Getting Started in SEO (Part 2)

While working at SparkNet I had managed to pick up some very basic technical skills. Little did I know at the time that learning how to code in HTML and understanding the basics of database management would be of such great value later on in my career. The more I learned, the more I began to comprehend exactly how search engines worked. SparkNet was growing at a furious rate and its founder, Christopher Knight got into the list making business. An offshoot of forums and bulletin boards, SparkList was born and one of its more successful online conversations included the ISPLists.

I met a lot of wireless entrepreneurs during the heyday of  the ISPLists and moderating the conversations was taking up more of my time than originally anticipated. Soon, it became and advertising venue as well as a great place for ISP operators to share their high-speed tricks of the trade. At its apex of activity, the ISPLists caught the eye of Boardwatch magazine and a burgeoning online entity known as, the premier IT news an information publication then held by the enigmatic online publisher Alan Meckler. Eventually, the ISPLists and its members became an integral part of ISPCON, challenging the status of monolithic internet service providers like AOL, EarthLink and the like.

Things were about to get very interesting when the ISPLists were acquired by Meckler. As the editorial iron fist of the ISPLists, I was extended the opportunity to go along with the deal and work for Gus Venditto, then editor-in-chief of, didn’t think that managing the ISPLists constituted a full time job. During my interview with Gus, he asked if I could write for the ISP News portion of I had to laugh a bit, because I had majored in Journalism at UW-Madison and I had performed as the fine arts editor and eventual managing editor of the Badger Herald while attending college, so I didn’t think that writing about the industry that was a critical focus of my fascination would be much of a stretch. I said “yes, I think I could do that,” and I unwittingly entered into the second major phase in growing my understanding of search engines and the role that content plays in getting found on the web.

All-in-all 1998 was a very good year. I was working in an industry I loved, learning more about the web that I could possibly explain to my family, and writing about it all was just the icing on the cake. Then I met Danny Sullivan and participated in his first ISP Boot Camp for writers and editors. Now things were starting to get really interesting … But more on that later. With some technical skills in my tool box I was about to pack up my kit and move to Connecticut to continue my education in just how content impacts natural search engine optimization.

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Getting Started in SEO

I’ve been busy conversing with some ClickZ readers that are anxious to get started working in the SEO Industry, which has sent me fondly reminiscing about how I got my start in the search engine optimization business … before it was called SEO.

I had made the leap to this Internet thing after a successful retail career with Best Buy. (I was the third female general manager in the history of the company.) In 1996 I started working at SparkNET; a small regional Internet Service Provider (ISP) and website design agency.

Suffice to say, I learned a lot. There were many days when I thought my brain would explode from the rush of new acronyms alone. I was ever so proud when I learned my first Linux command, which as Pico; used for looking up and unlocking network access passwords, of course. I also learned my first HTML code and launched my first website, Times were good — as were the marketing opportunities in this brave new online world.

I was learning something new every day and started to really get into using different search directories. (No, they were not yet called search engines.) The Yahoo Directory, Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Teoma, Dogpile, and Hot Bot were all the rage and Netscape was the browser of choice. If you wanted to get found on the World Wide Web, your website had to be in these high-profile directories. Naturally, I developed a product that would help do just that for our webhosting clients … And that’s I how got started in this crazy business.

But things were about to change as more and more people flocked to the web, as was my career path, when came along.  (To Be Continued … )

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