A passion driven shift from programming to SEO

Author: Troy Redington

This is a guest post by Troy Redington. Find him on Twitter @TroyRedington !

I’ve been into web development since 1995. I started dabbling in high school and just couldn’t stop. I felt comforted, and challenged by the vast sea of knowledge that I could learn. Plus, since the languages, technologies, and trends were always changing – I knew I wouldn’t get bored with it.

In the year 1999 I scored my first real, full-time web development job for an audio company. My boss was a man named Tim Storm. I learned a LOT working for Tim. I went from dabbling and hacking, to actually producing and innovating. Tim started Fatwallet.com (a coupon site) as his hobby while we were still working together. I felt honored to be a part of its community development in the first couple years. Tim quit his day job and went full-time on Fatwallet.com shortly after.

Fast forward to 2006. I was a web developer for Fatwallet, on a team of 4 or 5. I had been dabbling in SEO on the side for the last two years, mainly for my wife’s [former] online scrapbook store. I was incredibly passionate about Fatwallet. Tim, and his company, had both done great things for my career. Knowing some SEO basics, and seeing the major SEO problems and HUGE search traffic potentials of the site, I went to Tim and told him that the company needs to spend some time on SEO.

Maybe I wasn’t clear with my intentions since Tim transitioned a different coworker to SEO. The next six months were miserable as I was the developer in charge of implementing the new SEO’s techniques. I watched and fought tooth and nail as the SEO spent countless hours on extinct techniques like meta keywords. After several arguments with the SEO, and whiny complaints to the man in charge, old SEO out, Troy in.

I was given 3 months to see if I could make an impact on traffic. Tim and I both agreed that we needed a kickass metric system for measuring the efforts and results – so I spent the next 2 months doing nothing but writing a new search traffic analytic tracking system. I used it to monitor the current search traffic, and find opportunities for easy optimization.  I quickly found terms like GoDaddy coupon that were driving some traffic to pages that were NOT optimized (and quite unfriendly to search engines).

I rewrote URLs throughout the site, changed paging systems, implemented dynamic cross linking systems, cleaned piles of dirty, messy, pathetic code (that I had written in years past). Once the site was search engine friendly, and KINDA optimized, we watched the traffic increase day after day. After a few months, search traffic had doubled. Hell yeah, I felt like a winner.

Then I met with Tim again. Tim wanted to know which terms were converting, and how much traffic has increased to the terms that are the highest converting. It took another couple of months to tweak the system and start producing metrics that prove ROI. And then I became the full-time, in-house SEO for FatWallet.

The next couple years were brutal, as I fought many challenges. FatWallet’s search traffic is incredibly long-tailed, with a million plus members in the forums, the site is loaded with rich user generated content – and we all know how search engines love UGC. However the terms I was expected to target were far from long-tail, and often far from reality. Most people in the company didn’t really know what I was doing, hell sometimes *I* didn’t really know what I was doing.

I kept trying and kept learning…and more importantly, I kept finding search traffic opportunities that could align with our content. My passion for the company, and now for the industry, fueled debates with sales managers, designers, developers, and sysadmins. In the end, our results have made it all totally worth it.

My responsibilities, and respect for what I do, are higher than ever at Fatwallet. I’m producing results, getting involved with big projects, and even driving big projects.

Tim continues to inspire us, and is currently a finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year contest.

My career has been created by passion and a strong desire to learn and succeed. What drives you guys in your search careers?

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