How to Be Your Best SEO: Bruce Clay’s Advice for Gaining Influence

Since 1996, Bruce Clay has been commited to ethical SEO and a passion for all things concerning search. Armed with a “be a leader, not a follower” mentality, he has helped to shape the landscape of Internet marketing with his books, presentations and training — and earned his company a spot in the Inc. 500 | 5000 list for seven consecutive years.

Clay’s SEO insights are laced throughout every chapter of his latest book, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals,” coauthored by Murray Newlands. Clay uses his vast knowledge and experience to provide readers with SEO tips concerning:
Bruce Clay

  • blogging
  • curation
  • video
  • images
  • social media
  • paid search
  • and more

In a special interview, Clay shared some of his insights on being a CEO. It turns out a lot of the principles behind successful SEO, such as transparency and commitment to quality, are the same principles that have led to his success as a CEO.

In your latest book, you share your insights as a leading SEO. You’re also a formidable CEO. Can you share some insights on successfully running a company?

The first problem of running a company in a high tech space is that things change so much. You spend the majority of your life trying to keep current and manage change. As a speaker, I have to maintain a degree of expert status, which means I have to read two to three hours a day and I’m generally up around the clock. The fact is that business takes the majority of my time. The fact that we have brand is a result of 18 years of work.

Personal life, of course, is secondary to work life — that’s the plague CEOs have. If you want to succeed, it’s your responsibility to lead, and that takes time.

What was your first job? 

My first job out of college was at the Central National Bank in Chicago as a programmer in 1972. I made $800/month — the equivalent of $2,367 in today’s world.

What advice would you give recent college grads or anyone wanting to start their own Internet marketing business?

I would suggest that a recent college grad not start their own business. A college grad has to come in, have a job, hold it for two years and be prepared to be knocked around. You have a whole lot of real world learning to do and you cannot feel entitled, which is a problem people have.

As for starting your own business, keep it small, keep it simple, service first, be an expert, satisfy the client, understand you work for them — they don’t work for you. Don’t lie. Be honest.

You’ve been a CEO for more than 18 years. What’s the best executive decision you’ve made in that time? What’s the best decision in the last two years?

Overall, it was the firm decision to unconditionally not violate any of Google’s terms from the inception of Bruce Clay, Inc. A lot of people took short cuts and they’ve been hit with penalties. We’ve never had anyone hit with a penalty.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been focusing on hiring good people. It’s really easy for a CEO to hire cheap to save money, but you have to understand that cheap is not cheapest.

They say the more you fail, the more you can learn. Tell us about a time you learned a valuable lesson as CEO of Bruce Clay, Inc.

When we started we were pretty heavy into engineering and programming. And we found that technical people have a tendency to provide terrible service and we had to morph our approach to be more service-centric. That was a significant lesson.

You are a believer in continuing SEO education. Why is it important to stay current on top of SEO trends?

When technical change is so rapid, you either are really behind or you’re really on top. There’s no middle ground. Plus, if you fall behind, it’s really hard to catch up.

What advice would you give to CEOs about what they need to know about SEO in today’s marketing world?

Do it, and do it right. Quality rules.

Can you walk us through a day in the life of Bruce Clay?

A typical weekday entails monitoring projects and key accounts, planning for conferences, supporting our international offices, launching new products, and, above all, being a leader. Another major part of day-to-day work is coping with the chaos that results from constant changes in the Google landscape. On the weekend, I’m still working, but I don’t have meetings, phone calls or commitments to clients. I use the weekends to think outside of the box and plan future projects. My staff knows to expect a full inbox on Monday morning.

What’s your favorite thing about Google?

They built the industry and maintain SEO importance via frequent changes.

What is your least favorite thing about Google?

They still allow spammers to dominate and do not enforce their own terms of service.

What’s your favorite city?

Sydney, Australia. Sydney is very much like San Francisco — there are friendly audiences, pleasant climate and easygoing people. You can go to Sydney and feel more at home than in any other city.

What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?

Google+. Circle Bruce Clay, Inc. for important SEO news and updates, plus exclusive content and conversations.

Got a question for Bruce Clay about his extensive history as an SEO and CEO? Share it in the comments!

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (15)
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15 Replies to “How to Be Your Best SEO: Bruce Clay’s Advice for Gaining Influence”

Thanks for this interview of Bruce Clay. I read his book and it is really superb, full of actionable tips and very helpful for those who want to build his career in search engine or digital marketing. Always recommended.

Wow wonderful interview from a search engine market leader and coach. Now this is really inspiring for me as I am also into the same domain with much less knowledge, experience than Mr. Bruce Clay. But what inspired me most is that this legend still believes in “service first”, awesome. Still lot to learn for me and I really want to thank the author as well for sharing this article with us. Thanks Kristi.

Thank you, Chelsea! As in life, the more I read the less I know. It can be intimidating, but looking at it in phases certainly helps! Thank you for putting a name to that. Right now, I’m thinking about starting a small business and thought SEO training would be a good place to begin.

Thanks for the interview Kristi. We have just ordered Bruce’s book.

Chelsea Adams

Glad you enjoyed the article, Date2! Please do let us know how you like the Content Marketing for Professionals books! (Or if you have any questions.)

It was nice to read this post. Many beginners will get motivated after reading this valuable post. It is always recommended to the newbies that they should focus at their aim. Now a days blogoshere is spreading its length over the internet and many bloggers are concern about the SEO of their blog. As Bruce says about starting a business, he suggests that people should do any particular job before they start any business ar what we call it entrepreneurship. You have examined the life experience of Bruce very tremendously. Thanks for the motivation.

Another great article from the Bruce clay blog, thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Thank you for posting this interview. It’s wonderful insight to have when I’m starting out (just completed my first seo training).

Chelsea Adams

Congrats on completing your first phase of SEO training, Jennifer! I call it a “phase” because SEO is truly a never-ending learning process; there will be many more phases of training to come. Are you looking to start a small business? Or are you an in-house optimizer?

Great article, well explained and very informative. I got a great info from your post. You have shared a nice post, thank you for this valuable information.

Question for Bruce: is there a plugin that you suggest for silo creation within WordPress or is there a non-plugin architecture that you suggest?

For the author- great piece! Bruce has been a major influence for our company and we have profited greatly from his and Newlands las test book.

Hi Owen,

There’s really no plugin to help with siloing. Silos are built by adding internal links. WordPress already does a good job of using “parent” pages to create a physical silo structure. That comes stock with WordPress. If you put your “SEO” page as a child of the “SERVICES” page, for example, your URL is going to be

Any plugin that automatically creates a breadcrumb path (preferably one you can edit manually) is a good plugin to help create a siloed site.

Thanks for reading!

This article is really amazing.The special line “You are a believer in continuing SEO education”. I am really inspired with Bruce clay.
Thanks a lot for sharing his thoughts to us.

I agree with Bruce Clay when he says get a job first for two years. You do need to be knocked around so you can appreciate your business more. Plus you will learn how not to run a business too!

This article really inspires the newcomers and moreover Bruce Clay stands as role model for ethical SEO.


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