The SEO industry will be forever changed with the loss of Bill Slawski, owner of SEO By The Sea, Director of Search at Go Fish Digital, educator, mentor and friend.
Bill was a lot of things for a lot of people. He has been a contributor here to the Search Engine Journal since 2019, and a friend and mentor to many of us for decades to come.
Not often can you say that 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 had passed away.
The loss and grief throughout our community has been palpable.
We must inform you that our colleague and dear friend @bill_slawski has passed away. Words simply cannot express our sorrow. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to work with Bill. We will share much more information and arrangements when it becomes available to us. pic.twitter.com/5mD6jqw7XR
– Go Fish Digital (@GoFishDigital) on May 19, 2022
An expert on search patents, a colleague and mentor for many, and a friend to many more, Bill has influenced the lives of everyone in the search industry.
If you haven’t read one of the thousands of articles he has written or contributed to, watched one of his interviews, attended one of his lectures, or listened to a podcast he was a guest on – I guarantee that someone you work with will learn from , or work for has.
This was due in no small part to Bill’s vast knowledge and expertise, combined with an unparalleled passion for the nuances and technological advances that make search engines.
I spoke with Bill a few weeks ago while we were planning an editorial on the patents he thought were most effective for search marketers.
In that interview, he explained his love for patents.
“One thing I always say about patents is that they are the best place to find assumptions about searchers, search and the web. These are search engines that share their opinions in addition to solving problems,” he said.
He liked to see what engineers think, and what they had to say when it comes to different problems in the network.
“One of my favorite patents to look for is when they replicate a patent and file a sequel,” Bill explained. “I like to look at these continued patents and see how they’ve changed, because they don’t tell you, ‘That’s what we’re doing.’
That innate curiosity and true passion for unraveling the intricacies of the search algorithms we work with every day made talking to Bill and reading 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, as well as many others.
He had a real talent for making complex concepts more accessible to readers and marketers of all stripes. As a result, his contributions to our collective understanding of how search works are unrivaled.
Bill Slawski’s work and knowledge are fundamental to the practice of SEO as we know it today.
I speak for all of us at SEJ saying that we are incredibly grateful for what he has generously shared with each of us.
He was a close friend and respected colleague of our founder, Loren Baker, as well.
“Bill Slawski was a true friend of mine in more ways than one. First of all, he was a surprising mentor who helped me pretty early in my career, even before the days of social media or Search Engine Journal. He was my comrade and co-worker, “Loren said.
Bill and Loren worked together for several 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 a lot more to SEO than just ranking alone,” Loren explained, adding that Bill taught him the importance of incorporating storytelling into all the work you do.
“He taught me the ethics and craft behind creating digital art that people will want to read, want to share, and ultimately search and click, touching their lives,” he said. “I miss Bill so much. It’s very difficult to lose friends. “
Starting in 1996 and launching SEO By The Sea in 2005, Bill was the go-to source when you wanted to understand how search engines work or how they change 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 search, information retrieval, NLP, and other information technology with some and all.
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 search worked in a way that everyone could understand.
Bill seemed to have an instinct to understand what you knew and didn’t know or where you were confused. He could fill in the gaps without making you feel stupid for asking. Even if it was the millionth time he answered that question.
You also don’t have to be an SEO rock star or an experienced professional.
If you didn’t understand something or had questions, he would gladly spend hours explaining the concepts and offering (or creating) resources to help. And as many in the industry who have met Braggadocio can attest, you have always felt like a long-lost friend, even if you just “met” him in a text.
“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 not much discussion. That’s how the SEO world was then … I remember it happened on an SEO forum and I was just an undercover detective, just looking at what everyone was talking about and thinking, ‘This is a weird career. I’m not sure I can do this.’
I started working and advertising a website for a few friends who started a business. And so helping them succeed in business was a pretty good incentive. “Bill Slawski, interview on cognitiveSEO Talks, April 5, 2018
Bill’s wealth extended far beyond search, too.
With a BA in English from the University of Delaware and a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law, Bill spent 14 years as a court manager, administrator, technologist, and management analyst with the Supreme Court of Deleware.
He loved nature and plants, and the ocean. He loved to travel and seek conferences, but in the end he found peace in nature and often benefited from it. And he shared it with us all.
Bill pushed everyone to look beyond the titles and keywords.
He quickly added words of support and congratulations as someone shared reach. He urged everyone to explore the potential, not to be intimidated by new things, and to better understand the search ecosystem, not just technology, so that we can better serve our families, communities, colleagues, and clients.
His kindness, generosity, loyalty and love for the industry knew no bounds.
I’m so sorry to hear that @bill_slawski has passed away 😔 One of the first SEOs I started following and reading. He and his ever-understanding contributions to patent analysis in search will be so much missed. Rest in peace, Bill, and thank you for everything! 🙏 https://t.co/8dwhaGbWX6
– Aleyda Solis 🇺🇦 (@aleyda) on May 19, 2022
Here at Search Engine Journal, Bill was a familiar face on social media and a VIP contributor, but he was much more than that.
One of the things I 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 of life.
I think that’s something we could all benefit from more.
I have known Bill Slawski for almost 20 years, from the forums and search market conferences. He created excitement with all the things he discovered in the patents that went a long way toward unmistakable from what search engines did.
What impressed me most was his generosity with his time and how encouraging he was to me and to everyone. I feel privileged and honored to have been able to call him a friend.
Brent Csutoras, Counselor and Owner
So much of our marketing journey has been to understand not only how something works with Google but what they are trying to accomplish over the next few years so that we are ready and ready to pivot when needed.
Bill’s work with patents provided valuable knowledge very few individuals were capable of distilling and yet all benefited.
He was instrumental in leading us to where we are as SEOs and digital marketers today.
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 is all about, so I just waited, soaking up knowledge of bragadocchio, Black Knight, Grumpus, Barry Welford and others. I know that Bill started more than 10,000 threads there during his time as one of the administrators and one of the first things that struck me was his willingness to patiently share his knowledge.At that time I had no idea who he was, but it quickly became clear that he there is someone worth listening to. ”
Atul Gawande once wrote that life is meaningful because it has a story – one driven by a deep need to identify goals outside of ourselves and a transcendent desire to see and help others reach their potential.
This was the very essence of Bill’s life.
Not only in the richness of unparalleled knowledge and resources he has given us, but in the inspiration, guidance, and encouragement he has instilled in us all. That is his legacy and one that will live on.
It was hard to hit Publish on this piece because I don’t feel that anything we share could do that legacy justice.
Search Engine Magazine will leave Bill’s content here untouched forever, and we’ve left comments open below so everyone can share your contributions to this monument to 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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