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3.5+HR Lyft Fare With Google Executive

By Eric Gruboy
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Published 05/06/19

I don’t really know how to begin, considering this is my first blog post within the SEO industry and the fact that I happen to be writing this while simultaneously walking 2.5mph on the treadmill for what I hope to be a 5 mile walk (I’ve been a little bit too stationary and so I am making it a point to get back to working out).

But with good aspirations for many more posts to come, I’ll start off with a fitting adage to this story, one that is still in the making.

And so it goes something like this. They say that when you firmly set your intentions upon something and really make it a point of focus, the world, universe, higher powers that may be, whatever you want to call it, provides you with unexpected stepping stones, however indicative of your goal they may be.

The prologue: I had just went through a short stint as a rental agent in NYC all while working on a side company that had some unforeseen barriers to entry which ran tangent to me becoming more acquainted with SEO.

This company, which was my Nth venture, brought to my attention that some really good SEO would be in order to get this business going. So I took the plunge and did my research that was on par with an academic plagued with a raging madness and little concern for sleep to find answers to the most questioning concerns on the internet of how to rank on Google, well, at least one of them, I think.

And this I did.

The more I read and learned and the more companies, agencies and freelancers I spoke to, the more I understood that there was a disconnect between the work they were delivering and actual SEO done the right way.

This didn’t quite sit well with me, just as getting my real estate license to be a rental agent in NYC had its fair share of deliberations that I didn’t agree with.

This predicament, however, presented itself as an opportunity and one that I was readily willing to jump on as the companies I formed prior relied on tangible products for the exception of when I took on website design as a freelancer (I dabbled in branding and website design from the inception of my first company) and looking back with the knowledge I had now attained in SEO, I could have easily gotten my previous start ups going and on their feet with the exposure that I at the time was missing.

This was quite captivating being that I saw and understood the power of what I can do with my new found knowledge in SEO and the fact that I could provide value in excess of what others in the industry were supplying.

So now the idea was there. I was going to start an SEO company or more specifically an SEO Content Marketing company.

At this point I was between a rock and a hard place since I tallied up a good amount of bills that I had to pay and work that I had to do to pay those bills. I took to ride sharing to hold me over and in the mean time continued learning more about the ins and outs of SEO.

Then one day I landed a golden goose as a passenger.

It was more of an omen, at least in my belief, that I sort of was on the right path, even though everything that I was going through at the time seemed like a deep fog with no expectation of there being a sun out on the horizon.

It was March of 2018 and I had a pick up from Newark Airport. It had just started snowing, and what was about to become that month’s nor’easter, I was about 20 min away from where I had to drop off my passenger.

Now, I like to chit chat with my riders and so I began like with any conversation asking questions. I soon found out that my passenger was supposed to land in Massachusetts and due to the coming snow storm his flight was re-directed to land in New Jersey for a hold over.

My ride share hours at this point were crazy. I was doing like a minimum of 12hrs a day 6-7 days a week (some Sundays were super slow so I didn’t do as much hours) and just last week I had done my first long distance ride of over 2hrs one way.

So what may have sounded as a joke, I said to my passenger, if you want, I can drive you to your home in Massachusetts.

Next thing I know I’m driving north and the snow is starting to come down harder and harder and I sense that it dawns on my passenger what he had just signed up for as he begins to ask me concerning questions like if my car can handle the snow and if I’m good to drive so many hours. I re-assure him that my dodge charger has 4 wheel drive and that I’ve kicked ass with it before in the snow and that all I do is drive and that this trip was like any other, just a little longer.

He lets down and I can tell he feels more assured and ready to go home.

Now you have to keep in mind that my GPS on the phone is showing that we have close to a 4 hour drive and so I figured to make the drive a bit more bearable, it would be worth it to get to know the person that I was actually transporting.

(Btw, at this point I’m off the treadmill and on my mac - I figured I would throw this in so as not to give people the impression that this whole post was written while putting one foot in front of the other.)

As we ping pong back and forth with our dialogue, I throw in the impending question that I ask most of my passengers “So…what do you do for a living?”.

He responds that he’s a Software Engineer while typing away on his phone and engaging in my yet to pick up conversation that I am so desperately trying to liven up.

Now being more curious than George, as most people that know me, know that I like to ask questions, and so questions I continued to ask as “I’m a Software Engineer” hadn’t appeased my curiosity.

I kept pecking away and a few more questions down the line, I find out that lo and behold the fare that I had picked up on the day of the March 2018 nor’easter at Newark airport was a top Google executive.

Not only was this a tune of golden proportions to my ears but my mind began racing as I put into perspective that here is this trip that I just undertook and it was with a Software Engineer who happens to work at Google and according to his humble way of putting it, he is one of the few top guys at the Cambridge campus.

At this point we’re on a straight away up I-95N and I’m thinking to myself as I’m clenching the steering wheel whether or not this is some kind of lucid dream. Dream it was not but a dream come true it was.

I had spent countless hours reading up and watching youtube videos on SEO and its best practices and now I had this one of a kind passenger in the back seat of my car who was about to become the recipient of many questions to come.

Well, I take that back. In actuality I was very nonchalant and casual with the guy. I didn’t want to shake him up and overburden him to the point that he would either be begging to get out of the car or just take action into his own hands and jump out of a moving vehicle, considering he had just had a 20+ hr layover flight.

He did give me basic advice for SEO that any newbie would come by when reading up on the subject, like having your meta tags in order, not cannibalizing on keywords, writing content for humans and not machines and so forth.

I did ask him if there was one thing that he could recommend for me to rank in search engines and kind of give me an inside scoop since I was his saving grace that day in getting him home.

He paused for a bit and said that information was proprietary to Google but if there was one thing he could recommend, it would be to create really good content that people would enjoy reading.

And so, I had to ask him what was the deal with backlinks. Specifically I asked him from the top 5 ranking factors to get on page one of Google, what position were backlinks in? He kind of smirked at me and told me that they don’t exactly look at backlinks the way that they used to and that if he was to give me a range, that backlinks would fall within the top 10.

Up until this point I was under the impression that backlinks were the number one ranking factor and so I had to, as nicely as I could, considering we still had a long way to go, call him out on that.

He laughed and told me that backlinks were part of their ranking algorithm and that they didn’t hold the kind of precedence that they formerly had.

And that was the nail in the coffin and the last we spoke of SEO.

We talked about other things throughout the whole trip to which most of the ride I would admit he was either on his phone talking in his native tongue or was just to himself on his phone. We did stop by Sonic along the way which he was nice enough to offer to pay for my meal.

Throughout the times during the ride that I was able to engage him in conversation, I told him my story, what other things I was working on and how I was about to dive head first into SEO. We talked about projects he was working on at Google, how he came to work at Google and I even questioned him on flat earth and aliens.

I, of course, remembered his name from my Lyft app and couldn’t wait to look him up after the ride to check him out and sort of verify who he said he was, to which, when I did, everything checked out (I would mention also that I have a keen eye for things and his story became even more believable when I noticed his Google backpack that he lunged along with him over his back when we went into Sonic to place our order).

Through and through, it was a pleasure to drive this man to his home back to his family and to use this experience as a catalyst to form my first SEO company. Whether it was a Google executive or not, I always strove to drive my passengers with the utmost care and get them to their final destination in a timely manner. And for this almost four hour ride, that I did.

Since that time I have gone on to start Bound SEO, which at the time of this writing, I will no longer be doing business by, even though I will keep the site up just as a token of remembrance.

The moral of the story is that the more I have been delving into SEO from my inception of Bound SEO the more I have come to the conclusion that design, branding and the user experience of a site should be considered just as important as ranking factors like backlinks and on-page optimization.

Furthermore, for those that do SEO and have never designed and developed more than a handful of thoroughly crafted websites on their own accord, though might not truly understand the significance of this, but standing from the vantage point of having taken on multiple crafts from branding, design, website development and SEO, the true importance of all these disciplines being merged thoughtfully together, not just by an agency that divulges its work away to third parties without having any hands on experience to begin with, but one that has actually pressed the buttons on their keyboard in doing the work, will soon not only be crucial in order to be on top of the competition, but I suspect, will be a rare commodity to find.

With that said, I am welcoming my own launch of lightwalker.media to the whole world and I am super excited to intertwine UX with SEO and to do so by my own high standards as I like to say “pixel by pixel”.

Lastly, for all those passengers that sat ever so comfortably in the back seat of my newly chartered dodge charger and didn’t voice any concern they may have had and left me a negative review after the ride, which was a few every now and then even though I maintained to keep a high rating, I would tell them in return, that for the fare you just paid to drive in a fully loaded car with leather seats and beats sound system, go take the bus the next time for the same money.

And for those 3 passengers out of thousands that I drove that entered my car and greeted me by my first name, I am and was gracious to ride in your company.

Eric Gruboy
Founder of Lightwalker.media
Eric Gruboy combines a multi-disciplinary approach to digital marketing with hands on experience centered around design.

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