This all started late at night on Monday October 21st. My daughter Annie was not quite four months old and I was on baby duty.
I was scrolling through Twitter, hoping that the baby was asleep for the night, when I saw a post from Britney Muller.
For those who don’t know about Greg Gifford, he’s a well-respected speaker and one of the top thought leaders on Local SEO. He’s known for his engaging, rapid pace speeches in which he quickly clicks through dozens of well-designed slides influenced by his love for movies. Oh, and there are no bullet points. There’s a disclaimer about bullet points at the beginning.
His presentations are funny, smart and unlike anything else you’ll see. The list of industry events he’s spoken at is too long to reference here. If you’ve ever read a roundup post about Local SEO, chances are good that Greg Gifford contributed to it.
Although we’d never met, I’d been a fan of Greg Gifford’s from afar for many years. In our very first event at SearchLab, I gave a presentation on trends in SEO for the upcoming year. In the presentation, I quoted Greg in a slide about how essential search marketing is for small businesses.
I decided to send him an email. It wasn’t a completely impulsive decision. SearchLab has been experiencing impressive growth and success in the two years since the agency started. Adding an industry leader to our team made sense to me (at least it did in the middle of the night back in October).
Nonetheless, I wasn’t necessarily pursuing this position when I saw Britney’s tweet. It was a bit of a shot in the dark, but I thought to myself, “Why not?” At a minimum, it was an opportunity to talk to a really smart SEO.
I sent him an email with the subject, “Interested in Talking?” He responded and we scheduled a time to talk on the phone. Our first conversation was fairly typical boilerplate getting-to-know-each-other type back and forth.
There was something interesting though. Greg lives in Dallas. I was going to be speaking at the State of Search Conference in Dallas that November. Greg Gifford was one of the keynote speakers for the conference.
The list of industry events he’s spoken at is too long to reference here.
We arranged to meet up before the conference started. I wrote up a job description for a position that, up to that point, we had never had - Vice President of Search.
I arrived in Dallas without a place in mind for lunch. I was completely sleep deprived and a little anxious about my speech. I reached out Greg to confirm the lunch meeting and see if he had a place in mind. Greg suggested a truly excellent burger place not far from the hotel.
We sat and talked for about an hour. I told him all about SearchLab, our successes and challenges. He walked me through his career and what he was looking for in his next opportunity.
I liked him personally. He lived in a football-crazy part of Texas that had just spent $60 million on the football stadium then had to spend millions more to fix structural problems. He has three children and many pets. He likes movies and tattoos. In fact, he has a lot of tattoos of movie characters.
We talked about work. His value to an agency like SearchLab was obvious to me before we ever spoke. He didn’t necessarily brag about himself. It was more a statement of fact: He’s an industry leader. Because of his speeches, content and reputation he was able to help the agencies he’d worked for acquire new clients. Ultimately, those activities helped to build agencies that were many multiples the size of what SearchLab is currently.
He also had a lot of experience building and developing SEO teams, especially in the auto dealer vertical. He understood operations and the necessity for processes.
We left the restaurant and I went back to work on my speech. I hadn’t mentioned, but I don’t have much speaking experience. It was a goal for 2019 to get one speaking engagement. This was it. State of Search was the biggest conference I had ever spoken at. I wanted it to go well but this meeting with Greg occupied most of my head space.
The conference was terrific. At the speaker’s dinner I spoke to David Mihm who has a similarly excellent reputation in Local SEO. David started a report called the Local Search Ranking Factors that is indispensable for Local SEOs. I somewhat jokingly asked David if he’d be a reference check for Greg. David answered the question seriously. He was effusive in his praise and said, “If you hire Greg Gifford, the entire reputation of your agency will change overnight.”
I would recommend State of Search to anyone interested in search marketing. The whole experience was great. Greg crushed his speech in the main room. I did fine in one of the breakout sessions. I made some friends and headed back to Chicago.
At this point, I still thought it was unlikely that Greg would work for SearchLab. One reason was distance. We have no presence in Texas. I don’t even have a client there. The other concern was that multiple other agencies were talking to him. SearchLab’s growth is impressive, but we’re still a relatively young agency. I was going to do my best, but I certainly didn’t have my hopes up.
I sent an offer and crossed my fingers. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Greg was also interested. We exchanged some more emails and ultimately had one final call with my leadership team and Greg to finalize the agreement. I happened to be traveling that day and took the call from a hotel room in New Orleans.
We talked for an hour and a half about all the things we could do together. We talked about the first ninety days, the first six months, the first year. We talked about the distance and remote work. We talked about our company culture, our processes and tools. He seemed to genuinely get along with my colleagues on the call.
When I returned from New Orleans, we finalized the deal. I assembled the team in the conference room and told them, “Greg Gifford is joining SearchLab.” He was at a conference the day he accepted our offer and sent us his badge with a message, “First of many....”
As I write this, I’m struck by the timing. I just so happened to get my first major conference speaking gig at the exact time Greg Gifford was looking for a job; the conference happened to be in Dallas where Greg lives making it easy for us to meet up beforehand and the only reason I knew that he was looking for a new job was because my daughter wouldn’t sleep and I happened to see a tweet from Brittney Muller.
Well, it worked out. We’re incredibly happy to announce that Greg Gifford has accepted the position of Vice President of Search at SearchLab. I can’t wait to get started. We’ve added an industry expert, you might even say the industry expert to our talented team. I’m confident that he’ll help SearchLab identify new clients and improve our service offerings for existing clients.