Pondering Next Steps — Making No Fast Decisions

It’s been a week since I announced my departure from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies. A number of people have asked me for a “what’s next” type of update. The answer is, I still don’t know. I will try to give some broad strokes as to where I’m at.

I’ve had a variety of offers, so many that I even started up a spreadsheet to track them all. There are over 50. About 10 of those are very serious ones that I need to weigh up and find out more about. There are about another 15 second-tier ones behind that.

In terms of who is offering, I’ll put them in terms of groups, which will then be helpful in understanding what I’m likely to pursue.

There are a bunch of search marketing companies that have expressed interest. I’m not ruling anything out, at the moment. When pondering your future, I think you need to assess all the options. But I don’t see this as a likely path I’ll be pursuing. I’ve occupied a role largely between the search marketing companies and the search engines. Moving over to an SEM would pretty much take me out of that long-standing role, in my view.

Having said this, I joked on the Daily SearchCast last week that I did accept one offer from an SEM firm, from Misty over at Range. I’m now the honorary boss of Todd “Oilman” Friesen, her director of SEO. Sorry, Todd — that was an offer too good to resist. Thanks to a site I found via Jim Boykin, I even made a seal for myself to prove it:

Look At Me, The Boss Of Todd

Apparently, there’s quite the rumor mill going about me joining a search company. Yes, I’ve heard from several of them, large and small. It’s all pretty informal. It’s also pretty much the situation I see with search marketing firms. Going to work for a search company would throw me out of the impartial role I’ve carefully tried to protect all these years. It’s really not something I see myself doing.

There are some interesting writing, speaking and even broadcasting opportunities that have come across. Most of these are much better fits for what I like to do.

There are also a number of media or event groups interested in me partnering with them. Those are also better fits, since it would be nice to slot into an existing organization where I could continue to do the things I like doing.

Yes, I’m also still talking with Incisive. FYI, about the only public thing the company has said about the entire affair is over here in a Guardian blog post.

I’m not going to do any extensive comments on the post, since I’m really not wanting to get involved in a PR cat fight. I’ll simply say that there’s a suggestion that I somehow made unreasonable demands of Incisive (you get that in the “[Weller] has obligations to his shareholders, stakeholders and staff” reference. You get it more explicitly in the message sent out to Incisive staff last week saying I had expectations on how I should be remunerated that were “far ahead of our own.”

The reality is that I never put forward any figures to Incisive. I asked them to make me a substantial offer for entering into a long-term relationship with them, no figures attached. An offer never materialized. I was given no long term proposal at all.

I don’t want to set expectations of further talks with them too high. I’m still pretty much feeling exactly as I posted beforehand, that any resolution there is unlikely. My post wasn’t some attempt to drive them to the bargaining table. In fact, I became so frustrated with the company on other issues that I originally resigned back in July before we even had any serious negotiations.

Still, as I said, I’m going to explore all options to me. That includes still talking with Incisive. There’s a good team of people who know the conference space well, including many that I count as friends and that I’d wish the best for.

The most attractive option remains simply going it on my own, doing my own site and/or my own conferences. There are a variety of people offering support and funding options here, should I move ahead.

I don’t expect to make any decisions until toward the end of this month. I want to weigh up any future moves carefully. I certainly let everyone know what I’m doing via my blog here. If I have any tough decisions or concerns, I may even ask those interested to give me feedback.

Overall, the feedback and support so far has been greatly welcomed. Having done this for so long, it’s easy for me to wonder if I’ve overstayed my welcome in the search community or whether people really would like a big shake-up. While change is good, I’ve certainly come away with the feeling that many still like the role I’ve been playing. It’s one hopefully I can continue doing a bit longer.

Postscript: See I Work For Search Engine Land, Not Search Engine Watch for my status since this post was written.


  1. says

    Thanks for keeping us updated, Danny! :)
    I am really proud of your decision to do what you find is right for you and your family and not just accept what a large corporation think is right, or good enough for you. You are, like so many others in this industry, a “free agent” type that can make a living anyway you want. The most important thing is that you are happy and that you treat the ones close to you well. And I know you do. Don’t care too much about stockholders and such :)
    I am one of the few in this industry, I guess, that haven’t send you any offers (hehe) but I am sure you know that whatever you decide to do, I will support you and help you in any way I can. Thats my contribution.
    Good luck on figuring out what you want to do next … :)

  2. says

    Danny, we’re all behind you on whatever you choose to do. It’s my humble opinion that you should choose your currently preferred path of doing your own site. I have a feeling that you will be very successful and have a great time doing it. But whatever you choose, I’m wish you great success.

  3. says

    “The most attractive option remains simply going it on my own, doing my own site and/or my own conferences.”
    If you did it once and there is no non-compete, then certainly you can do it again. And I’m sure many of us will be behind you should you make that move.

  4. says

    I’m glad to hear you plan to hold onto your impartial role and I strongly support you in starting your own site and conferences. Going it on your own will likely lead to a lot of work, but I think that you will discover you have more friends & support than you ever imagined.
    You certainly have not overstayed any welcome–we need you more than you need us! I look forward to your final decision.
    The most attractive option remains simply going it on my own, doing my own site and/or my own conferences.

  5. Lars Iselid says

    Of course you should do it youself. I think SEW went messy the last couple of years and I rather read your blog and visit your conferences. I mean what is SEW without both Gary Price and Danny? Times are a-changin’ and better move forward. I think we’re hordes of readers that will stop monitoring SEW and follow you. Forget about Incisive, we’ll support you.

  6. IncrediBILL says

    Danny, there’s a few issues with such a move that everyone will compare you with your previous ventures, associate certain actions to ‘sour grapes’, and if your next move doesn’t pan out, they’ll pan you.
    I was on top of one industry in the early 80’s and moved elsewhere, same situation in the early 90’s, as IMO the worst person to compete with is yourself because your second verse could be worse than the first and they’ll all claim “he’s lost it.”
    Just my $0.02 worth as I move on and try something new.
    Good luck no matter what as it was great to be a part of SES San Jose this year.

  7. says

    We all know you are top shelf and as for this “It’s one hopefully I can continue doing a bit longer.” well I say, don’t stop intil you drop:). I look forward to seeing whats next but I do wish that you would do one thing before hand…… Take alittle vacation time for you and the family man and smell the roses:). Later Mate.

  8. says

    Danny, you once again show readers that you don’t sell your self. (when you don’t want to join an SEM company).
    You built a name and you’ve built a reputation as well as clearly positioned yourself in the industry. This is why I think people respect you and this is why you should have no problem achieving further success. Now it’s just a game of choosing the right path.
    Good luck.

  9. Gus says

    Hi Danny,
    I am relatively new to SEO, I have been following you around for a while in your posts, at SEW, SES, I can see you are very much appreciated in the Internet Marketing Community.
    Just wanted to wish you luck in your future, what ever it is going to be, you’re right in taking the time to think about it.
    Thanks for all this giving to the Internet Marketing Community.

  10. Peter Went says

    You have given us insights over the past years how search engines work and thus how sites can be optimized for being ranked highly.
    Why don’t you apply your insights to bring to market a better Google than Google? You must have ideas how such a search engine should ‘look’ like.
    If you would seriously consider this option, be in touch with me.
    Whatever you decide by the end of the month, you deserve all the best.
    Peter Went, CEO of WCC Smart Search & Match

  11. vayapues says

    I started a business several years ago. Getting that business on its feet was tough, and took a lot of work, as well as a lot of learning.
    Eventually I left that company and started a competitor. Only this time I knew the industry better, I had contacts, and I had already learned my mistakes. It took me about two months to build up what had taken me two years the first time.
    I think you will find that it is easier than you think. Besides, cutting out incisive from having any say in what the ‘Danny Sullivan brand’ represents may be a good thing. Get the corporate out of messing around with the purity of the services you try to offer.
    You take the audience and the loyalty, and incisive is left with a name. And you know that as soon as you start a new site, a great percentage of folks are going to update their in bound links from SEW to your new site, and switch their paid subscriptions from SEW to your new site.
    My advice… Start the new site. Incisive had their chance, and they blew it. Take ownership of your brand back.

  12. says

    You left out a career on the front of the box of Cocoa Pebbles. I’m shocked you haven’t heard from Kraft/Post on this!!!

  13. JayW says

    I’ve been attending tech conferences for 25 years and the SES NY last year was my first for one of your events. It was a fantastic experience and I encourage you to “do your own thing.” I’ll be there if you do.
    You’ve got a great brand and now is the time to leverage it.
    What ever you do good luck!

  14. says

    Hey Danny – its been a while since you visited Australia – SES 2002. You could have some R&R, contemplate the future, and enjoy the Australian lifestyle….
    Whatever you choose – count me in.