Welcome to the SEO MBA

Become a more effective SEO executive and improve your career

Hi, I’m Tom. I’ve spent the last 15 years working in SEO and digital media. I opened up the Distilled NYC office in 2011, worked at Google for a few years and have been running my own consulting business for the last 6 years.  

I’ve spent the last two years embedded inside some large organizations helping them restructure and build new SEO teams - and my latest gig involved hiring a VP SEO position and several senior SEO roles underneath.

From running a bunch of senior level interviews it became clear to me that the biggest skills gap in the industry is the ability to get things done and operate at the executive layer of an organization.

SEO is by nature a cross-disciplinary activity - it requires collaboration between product, technology, content, PR, marketing and more. So, it’s no surprise that the number one frustration for SEO professionals is getting things done.

“The top 5 failure causes all had something to do with SEO execution challenges.” - Aleyda Solis


“The average SEO at a big company has been waiting over six months for their highest priority technical change and doesn’t anticipate seeing it deployed for at least another six months” - Will Critchlow

To be an effective senior SEO professional you need some business skills. You need the ability to present ideas to the c-suite, create a compelling business case for multi-million dollar investments and work cross-functionally to gather buy-in from stakeholders.

I call this executive presence.

Executive presence is essential whether you’re working in-house, agency side or freelance. Unfortunately, learning executive presence is hard - it’s a tacit set of skills that are best learned from observation, imitation and practice.

That’s why I’m launching not only this newsletter but also a hands-on online course - to provide an environment for learning and growth that can actually teach you some of these skills.

There are plenty of people in the industry who are knowledgeable SEOs, well versed in the technical specifics, data analysis, algorithm updates and ranking signals. While interviewing senior SEOs I spoke to a lot of people who know more than I do about some of the technical aspects of how SEO works.

Unfortunately, technical expertise doesn’t matter if you can’t  operate at the executive layer of an organization. Too many SEOs lack the ability to create a compelling vision, tell a persuasive story, gather buy-in across the organization or work with other departments.

So, here’s the summary:

  • I'm launching the SEO MBA - a free newsletter focused on the business & leadership skills necessary for SEOs to succeed at the executive level.

  • There’s going to be very little technical SEO advice. Instead I’m going to focus on helping you become a more confident and effective executive-level professional.

  • In addition to the newsletter (which is free) I’m developing some online training programs to teach executive presence. Sign up for updates and more info.

Sound like your jam? Sign up here:

What are we going to talk about?

Here’s what I’m planning to write about:

SEO x Business

Operating at the executive layer of a business requires understanding some of the fundamentals of business, and how businesses operate. We’ll explore building revenue forecasts and models, estimating project impacts and creating compelling narratives for your work.

Consulting Skills for Getting Things Done

I’ve spent the last 6 years as an independent consultant and study consulting skills as a kind of weird hobby (I’m even writing a book about it…). The heart of consulting skills is how to be effective at getting things done.

From creating executive ready presentations to building a business case, consulting skills can help you align stakeholders, pitch projects and gain buy-in and resources for your work. 

SEO Careers

Where do you go beyond SEO Director? There are very few VP SEO positions - and honestly that’s as it should be (more on that in a future email). So how do you advance your career? What skills are important? How do you position yourself as a senior SEO? Are there things we can learn from looking at some example career paths?


I’m open to reader suggestions and want to keep the advice grounded and relevant. So if you have a question you’d like me to address drop me a note. Some things that people have asked me recently:

  • How do I make my agency the “McKinsey of SEO”?

  • How do I actually convince this organization to implement my SEO recommendations?

  • How do I get a company to invest millions of dollars into SEO initiatives?

  • How do I structure an SEO team for success?

  • How do you effectively manage an SEO team?

Yes, there’s a course coming soon

This newsletter is free. I’m also in the process of building out a hands-on course to teach executive presence that is designed to provide senior skills for SEO professionals to be more effective at business strategy and management, and ultimately to make change happen either internally or with your clients

Sign up and stay tuned.

Much love,