An InHouse SEO’s story of feeling beaten down but always moving forward

always moving forward

Sometimes SEO isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You work your ass off, you do what you have to do to get things done, and you buy people drinks. Whatever the case may be, it seems like we are gluttons for punishment, we keep going back to the well. The work we do pleasures us so much, we are like a crack fiend waiting for their next high. People LOVE search and do SEO are possibly the most passionate group of people that I have ever met.

I never intended to be an SEO, nor did I intend to be on the marketing side of the business. I wanted to be a technologist and switched my major from psychology. I worked damn hard to make it in the industry. Full time during the week, school on the weekends, and even overnighters replacing servers or catching up on school work just to make a living and hopefully pave my road. But, never did I think I wanted to be a deceitful, sly marketer. Lo and behold, it actually was fun doing it and it fit my personality. For those of you that know me, you know I like to socialize and talk a lot. (p.s. sorry if I do!) Funny though, I went from wanting to understand the mind, to software and web technology, and now came full circle to leveraging the psychology of a user to influence marketing. Go figure.

At nights and on the weekends I looked forward to getting down to doing SEO work. I never really did the extremely shady stuff, because, at the time I felt like it was being deceitful. But, I did what I needed to do to rank, again, like a fiend looking for a hit. And, I did it constantly, my engineering work during the day just seemed like a way to make a paycheck. I got in, sat in my box or went to client offices and either managed servers, databases, or coded. It felt a lot like Fight Club, except it was SEO Club and I was much happier when I could start doing SEO work after my day job.

I continued doing other things, like taking on contracts to build internet products, SEO clients, and then went to work for PayPal. Still on the engineering side, but, I got to manage projects and programs now, rather than coding. The funny thing is, I think I learned the most about coding at PayPal thanks to Kimberly Blessing. Because of her I will always have a passion for web standards based HTML and CSS now. The cool thing about PayPal was that I was encouraged to share my knowledge about SEO and inevitably became an SEO evangelist of sorts. I made sure things like unique title tags were on pages and contributed to programs. But, was it enough? I wanted it to be all I did, I wanted to live it, eat it, breathe it. So I did, I was dying to be an InHouse SEO and that’s when Yahoo! came along.

This is where the nightmare begins.

I was pumped and excited because I had the opportuty to work with someone in the industry I loved, Laura Lippay, and I was able to work for a brand like Yahoo!. Furthermore, Yahoo! was still a top player in Sports, Games and Finance and at the time all I could think of was the amount of amazing content on Yahoo!. It was ridiculous and like an SEO’s wet dream. Well, yes, the sad fact is, there is a major but that I did not evaluate going into the situation. SEO traffic to Yahoo! felt like a drop in a river compared to 500MM unique users a month. Being an Inhouse SEO at Yahoo! caused me to question so many parts of being an SEO for a company like that. It was painful. I will repeat, with emphasis: it. was. painful.

After almost a year and a half, I packed my bags and headed up to San Francisco, again, to work for a startup. My biggest complaint about Yahoo! was almost all of the project I worked on to attempt to increase search traffic were left untouched. So, I didn’t want to go somewhere that my basic meta data changes would take months. Boy, did that not go the way I planned it. Don’t get me wrong, I learned more than I could ever imagine at BillShrink, so, it wasn’t a total waste like Yahoo!. As you can imagine, nothing ever got done there as well and that was the only reason I made the switch.

This got me think about how amazing it was to me that companies who rely on web traffic, don’t put more resources against this. To me, it’s simple, you need traffic to survive. You need traffic to prove value to shareholders, investors, etc. You need traffic so advertisers will keep coming back. Bottom line, every company on the web needs traffic. So, why is it that so many companies de-prioritize SEO projects? Why is that companies do not trust the people that can and will drive that traffic for them? Because of this, SEO has become a pain in my side, a pain in my head and most importantly a pain in my chest. It causes me to think about work when I shouldn’t and it causes me to loose sleep. Yet, again, like an addict, I keep coming back for more. You would think something unhealthy would eventually catch up to someone. The problem is that, I’ve learned, no matter how painful. I still enjoy what I do way more than sitting in a box coding. And, sure, I’ve also become a more rounded Online Marketing by running many Social Media programs and learned some paid traffic acquisition. I’ve even spent time on social design principles and how the affect products and marketing. But, I still love SEO and no matter what games they are playing, content farms they are blocking, etc. I am going to be doing it for a long time, and, I’ll likely enjoy as a whole.

Getting back to the point of feeling down and out. I went and still go through nightmarish times when SEO devours my life and consumes my thoughts and emotions. I go to work, watch projects get killed, watch things that are very important get pushed aside, and go home feeling extremely bummed. I can say that as I am writing this post I think about some days and I start to breathe heavier and get emotional. I start to think about whether I am going to have to quantify a title tag change or explain why a ranking dropped. I’ll still do it with a smile on my face, but, I’ll go back and feel down and out. I’ll wonder if it’s all really worth it. I’ll start to question things. But, at the end of the day, I’ll never let up. I can’t, it’s just not in my soul and it’s just not in my heart to do so.

The reason I am this way is that I am a passionate person and have become really passionate about what I do.

I think this is why I got into the industry in the first place. I noticed how much SEOs loved what they did. I noticed how much people in search overall loved what they did. No matter how bad things get, we are still doing the one thing that makes us tick. To this day, I see a term I’ve been trying to drive search traffic for start showing up in analytics and I jump up and down like a kid in a candy store. I’ve been known to blurt out the occasional “yes!!” when I see that. I know I’m a dork, I don’t care that these things get me excited and I’m okay with people making fun of me about it. I love what I do and can’t ever let up. I will get frustrated and I will voice my opinions. Because I am passionate!

When I am feeling down and out though. I take a moment of retrospection and realize it’s going to be okay. When I barely graduated High School, I wasn’t thinking about success, I was thinking about hip hop music. I went to a technical school and didn’t go to a big school and get drafted to Google like an NBA rookie to a team. I worked my ass off every single day up at 6, asleep at 1 A.M. I listened to the doubters and absorbed it all. It became my fire and has continued to be the fuel that keeps me going, just when I think I can’t do it anymore. Our past defines us and makes us who we are. Thank you to everyone that doubted me and said “you can’t do it,” you’ve made me who I am and one extremely driven individual.

When things get tough and we are feeling down, we should all do this. Think about the doubters and non-believers. It’s about remembering those that doubted you and using them as the fuel/energy to make you want to overachieve. Remember, it’s not about the good days or the bad days, it’s about the whole damn thing. It’s about getting knocked down and coming right back up to take another beating. It’s the experience and culmination of it all. The down and out moments keep us grounded and are a crucial part in that overall experience.

I know that I am the type of person that wouldn’t do something that I didn’t love. Right now, more than anything else, I love my career. I love the people, I love my job, and I love knowing that no matter how badly I get knocked down, I’ll push myself to get back up and take the hits as they come. We should all remember that.

We have to remember that if we care about something, we have to be willing to take the hits and keep moving forward. That IS how winning is done!

In case you don’t believe me, let Rocky Balboa explain it to you:

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About Tony Adam