Inside the Life of Danny Sullivan, Founder of Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land

Danny Sullivan

In 1996, Google was not yet born, but Danny Sullivan understood that there was a science behind search.

It was in this year that he published his first book, “A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines”.

You may be wondering if there were search engines before Google, and the answer is an emphatic yes.

Search engines like yahoo were the go-to places to find content on a number of topics.

Danny has been in the industry for more than 25 years and he is currently the liaison for Google, which is a recognition of his contribution to the industry.

Danny is also the founder of Search Engine Land, one of the first online magazines for topics related to search engines.

Who is Danny Sullivan?

On September 26th, 1965, Danny Sullivan was born in Newport Beach, California.

After a great educational life, he graduated from the University of California, Irvine.

He then started writing for the Los Angeles Times as a staff reporter.

He then moved on to write for the Orange County Register.

Danny’s first steps in entrepreneurship started as a co-founder of Maximized Online with a programmer known as Ken Spreitzer

He moved to England and lived in a small village called Chitterne.

He is married to Lorna Harris and has been blessed with two sons.

Later on, the family moved back to Newport beach.

Danny Sullivan is the one who came up with the term “Search Engine Marketing” after he used it in an article, he wrote for Search Engine Watch. He, however, refuses to take credit for coming up with the term.

Listen to this podcast that Danny Sullivan made to explain just how important Search Engines and Search Engine Optimization is in today’s world.

TEDxOrangeCoast – Danny Sullivan – The Search Revolution

Danny Sullivan’s Career

Danny Sullivan started Search Engine Watch, way back in 1997.

This was after he posted about his research on the website, and called it “A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines”.

The website was dedicated to giving information on how to rank well within the search engines.

After the site grew in leaps and bounds, he sold it to MecklerMedia, now known as Jupitermedia, for an undisclosed amount. However, he stayed with the company in order to maintain the website and rose to the position of editor in chief.

In the year 2006, Search Engine Watch was sold to Inclusive Media for $43 million.

Tim Mayer of Yahoo said that Search Engine Watch was the “most authoritative source on search” at that time.

Matt Cutts of Google also says that it was a “Must read” for anyone wanting to succeed on the search engines.

Danny was also the convener of “Search Engine Strategies” a bi-monthly conference that had an attendance of 1,500 to 6,000 attendees in any given year.

In August 2006, Danny made it known that was leaving Search Engine Watch in November. However, Jupitermedia convinced him to stay on to work with Search Engine Strategies up to the end of 2007.

Danny Sullivan then went on to form Search Engine Land in 2006, which was an online magazine dealing with news and tips on search engine optimization as well as search engine marketing.

This was the premier blog for content that dealt with keyword research, paid search advertising, also known as PPC, trends in search engine marketing, and also search engine optimization.

There was a lot of information on analysis, tips, advice techniques, and also in-depth how-to guides about search marketing.

Third Door Media is the parent company for Search Engine Land, and he was the chief content officer and partner.

Third Door Media also owns Marketing Land, a sister website that deals with the wider topics of social media marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing and technology, analytics, and display advertising among many others.

Danny Sullivan retired from being the chief content officer at Third Door Media in June 2017.

He is currently the liaison officer for Google, where his duty is to explain Google to the public, and also offer insights to Google on what the public wants- this means that he plays a key role in the development of the Google algorithms.

Today, Danny Sullivan is estimated to be worth $6 million, although many believe that the number is much bigger.

Important Milestones in Danny Sullivan’s Life and Career

Los Angeles Times (1989)

Danny Sullivan was first employed as a professional journalist in the position of editorial researcher. He, later on, progressed to working as a full-time staffer to produce the newspaper’s informational graphics.

Orange County Register (1994)

Danny became a graphics reporter for the publication for a short period.

Maximized Online (1995)

Danny Sullivan leaves the newspaper world, after realizing that the web was the next big thing in publishing, and the newspapers were not moving fast enough in that direction.

Maximized Online was created to produce websites for businesses in Orange County and Southern California.

Some of the notable businesses that the company handled included the Long Beach Grand Prix, Calavo Avocados, The Santa Ana Zoo, and the County of Orange official site.

The company also created the first online greeting cards company, Build-A-Card.

It was during his time at Maximized Online that he started looking into Search Engine Optimization, even though that was not the official term used at that time.

He took time to research the process and came up with “A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines”, in 1996.

This was his turning point as a search engine specialist.

Maximized Online shut down in 1996, to start producing software, and Danny went on with his research into search marketing, continually updating the guide, until he later turned it into “Search Engine Watch”, in 1997.

At the end of 1997, he sold the site to MecklerMedia.

Third Door Media (2006)

Danny co-founded Third Door Media, together with his long-term friend and colleague, Chris Elwell. The company went on to maintain Search Engine Land as one of the leading sources of information on search engines and search marketing.

He also started a conference series known as SMX: Search Marketing Expo.

Google Liaison (2017)

After working in the search industry for more than 21 years, Danny retired from the position of Chief Content Officer at Third Door Media, and also his time as a search journalist.

However, in June 2017, Google approached him and asked him to join as a liaison. He was to help explain to the public, how search works. He was also to help explain public feedback to Google to improve search.

It was a wonderful challenge, one which he was too happy to accept.

Starting to work at Google was very confusing for Danny, as he says.

As he walked around Google headquarters in Mountain California, People gave him strange looks and he felt like someone would just come and pick him by his lapels and throw him out.

Most people at Google were used to seeing Danny wearing a visitor’s badge and being escorted by a public relations officer. Although he had written a lot about the company, he was always considered to be an outsider.

He now had to walk around and jokingly tell people that he was here with good intentions.

This was because there were times when he published articles that were very harsh against Google.

Joining Google surprised industry insiders and employees very much.

However, his understanding of search must have played a great role in nudging google to seek his expertise.

Listen to Danny Sullivan talk about his life in this “Startup Grind” episode, hosted by Google for Entrepreneurs.

Notable Publications of Danny Sullivan

Despite being a journalist, Danny Sullivan is best known as an online publisher.

The greatest publication that he ever wrote was “A Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines”.

This is the publication that makes people remember him as the father of SEO.

He went into a great deal of depth when updating the publication, stamping his legacy as the first person to realize that search was going to affect the success of businesses and come up with ways to analyze content that would drive this success.

Notable Quotes of Danny Sullivan

  • “SEO is only not seen as rocket science by those who already know it”- one can infer that he was talking about the complicated nature of SEO. For those who don’t know it, it seems like rocket science. It underscores the importance of every online business to understand SEO in order to grow.
  • “Search has his cousin called discovery… and social is very strong at providing that” – this is notable because he underscores the great role that social media plays in discovery, a very important part of search engine optimization.

This is how companies get to know about the needs and pain points of their target customers.

  • “Search is doing fine; it depends on how you do it” – This is an important quote because it emphasizes how to do SEO in the proper manner. If you do not follow SEO techniques to the letter, then you cannot experience any meaningful growth in ranking.
  • “SEO is not about ‘How do I get Keywords into Google,’ It’s about understanding how people search for information and finding a way to get in front of them” – this is a quote that speaks to the need for having insights about your customer’s pain points before you choose keywords for your content.

Successful companies have mastered the art of knowing what people want, even before they know that they have that particular pain point.

  • “Your Brand is a gateway to your work” – this is a quote that rings true for every online business. When optimizing your website, you must pay particular attention to your brand

Brand loyalty is crucial to the success of a business. The brand must always be notable and memorable.

Every online business should pay a lot of attention to how people perceive their brand, and also stay true to the overall goal of the brand.


Danny Sullivan is known as the “Father of SEO” due to his intensive research into the science of search engines, and how they affect the success of online businesses.

He is a pioneer in the industry, and it is quite interesting to see just how he entered the industry.

Although he is a person who has remained behind the curtain for most of his career, he had made notable contributions to the industry.

And he still does, now that he is a liaison for Google, helping people understand Google and Google understand people.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.