Technology and visions of the future have always beguiled me, even in my earliest memories. My first computer was a Commodore 64 that I shared with my brother at around age five or six. Throughout my childhood, computers were ever-present—my dad always made sure of that. My parents encouraged me to pursue whatever interested me throughout my life, so I did. Sometimes my interests seemed a bit odd to others. At age seven, I wanted to reinvent the diaper to be ecofriendly and made of leaves. This was probably inspired by Gilligan’s Island reruns. At age nine, I disassembled and reassembled my clock radio to see how it worked. In junior high school, I sewed a watch onto a T-shirt for my science fair project invention. The project was not well received. I was told nobody would ever want to wear a gadget.

I constantly tinkered with every piece of technology I could get my hands on, trying to learn more. My fascination with the “interwebs” started the moment that sweet, sweet 28.8 Cardinal modem came into my life. I discovered Compuserve and AOL search, then chat rooms. Fondly I remember visiting the undergraduate library at University of Texas and cruising the web. Lycos, Alta Vista, Excite, Yahoo!, and Geocities were my bridge to another planet. Information became rapidly available like never before and my fascination with the virtual world bloomed.

After high school, I attended the University of Texas at Austin during the first dot-com boom in the late 1990s. It was a truly exciting time for a tech person, because startups began appearing everywhere overnight, even in lil’ old Austin. In college, I dabbled as one should. I sort of tried to start a record label, sold health supplements and knives (separately) for two seconds, managed records for a museum, and then became their DBA. My first “tech job” was as a DBA, but it was a joyless enterprise. Alas, the web beckoned.

I very badly moonlighted while in the university system to also become an HTML editor at iBooks. This decision to straddle both cost me a lot; I underestimated my “easiest” class, showing up only three times during the whole semester, and thus failing what should have been a ridiculously easy required credit. Don’t worry—to the happiness of my family, I did eventually graduate, but it was an interesting journey! converted books for various publishers from Quark to Pagemaker and then onto the web. O’Reilly Media was their biggest client by far. We didn’t have any friendly, glossy WYSIWYG tools in 2000—we barely had Dreamweaver. I still believe that BBEdit hacks were my ultimate savior until I learned about more advanced scripting languages. Most people had CRT displays in 2000, and nobody wanted to read books on them. Had the screen hardware been more advanced in 2000, I think that startup would have been far more successful.

Like many people learning something new, I was not a particularly great web developer at first. While working away at night as an HTML editor, I was also reading the books while I converted them and tidied up the images. There was a sizable library of O’Reilly books laying around at the office and anyone could pick them up, so I did. Reading those books changed the course of my career and life dramatically. Not only did I learn how to build cool things on the web, but I began to understand all the pieces of the WWW and how they came together. As a trailblazer and futurist enthusiast, I was soon to discover search as a “thing to do.” It wasn’t always.

I believe that search is both a tool and a key to life in technology. Connectivity to information is so, so important. Search happens in way more places than the browser. For example, I met my husband in late 2000 simply because he did a search for a band called Silverchair that had incredibly poor SEO. They’d created a fan chat module named Silver Chat that they didn’t yet rank for. I was a member of the telnet silverchat, not the band-created one. It was a private telnet-based group in Austin, which was where he was moving, so he joined it just for kicks. They met in the meatspace every week, we both went the same week, and the rest is history. So technically I met my soulmate because of a 90s band’s inadequate SEO.

Becoming a designer and developer contractor for Apple education in enterprise marketing changed the course of my career forever. With my two lady hands, I helped build the first Apple education community right before iTunes was launching. A whole geeky, heady world of marketing was revealed to me that I never knew existed: website marketing.

The web was more than a place to put your information; it was a storefront, a way to consume new content. I saw what happened when demand was so amazingly high that the Apple store crumbled for hours. While I was at Apple, iTunes launched, which was intoxicating for an aspiring geek. When podcasts became “a thing,” it was a wonderful world. After leaving Apple, it became clear to me that I needed to be the person who decided what was on the front of the page rather than behind it. Tools had gotten better by that point, so I lost interest.

The problem was (at first) that deciding what was on the front of the page wasn’t really a full-time job, yet! The key to finding a career in search was my endless passion for tinkering and testing. Once analytics became available—even just the site traffic numbers—it was over. The courtship was short-lived. Through my fascination with analytics, I started to become what is now considered to be an SEO (or a growth hacker).

Back in 2005, I was doing “web stuff.” Companies hired me professing to want SEO done, but nobody actually knew what it meant. Quite often companies would conflate web development with SEO; everyone wanted it but nobody knew what it really was.

I started my own firm in 2009 and haven’t looked back. During my tenure as an agency SEO lead, I’ve helped many startups become enterprises. My team has also grown. When people tell me they want to know what I know—while flattering—it makes me wonder how to best help curious search adventurers of the world move forward.

And here we are today—sweet! This book is the culmination of many years of experience in the field and my desire to help get marketers and developers excited about search domination. I hope that sharing the lessons I’ve learned will help you become a stronger search marketer and solve potential problems you might have in the future.

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