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.