Bill Slawski, SEO, and Getting Personal

That’s right, folks! We have with us today the great bearded Bill Slawski, SEO Extraordinaire.

If you are in the world of SEO, there are a couple of names that you HAVE to know. These are the people who laid the groundwork of this industry.

Bill Slawski is one of those names. For the three people in the world who has no clue what Bill does, he is a kickass SEO with a personal blog and a digital marketing agency. Don’t believe me? “Bill Slawski SEO” is actually on Google Autosuggest!

You may know him as the guy who takes the time to read Google’s patents so that he can educate the rest of the world about what Big G is up to. I first bumped into him on Twitter after reading a bunch of his blogs.

True Story: I was really intimidated by him before we got to talking on a personal level. A little nudge by Debi Norton pushed me to really engage with him.

And boy, am I glad that she did. Let’s dive into it, people – Bill Slawski!

Exclusive: Bill Slawski SEO Legend - 10 Q&As 1

Interview With:

Bill Slawski,
Director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital,
Author at SEObythesea

Interviewed By:

Nirvana Guha,
CEO, SEO Elixir

Date: 5 May 2019

Nirvana: Hi, Bill! Not that they need it, but would you mind giving our readers a short introduction about yourself?

Bill:

I am the Director of SEO Research for Go Fish Digital and the author at SEObythesea.

I have been doing SEO since 1996, and often blog about patents and whitepapers from the search engines – it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to learn about what is new from places like Google and to prepare for the future of SEO.

Nirvana: Everyone I know in the SEM industry has a weird story about how they got into it. What’s your story? How does a patent lawyer get into SEO and become a legend in it?

Bill:

I went from law school to working as an intern to the Staff attorney at Superior Court of Delaware, the highest level trial court in the State of Delaware.

I was asked, as my internship ended if I would consider continuing to work for the Court, and I accepted. Instead of practicing law, I worked for the Court for 14 years, first as an assistant criminal deputy, and then as a mini-micro computer network administrator (they discovered that I could fix problems with computers quickly and had a fair amount of technical knowledge).

A friend decided to leave his job working for a car dealership and was looking for something new to do.

I suggested that he start a business incorporating people in Delaware as a registered agent.

He thought it was a good idea, and I picked up a “learn HTML in 2 weeks” book and started learning HTML. In a couple of weeks, I had built a website for that business and started promoting the business online.

It is when I first started promoting sites online. I later looked into patents to get a better idea of how search engines were developing processes for ranking pages in search results.

I picked up a “learn HTML in 2 weeks” book and started learning HTML. In a couple of weeks, I had built a website for that business and started promoting the business online.

Bill Slawski

CLICK TO TWEET

Nirvana: Wow! The only thing I know about the law is, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Ah well! Speaking of patents… Your blog on SEO by the Sea is one of the most beautiful ideas in SEO blogging ever. How much time do you usually invest in each post?

Bill:

Thank you. I also blog in a few other places, like the blog for Go Fish Digital.

I usually search through the patents that are granted or filed each week and keep track of the ones that I find most interesting.

I research the inventors of each of those and see what other patents or papers they have written, and where they have worked at before, and what they were doing at those places.

Sometimes they have written papers or blog posts about the same topic as the blog post.

Once I’ve done initial research, I’ll try to break down a patent, and understand what it describes and if it contains anything interesting worth sharing.

If there are other posts or articles that cover the same or a related topic, I may point to that in my post.

I can often write a post within 8 hours or so, but some have taken less time and some have taken longer.

Nirvana: I hear you. Most agencies in India are way too interested in quantity over quality. I got sick of that and started my own agency.

Is it a difficult feat to juggle a personal blog and a digital marketing agency? Do you ever have to cut back on the personal blog to focus on the agency instead?

Bill:

It can be challenging trying to maintain a personal blog and work for a digital agency, and blog on the agency’s site as well. Sometimes I publish more often on the agency’s site than my personal blog, though I try to do both.

It can be challenging trying to maintain a personal blog and work for a digital agency, and blog on the agency’s site as well. Sometimes I publish more often on the agency’s site than my personal blog, though I try to do both.

Bill Slawski

CLICK TO TWEET

Nirvana: I know, right? People want good bloggers to post something great every single week like clockwork. It’s flattering, but every so often writers go, “Calm down! I’m working on it, OK?”

Was there ever a time when you were completely stumped by a problem? It could be business-related or personal. Take your pick!

Bill:

I think most people have times when they have issues that they may have trouble solving.

A few years ago, I was working for an agency doing SEO for a visitor’s bureau, and we were optimizing pages of their site for specific terms.

One of the terms that they wanted to rank well for was “Baltimore Black History.” We tried, creating a page that had that phrase on it a number of times and containing information about that topic.

There was a lot of competition for that term, and we weren’t having a lot of success.

I asked a copywriter I was working with to create a new page for that term that was a walking tour of the City of Baltimore that included historic Churches, and colleges and people from the city.

We filled that page with entities – specific people and places and things that they might want to come into the City of Baltimore and see in person, and this was in 2005.

Within 3 months, this was the 6th most visited page on the site.

Nirvana: And that’s why you’re a legend. [Cue Dramatic Music]

Are there small things about SEO that never change? Like, backlinks, for instance – they’ve been around forever. We’re more picky about them now, but they’re still there the buggers! Are there more things like that in SEO?

Bill:

There are some things that are part of the nature of SEO, such as information retrieval scores based upon things such as relevance – matching words on pages with words on documents.

With Google’s Knowledge Graph started in 2012, it’s possible that kind of keyword matching will end up being replaced by writing about entities, and their properties and relationships with other entities.

I’ve been seeing more patents from Google and from Microsoft that reflect that as well.

With Google’s Knowledge Graph started in 2012, it’s possible that kind of keyword matching will end up being replaced by writing about entities, and their properties and relationships with other entities.

Bill Slawski

CLICK TO TWEET

Nirvana: One of the best things about the digital marketing industry is that there’s a real sense of community. People treat you like you’re one of their own. Do you remember the first few people you connected with when you got into digital marketing?

Bill:

When I first started getting involved in the SEO community, it was as a moderator and then the administrator of Cre8asiteforums, where I had an opportunity to work with some of the pioneers in the industry, such as Jill Whalen and Ammon Johns, and Kim Krause-Berg.

This was in the early 2000s, and working with them in a forum about SEO and Usability, we had conversations about many aspects of SEO.

The forum had a sub-forum called the “Website Hospital,” where many people brought their sites asking for SEO suggestions, and it was an opportunity to audit sites and find problems that could be solved to help people start receiving more traffic and customers to their sites.

We often worked together to provide recommendations, which also was another chance to learn more from each other.

When I first got involved in the SEO community, it was as a moderator and then the admin of Cre8asiteforums. I had an opportunity to work with some of the pioneers in the industry, such as Jill Whalen and Ammon Johns, and Kim Krause-Berg.

Bill Slawski

CLICK TO TWEET

Nirvana: What is the industry heading towards? Are we going to hit a saturation point soon? Or is there scope for lots more people to set up shop and live comfortably for a while now?

Bill:

There is an evolution in the SEO industry which provides room for people who are willing to learn about things such as Schema.org and semantic marketing, rich results, JSON-LD, Semantic Topic Models, and more to learn those things.

There are new sites showing up, selling new services and goods, and as long as people are interested in offering those things online, and people are interested in buying those things, there will be people searching, and a need for people to help people be found in search results.

Some aspects of SEO haven’t changed very much, while some things are very new. There is room for more people to participate in the industry.

There is an evolution in the SEO industry which provides room for people who are willing to learn about things such as Schema.org and semantic marketing, rich results, JSON-LD, Semantic Topic Models, and more.

Bill Slawski

CLICK TO TWEET

Nirvana: That is the sweetest response, Bill. Let’s switch it up to something more depressing (sorry!).

Have you ever had a client who tried to haggle with your pricing? What do you do when that happens?

Bill:

I have had people who wanted to haggle about pricing. I didn’t enjoy that aspect of doing SEO and started working with Go Fish Digital so that I could concentrate on just helping with SEO on sites, rather than negotiations over pricing.

Nirvana: Oh, GOD, do I hate haggling. My business partner Rahul handles all that jazz. I’m absolutely useless there.

But enough about me, name 3 things that you’d like to accomplish soon.

Bill:

  1. I would like to use Schema to mark up my site, and use Google Custom Search-based on Schema and make it easier to find out about specific patents that I have written about in the past.
  2. I would like to write a book about Search Engines and SEO.
  3. I would like to become a better photographer.

Nirvana: YES! Write a book. A nice, fat one with nothing held back. I have no idea how the first one works, so I’ll just wish you all the best and steer clear of that topic! But I’d love to see your photography soon.

Wrapping Up

 

Bill Slawski, everyone! If you ever have ANY SEO requirements, please do hit him up at Go Fish Digital.

Thank you so much, Bill, for taking the time to indulge in an interview with me.  You can find him on Twitter, so make sure to follow him for more awesome content.

I know from personal exprience that he’s a complete sweetheart. So, reach out to him with questions and content requests.

Also, be sure to read his latest post on Context Clusters in Search Query Suggestions. I’ve read it already and it’s amazing.

Stay tuned for more exciting news exclusives. Share this interview with more people and come back next week as we get real with some more awesome people in the industry. Until next time!

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