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Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

The SEO industry will be changed forever with the loss of Bill Slawski, Owner of SEO By The Sea, Director of Research at Go Fish Digital, Educator, Mentor and Friend.

Bill was many things to many people. He’s been a contributor here to Search Engine Journal since 2019, and a friend and mentor to many of us for decades.

It’s not often you can say someone has influenced and shaped an entire industry. But this is one of those times.

On May 19, 2022, the SEO industry learned that Bill Slawski passed away.

The loss and sadness in our community was palpable.

We are devastated to share that our colleague and dear friend, @bill_slawski has passed away. Words simply cannot express our sadness. We are forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Bill. We will be sharing much more information and arrangements as they become available to us.

— Go Fish Digital (@GoFishDigital) May 19, 2022

A research patent expert, colleague and mentor to many, and friend to many, Bill has touched the lives of everyone in the research industry.

If you hadn’t read one of the thousands of articles he wrote or contributed to, watched one of his interviews, attended one of his talks, or listened to a podcast he was on guest – I guarantee that someone you work with, learn from, or work for has.

This was largely due to Bill’s vast knowledge and expertise, combined with an unparalleled passion for the nuances and technological advancements that make search engines tick.

I spoke with Bill a few weeks ago when we were planning a feature article on which patents he thinks have the most impact for search marketers.

In this interview, he explained his love for patents.

“One thing I always say about patents is that they are the best place to find hypotheses about researchers, research and the web. They are research engineers who share their opinions in addition to solve problems,” he said.

He liked to see what engineers thought and had to say about different issues on the web.

“One of my favorite types of patents to search for is when they repeat a patent and file a continuation,” Bill explained. “I like to look at these continuation patents and see how they’ve changed, because they don’t tell you, ‘This is what we’re doing.'”

This innate curiosity and genuine passion for unraveling the intricacies of the search algorithms we work with every day has made talking with Bill and reading about his work a real joy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Bill or referenced his work in mine over the years like so many others.

He had a real talent for making complex concepts more accessible to readers and marketers of all persuasions. Therefore, his contributions to our collective understanding of how research works are unparalleled.

Bill Slawski’s work and knowledge is the foundation of the practice of SEO as we know it today.

I speak for all of us at SEJ in saying that we are incredibly grateful for what he generously shared with each of us.

He was also a close friend and respected colleague of our founder, Loren Baker.

“Bill Slawski was a true friend of mine in more ways than one. First, he was an amazing mentor who helped me quite early in my career, even before the days of social media or search Diary. He was my buddy and co-worker,” Loren said.

Bill and Loren worked together for a few years and spent a lot of time in the parking lot in Havre de Grace, Maryland, smoking cigarettes and talking about Google patents.

“If anything, I’d say Bill taught me that there’s so much more to SEO than just rankings,” Loren explained, adding that Bill taught her the importance of incorporating storytelling into all the work you do.

“He taught me the ethics and craftsmanship behind creating a piece of digital art that people will want to read, want to share, and eventually search and click on – touching their lives,” he said. he declares. “I will miss Bill deeply. It is very difficult to lose friends.

Having started in 1996 and launched SEO By The Sea in 2005, Bill was the go-to source when you wanted to understand how search engines work or how they are changing the way we search or live our lives.

But it was much more than that.

Bill was generous with his time and eager to share his knowledge of research, information retrieval, NLP and other information technologies with everyone.

He had a knack for taking complex patents, algorithms, concepts, real-world behaviors and search engines and explaining how the world of search and information retrieval worked in a way that everyone everyone could understand.

Bill seemed to have an instinct to figure out what you knew and didn’t know or where you were confused. He could fill in the gaps without making you feel like a fool for asking. Even if it was the millionth time he had answered that question.

You also didn’t have to be an SEO rock star or a seasoned pro.

If you don’t understand something or have questions, he’ll be happy to spend hours explaining concepts and offering (or creating) resources to help you. And as many industry players who have met Braggadocio can attest, you always felt like a long-lost friend, even though you had just “met” him in writing.

“It’s like when you go to a conference and you’re one of the first people there. And all the seats are still empty and there’s not a lot of discussion going on. That’s what the SEO world back then… I remember coming across an SEO forum and just being a lurker, just looking at what everyone was talking about and thinking, “this is a weird career”. I’m not sure I can do this. In the end, I did.

I started working and promoting a website for a couple of friends who started a business. And so helping them succeed in business was a pretty good motivation. Bill Slawski, CognitiveSEO Talks interview, April 5, 2018

Bill’s wealth of knowledge also extended well beyond research.

With a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware and a Juris Doctorate from Widener University School of Law, Bill spent 14 years as a court manager, administrator, technologist and analyst. of management in the Superior Court of Deleware.

He loved nature and plants, and the ocean. He loved travel and research conferences, but he eventually found peace in nature and often enjoyed it. And he shared it with all of us.

Bill pushed everyone to look beyond titles and keywords.

He was quick to add words of support and congratulations when someone shared an achievement. He encouraged everyone to explore the possible, to not be intimidated by new things, and to better understand the research ecosystem, not just the technology, so that we can better serve our families, our communities, our colleagues and our clients.

His kindness, generosity, loyalty and love of the industry knew no bounds.

I’m so sorry to hear that @bill_slawski passed away 😔 One of the first SEOs I started following and reading. He and his always insightful contributions to the analysis of patents in research will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Bill and thank you for everything! 🙏

— Aleyda Solis 🇺🇦 (@aleyda) May 19, 2022

Here at Search Engine Journal, Bill was a familiar face on social media and a VIP contributor, but he was so much more than that.

One of the things I will miss most about Bill Slawski is the outdoor photography he shared on Twitter.

As deeply rooted as he was in SEO and online marketing, he always took the time to step back from the keyboard and admire the beauty in life.

I think it’s something we could all benefit from doing more.

I had known Bill Slawski for almost 20 years, through search marketing forums and conferences. He caused a stir with all the things he found in patents, which went a long way to demystifying what search engines were doing.

What impressed me the most was his generosity with his time and how encouraging he was to me and everyone. I feel privileged and honored to have been able to call him a friend.

Brent Csutoras, Advisor and Owner

A big part of our marketing journey has been understanding not just how something works with Google, but also what they’re trying to accomplish over the next few years so we can be prepared and ready to pivot when needed.

Bill’s work on patents provided valuable information that very few people were able to distill and yet everyone benefited.

He was instrumental in getting us to where we are today as SEOs and digital marketers.

Bill Slawski Was A Man Of Quiet Impact

Bill Slawski Was A Man Of Quiet Impact

“My first interaction with Bill Slawski was on Kim Krause Berg’s Cre8asite forum. I was trying to learn what SEO was, so I went into hiding, absorbing knowledge from Bragadocchio, Black Knight, Grumpus, Barry Welford and others I know Bill started over 10,000 threads there while he was one of the admins and one of the first things that struck me was his willingness to patiently share his I had no idea who he was at the time, but it soon became clear that he was someone worth listening to.”

Atul Gawande once wrote that life has meaning because it has a story, a story driven by a deep need to identify goals outside of ourselves and a transcendent desire to see and help others realize their potential.

It was the essence of Bill’s life.

Not just in the wealth of unparalleled knowledge and resources he gave us, but in the inspiration, guidance and encouragement he instilled in us all. It is his legacy and he who will live.

It’s been hard to hit publish on this piece because I don’t think anything we share can do this legacy justice.

Search Engine Journal will leave Bill’s content library here untouched in perpetuity, and we’ve left open comments below for all to share your contributions to this memorial for Bill.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your intelligence, passion, and knowledge with the SEO community.

Written in collaboration with Angie Nikoleychuk.

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