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15 Years: Once in a Lifetime

”And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife…and you may ask yourself well…how did I get here?” – Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”

I have the beautiful wife.

My house is nice, although too many paternity-leave hours spent holding a sleeping baby and watching HGTV leaves me doubting just how beautiful it is.

I drive a nice mid-sized automobile. I’m an Oregonian, I don’t do large vehicles.

So…how did I get here?

Or better yet…why am I still here?

WebRanking’s 2006 Christmas Party – Look at How Young We Looked!

Change, Change, Changes

15 years ago, I didn’t set off to have a career in SEO or Digital Marketing.  I was just a guy, living in Los Angeles, looking to move back to Portland.  WebRanking, was a company, founded by some good friends, looking for somebody with people skills and some good old fashioned marketing know-how to join its ranks.

Little did I know, this temporary paying gig designed to get me back to Pacific Northwest was the first step towards a long and fulfilling career.

Not a One Trick Pony

My father spent 30 years as a firefighter. He put out fires, rescued cats out of trees and risked his life for others. I get it, it was exciting and exhilarating. Yet I never saw myself as the kind of person that would be happy doing the same thing, year after year…which is why I love SEO.

So Many Search Engines…

15 years ago, I was worried about Lycos, Alta Vista, Yahoo, Dogpile and a host of other search engines.  We threw massive amounts of traffic at websites, paid Goto.com and then Overture $0.10 per click on paid traffic and when we produced enough of it, our clients would see results.

We used log files to track traffic, we created as many pages as we could for each of our keyword phrases and writing good title tags consisted of seeing how many variations of the same keyword phrase you could fit within a finite amount of characters:

“Cheap Portable Electric Wheelchairs | Affordable Mobile Electric Wheel Chair” was the type of title tag that I could write in my sleep.

Evolution of Digital Marketing

SMX Advanced – The Year My Face Grew Fur

Today’s digital marketing work is an entirely different from what we were doing back in 2002.

In a typical week, you will find me doing content strategy, content promotion through Facebook Ads, trying to get client pages listed in Google’s Answer Box and writing title tags that are more focused on being persuasive, then seeing how many times I can say the same thing in a different way.

The point is, despite spending 15 years in SEO, my job today is completely different from what I did 15 years ago, it’s different from what I did 10 years ago, or even 1 year ago.

To be successful as an SEO and Search Marketer, I’ve had to constantly reinvent myself and learn new strategies.  Today my job is a combination of marketer, scientist, detective, and strategist.

A year from now? Who knows?

The only constant during the past 15 years has been change…and of course, good keyword research.  Any SEO worth his weight knows that comprehensive keyword research never goes out of style.

It Takes a Village: An Industry of Knowledge and Sharing

SMX Advanced 2009 – The “Core Four”

Early on in my career as an SEO, Google released the Jagger algorithm update in October of 2005.  This devastating update was dropped right before the start of the 2005 holiday season, and left many of us in the industry scrambling for answers.

As an agency with clients that relied on this traffic, we poured over the algorithm update, measured and tracked the effect on our clients, and put on our best detective hats to discover what the hell was going on.

But we didn’t do it alone. We also tuned in to sites like Search Engine Journal and other SEO publications and newsletters to get insights from our SEO community brethren.  We called colleagues to throw ideas off them, we openly discussed our theories, and we shared what was working for our clients with other SEO agencies as they shared their strategies with us.

It was then I realized what a special industry I was working in.

Like doctors and scientists, the SEO industry doesn’t hoard secrets; instead we willingly share them with our colleagues who might also happen to be an occasional competitor.

There truly is a sense of community within this industry, a common desire to unravel the Google algorithm, to test new theories and hypothesis and to share the results with others.

It is also a community of smart, caring, and wonderful human beings.

To be an SEO is to truly be a special breed of marketer. It is a club I’m happy to be a card-carrying member of.

Success Stories

Exciting work and a great community don’t always equate to 15 years at the same company. What else has kept me going for a decade and a half?

It is the feeling that comes from helping clients find success online.

I’ve had clients pause their PPC campaign, because our SEO efforts were generating more leads then they could handle.

I’ve helped struggling companies find new customers and see their business succeed because they were finally visible online.

We’ve personally played a role in companies having to hire new employees, create new divisions, and expand to new locations.

That’s a damn cool feeling.

None of this would be possible if we didn’t have amazing clients that offered fantastic products and services.  Good SEO doesn’t make up for a poor product or service.

I’ve been truly lucky to have worked with some extremely smart, down to earth and generous clients.  People who have trusted our team to experiment, try out new strategies and think outside the box when it comes to promoting their business online.

Our success is built on the success of our clients.

Our Team With One of Those Great Clients I Was Talking About

I might not be rushing into burning buildings like my father did, or working with Leukemia patients like my beautiful wife, but I am doing good things with and for good people. That’s the kind of reward that makes you happy in your career.

For that I am extremely grateful.

The WebRanking Team

Searchfest 2014

Facts are if the company you work for sucks, it doesn’t matter how much your job changes or how great your clients are…it still sucks.

I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of a wonderful team of individuals here at WebRanking.  Due to our past friendship in high school, I’m going on 30 years of friendship with Tony and James.  (I’m sorry, but my employment contract does not allow me to divulge any embarrassing stories from our youth – which is too bad, because there are many).

Has it been easy? Hell no. There have been fights, there have been disagreements and there have been times when we’ve wanted to call it all off.  Yet like any close family, we’ve realized just how good of a team we are, and have always found a way to work things out.

Respect goes a long way in keeping a business going.

There is a certain sense of security that comes from knowing the people you work for have your back, that they care about you and your wellbeing.  And in the same respect, I’ve got their back.

We want to succeed together as a team, doing things the right way, while putting the needs of our clients first.

Early on I let WebRanking know that if this were to work long term, I would always do what’s in the best interest of our clients, I would fight for them, I wouldn’t cut corners and I would be transparent in everything I do.

They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tony, James, Paul Jr. and Paul Sr. are truly wonderful teammates, colleagues and friends.  I want to personally thank WebRanking and our crew (here and gone) for a rewarding 15 years.  Thank you for taking that chance on the guy living in Southern California looking for a ticket home.  I would not be professionally  successful or satisfied without the continued support, comradery, and commitment from our WebRanking team.

They like me…they really, really like me.

Thank you for the past 15 years. Now let’s see how much ass we can kick in the next 15.

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Reader Comments

  • James Svoboda | March 31, 2017

    Dang Chris, those are some “classic” pics! Looking forward to 15 more!

  • Liz | April 07, 2017

    That was a great recap of the changing world of SEO and your history with Webranking – I enjoyed reading it!

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