We just learned the shocking news that Bill Slawski, an SEO expert, educator and pioneer, has passed away.
Slawski was the director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital, a digital marketing agency. His company just shared the news of his death on Twitter.
It is with sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague and dear friend @bill_slawski. Words just can’t express our sadness. We are eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with Bill. We will share much more information and arrangements as it becomes available to us. pic.twitter.com/5mD6jqw7XR
We don’t know many details about his death. He was last active on Twitter on May 16 and passed away on May 17.
What we do know is that he leaves an incredible void in our industry. Slawski was a wealth of knowledge. Countless SEOs are better off – both directly and indirectly – because of his mentorship, insights and expertise.
About Bill Slawski
Slawski did SEO before Google existed. Heck, he did SEO before SEO was even called SEO.
It started when all this online stuff in 1996 was simply known as internet marketing and web promotion. He offered consultancy services to make websites easier to find online, make them more user-friendly, and increase conversions and revenue for customers.
Throughout his career, Slawski has worked on sites of all kinds: non-profits, Fortune 500, educational institutions, e-commerce, professional services, consumer goods, B2B, and more.
Prior to his career in search marketing, Slawski received a Juris Doctor degree and served as a legal and technical clerk at the highest court in Delaware for 14 years. Slawski lived in Carlsbad, California.
SEO by the Sea
To many in our industry, Slawski was probably best known for researching, analyzing, interpreting and writing about Google and search-related patents and algorithms at SEO by the Sea. He started the SEO by the Sea blog in June 2005.
At SEO by the Sea, Slawski has covered it all – from the classics (PageRank, TrustRank, information retrieval) to today (machine learning, the Knowledge Graph, entities).
Contributions to the search community
In addition to writing on his own blog, Slawski contributed articles to the Go Fish Digital blog and other search marketing publications. Slawski was a contributing author here at Search Engine Land from December 2006 to July 2008. You can read Slawski’s articles here.
Slawski has also been a frequent speaker at several search conferences, including several SMX events. He also did several webinar presentations and was a frequent guest on multiple SEO podcasts.
Slawski was active on SEO forums, including as co-administrator of Cre8asite forums.
In addition, he was extremely active on Twitter and shared his own insights and content, as well as from others. He was especially outspoken about debunking SEO myths and misinformation.
‘Our teacher, our professor, our mentor’
That’s how Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land in 2020 described Slawski.
After Slawski suffered a stroke, Schwartz created a tribute site: billslawski.com. Schwartz asked SEOs for stories about how Slawski had helped them in their careers. And they certainly delivered.
The site is full of hundreds of stories and memories, published almost daily, from December 15, 2020 to May 10, 2021.
One of those stories from Slawski himself, who kept the community updated on his status:
Thank you to everyone who took the time to write something, or send me something while I was in the hospital. I had a small brain block and now take aspirin as a blood thinner. The clot caused a stroke, throwing off my balance point, and it made it difficult to walk and worried me about falling. I was in hospital for 2 months and had to rehabilitate for 3 hours a day. A lot of it was learning to use a wheeled walker and then a cane to help me get around. By the time I was fired, I started walking unaided. At home I walked much more time without a walker or cane. I am a bit clumsier than before, but I can walk quite well. I cycle 40 minutes a day on an exercise bike and also keep track of my steps on foot. The stroke didn’t affect my ability to think or talk or do SEO. The speech therapists checked me on that and gave me logic puzzles to work through to make sure I could do it. They were puzzles that could have fit into spreadsheets, and for someone used to doing site audits, that just wasn’t very challenging – they kept saying they needed more advanced books.
A shoutout to my team at Go Fish Digital, who sent me plants to look at, and to some local SEOs who sent me succulents and some Doordash gifts so I could order breakfast directly from them. I managed to keep my connection to Twitter working during that time, and a few people who were local helped me make sure I got home, and took care of some issues with the DMV and paying my bills during the stay in the hospital . After 2 months away from a computer, it took me a few tries to write and send emails. I’ve written about a few patents before and now talk about SEO on a weekly basis. This week I agreed to a talk about the future of SEO, 9 years after Penguin, on Twitter Spaces. You have to learn to use it first. I hope to speak to everyone soon. Thanks for setting up this website, Barry. It was really nice to see a new post on it every day as I continue to work on relearning how to walk.
We are all still in shock and processing this devastating loss.
News quickly spread about Slawski’s passing on Twitter and word of mouth. Here’s just a sampling of the response from the search community after learning of Slawski’s death.
Bill was a shining beacon for anyone who wanted to understand the often complicated search patents. And SEO in general. I knew and appreciated his kindness and thoughtfulness. This is a terrible loss. Thoughts of his family, friends and colleagues. You will be missed, Bill. https://t.co/yXRzVQEAvj
So, so sad. 😢 He was such a smart and generous man. A true legend in SEO. We will all miss him terribly.
RIP account. He was a huge influence on me and I am grateful that he came to see me speak as I built much of my presentation as a tribute to the thinking I learned from him. I’m sorry to hear this.
So regrettable. I’ve known Bill for over 20 years. He recently dropped me a note when he found out that my new headquarters was in San Diego and that I have to go there in a few weeks. I really appreciated our longstanding friendship and such a great contribution to the industry. RIP account.
I just spoke to him a few weeks ago about getting together here in San Diego. He looked good and was in a good mood.
I had the honor of calling Bill a friend. An incredible loss personally and professionally. My condolences.
Condolences to the entire family and our entire industry. Bill had such a unique take on SEO that it made everyone stop and rethink what we thought we knew. He will be missed.
Few people have had such an impact on the SEO industry as @bill_slawski. The place won’t feel the same without him.
I am speechless… without words! My best friend, mon ami, my trust in SEO, patents, algos, flowers, sunsets, sunrise, my go-to chat friend is gone?! You will be missed Bill, R.I.P.❤️
Bill has given so much knowledge and love to the SEO community. Your kind spirit and generosity will be greatly missed.
This is very sad news, thoughts to his family. And our industry is losing a very valuable person, who has passed on so much knowledge to our large SEO community around the world. Bill will leave a great void. Thanks for your generosity!
Rest in peace Bill. We all miss you.
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About The Author
Danny Goodwin is editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject matter experts. He also helps with programming our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He was also an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been hired for his expertise by a wide variety of publications and podcasts.