Pat Tells All is a series of articles I am writing in anticipation of SMX, where I will be telling the story of how I got into SEO and what different SEOs mean to me or how I first encountered their work. This is the second story in the series, the first one was about Barry Schwartz. This one is about Bruce Clay.
The first “Pat tells all” spoke of how I went from Portland, Oregon to Honolulu, Hawaii and started to learn of SEO.
It did not tell you that prior to being in Portland, I had been a logistician for humanitarian aid organizations and that I have lived and worked in many places affected by war like Sarajevo, Kosovo, Chechnya, and most recently Sierra Leone.
I used to live in Tirana, Albania (pictured). I do not know what visual you have in your head when I say “Tirana, Albania” so let me start off by saying that it is a large modern city with like really tall buildings and stuff. It is not some little town, it is a metropolis surrounded by mountains. The old ornate buildings of the city center are lovely and massive, the avenues grand in scope, and the calls for prayer that sing out from the minarets of ancient mosques are haunting and beautiful. Which brings us to the question…
Why is there a refrigerator on the bathtub?
The second night I was In Tirana I went to a dance club had a good time and then woke up in a tiny apartment on a couch. The apartment was not mine, but it wasn’t hard to find the bathroom.
My head hurt and there was a refrigerator on the bathtub.
The refrigerator was on its back, on top of the bathtub, and was full of water (the door had been removed).
This was interesting. I flushed the toilet but nothing happened.
Are we talking about Bruce Clay or SEO?
Yes. Chill. We are getting there.
Albanian women are hot.
A woman was in the “kitchen” (kitchen being the corner with linoleum) when I came out of the bathroom. She was so beautiful I nearly fell over, like Ally McBeal does sometimes.
“Good morning” she said.
“Good morning” I replied.
“You were very drunk.” She said smiling at me. Her eyebrows roared prettily above eyes that I had absolutely no chance against. I love my life. She was wearing a long t-shirt and her legs were heaven and good. I searched my mind to come up with a knowing, confident and witty something to say to make her think I was mysterious and wonderful.
“Why is there a refrigerator on your bathtub?” is what came out of my mouth. To add to the enchantment, I added “There is, like, water in it” then laughed a quick laugh that sounded somewhere between a snort and a long fart.
What she then said to me resulted in over 150,000 dollars of purchases by the international humanitarian community.
To appreciate what she said (which is quite simple) you will have to know that at that time, Tirana didn’t have electricity most of the time and that the water system of the city had been destroyed. The womans name was Mirela and she explained to me how she, and virtually the rest of the population of Tirana were dealing with the water problem.
They took their refrigerators (remember, there is no electricity which renders refrigerators dumb) and they took the door off off them. They then placed said refrigerator on top of their bathtubs face up.
This is the important part. They turned their showers on full blast even though there wasn’t any water coming out.
Okay remember the drawing? Now imagine that the shower is turned on full blast…
The water engineers were able to do a rather neat solution that allowed the water to run throughout the city for about an hour a day. Due to the complications of this, there was no way of knowing which hour of the day this would happen. All the water that a family would use in a day had to be collected during this hour. The way it collected was all those showers that were turned on full blast. The water would come on whenever it would come on but when it did, it filled the refrigerator (or whatever else someone had put in their shower to collect water).
“Why not just use the bathtub? Put a cork in the drain and call it a day?” I asked.
Some people did. Others would not do this because the bathtub was considered unsanitary, she explained and for some, their religion. End result, refrigerators on bathtubs.
I wasn’t a logistician yet, but my drinking buddies were and I told them about it and my friend looked into it and got funding for water containers (big plastic barrels) for people to use, so that they had their refrigerators back in the kitchen.
I was like 21 or so when this happened and it taught me an important lesson. The importance of listening to and learning from a community
The answers to virtually every question are out there already. In Albania I saw how the international humanitarian aid community was not learning from the general population, and their effectiveness suffered from this. This inspired me to become part of that community.
Bruce Clay has always been a big part of the SEO community
Bruceclay.com is where I began learning more and thinking about interactions within the online community. I took what I learned there and used it to sound impressive when I was talking to my first potential client about making some major changes their site and the way they did their marketing. Much in the way that I took my observations as a young man to an organization to get my first contract in humanitarian aid.
To me, Bruce Clay had the “stuff”. His website is fancier now, but retains the same clean design that to me, when I first was learning about SEO, made that website seem the picture of professionalism.
As I began to learn more about SEO I would always kinda go back to Bruce Clays’ site and check things. I didn’t know much, but it was pretty funny the way that if someone came out with some news or tactic, I would see if Bruce Clay had said something about it, if not, I was like “if it’s important Bruce would have mentioned it.”
It was while reading his website that I was amazed by the fact that so much info was right there, but people were not taking advantage of it. For months I played with websites and my own SEO was based solely on observations of the experiments I was doing, RustyBrick, and Bruce Clay.
Anyone else were charlatans.
I was really happy when I recently got back into SEO to see the way his website has evolved. The most obvious (and useful to me) evolution of the Bruce Clay website is his blog where Lisa Barone, as head writer, makes staying abreast of SEO information fun. It is really nice to be back at the Bruce Clay website, once again hungrily devouring information, except I am now listening and learning about blogging from Lisa. She recently highlighted some important basics of blogging in her inimitable style, she called some of what she said “cliche” but I saw it more of a basic guideline to both blogging and interacting. I am not so hot at either of those things, so to me, it is great stuff and it is delivered with intelligence and wit.
It is also apparently “snarky” too. To borrow from Stephen Colbert, let me just say that I don’t know what “snarky” is, but I want it.
Just like I did years ago with SEO, I found myself checking the Bruce Clay site for information on blogging about SEO. Some of my personal web ventures (and SEOish) would have taken a very different path had I not done so, and they would have sucked. Reading that blog illuminated to me some very basic flaws in some of my ideas, and provided me with ideas that I would not have thought of on my own. It is wonderful to discover that BruceClay.com is as useful and informative as it was years ago, and remains a superior source of SEO and marketing information for people of any level.
From his SEO code of ethics to his blog and from his SEO training to the SEO and Marketing tools, Bruce Clay is a solid part of SEO and if anyone has not really drilled into all the resources and information available on his website, they should. It is time well spent.
Thank you Bruce! If you are at SMX, I look forward to meeting you.
I have said it alot, but I will repeat it, thank you for doing the SEO / Charity contest.