We have just learned the shocking news that Bill Slawski, an SEO expert, educator and pioneer, has died.
Slawski was the Director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital, a digital marketing agency. His company just shared the news of his passing on Twitter, moments ago.
We’re devastated to share that our colleague and dear friend, @bill_slawski has passed away. Words simply cannot express our sadness. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Bill. We’ll share much more info and arrangements as it comes available to us. pic.twitter.com/5mD6jqw7XR
— Go Fish Digital (@GoFishDigital) May 19, 2022
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 he leaves an incredible void in our industry. Slawski was a wealth of knowledge. Countless SEOs are better off – both directly, and indirectly – as a result 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.
He started when all of this online stuff was simply known as internet marketing and web promotion, in 1996. He provided consulting services to help make websites easier to find online, help make them easier to use, and increase conversions and revenue for clients.
Throughout his career, Slawski worked on all types of sites – nonprofits, Fortune 500, educational institutions, e-commerce, professional services, consumer goods, B2B and more.
Prior to his search marketing career, Slawski earned a Juris Doctor degree and was a legal and technical administrator at the highest level court in Delaware for 14 years. Slawski lived in Carlsbad, California.
SEO by the Sea
For 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.
On SEO by the Sea, Slawski covered it all – from the classics (PageRank, TrustRank, information retrieval) to today (machine learning, the Knowledge Graph, entities).
Contributions to the search community
They were many.
Aside from 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 was also a popular speaker at several search conferences, including several SMX events. He also did several webinar presentations and was an in-demand guest for multiple SEO podcasts.
Slawski had been active in SEO forums, including serving as a moderator on Cre8asite Forums.
In addition to all of that, he was extremely active on Twitter, sharing his own insights and content, as well as from others. He was particularly vocal about debunking SEO myths and misinformation.
‘Our teacher, our professor, our mentor’
That is how Search Engine Land’s own Barry Schwartz described Slawski in 2020.
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 career. And they sure delivered.
The site is filled with hundreds of stories and memories, published on a near-daily basis, from Dec. 15, 2020 until May 10, 2021.
One of those stories from Slawski himself, who updated the community on his status:
Thank you to everyone who took a moment to write something, or to send me something while I was in the hospital. I had a small brain clot, and am now taking aspirin as a blood thinner. The clot caused a stroke, which had the effect of throwing off my center of balance, and made it difficult to walk and made me concerned about falling over. I was in hospitals for 2 months going through 3 hours of rehab a day. A lot of that was learning to use a wheeled walker and then a cane to help me get around. By the time I was discharged, I had started walking unassisted. At home, I spent a lot more time walking without a walker or a cane. I am a little clumsier than I was before but can walk fairly well. I am riding a stationary bike 40 minutes a day, and tracking my steps walking too. The stroke did not impact my ability to think or talk or do SEO. The Speech therapists checked me on that, giving me logical puzzles to work through to make sure that I could. They were puzzles that could have fit into spreadsheets, and to someone used to doing site audits were just not very challenging – they kept on saying that they needed more advanced books.
A shoutout to my team at Go Fish Digital, who sent me plants to look at, and to a number of local SEOs who sent me a succulents and a couple of Doordash gifts so that I could order breakfasts directly from them. I managed to keep my connection to Twitter working during that time, and a couple of people who were local ending up helping me make sure that I made it home, and took care of some issues with the DMV and paying my bills during the hospital stay. After 2 months away from a computer, it took me a few tries to write and send emails. I have written about a few patents already, and am now chatting weekly about SEO. I agreed to a chat this week on the future of SEO, 9 years after Penguin, on Twitter Spaces. Have to learn how to use that first. I hope to talk to everyone soon Thank you for setting this website up, Barry. It really has been 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 of Slawski’s passing on Twitter and word-of-mouth. Here’s just a small sampling of reactions from the search community, upon learning of Slawski’s death.
Bill was a shining beacon for all those who wanted to understand often complicated search patents. And SEO generally. I knew and appreciated his kindness and thoughtfulness. This is a terrible loss. Thoughts to his family, friends and coworkers. You’ll be missed, Bill. https://t.co/yXRzVQEAvj
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 19, 2022
So, so sad. ? He was such a smart and generous man. A true legend in SEO. We’ll all miss him tremendously.
— Matt McGee (@mattmcgee) May 19, 2022
RIP Bill. He had a huge influence on me, and I’m thankful he came to see me speak that time I built a huge part of my presentation as a tribute to ways of thinking I learned from him. So sorry to hear this.
— Will Critchlow (@willcritchlow) May 19, 2022
So sad. I’ve known Bill for more than 20 years. He dropped me a note just recently when he found out my new HQ was in San Diego and I’m due to go there in a couple of weeks. I really valued our long time friendship, and such a great contribution to the industry. RIP Bill.
— Mike Grehan (@mikegrehan) May 19, 2022
I JUST spoke to him a couple of weeks ago about us getting together here in San Diego. He seemed fine and in good spirits.
I was honored to call Bill a friend. An incredible loss personally, and professionally. My deepest sympathies.
— Casey Markee (@MediaWyse) May 19, 2022
Condolences to he 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.
— Brett Tabke (@btabke) May 19, 2022
Few people have made as big an impact on the SEO industry as @bill_slawski. The place won’t feel the same without him.
— Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide) May 19, 2022
I’m speechless… without words! My dear friend, mon ami, my confident in SEO, patents, algo’s, flowers, sunsets, sunrise, my go to chat friend is gone?! You will be missed Bill, R.I.P.❤️
— Gabriella (@SEOcopy) May 19, 2022
Bill gave so much knowledge and love to the SEO community. Your kind spirit and generosity will be greatly missed.
— Chris Long (@gofishchris) May 19, 2022
This is very sad news, thoughts for his family. And our industry is losing a very valuable person, who passed on so much knowledge to our large SEO community around the world. Bill will leave a very big void. Thank you for your generosity!
— David Eichholtzer (@DEichholtzer) May 19, 2022
This story is developing. Check back for more updates shortly.
New on Search Engine Land
About The Author
Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor 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 program 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 also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.