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.

81 thoughts on “When Good Enough Isn’t – Why I’m Leaving SEO

    • Susan Esparza on said:

      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.

    • Susan Esparza on said:

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

  • Alan Bleiweiss on said:


    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 on said:

      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.

    • Susan Esparza on said:

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

  • Mike Vaz on said:

    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 on said:

      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 on said:

    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…)

  • Dave Demuth on said:

    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 on said:

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

  • Samir Balwani on said:

    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

  • Stacey on said:

    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!

  • Giuseppe Pastore on said:

    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 on said:

      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

  • Kristy on said:

    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 :)

  • JadedTLC on said:

    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!

  • David on said:

    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 on said:

      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!

      • David on said:

        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

    • Susan Esparza on said:

      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.

  • Dan Cruz on said:

    “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 on said:

      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.

  • Doc Sheldon on said:

    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 on said:

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

  • Jessica @ Delicious on said:

    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 on said:

      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.

  • mark jabbour on said:

    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.

    • Susan Esparza on said:

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

  • James Svoboda on said:

    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.

  • Monica Wright on said:

    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.

  • Michelle Robbins on said:

    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 :)

  • Kim Krause Berg on said:

    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.)

  • Danny Sullivan on said:

    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 on said:

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

  • Tom Schmitz on said:

    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.

  • Bob and Sue Cajka on said:

    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.

  • kris on said:

    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!

  • Sara Borghi on said:

    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 :)



  • shashank Gupta on said:

    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 !!!

  • Marie Howell on said:

    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!

  • Dave Durbin on said:

    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. :)


  • Alysson on said:

    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. :)

  • Lisa on said:

    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 on said:

    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!

  • Chris on said:

    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.

  • Jen on said:

    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.

  • Jeff Bronson on said:

    “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.

  • Alyice Edrich on said:

    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.

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