feedly of different SEO publications. The ones I keep up with the most are Search Engine Roundtable, Moz, and Tech Bound.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Season: It would be interesting to see Google’s algorithm become even more personalized to individual users. For example, if you are visually impaired, sites that are optimized for accessibility would rank higher for you. Or the definition of the authority of a page would vary for each user. For example, in library school, we were never allowed to use Wikipedia as a reference, but for Google, the site has high authority.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Season: I’m new to SEO and I’m eager to learn more. I’m strongly introverted, so being involved in a networking organization helps push me out of my comfort zone and grow. And above all, I believe in the dedication and passion of our board and out members, and it’s something I feel proud to be part of.

Micah: Thank you Season and best of luck in your continued SEO career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Takeshi Young

Takeshi Young

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Takeshi Young: I got into SEO by way of web development. I started building websites while I was in middle school and helped pay my way through college by building websites for local businesses.

Eventually I became interested in how to make money by building websites for myself, and that got me started on the path to learning about SEO, building AdSense sites and getting into affiliate marketing. This was around 2007, so I’ve been “doing SEO” for around 11 years now.

My first official job as an SEO was in 2009 for an eCommerce startup called Become.com. I now manage SEO globally for Optimizely.

Micah: Ah, I remember the days in the comparison shopping world at Become, seems so long ago! What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Takeshi: I would say that my strength in SEO is technical SEO since I have a background in web development and have a strong understanding of how the web works and am comfortable working with code.

I’ve also had the opportunity to work on PPC and social media campaigns at the various companies I’ve worked at, so I love to approach SEO with an integrated approach that pulls together multiple online marketing channels.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Takeshi: I enjoy reading content from SEOs like Glen AllsoppBrian Dean, and Jon Cooper; SEOs who aren’t afraid to get into grey hat territory and are generous with sharing their learnings. I respect Danny Sullivan for his integrity and honest reporting on Google and the state of SEO (even though he recently went over to the dark side).

Micah: Why did you decide to join Optimizely and what’s it like doing SEO for a known brand?

Takeshi: I joined Optimizely because I’ve always been interested in A/B testing and CRO and used the product at previous companies. Plus it’s a great company with a strong growth trajectory.

Doing SEO for a known brand has been fantastic. I previously worked mostly for growing startups, where getting traction with SEO and competing against entrenched competitors was a challenge, so working for a market leader is a positive change. I spend almost no time on link building at Optimizely, and am focused mostly on content creation and optimizing conversions once visitors land on our site.

Micah: What advice would you give a mid-level SEO to advance their career into the top tier?

Takeshi: Top tier is subjective, but the way to grow your profile in the SEO community is to build your personal brand. Start a blog, write for other blogs in the SEO space, and sign up to speak at conferences to build a profile and get your name out there. Many of the marketing tactics you use to promote your clients’ sites can be used to promote your own brand.

In addition to marketing yourself, it’s important to know your stuff. Become the expert in the SEO topics that you’re interested in by reading everything there is to know about the subject, picking the brain of experts at conferences and meetups, and running your own experiments. The “experts” in the field are those that discover novel or interesting approaches to SEO, and share them with the rest of the community.

Finally, I would broaden my expertise beyond just SEO. SEO at many companies will eventually plateau and reach a point of diminishing returns, and Google’s algorithm is also very fickle and not under your control, so it’s useful to have other ways you can add value.

A/B testing and CRO are natural compliments to SEO that can increase the value of the traffic you’re driving, social media marketing can be a compliment to your inbound marketing efforts, and PPC can be a way to supplement your SEO traffic and involves a similar skill set. The more diversified your knowledge, the better you’ll be able to adapt to the changing online marketing landscape.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Takeshi: I wish there was a clearer way to get into Google’s knowledge cards, as it can be a mystery sometimes why some sites are featured there and not others. I’m also not sold on Google’s push for AMP, which complicates website architecture and puts a lot of control in the hands of Google. But overall I believe their algorithm works well and is the best that’s out there.

Micah: Thank you Takeshi and best of luck in your continued career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Andrew Shotland

VP Andrew Shotland

Andrew Shotland: Bay Area SEO at Local SEO Guide

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Andrew Shotland: I got into SEO in 2003. We had just started InsiderPages.com, an early version of Yelp, in LA and were getting about 3,000 people a month coming to the site via various promotions. I was doing Biz Dev & Product, meaning anything that needed to be done on a given day.

One of our board members suggested I check out this thing called “SEO”. There were a few agencies that had SEO services I found via Google and referrals so I asked for RFPs and they all came back at like $100K and it was totally unclear what I was going to get for that. None of them would tell me exactly what they were going to do. Someone recommended I talk to this guy in North Carolina who knew this stuff. I paid him a few hundred bucks and he told me some stuff which you could boil down to “update your title tags and add more internal links”. We did that and pretty quickly 10x’d the traffic.

Then we went national and went almost overnight from about 30k visits/month to over a million. It was pretty insane and we kept trying stuff and it kept growing. Based on our growth we were able to raise money from Sequoia and Softbank. We were pretty much the Silicon Valley poster child at that point.

Then we decided to redesign the site to make it look better for users and we lost nearly all the SEO traffic overnight due to a duplicate URL issue I didn’t quite understand at the time. I figured it out but that was pretty much the worst week of my career. Shortly after that our investors decided to sell the company to CitySearch and I was out of job.

The day I lost my job I happened to be having drinks with the new head of Product at LATimes.com. He was all excited about this new redesign he had been working on. I said “Let me tell you a story…” After he chugged his wine, he asked if I would do some SEO consulting for him and they became my first client.

It’s been kind of like that ever since.

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Andrew: I think my key strength as an SEO consultant is that I have been in my clients’ shoes. I like to tell them I have f***ed up SEO royally so they don’t have to. I see it when we interview job candidates. People who have had their jobs on the line because of SEO problems tend to do well, I guess because they understand the consequences.

Of course, if you’re looking for specifics, I’d like to think there are few SEOs out there who have the experience of having worked on many insanely complicated billion-URL media and ecomm sites combined with crazy multi-location, Google My Business problems. And my team is pretty spectacular too. They have some deep GMB knowledge that comes with spending way too much time with that crazy beast.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Andrew: My inspirations are in no particular order:

Mike Blumenthal – There is no one out there who has spent as much time as Mike trying to figure out what Google is up to in the Local space. His interest and generosity are legend.

The Screaming Frog guys – In an industry littered with tools, these guys took a very different approach and created what is one of the simplest, most indispensable SEO tools out there. I can’t think of another SEO tool I use more other than Google itself.

There are so many other great SEOs sharing their knowledge that I am loathe to name check them as I will inevitably leave some of them out so just go wander through my Twitter “Following” feed at https://twitter.com/localseoguide

And honorable mentions go to three of my favorite writers/thinkers on the Web who are always inspiring:
@gruber
@benthompson
@jkottke

Micah: Why did you start your own company Local SEO Guide and what’s it like running your own agency?

Andrew: I started Local SEO Guide because after the LATimes hired me, I started getting a lot of inbound referrals. I called it Local SEO Guide because I saw an opening in the local directory space and as a result we have worked on every type of big Local site around the world. And plenty of non-Local sites and SMB sites.

I found I was good at figuring out SEO problems and how to get organizations to use SEO strategically. I did it on my own for several years as I was kind of gun-shy about having to deal with co-workers after years of working in dysfunctional environments.

After a few years I realized I was going to need some help making the donuts and hired an SEO Manager. About four years ago I decided it was time to build a team so we could do more than just audits, training and troubleshooting. Dan Leibson joined me as our VP of Search and we have now grown to 8 people.

I really enjoy having a team who are all focused on great outcomes for our clients and ourselves. And it’s really fun to watch them grow as they experience some of the crazy stuff I got to see over the past decade.

Micah: What advice would you give a mid-level SEO to advance their career into the top tier?

Andrew: If I were a mid-level SEO exec today, I’d consider starting my own consulting business. I imagine they already have a few side hustles anyhow (and if not, get on it!) but if you can make it as a consultant and you enjoy the work, it’s the best way to get a variety of SEO experiences and be in charge of your own destiny.

Of course I am biased, so if you want to stick with the corporate thing, then I recommend you figure out who cuts the checks, then figure out what SEO play you can run that shows huge upside, even at a small scale, then show it to them. And show them Bill Hunt’s post on the cost of not ranking.

Use SEO to get experience in a related field that you think is cool and might present future opportunities. For example, Dennis G, Airbnb’s old SEO, spearheaded the “Wall & Chain” campaign in order to get experience with “big” marketing campaigns.

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Andrew: The one that asks me to verify that I am not a robot. I have probably lost a few weeks of my life to that thing since I started SEO.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Andrew: I got involved with BAS because I have always enjoyed the popular regional search marketing groups like SEMPDX and MNSearch and I was kind of stumped as to why Silicon F***ing Valley didn’t have its own search marketing association. There are tons of meetups but nothing quite like those other groups.

And after attending a few of the initial pre-BAS events, it occurred to me that this group of people could be the group. And there was such a great opportunity for education and networking. But mostly I was into it because it would give me an excuse to go into the city on a weeknight (I live in the burbs these days) :slightly_smiling_face:

Micah: Thank you Andrew and best of luck in your continued SEO career!

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.




An Interview with SF Bay Area SEO Matt Storms

Matt Storms

Matt Storms: Bay Area SEO at Viator

Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.

Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?

Matt Storms: I fell into SEO. I was in a college class where a professor brought it up, and right then and there I started researching it. I jumped into an internship paying a whopping $9 an hour and I really enjoyed the work. I had no mentor, I had nobody teaching me so I had to learn on my own.

Micah: What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?

Matt: Technical SEO. It is fun as that is what worked on when I started out rebuilding a website in my internship. I actually built a website from scratch in Php and had a good time doing it in 2008. So the code for me is still fun.

Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?

Matt: Ash Buckles, Andrew Shotland, Mark Munroe, and amazing engineers who tell me it can always be done and do it.

Micah: Why did you decide to join Viator (TripAdvisor) and what’s it like doing SEO for a known brand?

Matt: They hunted after me for a few years and it was the right time to join them in Jan 2016, the time since I joined has flown by as it feels like I have only been here a few months still. Working on the Viator site came with a million more issues then I thought were going to be there but I have learned that it does not matter how big or little a brand is, every website has the same issues. Viator did not have a 404 page till a few months after I joined.

Micah: No 404 page in 2016? that’s crazy! How did that happen to come about?

Matt: Not the highest quality of SEO at the time. But with me joining, we have turned it around.

Micah: What advice would you give a mid-level SEO to advance their career into the top tier?

Matt: DO NOT GIVE UP! The sweet spot is at the 10+ year mark, if you think you are hot shit, you never are. If you want to advance your career you are only as good as the current website you are working on, so do your best, do amazing things and people will notice it.

Read all of the leadership books you can and help people understand that the site you are working on is a personal mission for you, that the website is a reflection of you and that you have to fix things and make it amazing. Once people understand that, you will have the backing you need to do amazing things.

Micah: What leadership books would you recommend?

Matt: Extreme Ownership

Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?

Matt: That to be listed in Google that a company would have to install Google Search Console. This would fix billions of SMBs that do not know what they are doing and just guessing for them. Business owners might not understand the data they are seeing but they will get alerts and they can understand when they are hacked and or are doing bad things.

Micah: Why are you personally helping to build BayAreaSearch?

Matt: In Fall 2016, I pitched the idea to my VP or hosting a gathering of SEO’s to create a working group to help share ideas and create contacts. He approved it and I sent a message to every SEO I could find that I was connected with in the Bay Area at the time. So I was the crazy guy that started this whole thing by taking the first step. Life is about taking a step, a first step and them moving forward. I did not have the ability with family, work and everything else to keep it going but other amazing people did. And now we have a non-profit, a board and I am not able to help as much as I want but I think that BayAreaSearch can grow into a working group of 300+ talented and amazing SEO’s & SEM folks to help advance each other and to life each other up.

Micah: Thank you Matt and best of luck in your continued SEO career!




A Word From The President: Greetings!

Okay, so more than a word.

As the heart of technology and search, it is far past due for the Bay Area to finally gather enough dedicated SEOs to build an association that can provide networking opportunities, educational content, and recruiting opportunities. And with a number of other regional inspirations from SEMPDX, MNSearch, SLCSEM, etc., The board and I strive to create the quality you expect to see in the birthplace of search.

For those in the area, I invite you to join us on this journey to enrich the field and encourage any number of ways to showcase a better SEO world. Please feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to host or sponsor an event, give back to the community with an informative blog post, provide thoughtful feedback for what we can do next, or any other creative idea you’d like to suggest.

Thank you and help spread the word!

President Micah Fisher-Kirshner of BayAreaSearch