Who Are Your Internet Marketing Mentors?

Who Are Your Internet Marketing Mentors?


Many of us in the internet marketing industry started off with limited information about how to please the Google Gods. Whether we were influential in the early days of changing meta data to get clients to rank higher, or placing guest blog posts before guest blogging was “en vogue,” several started in SEO as trial and error marketers. Having started at Vertical Measures without much internet marketing experience, I certainly credit my abilities to my colleagues here whom I’ve learned a great deal from.

Several others over the course of the last five years have been instrumental in helping me understand the concepts of SEO and thinking outside-the-box for developing effective campaigns. Conversations with Michael Lee Johnson helped in my early years, reading Eric Ward and attending his webinars, Aaron Wall’s blog, posts on SEOMoz, Kaiser The Sage blog, reading Julie Joyce’s posts, conversations with Kristi Hines (a previous colleague), Ann Smarty, instant messaging with Gerald Weber, discussions with Alan Bleiweiss, Outspoken Media’s blog, Neil Patel, and so many others!

I posed the question “who are your internet marketing mentors” to a few industry professionals and here’s what they said…. 

Greg Shuey

Greg Shuey

Independent Consultant

I would say that I had a number of mentors. I initially got started in SEO by subscribing to the StomperNet curriculum, so I learned a lot about SEO and link building from guys like Dan Thies (SEO Fast Start), Leslie Rohde, Andy Jenkins, and Brad Fallon. These guys set a really good foundation for me. The two individuals who helped me take my skills to the next level are Boyd Norwood and Ash Buckles. Boyd was my mentor while working at ioVentures and Ash at SEO.com. Today, I still consider myself a student and learn a ton from guys like Eric Ward, Garrett French (CitationLabs.com), Arnie Kuenn, and Matt Siltala (AvaLaunchMedia.com).

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Community and Brand Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas


I started in the Internet Marketing 6 years ago (I had been doing SEO before that as well but that hadn’t been Internet Marketing :)). At that time I didn’t know much about community and branding. I joined Sphinn to drop my links there, then I joined SEOmoz… and that’s what turned the whole concept around to me. I saw a community of people who wanted to be helpful and who didn’t care much about how new I was. I saw the community of people who were authentic and who wanted to be useful. After a couple of days of being there I already knew which kind of the marketer I wanted to be!

I believe that’s solely Rand’s merit that SEOmoz community has been so great throughout these years. That’s my I consider Rand to be my first mentor: He managed to build something really special there because he has been consistent and hard-working – but the main thing, he has always believed in what he has been doing.

That’s been my way of doing marketing ever since: I only do what I have trust in and what I am passionate about!


Neil Patel

Co-Founder of Crazy Egg & KISSmetrics

Patrick Gavin and Kris Jones are two people I look up to in the Internet marketing world. They do know marketing, but the main reason I look up to them is that they understand business extremely well. It’s rare to find mentors in the online marketing world that are both good at marketing and business. Without those two guys, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

matt siltala

Matt Siltala

President of Avalaunch Media


I have been doing Internet Marketing in some form or another (link building, web design, even SEO since 1997) way before I even knew what a lot of those “official” names were (that’s a longer story for another day).  Eventually when I started to get serious and really do my best to learn beyond my own trial and error, I credit a lot of my “SEO” skills to Aaron Wall of SEOBook.com.  His blog, SEO Book, Forum and Newsletters were and are still amazing tools and resources.  Also I give a lot of credit to Debra Mastaler (Alliance-Link.com)- she has been a true mentor to me even beyond this industry.  She continues to teach me and help me grow.  I am very blessed to know both Aaron and Debra and consider them friends.

David Harry

Dave Harry

SEO Consultant


That really is a tough question as I was somewhat self-taught when I started. It began by reading things that were out there and experimenting.

There was no real ‘mentor’ that I was hands-on with. After forums replaced mailing lists, Steve Gerencser and the gang at Webworkshop, a now defunct forum, were great. I’ve known Steve for many years now and has been great to discuss SEO and the business side of things with.

Then of course, there’s Bill Slawski. From reading his blog, to interviewing and getting to know him over the years, has been rather huge I’d say. A great deal of how I do things is based on things I believe might be happening with a search engine. Bill was a huge light in the empty space of SEO myopia. In many ways, that spark, is what truly set me on my journey in this biz. From writing to clients, to my (SEO Dojo) community, discovering the deeper world of information retrieval has been key.

More recently it would be Terry Van Horne, whom I have worked with for the last 4 years. We built the community, a news site and of course did consulting work together. He brings that true old-school perspective (been around since 96) to things and has been important in how my company does reporting and more.

At the end of the day, there’s so many in truth. From bloggers like Aaron Wall to Googlers I’ve gotten to know. One becomes a mosaic of many influences.

matt mcgee

Matt McGee

Editor-in-Chief at MarketingLand.com and SearchEngineLand.com

I’ve always credited people like Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl.com), Jennifer Evans Cario (SugarSpunMarketing.com) and David Wallace (SearchRank.com) for helping my career along in various ways back in the middle of last decade. But since you’re asking about SEO mentors, I’d have to turn the clock back even further and name three others: Danny Sullivan, Chris Sherman and Jill Whalen (HighRankings.com).

I had built a nice website for a small business client in the late 1990s, but the client wasn’t making any money nor getting much traffic. So I had to figure out how to increase the site’s visibility, and that led me to the writings of Danny and Chris back when they ran Search Engine Watch. It was pure gold — so much to learn and put into practice. Not long after that, I discovered and subscribed to Jill’s High Rankings newsletter, and that was even more great, useful information. I never met any of them until many years later, but those three are the people that I’d call my SEO mentors. I have to think I won’t be able the only person listing Danny, Chris and Jill!

Alan Bleiweiss

Alan Bleiweiss

Forensic SEO Consultant


Personally, nobody taught me SEO.  I learned my craft through years of hard knocks with the patience and appreciation of SMB clients.  Where I can point to people in the industry who made a difference in my going from “one voice in the crowd” to where I am today, at the top of my list is most definitely Dave Harry.  He’s the single most influential person within our industry who confirmed my belief that critical thinking is vital to SEO, and he was the inspiration/catalyst I looked to in taking that concept to a whole new level within my own work.

Also, George Revutsky (Wishplz.com) is the mentor in my business path who helped me take the quality of my audit presentations – how I package them, and even how I format them, to a much higher level than I’d been doing up until we collaborated on a number of projects.  Greg Boser was highly influential in my desire to think even further “outside the box” as far as what’s possible.  And then there’s Dana Lookadoo.  It was her direct influence that helped soften my gruff, sharp-edged persona which in turn allowed much higher profile clients to even consider wanting to work with “that gritty wild guy”.

Who do you credit as your internet marketing mentor? Share with us in the comments below!

Kaila Strong

As Senior Director of SEO Services, Kaila oversees both the SEO department and our Internet Marketing Strategists. She works with our expert team to uncover SEO strategies, develop link building campaigns, conduct competitive analysis, review Google penalties, execute backlink analysis and train peers on SEO fundamentals. +Kaila Strong