Danny Sullivan, renowned search guru, nonchalantly says that he was a newspaper reporter that saw the web, liked what he saw and decided to leave newspapers and start working with a friend developing websites. A humble beginning with an exceptional future, Danny explains that he simply stumbled upon search. One of their first clients asked why they weren’t ranking tops in 1995. There weren’t any good answers at the time so Danny began digging for information. The following year, Danny published his findings on the web, as The Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines. Much of it is still true today, title tags are important, content is important, etc… There was a great deal of interest in The Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines so Danny decided to create Search Engine Watch in 1996.
Danny says back then people used to talk about Yahoo! how they talk about Google today. Site owners would say that Yahoo! had too much power and too much control over how they were going to show-up or not show-up. It was a big deal and people were talking about whether Yahoo! should be regulated because it was so difficult to get sites listed. Yahoo! was a directory only but to the searcher there was no real difference between Yahoo! and the lesser known engines: AltaVista, Lycos, Excite, Infoseek, etc… According to Danny, the most dramatic reaction search engines have taken to SEO is the creation of Google Webmaster Central and Yahoo! SiteExplorer. It’s easy to focus on the negative but the search engines provided entire suites of free tools to help support people who are doing SEO. Danny believes these actions stand out far and above any other thing that the search engines have done.
Danny did a bit of in-house SEO training and very little agency training in his early career. In 1997 Danny traveled from London to Bend, Oregon at the request of John Audette, to train his employees on search engine optimization. Danny recalls that MMG was a huge force on the internet marketing scene. John Audette has a legacy of overseeing young people that have now emerged as big names in the search industry. There are many ways to get into search today. Danny recommends that if you are trying to do SEO for your own site there is a lot of online instruction to get someone up to speed. But the people that want to do it for clients should start doing it for themselves or find a company that is willing to take on interns. Having experience and results is what gains trust according to Danny. That is how he got his start in the industry.
In 1997 Jupiter Media bought Search Engine Watch but Danny stayed on and maintained the website. Jupiter had been doing conferences and Chris Elwell thought that they should do one on search. Danny said that he had been to enough conferences where search was shoved in a corner and thought that it deserved greater attention. So they did their first show in 1999 in San Francisco. In 2005, Search Engine Strategies conference series and Search Engine Watch were sold to Incisive Media, Danny announced his resignation in 2006. In 2006, Danny founded Search Engine Land and began the conference series, Search Marketing Expo.
Today Danny spends his time reviewing the content for Search Engine Land, writing, preparing for conferences, reading comments on Digg and responding, and planning the future of his company. Danny believes that blended search will continue to grow and develop, including social media and personalization. For the future of SEO, Danny sees continued challenges to understanding how the search engines get their results and learning about vertical space opportunities. SEO still has a long way to go; Danny says that he can underscore this fact based on the question he continues to receive, when are the search engines going to be able to deal with Flash? Danny’s sarcastic response is, “I don’t know, you know, they haven’t dealt with it for 10 years. I don’t know why they’d suddenly decide this is the year to do it. You would think at this point people wouldn’t be sitting around for 10 years wondering when search engines are going to be able to get flash; they’re never going to get flash.”