Bob Gladstein (1964–2021)

Bob Gladstein
Bob Gladstein

According to his Twitter bio, Bob Gladstein was an “organic SEO guy; unhipster from a hipster town” – which is an incredibly accurate and self-aware term for him to use. A 22-year SEO veteran, Bob exuded humility and helpfulness. There wasn’t a bit of pretentiousness in his personal or work life demeanor – and he routinely took the time to answer search questions from fellow SEOs.

Bob spent 9 years serving as a tutor at the now-defunct Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led courses in search engine optimization. He served as a moderator for the High Rankings Forum for 13 years, where he made helpful contributions to the SEO community. He worked for a variety of websites, including, GSN Games and Liberty Mutual – and did freelance SEO work for 19 years through his Raise My Rank SEO Services company. In 2015, Bob joined Overdrive Interactive, which is how I met him.

Working with Bob for six years, I got to experience his SEO expertise first-hand. When I was an SEO manager at Spectrum Enterprise, we hired Overdrive Interactive as a partner SEO vendor. Bob was instrumental in identifying technical SEO problems on our website, as well as finding new content opportunities. I would routinely ask him how he discovered specific technical SEO issues – to which he freely shared with me his go-to tools. Each year we brainstormed new SEO tactics, such as launching hundreds of new FAQ pages, crafting hyperlocal pages to target key local markets, and engaging in focused keyword operations involving internal cross-linking to boost rankings for specific keywords. Every tactic we engaged in worked – and we tracked our results in BrightEdge. We met in person every quarter to celebrate our wins, brainstorm new ideas and talk about life and cats.

On Friday, July 16, 2021, Bob passed away unexpectedly at the age of 57. His death was a loss for the greater SEO community and for me personally. If it weren’t for Bob, my knowledge of technical SEO would be greatly diminished. In many ways, I owe my growth as an SEO to my collaboration with him and the Overdrive team. I wouldn’t even know what to look for in a technical SEO audit, if Bob hadn’t conducted such audits multiple times for Spectrum Enterprise. On a personal note, I hope to be as helpful to up-and-coming SEOs as Bob was to me. May we all be as humble and helpful as Bob – the unhipster from a hipster town.

Beware of SEO experts

SEO expert using laptop

SEO experts are the first people you should ignore. I’m an SEO expert – so I should know.

I’ve been doing SEO for 14 years, and what I learned back in 2007 is no longer true today. The knowledge I possessed then – and was certified in – is now bogus.

In 2007, SEO was all about keyword stuffing and exact match keywords. I worked on an affiliate shopping site and engaged in SEO tactics that would be frowned upon today. Now in 2021, it’s all about quality content. (Arguably, it’s always been about quality content, Google just needed to learn how to find it.)

As Google and other search engines became more and more sophisticated, SEO “tricks” to rank well in search engines became more and more deprecated in favor of good, solid content that comprehensively answers the intent of the searcher’s query.

With advances in semantic search, Google has become better and better at identifying and elevating good content, regardless of the keywords appearing on the page.

What should I look for in an SEO expert?

If you’re a hiring manager, how do you know your trusted SEO “expert” candidate (or existing team member) is basing decisions on the latest industry info?

Personally, as a heads-down introvert, I don’t want my manager and teammates constantly second-guessing my recommendations. That’s a toxic work environment where nobody wins. Do your homework before hiring, and make sure your candidate knows the fundamentals, is humble enough to admit he or she doesn’t know everything, and has a plan for keeping up with industry changes.

Don’t hire an SEO “trickster” – someone who claims there’s a formula or combination of tricks you can implement to rank well.

Hire someone who knows what the old tactics were and why they are no longer valid. Find someone who can work well with your website developers, as well as your brand and content teams. The SEO should speak two languages – technical jargon and marketing lingo. The SEO should be able to demonstrate the value of SEO in contributing to the company’s overall goals and success metrics (such as organic search traffic, leads from organic search, etc.).

While Google has made great strides in evaluating and ranking content, it can still only see what it can crawl. So technical SEO is as important as it ever was. An SEO expert should know enough about Javascript and HTML to identify technical issues on the site that are blocking search engine crawlers and negatively impacting the site’s SEO performance. You will need to provide your SEO with access to enterprise-level SEO tools like Ahrefs, BrightEdge or Botify to aid in identifying these issues. These tools can be very expensive, so count the cost first.

As a hiring manager, you need to know that SEO is constantly fluctuating – and you need to support your SEO with constant training through SEO conferences, certification/re-certification, and dedicated time during the week to research SEO topics, read about the latest SEO news, and participate in online SEO forums and virtual hangouts.

More than any other member of your digital marketing team, your SEO needs to be constantly up-to-date with industry best practices and Google algorithm updates, so they aren’t leading you down the wrong path or perpetuating outdated SEO practices.

Race and Privilege

Michael Tolosa

I’m a half Filipino, half Caucasian man, who never thinks of himself in racial terms. Others may look at me and have preconceived ideas of who I am or what I’m like, but half the time I don’t even know who I am or what I’m like – so good luck figuring it out.

Growing up, my family was either poor, or extremely stingy. Most of the toys I owned were either second-hand purchases from local thrift stores or delivered by mail in exchange for three proofs of purchase from Cookie Crisp.

Privilege Alert: I grew up in a home that had both a mom and a dad.

When I was 13, my family relocated from the racial mixing bowl of northern Virginia to rural West Virginia. I spent my junior high and high school years as the minority of minorities. That means I got crap from both whites and blacks. The only reason I didn’t get more crap than I did is because I kept my mouth shut (I was an extreme introvert) and my classmates thought I knew karate.

(Seriously, the first thing anyone said to me on my first day of school was, “Do you know karate?” I kept my mouth shut, and rumor went around that I did, so I didn’t bother refuting it.)

Not to say that my time in WV was bad, or that people there are racist. Overwhelmingly, the people I knew there were awesome. I made a lot of friends with most of the cliques and social circles, because I was quiet, nice and friendly. Unfortunately, there are bad apples wherever you go – and I wasn’t mature enough at the time to do anything but hang my head and ignore them.

After high school, I returned to the safe comfort of the northern Virginia mixing bowl. My college campus had so many different races, I couldn’t keep them all straight – and I simply blended in.

Privilege Alert: My parents busted their butts to put three kids through college at the same time without incurring student loan debt.

Privilege Alert: I got financial aid for being both Asian and Appalachian. (Hey, if you’re offering free money…)

After 4 years of learning how to think critically and write professionally, I entered the workforce. I had an English degree with a concentration in Film & Media Studies (what?). So, my next step in life wasn’t very obvious. I immediately became a high school substitute teacher and got enough experience at the end of the ‘98 school year to decide teaching wasn’t for me.

I lived in the basement of my relatives’ house for a year or so (1998-99), while I sat in front of a computer all day and all night – and taught myself Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash and online publishing. I also very clumsily taught myself how to capture video and publish it online (maybe this will catch on?).

Privilege Alert: My dad had access to computer hardware and software from his office that I was able to use and learn.

One Sunday at church, I happened to talk with a couple I didn’t know, Rich and Ingrid. I don’t remember what we talked about, but Ingrid asked me if I knew anything about computer software or the internet. I told her how I taught myself how to code HTML and use design software. She offered me a job as a web software tester.

Privilege Alert: I received the kindness of strangers through the providence of God.

This job opportunity changed my career trajectory, and I’ve been in web development and digital marketing ever since. (During the “dot bomb” of 2001, I thought I had made a mistake going into this field, but everything eventually worked out.)

Today, I’m always shocked when someone brings my race to my attention. I always forget I’m half Filipino until someone reminds me. It seriously doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t look at a white person and think I’m different than him or her.

Since relocating from northern Virginia to Charlotte, I’ve noticed a difference in how people in my own office act when I walk past them in the hall. In northern Virginia, people are very pleasant and say hello or nod their head and smile when you pass them, even if you don’t know them. At my office in Charlotte, aside from the people I work with regularly, only the minorities tend to acknowledge my presence. Could be a sales culture thing, or something – I don’t know – but these days, I’m reminded of my race more and more.

But it doesn’t get me down.

I enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career that allows me to explore my artistic interests on the side. I have a family that I love and who loves me. I have much-needed community fellowship through neighborhood friends and my church. You might look at me and think I live a privileged life. You’re right. But it has nothing to do with my race – obviously. No one’s going around wishing they had Pino privilege.

In recent days, I’ve heard people say they want to tear down sources of privilege. Why? So everyone’s in the same miserable boat? Why wouldn’t you rather find ways to raise people up?

By recollecting the privileges I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve identified the following aspects of society I could help raise up:

  • Encourage family units that include both parents.
  • Encourage character traits like hard work, sacrifice and humility.
  • Discourage debt of any kind.
  • Encourage college education.
  • Encourage and offer internships.
  • Encourage careers in fields that pay well.
  • Make software and training more available.
  • Encourage networking and social skills.
  • Encourage critical thinking and written communication skills.

I encourage you also to take an hour or so to do a similar recollection exercise. Evaluate your life and how you came to be where you are today. You may discover ways you are uniquely equipped to help people in your community succeed in this country.

Also, if you ever want to discuss your thoughts on this topic with me, I am willing and eager to hear you out.

God bless you.