July 12, 2024


Technology and Age

SEO pioneer and expert Bill Slawski passes away

Bill Slawski in memoriam

We have just learned the shocking news that Bill Slawski, an SEO expert, educator and pioneer, has died.

Slawski was the Director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital, a digital marketing agency. His company just shared the news of his passing on Twitter, moments ago.

We don’t know many details about his death. He was last active on Twitter on May 16 and passed away on May 17.

What we do know is he leaves an incredible void in our industry. Slawski was a wealth of knowledge. Countless SEOs are better off – both directly, and indirectly – as a result of his mentorship, insights and expertise.

About Bill Slawski

Slawski did SEO before Google existed. Heck, he did SEO before SEO was even called SEO.

He started when all of this online stuff was simply known as internet marketing and web promotion, in 1996. He provided consulting services to help make websites easier to find online, help make them easier to use, and increase conversions and revenue for clients.

Throughout his career, Slawski worked on all types of sites – nonprofits, Fortune 500, educational institutions, e-commerce, professional services, consumer goods, B2B and more.

Prior to his search marketing career, Slawski earned a Juris Doctor degree and was a legal and technical administrator at the highest level court in Delaware for 14 years. Slawski lived in Carlsbad, California.

SEO by the Sea

For many in our industry, Slawski was probably best-known for researching, analyzing, interpreting and writing about Google and search-related patents and algorithms at SEO by the Sea. He started the SEO by the Sea blog in June 2005.

On SEO by the Sea, Slawski covered it all – from the classics (PageRank, TrustRank, information retrieval) to today (machine learning, the Knowledge Graph, entities).

Contributions to the search community

They were many.

Aside from writing on his own blog, Slawski contributed articles to the Go Fish Digital blog and other search marketing publications. Slawski was a contributing author here at Search Engine Land from December 2006 to July 2008. You can read Slawski’s articles here.

Slawski was also a popular speaker at several search conferences, including several SMX events. He also did several webinar presentations and was an in-demand guest for multiple SEO podcasts.

Slawski had been active in SEO forums, including serving as a co-administrator on Cre8asite Forums.

In addition to all of that, he was extremely active on Twitter, sharing his own insights and content, as well as from others. He was particularly vocal about debunking SEO myths and misinformation.

‘Our teacher, our professor, our mentor’

That is how Search Engine Land’s own Barry Schwartz described Slawski in 2020.

After Slawski suffered a stroke, Schwartz created a tribute site: billslawski.com. Schwartz asked SEOs for stories about how Slawski had helped them in their career. And they sure delivered.

The site is filled with hundreds of stories and memories, published on a near-daily basis, from Dec. 15, 2020 until May 10, 2021.

One of those stories from Slawski himself, who updated the community on his status:

Thank you to everyone who took a moment to write something, or to send me something while I was in the hospital. I had a small brain clot, and am now taking aspirin as a blood thinner. The clot caused a stroke, which had the effect of throwing off my center of balance, and made it difficult to walk and made me concerned about falling over. I was in hospitals for 2 months going through 3 hours of rehab a day. A lot of that was learning to use a wheeled walker and then a cane to help me get around. By the time I was discharged, I had started walking unassisted. At home, I spent a lot more time walking without a walker or a cane. I am a little clumsier than I was before but can walk fairly well. I am riding a stationary bike 40 minutes a day, and tracking my steps walking too. The stroke did not impact my ability to think or talk or do SEO. The Speech therapists checked me on that, giving me logical puzzles to work through to make sure that I could. They were puzzles that could have fit into spreadsheets, and to someone used to doing site audits were just not very challenging – they kept on saying that they needed more advanced books.

A shoutout to my team at Go Fish Digital, who sent me plants to look at, and to a number of local SEOs who sent me a succulents and a couple of Doordash gifts so that I could order breakfasts directly from them. I managed to keep my connection to Twitter working during that time, and a couple of people who were local ending up helping me make sure that I made it home, and took care of some issues with the DMV and paying my bills during the hospital stay. After 2 months away from a computer, it took me a few tries to write and send emails. I have written about a few patents already, and am now chatting weekly about SEO. I agreed to a chat this week on the future of SEO, 9 years after Penguin, on Twitter Spaces. Have to learn how to use that first. I hope to talk to everyone soon Thank you for setting this website up, Barry. It really has been nice to see a new post on it every day as I continue to work on relearning how to walk.

Community reaction

We are all still in shock and processing this devastating loss.

News quickly spread of Slawski’s passing on Twitter and word-of-mouth. Here’s just a small sampling of reactions from the search community, upon learning of Slawski’s death.

Rest in peace, Bill. We all miss you.

New on Search Engine Land

About The Author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.