John Doherty

John Doherty is a San Francisco based growth marketer. Formerly growth at Trulia Rentals, head of marketing at HotPads, former head and consultant in Distilled NYC.

He also ran Destinee Media in Switzerland and worked in-house in online education.

He currently runs full-time. 

How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?

This depends on who I am talking to! For people not in the marketing or tech world, I say that I get people more traffic from Google and other places.

To my mom, the same thing.

To people in tech, I talk about building brands through great marketing and traffic acquisition.

What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?

My primary goal is to make the company money.

I want to test and iterate fast, double down on the things that are working and give up on those that aren’t, and keep a close eye on the numbers to know which efforts are driving revenue as opposed to just traffic.

Which new skills are most important for SEOs to learn in the next six months?

I think we are seeing a renaissance of sorts for technical SEO.

If you don’t know how to hack a WordPress template, implement changes in HTML and CSS, or dig through a database to find insights, those are all skills you need to learn.

Online marketing is technical; there’s no doubt about that.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

As an SEO at heart, I find it so rewarding to beat out a big competitor for a highly valued and trafficked term.

What I find most rewarding about SEO overall, though, is that it touches so many parts of the business and can drive so much value for a lot of teams, which helps them do their jobs better and more easily.

SEO impacts email, paid search, content, conversion, and so much more, and that’s fun.

How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?

I read a lot of blogs, am smart with curating my Twitter feed, and see what some groups I am involved with are saying and seeing.

Now that I’m consulting again, I have more insight across verticals, which is something I missed in-house.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?

My favorite tool hands-down is SearchMetrics.

There is so much value in that tool, it’s insane.

Other tools I love – ScreamingFrog, DeepCrawl, Moz’s Pro Tools (especially OpenSiteExplorer), Majestic, and of course my favorite SEO tool – Microsoft Excel.

How is your typical work day structured?

Well, I am newly self-employed so my day varies.

I do have a personal daily routine which involves waking at 8am, playing with my dog, saying goodbye to my wife, and then getting right down to work to do some writing.

I shower about 930am and then my day is a combination of writing, phone calls, managing HireGun, and consulting.

I finish up around 530-6 most days and then have the evening with my wife and friends.

I work very hard, but work-life balance is very important to me as well.

Which one book/blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?

When I started my first official job in SEO, my manager gave me a printed PDF copy of Rand Fishkin’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

I carried that in my backpack for a year and read it wherever I had free time—the laundromat, the bus, airplanes.

Every SEO should read that and be familiar with it.

Among the Google algorithm updates, what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?

I would say that Panda is the most challenging because the issues vary by site.

Plus, because it’s a rolling update now and pretty well integrated into the overall algorithm, I often see Panda “hits” as being a slow slide of traffic, not one big drop.

This is super hard to diagnose and sometimes to get executive support for solving because it might take 6–12 months to do all the things that will get you back to where you want to be.

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