I had the pleasure of meeting John at the SEER Interactive Moz Event. He is passionate about photography, hacking excel, and of course SEO as a consultant in NYC for Distilled. He is a great SEO with some great advice so without further adieu I give you John Doherty.

John Doherty SEO profile picture

So how did John Doherty get into online marketing?

I was helping run a book publishing company in Switzerland in 2009. I had a lot of books, but no idea how to get them found on the Internet. They were English books which I had to market from French-speaking Switzerland.

So I started digging around on the Internet and I happened upon SEOmoz, SEObook, and Distilled. I started reading everything I could, and I realized I had a knack for it from my web development, software consulting, and blog writing backgrounds. I got my first full-time SEO job in October 2010 for a small marketing firm in Philadelphia, and I haven’t looked back!


What do you love most about your job? 

I love seeing companies turn around and start doing good work that builds their businesses, and then seeing them get excited about it. 

Success is contagious!

On an SEO level, I love fighting hard for a keyword that matters and finally overtaking large competitors. I like to root for the little guy, and working hard to outwork a big strong site gets me amped.


What advice would you tell someone who is starting out in SEO?

Read everything you can, then go do it on your own. Don’t just take the advice of experts – go test stuff for yourself. Question everything, as that’s how you learn the most.

Since Distilled is hiring how does someone stand out in an interview?

Show that you’re creative and curious. We’ve had people bring infographics of their work to interviews before. We have a high bar set for people, but what we’re looking for is creativity, curiousity, and a good culture fit. 

You can teach people SEO – you can’t teach them to be cool.

I personally put people through a mental Sunday afternoon test. Would I want to hang out with them on a Sunday afternoon? If not, no go. 

Being the excel whiz  what do you use it for the most?

I mostly use Excel for spotting new opportunities for clients, and using the data to put together strategies for what content to create first. I’m a very visual person, so I use a lot of trendlines and graphs to visualize data so that I can see what is really going on. 

Hows the book coming? Can you tell us more about it?

I’ll be honest – I’ve been slacking on it. I’ve had a lot more going on recently at work than in the past few months, so keeping my head above water has been a challenge. But it’s coming slowly but surely.

I want to take people through a “Start here, then do this, then think about this, don’t do this stupid thing” sort of story through marketing. You can’t do everything at once, but say you have a good solid SEO foundation and you’re doing real person stuff and getting links. Then what? Emails? Products? This is what the book is going to cover.

If you’re interested you can sign up for John’s ebook here 

Seems like you are constantly reading! What books are influenced you the most?

I’ve recently been reading How To Win Friends and Influence People, which is amazing. It was written a long time ago, but it’s such a great read for anyone wanting to learn how to get along well with others better.

I’ve also been reading Brand Against The Machine, which is basically talking about a new way to think about company branding. It’s basically Branding 2.0. 

The Nitty Gritty

Mac or PC?

PC for work. I used to be a Mac guy in college, but started doing SEO on a PC and so I’ve stuck with it. I do have an iPhone and an iPad though. 

Droid or iPhone?

iPhone for now, but I’m considering getting a Galaxy S3.

Tweetdeck or HootSuite?

Tweetdeck HTML5 web version. Twitter App on my phone.

Drink someone can buy you at conference?

I’m a microbrews guy. So usually a beer is best (Guiness in winter, something lighter in summer). I’m a wine guy too, but I don’t drink wine at conferences.


6 thoughts on “Talking SEO With John Doherty”

  1. Love what John says here about overtaking large competitors and fighting for the little guy. That’s another thing to love about SEO: there’s a lot of great stories about underdogs!

    And I think he’s spot-on when he talks about the magical, winning combination of creativity, curiosity, and culture. I agree that those are essential elements for SEOs or for organizations pursuing SEO. So what are some good next steps for someone who feels that they (or their workplace) is lacking in those areas?

    1. That’s a great question, Jonathon. I think TC always did a good job here by sharing funny memes and such with the office. 

      It’s a tough one, because you don’t want it to come across as corporate weirdness. I’d start by being weird yourself, maybe? Get your boss to buy into having some personality in their office too? Build some funny stuff and share it with the company?

      1. Oooh Great question JC, and  great answer JD!

        Going off of what JD said,  I think the best way for someone to create this amazing culture environment is to help people feel comfortable at being their own weird selves. 
        My thought comes from a video by Tony Hsieh on their culture at Zappos. One of their company core values is “Create Fun & A Little Weirdness”. 

        In fact one of their interview questions is “On a scale to 1 – 10 how weird are you?”

        The whole video is amazing, but the link is at the part where Tony is explaining that everyone is weird in their own way. At Zappos they are looking for people who will be comfortable being themselves.  


        So I guess my advice Jonathan would be to try and create a work environment where people can feel comfortable being  themselves and encouraged to try new things.

    2. I like how the Distilled link is dofollow and the SEOMoz and SEOBook are nofollow. 

      I couldn’t agree more about hiring the right people from the start. Your average company always seems to be full of people who just want to have a “job”. Passion for what you do should be a requirement in all roles.

      1. Only A true SEO would notice that Marcos, and I agree that passion is a vital part of hiring the right people!

        When you are looking to hire someone how do you check to see if they have passion?

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