When Good Enough Isn’t – Why I’m Leaving SEO

Before you panic when you read the next sentence, make sure you read this one and let it sink in that I’m not Lisa; I’m Susan Esparza and for the next several hours—until 5:30 PDT to be accurate – I work at Bruce Clay, Inc. Okay, you can keep reading now.

This is my last day in SEO. My last industry blog post. My last time being harassed by Lisa Barone. (A girl can dream.)

As I announced on our own blog on Monday, I’ve decided to leave Bruce Clay, Inc. I’m not looking to duplicate that post, so there’s no backstory about SEO here. Instead, I’d like to take some time to talk about priorities, passions and reality. (Here’s your other warning: The rest of the week has been solid, actionable posts. This one really isn’t.)

First, I’m massively unqualified to talk about the importance of pursuing your dreams. All I’ve done so far is take a leap. I don’t know where I’m going to land or how many bones I’m going to break when I do. And to tell you the truth, I’m terrified. I’m the most risk-averse person on the planet. I hate taking chances. I’m not brave about things like that.

Things We Forget #697: You'll miss any chance you don't take.Lisa’s talked here about fighting for her voice. Having worked with Lisa, I know precisely how much she treats any “you can’t” as a direct challenge to prove she can. She’ll kick ass and take names and make you hear her, whatever it takes. Forget a unicorn; girl’s a honey badger. When I first told her I was thinking about leaving the industry, she was the first to say ‘go for it’. No reservations, no hedging. Just go and do. Because that’s how Lisa does things. If you tell her that your passion is leading you somewhere else, she shoves you toward the door.

Last year, I lost one of my dearest friends to breast cancer. Victoria was 28 years old and should have had 60 more years to grow and change and live. She didn’t get them but neither did she waste the ones she had. Victoria didn’t live a conventional life. She didn’t play by the typical rules and she didn’t believe in people who told her she couldn’t do something. She fought, every day, every hour. I’m not going to tell you she didn’t want more time or that she was complete in those 28 years. Of course, she wasn’t. But she didn’t think any of it was a waste. When it was important to her, “good enough” never was.

Your priorities are the things you do, not the things you say you’ll do.

The quote up there is something I ran across last week that really hit me. See, there’s nothing wrong with being risk-averse and wanting to have a safe, comfortable life. You just can’t pretend that your priority is your passion when your choices are about safety. To make something your priority, you have to actually work for it.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve said that I wanted to write novels, but I haven’t actually finished any so far. Here’s the thing, though. Up until recently, however much I said I wanted to be a writer, what I really showed my priority was didn’t have anything to do with writing. It was about staying safe and taking the easier path. But what you get when you take the conventional path is a conventional life. You can sell out your passions for your comfort. You get “good enough.” And you may be happy like that but chances are, you’ll always want more.

What I know, what I’ve learned – from women like Victoria and Lisa and dozens of others in the SEO industry and in my life – is that you don’t get to have your dreams come true without a lot of work and a lot of risk. Your life can’t be about playing it safe and it can’t be about never failing. Everyone fails. And it’s awesome.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m throwing my hat over the wall and climbing on after it. Let me be clear: quitting your job, your career, to go write a novel is an idiotic thing to do. It’s a REALLY BAD IDEA by anyone’s measure. Most published authors are not making their livings from writing books. I know that. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, I don’t think it’s going to be risk-free and I don’t think I’m not going to fail a few times while I figure it out. But I think I’ve got to do it.

P.S. Buy my book when I’m done writing it.

Image credit: Things We Forget

About the Author
Susan Esparza
Susan is a writer, editor and walking encyclopedia of little needed knowledge. She started in SEO in 2004 when she joined Bruce Clay, Inc. and co-authored SEO All-In-One for Dummies. She needs a new bio now that she's leaving the search world behind. You can suggest improvements to her on Twitter @Susan Esparza or on Google Plus.

Your Comments

  • http://joehall.me/ Joe Hall

    Shit Susan! That was an awesome post! LOVED it! Please continue to tweet, especially when your book is published.

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Joe. Don’t worry, I’m going to be around on Twitter. I’ll need plenty of ways to procrastinate. It’s an integral part of writing.

  • http://www.mobilemoxie.com Cindy Krum

    Good luck Susan – You will be awesome!!! Thanks for the great article – You are very brave!!!

    • Susan Esparza

      I don’t feel brave. I mostly just feel nervous. But thank you for the vote of confidence..

  • Alan Bleiweiss


    For all the selfish response I’ve posted since learning of your upcoming change, please know that of all the people in the 2nd circle out around you, I’m at the top of the list for believing in you, happy for you, and cheering you on. Following one’s passion is what has led me to where and who I am today. So go – fly – thrive! You deserve the opportunity to be free to follow that passion!

    • Susan Esparza

      You are one of the bad industry influences I’m talking about, Alan! All you people with your following your passions and loving your paths.

  • http://blog.sonicseo.com/ Jason Stuart

    Best of luck, Susan! And more importantly, enjoy the ride!

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Jason!

  • http://nickleroy.com Nick LeRoy

    Good luck on your new adventures. I know a lot of us will miss your posts at BC. Hopefully you’ll still be around on Twitter. :)

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks! Of course I’ll still be around on Twitter, just even less focused on SEO than before.

  • Mike Vaz

    Good for you! As a person who took a similar direction I can honestly say the path is harder but sticking to who you really are and pursuing what you really want to do in life is way more satisfying. Knock ’em dead!

    • Susan Esparza

      And you’re still alive? That’s very good to hear. I keep having visions of this ending this weeping under a desk somewhere.

  • Mom

    When good enough isn’t (I told you); it’s because you’re awesome! Please buy her books ’cause she can’t come live with her dad and me. (Unless, of course, she needs to…)

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Mom.

  • http://www.avenuea.ca Miranda Miller

    Great post, Susan, and I wish you the best of luck! I’ll definitely buy a book from a brave, kickass SEO/writer chick :)

  • http://www.evaddesign.com Dave Demuth

    We don’t know each other nor have we had any interaction via social media but wanted to thank you for reminding me that passion is what you do, not what you say.

    I’ve always believed that if you’re not scared or terrified in what you’re doing, then you’re not doing something right. Congrats on taking a jump.

    Looking forward to the first novel and those that follow.

    • Susan Esparza

      If being scared and terrified is a measure of rightness, I’m practically omniscient right now.

  • http://samirbalwani.com/newsletter Samir Balwani

    Love the post Susan. Honestly, that quote is great. I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read your novel.

    P.S. I’ll buy it but only if there’s a Kindle version =P

    • Susan Esparza

      Make sure there’s an e-version. Check. I can do that.


  • Stacey

    No risk for me to say… I am proud of you! Always remember the strength you had (have) to take the risk…. that alone should get you to the next page of your book :)

    ich liebe dich!

    • Susan Esparza

      With any luck, it gets me further! Having an awesome supportive family helps ;)

  • http://www.posizionamentozen.com Giuseppe Pastore

    I’ve quit my previous job as an electronic engineer to do seo, if was scared as you are, but now I’m happier. Maybe time will tell us we made a wrong choice, but hell, we are going for our passion! I’m sure you’ll write a great novel :)
    Good luck,
    Ps. I’m an amateur writer too and I own one of the most important italian blogs about thriller books: if you write a thriller, I’ll be happy to suggest it to my readers :)

    • Susan Esparza


      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. (And for the offer.)

  • http://www.all-about-content.com/about Melanie Phung

    Best of luck! We’ll be here living vicariously through you when you become a best-selling author!

    • Susan Esparza

      I’m counting on the industry to do all my promotion for me! What’s the point of coming from a whole pack of marketers if you can’t make them work for you! :D

  • http://twitter.com/kristy Kristy

    You are my hero. So honored to know you. Cannot wait to read your book!!!! You know that we’re all here in support. Keep moving forward :)

    • Susan Esparza


  • JadedTLC

    Hey Susan, I wish you luck and I like you wanted to be a writer. Now I’m basically an editor (after all isn’t that what SEO ends up being inhouse?). I think it’s awesome you’re going for your dream!

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks! I think the word is actually terrific. As in I’m terrified.

  • http://www.socialmeditate.com/ David

    I left my job in October 2009 to travel for 6-months in Southeast Asia and India and write a book. I was a Senior Director in one of the hottest social media agencies in NYC. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

    Now that I’m interviewing and the book is complete, slated to come out in 2012, the people who respect your passion will respect your courage and want to work with you, the ones that don’t are in organizations where you probably don’t want to be anyways.

    • Susan Esparza

      Inspiring story, David! It helps so much to hear that other people have done this crazy thing and come out the other side better for it. Thanks!

      • http://www.socialmeditate.com/ David

        I’m also working on launching a crowd-sourced ebook publishing platform, feel free to send me an email if you’re interested in getting involved

  • http://www.canadianseo.com Melanie

    You’re an inspiration Susan. Best of luck to you! What kind of book are you writing? :)

    • Susan Esparza

      I have several outlines but the first is a romance novel with a bit of a mystery to it. After that, I’ll be doing a YA urban fantasy series.

  • http://dancruzinc.com Dan Cruz

    “Your priorities are the things you do, not the things you say you’ll do.”

    Love that quote! When you tweeted it out I printed it and slapped it on my wall. Best of luck to you!

    • Susan Esparza

      The quote comes courtesy of J.D. Roth over on Get Rich Slowly. He neglected to provide an attribution for his friend so I had to steal without credit.

  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    Susan, BRAVO! I know it’s scary, but that extra adrenaline will help keep you focused.
    I’ve made similar decisions in my lifetime (which encompasses several decades more than yours), and the nervousness is natural. But I’ve read enough of your writing online to be certain that this is something you can do, and better than many!
    Now hurry up and get started… I can’t wait for the opportunity to tell folks, “I knew her back when… ” ;-)

    And stay in touch with us!

    • Susan Esparza

      You’ll never get rid of me entirely. Probably. Thank for the vote of confidence.

  • http://www.deliciousobsessions.com Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions.com

    AWESOME post Susan and MUCH appreciated! I am in the same place as you seemed to have been – unsatisfied and afraid to take a chance on my dreams. I am probably one of the most cautious people you’d ever meet and I have so much fear about just letting go and doing what I love, rather than what pays the bills. Your post is inspiring and I’m going to print it out and keep it on my desk (both at home and at work) so that I can remember that I will “…miss any chance I don’t take”!

    THANK YOU and GOOD LUCK! Can’t wait to read the book!


    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Jessica!

      I think that risk-averse people like you and me just need to work extra hard to build ourselves that safety net so we feel like we can jump. For me, it’s all about having an amazing support system. Couldn’t do it without my friends and family.

      Your blog is amazing, by the way. I’m going to go home and make a celebratory cheddar beef burger.

  • http://www.usereffect.com Dr. Pete

    Great post, and best of luck on this next phase of your journey! Sign me up for an Amazon pre-order :)

    • Susan Esparza

      I’ll put you down for a bunch so that you can give them away for gifts. :D

  • http://www.toprankblog.com Lee Odden

    If you can make it in the SEO world, you can make it anywhere. Congrats and kudos to you for just doing it.

  • http://markjabbour.com mark jabbour

    Susan, take my class – seriously; but maybe first read my blog (esp. under personality). cheers, mark. PS it’s not an online class. You have to live on the front range of Colorado.

  • http://www.toddmintz.com Todd Mintz

    Nobody really “leaves” in the era of social media…you’re just refocusing a bit :.) Congrats on the new direction!

    • Susan Esparza

      That’s true! I’m refocusing into something even more fictional than the world of SEO!

  • http://www.webranking.com/ James Svoboda

    Susan, even though we’ve never met, I’m proud of you. It is my hope that my ever-so-little-daughter grows up to embody the same spirit that you’ve shown here.

    Best wishes.

    • Susan Esparza

      That’s one of the nicest things someone has said! Thanks James.

  • http://monicawright.com Monica Wright

    We are your friends, SEO just brought us all together. But we are all tough critics too, so beware! :) So excited for this journey and keep us posted. I cannot WAIT to see it in print. Fantastic news.

    • Susan Esparza

      Monica! I’m so glad I got to hang out with you at Advanced. It was amazing.

  • http://twitter.com/MichelleRobbins Michelle Robbins

    So excited for you Susan! Will be great to follow your adventures (and read those books!!) We live long lives, have many passions, and should *pursue them all* ! Congrats :)

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks Michelle, for the good wishes and for being an inspiration.

  • http://www.cre8pc.com Kim Krause Berg

    Speaking as one who took a gigantic risk in 1995 to leave my life as I knew it and move forward on MY terms, I can now look back and thank myself a hundred thousand times. So many people didn’t support me, so I had to earn their respect. You already have our’s. It’s a big world out there. You’re going to have a blast!

    Thank you, from my heart, for all the times you made me crack up and laugh out loud. (I’m always an email away if you ever need a cheerleader.)

    • Susan Esparza

      Kim, you are totally my hero. Thank you.

  • http://daggle.com Danny Sullivan

    Wow. But no, don’t go. OK, but you’ll be missed, and all the best. And you know, Susan, no one leaves SEO. It’s like the Hotel California, but in a good way. You can check-out, but you never leave from those in the space.

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Danny. I figure the SEO background will be good for promoting the writing when I’m done.

  • http://www.cypressnorth.com Greg Finn

    Great Post Susan! You will be missed in the industry. Best of luck with the novel, I know we will all support you!! Congrats :)

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks Greg!

  • http://www.websimple.com Jeremy Bencken

    Susan, congrats on the move! You will be missed.

    You may be like John Irving and leap out of bed every day excited that you “get to” write. But if you ever need inspiration, read this post about how Jerry Seinfeld motivates himself:


    Don’t break the chain! Good luck!

    • Susan Esparza

      Great advice, Jeremy. It really is all about momentum sometimes.

  • http://www.portent.com Tom Schmitz

    Am I the last to know? Best of luck Susan. I’ll miss seeing you at SMX and it’s been my honor to know you. May you become the next J.K.R. or Sibley or whatever you desire.

    • Susan Esparza

      I think there are a couple people who haven’t heard. Thanks, Tom.

  • Bob and Sue Cajka

    We remember those first “baby steps”….now we are here to see the “big lady steps” We are so proud and Grampa has been saying all along that your should write a book! We are right behind you and loving you ever more! God bless and keep you.

  • http://idolwhitereviewpros.com kris

    Go for it, Susan. I understand what you are going through. My best friend died of ovarian cancer this year. Her illness prompted me to live one of my dreams. I sold my house and moved to Arizona. I also decided to change careers – from real estate investor to internet marketer. It’s been a wild ride and I don’t regret it for one moment! May all your dreams come true!

  • http://www.smobooks.com Mary Rarick

    Congratulations and best wishes on a wonderful journey. I’m confident the novel will be amazing.

  • http://www.twitter.com/saraboargs Sara Borghi

    Hello Susan,
    I am Sara and I work at Bruce Clay Australia. I loved your post (it actually got me very emotional) and the passion of your words… the same passion that make your posts on BC blog so engaging and useful!
    I wish you all the best… and I cant want to read your book..looking forward to it!
    Stay foolish :)



    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Sara! Always great to hear from the team down in Oz!

  • http://www.webseoservices.in shashank Gupta

    Susan, Congrats for the wonderful life you are going to live. I am so happy with the decision you took. My hearty Wishes for you. You are gonna ROCK !!!

  • http://www.holisticsearch.co.uk peter young

    fantastic post susan. wishing you all the best with the writing. lifes too short to not grab opportunities when you get them.

    • Susan Esparza

      Thanks, Peter.

  • http://Www.properodigital.com Marie Howell

    Bravo Susan! I am so excited for you. Bruce’s loss is the literary world’s gain. I look forward to reading that first Esparza hardback…. And Danny is right, you never leave … You just repurpose your talents for your own projects. And you know you have lots of support to draw upon,
    Congratulations on a brave, positive and invigorating leap forwards. You will be amazing!

  • http://www.blackballonline.com Dave Durbin

    Truly inspiring. If your books are anything like this post you’ll find your way. Many happy returns and if you’re looking for diversion there’s always SEO. :)


  • http://www.seoaly.com Alysson

    I wish you nothing but the best, Susan. Those search marketing skills will sure come in handy when it comes time to promote the new book. :)

  • http://lifesurround.com Lisa

    Thank you for sharing this, Susan. As of July 1st, I did exactly the same thing. I’m not a risk taker either, but it was now or never. I’m going to post the quote you provided on my vision wall (should be a ‘board’ – I know – but I don’t have a board and why spend money when the wall is just standing there all blank and white and everything?!).

    I wish you nothing but success and happiness as you make the leap (and I do NOT wish you any broken bones or anything else!!).


  • Dawn Whitney

    Writing is not just something you “can” do. That has already been established. Writing is something you were meant to do. Thank you for taking the leap and sharing your amazing gift with us. I am so proud of you!

  • http://www.baggageallowance.org Chris

    Good luck with your dreams. I think we should always follow what we hold to be true. We all have only one life to live and it should be always lived to the fullest.

  • http://www.godofstyle.com Vince Lin

    I did quit my gig at Google to write a book too :)

    Props for having the balls to do something about it

  • http://www.ricketyroo.com Blake Denman

    Good luck to you most definitely! Keep your head up and I will look for your book when it hits the shelves!

  • http://twitter.com/cr8tivejen Jen

    Susan – I stumbled upon this post today by “chance” after clicking on an old email notification. When I say “chance”, what I really mean is that your courage was used at the exact moment I needed a “sign”. :)

    So, thank you and you GO girl!!!! Rock this world and LIVE deliberately.

  • http://www.digitalnomadjourney.com/ Jeff Bronson

    “Your priorities are the things you do, not the things you say you’ll do.”

    This is one of the most powerful quotes I’ve every came across. I’ve heard far too many people (including myself) express interest in doing something. Months or years later when you ask what progress has been made, you’re usually met with ….nothing.

    Meaning it’ s a nice dream, but not important enough to take action on.

    Every day I remind myself death is always on your shoulder, waiting to strike at a moment’s notice.

  • http://www.thedabblingmum.com Alyice Edrich

    I love that you said, “you don’t get to have your dreams come true without a lot of work and a lot of risk.” It’s so true!

    I wish you much success.

    My dd wants to be a novelist, too. But she’s decided to pursue graphic design as her major and being a novelist as her minor… setting aside time won’t be easy, but she loves the two fields mutually the same.