31 Dec 2008

Looking Back on 2008

I know. I twittered that I wasn’t going to read any posts with 2008 or 2009 in the title because I think they’re silly and cliché and unoriginal€¦but that was before my brain started swirling with all the things I’ve learned this year.

I’m ending my third year in search (which, in itself, is crazy to me).  I’ve blogged a lot this year and been lucky enough to sometimes bring you with me. Together we’ve overcome Google’s mood swings, Yahoo’s failed attempts to suck less and Microsoft’s€¦Microsoftness.  We’ve shared rants on ethics in SEO, ethics in social media, and talked on end about those damn fake avatars.  And through it all, I’ve learned some pretty big lessons.

Google Is Flawed, Imperfect and with Bias (like all of us)

There’s a point when you’re a kid when you look up and realize that your parents aren’t superheroes. That they screw up. That they make bad decisions. And that they totally lied to you about that Santa Claus thing.  There’s also a point in your SEO career when you realize the same thing about Google.  Welcome to 2008.

For the first time, I could feel myself getting angry at Google. Don’t get me wrong, I still love them.  I owe them my life for Gdocs (no, I do. You don’t even know), but I want to kick them sometimes. Like when the does Google filter results Google Groups thread broke out and JohnMu came in to close it down saying that he has never seen Google hand edit anything (adding the disclaimer that just because he hasn’t seen it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened). Oh, c’mon. Who are we kidding?

I don’t think Google is evil or bad, but I absolutely know they hand edit results when it suits them. I don’t think they cave to big corporations, but I do think they consider “all angles” when they make decisions. They showed with Twittergate this year that they know how to throw their weight around and spread the FUD. I don’t think it’s their preferred way of doing things. I don’t think they want to. But there’s no doubt in my mind that they can and will manipulate/edit/”fix” anything they choose.  And it’s their index so, really, they get that right. But can they just own up to it? I just want to be able to trust the results I’m seeing when I do a search.  And when I can’t, I want Google to acknowledge that maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

Good People Can Disagree (and both be right€¦and wrong)

I’m getting stronger in my search convictions.  I’ve drawn more lines in the sand in 2008 than ever before. There was that whole SMX Advanced was too black hat thing, the fake avatar thing, the Ask is dead to me thing, the Jerry Yang is a flippin’ moron thing and probably lots of other things that I’ve suppressed.  I know that not everyone thinks like I do. And when we have those disagreements and go to head-to-head, sometimes I’m the one who’s wrong. And sometimes we’re both wrong. And every once in awhile, we’re both somehow right.

This year, Danny Sullivan taught me a lot about being responsible with my words and he did it in the best possible way €“ with his own. He’s reminded me that people are listening. He’s helped me to understand that I’m not always being fair when I throw out a quick comment in the heat of the moment and that sometimes I can use Twitter as a weapon. I have an enormous amount of respect for Danny and I take what he tells me to heart, especially when he’s right.  Responsibility will be one of my biggest lessons from 2008.

Speaking of taking responsibility, Marty Weintraub and I spent a good chunk of this year throwing things at one another. We have completely different opinions on what is right and wrong in social media (or so I thought. Turns out we may be closer in viewpoint than I realized.).  We’re both passionate about it. We’re both willing to fight it out and to stand up and €˜protect’ the people we think we represent. And sometimes in doing that this year, we both acted like jerks (we can admit that now, right, Marty?).  These days, Marty and I are friends. Hell, we’re buddies. We realize that even though we may disagree, neither one of us is evil. We’re simply passionate. Sometimes dumb and passionate, but passionate.  And really, how can you stay mad at Marty? Behind that fake avatar, he’s one of the nicest guys in search!

My Skin Still Isn’t Thick Enough

I’m an emo baby who cries emo baby tears. I need to stop taking things personally, to reach out quicker and stop thinking that the world hates me just because they didn’t Sphinn my article/put me name on that list/tell me I’m pretty. €˜Nuff said.

I’m Still Not Comfortable With Social Media

I know there are tons of wonderful benefits to social media. I know that I should love it and dream up visions of unicorns and bunnies and knee socks when I think about it€¦.but I don’t. I’m still not comfortable with the effect social media has had on Web content and I don’t like what it’s been doing to good people in our industry.

The lesson this year has to be to surround myself with solid people. People that will keep me in check when I have a hard time making it through doors or when I’m feeling like someone kicked my puppy. Folks who know more and buy into less. You people know who you are and you’re priceless.

Change is Scary (but Good!)

I’ve learned to embrace not be so afraid of change.

At We Build Pages, we’ve been making some incredibly large changes this year.  Most notably, we stopped buying links and started transitioning into a full-scale Internet marketing company. And for awhile, that was kind of terrifying. It’s hard to leave a model that has been ridiculously successful and go a new way, even if we know that the “new way” is the “right way”. But we did it. And I think we’re better for it. We’re a better company. We’re a stronger company. We’re more dedicated to one another because we’ve all rolled our sleeves up to make things happen.  It feels good to be good. It feels better to work with good people.

On a personal note, this has been a huge year of change for me.  After spending more than two incredible years at Bruce Clay, I realized I couldn’t fight my heart any longer and my heart longed for the East Coast. So I moved back and took a job working with Jim Boykin and some of the coolest people I’ve had the privilege to meet. Since I’ve been here, it’s been a whirlwind. Everything that could have happened has happened €“ kitty near death experiences, weird grownup holidays, apartment mishaps, heart aches, etc €“ and is still happening. But I’m happy here.  It’s not easy to leave people you love, but my spirit needed the change and I’m glad that I did it.  Which is good. Because I’ll be paying off the moving costs for another couple of months.  🙂

Those were my big lessons of 2008. I thank you guys for coming along with me, for teaching me, and most of all, for putting up with me.

What did 2008 teach you?

[And yes, I realize that this post isn’t innovative, but it’s snowy and billowy outside in historic Troy, NY. Days like that lend themselves to being introspective.]


  1. Craig December 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM

    And Happy New Year to you Lisa. Thank you for all your excellent thoughts throughout the year, very enlightening and entertaining! PS – Luckily I am reading posts with 2008 or 2009 else I wouldn’t have read this nice post. 🙂

  2. Danny Sullivan December 31, 2008 at 1:28 PM

    Wow, thanks for the kind words, Lisa. I’ve learned much from you as well, both in terms of responsibility and in writing.

  3. Marty December 31, 2008 at 2:12 PM

    Ya’ know Lisa…you were one of my favorite writers before we tangled and, now that we’ve become friends after conflict, I understand (even more) why you’ve managed to build such a lovely rep’.

    You’re a people magnet GF, fresh, young & vital. The case study between us over the last year will be remembered as a priceless progression. Happy New Years Lisa. G_D Bless in 09′.

  4. Lisa Barone December 31, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    Craig: Thanks for the kind words. And happy New Year!

    Danny: I appreciate that. I’m very thankful for some of the emails we’ve exchanged during the year. You’ve helped to keep me on a good path and I’m very thankful for that. 🙂

    Marty: [blush] I have to admit, Marty. I wasn’t liking you too much over the summer (hee), but I’m glad we took the time out to talk and get past it and become buddies. You’ve shown me a lot and I’m glad to have you on my team going into 2009!

  5. Tim Staines December 31, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    Hi Lisa,
    Nice wrap-up. For me, 2008 established a career. I’m 29 now and got into the SEM industry in May after years of running a small business, selling and processing home loans and a dry, entry level marketing job at a lawn and garden distributor.

    Needless to say, I am very happy to be a part of this field. None of this was ever even mentioned in school, but it’s a perfect fit for me. Many of the people in this industry openly accept newcomers (which is unique), and as a result, I’ve learned more over the past 7 months than ever before in my life.

    Thanks and best wishes to you all in the new year!

  6. Ryan Douglas December 31, 2008 at 2:44 PM

    Lisa – I’ve taken a similar journey in the last few months as you. I couldn’t agree with you more (its okay to agree right?) that change is scary but good. It’s been quite fun to read your posts, tweets, and more about your work and personal experience. Keep it up, people enjoy what you write (I do at least) because you make it fun and add personality. Best wishes in 09!

  7. Jill Whalen December 31, 2008 at 2:47 PM

    Very nice!

    Danny is a great one to learn from in terms of what to say and how to say it. I’ve admired that in him since prolly before you were born 😉

    As to your skin, it may get thicker in time, but maybe not. But I think as you’ve seen over the past 2 years that everything on the interwebs blows over pretty quickly, so do your best to not let things bother you too much.

    Happy new year to you and the rest of the WeBuildPages crew!

  8. Eric G December 31, 2008 at 2:52 PM


    You do have an awesome gift of expressing yourself and do have the following to move mountains with your words. It has been a pleasure attempting to follow you and read your thoughts, expressions and desired dedication to make the internet a warmer more comfortable and cozy place.

    2008 taught me, that I don’t have to do it all alone. I was my own worst enemy in many occasions because my skill sets were exceptional in some facets but very limited in others. Reaching out and opening doors and teaming with others has brought less stress and more profitable adventures.

    As always, young “emo” Lisa, Stay true to yourself and you will always be successful in your endeavors.


  9. SearchCap: The Day In Search, December 31, 2008 December 31, 2008 at 3:03 PM

    […] Looking Back on 2008, We Build Pages […]

  10. moth2flame December 31, 2008 at 3:30 PM

    No emo tears Lisa! I love reading your thoughts, even though SEO might as well be a foreign country to me. (In case you or anyone else is wondering, I have boredom and Twitter Grader’s Troy Elite to thank for pointing you out.) I even enjoyed this silly recap of 2008. 😉 Looking forward to more of your thought-provoking rants in 2009.

  11. Mike | PlanetChiro December 31, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    Nice to see how you’ve grown in 2008 Lisa. Can’t say that the emo thoughts change much as you get older. Others may not mention it but even thick skinned rhinos get emo now and then.

    Thanks for everything you taught us in 2008!

  12. Kim Krause Berg January 2, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    Thank you for being you, Lisa. You’ve been a strong, supportive friend in the face of rough times. You may be growing and learning, but in many ways, you are above and beyond in terms of knowing what’s important and fair.

    May you find the greatest of adventures in 2009 and enjoy continued success in your work at WebBuildPages.

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