25 Apr 2013

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!


  • Jill Whalen Apr 25, 2013

    Thanks Matt McGee for the mention, I had no idea!

    My greatest mentor would have to be John Audette (he’s Adam Audette’s dad) from the old iSearch and other email newsletters. He unknowingly showed me how to properly put out and moderate an email newsletter. Mine has been the main “secret” to my success all these years. I was fortunate enough to get to meet him in person a few years ago in Bend, OR.

    I would also credit Danny Sullivan as he was part of those early email lists and he referred some clients to me in the very early days and also allowed me to speak at many of the early conferences. Other props to Chris Sherman and Disa (Detlev) Johnson for also putting me on many SEO panels way back when.

  • Kaila Strong Apr 25, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your mentors Jill!

  • Matt McGee Apr 25, 2013

    You’re welcome, Jill. Thank YOU.

  • Ammon Johns Apr 25, 2013

    I have to add in some mentions for some of the earliest names that are missing from the list (it looks a bit ‘Generation 4’ in that list right now).

    Lets start with the late, great Jim Wilson, founder of JimWorld, GetHigh, and other properties and forums. Jim’s forums were some of the very first around, predating WebmasterWorld (which was originally named SearchEngineWorld) by a few years. JimWorld was one of the resources that predated ‘SEO’, and helped found SEO as a stand-alone marketing idea. I’ll add an extra mention for Diane Vigil who moderated at JimWorld for years, and whom I felt lucky to work beside again at Cre8asite Forums years later.

    Next would have to be Brent Winters (I think) of WebPositionGold fame, who produced a great newsletter, and the MarketPositionTalk forums. This was the very first forum dedicated pretty much only to search engine promotion (SEO). Honorable mention to Susan Goodson who moderated that forum and who taught me a lot about what made a good community – helping me administrate Cre8asite years later.

    Detlev Johnson simply HAS to be mentioned for his work with the iSearch mailing lists, and one simply can’t really mention Danny Sullivan without mentioning Detlev too. It was those two individuals who were a real focal point for the earliest pioneers of SEO, and enabled us gen 1 SEOs to talk about ideas.

  • Catherine Apr 26, 2013

    I’ve only recently gotten a mentor and it’s made a huge difference to my productivity and pace. Reading about how even the most successful webmasters have done the same has really encouraged me to feel that I’m on the right track (and given me some great ideas for who else I can learn from going forward!). Thanks! Invaluable.

  • Arnie Kuenn Apr 27, 2013

    Hey Greg – thanks for the shout out and kind words. It means a lot. I would have to say my IM mentors would have to be Rand Fishkin after we might in Chicago around 2006 or so. I also met David Wallace there and he immediately started introducing me to people here in Phoenix.

    From a pure business perspective I would say my dad was my biggest mentor. And a guy named Mike Moser way back in the early days of my working life. He taught me how to sell. I have read a lot of business books over the years and Tom Peters always stands out as one of the biggest influences.

  • Jess Apr 29, 2013

    I am very new to the whole internet marketing game. I have found the teachings of Andrew Hansen to be advantageous so far. I have been following one of his courses and hope to gain success with minisites.

  • Terry Van Horne Apr 29, 2013

    I agree with Ammon anyone who has been around since the early days have to credit Delev and Marshal Simmons for their moderation of iSearch (now SearchReturn) and Jim Wilson was a huge influence and backer when I first started writing about search. He was an awesome guy who IMO, does not get enough credit for the part he played in turning SEO into the industry it is today! Lately David would be my goto guy on most everything search. Like David and many others around the Dojo Steve Gerencser is someone I look to for guidance and his great business experience/knowledge!

  • Todd Malicoat Apr 29, 2013

    Thanks for the shoutout Matt! To be fair, I’m more of just a terrible friend, and told him to quit his job and follow what he loved doing :) This can often be awful advice for those that don’t have the drive to get up and do it every day like Matt has.

    Nice article – it was great seeing you at pubcon @Arnie – I think you should follow that trawler passion! (just remember maintenance will cost you as much as the boat!)

    My mentors –


    in SEO –
    Brett Tabke
    Jim Boykin
    Greg Boser
    Todd Friesen

    …looooots of others who had an influential impact.

  • Dave Wedge Apr 29, 2013

    Thats a really interesting post. I know and follow a lot of the names on this page, eg Jill Whalen & Danny Sullivan. The late Corey Rudl kicked me off and I follow quite a few marketers now. The tricky piece with Internet marketing is figuring out who you can trust, there are so many frauds posing as experts whilst peddling snake oil.

  • Kaila Strong Apr 29, 2013

    Thanks for adding your mentors Terry, what a great list you provided. Many important names there that weren’t mentioned previously!

  • Kaila Strong Apr 29, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your list Todd. Great addition with Brett, Jim, Greg and Todd. Have had the chance to work with a few and would agree, they provide great advice and are great mentors in IM.

  • Kaila Strong Apr 29, 2013

    Good point Dave about the snake oil salesmen type in this industry. The “social media gurus” or “internet marketing superstars”. Those you mentioned certainly don’t fall into that camp, and are very well known for providing outstanding advice. Appreciate you participating with a comment!

  • Kris K. Apr 30, 2013

    Glad you have feature Neil here! I always follow his QuickSprout blog and learning so much from this guy.

  • arnold Apr 30, 2013

    Neil is my men, he got the unique eye watching the relevant indicator in algorithm