About Jerry West
I was born and raised in San Jose, California. My technical career began at General Electric in their nuclear division. That was very cool, as “spare parts” for nuclear plants ran in the $4-$6 million range. Makes you wonder what the “big stuff” costs. My next career move was I began to work for WordPerfect where I served as a software tester.
While working on a new add-on to the product called the Internet Publisher, I came up with some ground-breaking ideas. The result was the seamless export of a WordPerfect document to not just HTML, but into an entire site, including links. It was pretty slick.
At the time (1995), it was a great development. This prompted one of the developers to suggest that I do Web publishing and design on the side. He saw a talent in me that I hadn’t.
I started my first company a short while later. I called it West Web Design, but I didn’t register the domain name for a couple of years. Why? Because, I didn’t know I could. Things online were still very new back then. I did the design work for local businesses and all was going well.
Then it happened. One of my clients asked if I could get them ranked higher in the search engines. I told them, “No problem.”
The truth is, I had no idea.
I started devouring pages on the Web, but there wasn’t much information available. In fact, it was 1997 and there was very little out there. At the time, Alta Vista was the king of search engines and had the largest index of about 80 million pages. Think of that. Estimates are that Google has over a TRILLION pages indexed.
With nowhere to look, I turned to myself and decided I would use my skills as a software tester to determine what search engines were doing and how they ranked pages.
If you weren’t around back then, it was pretty cool. Infoseek, which had a great share of the market, offered “instant indexing,” which allowed you to submit your page to its index and within two minutes it would be live. So, I created my testing grid, started uploading pages like a crazy fool, checked the rankings, performed A/B testing — the works.
The testing paid off. My client achieved hundreds of top rankings and went from an 8-person company to 30 people in 90 days. They were thrilled and someone said to me, “Looks like you have a new career.”
About two years later, I landed my first big corporate client. I remember clearly hanging up the phone after finalizing the contract and saying out loud: “What am I going to do now?”
I didn’t feel I had the skills to work with such a large company.
I searched the Internet looking for answers. When I couldn’t find any, I called Brent Winters, President of First Place Software (makers of Web Position) and explained my situation. He recommended a training course and a short while later I earned my certification in SEO.
In just one month, leads were pouring into the large company. In two months, they were literally drowning in leads. My client had top rankings across the board and their website traffic had reached an all time high.
I later discovered that the Senior VP of Sales had three years to achieve a certain level of sales. With the help of the SEO work I did, he achieved that level in seven months, was given a large bonus and released from his contract. He was hired to do the same job with an Internet startup company called Netgateway. He made me his first hire and paid me my first six-figure salary. I had reached my dream: Doing SEO full-time and getting paid well for it. Web Marketing Now started as a subset of Netgateway in 1999.
The ride didn’t last long, as the “dot com” bubble burst in February 2000. The company’s stock dropped below a dollar a share. In June of 2000, I was laid off on a Tuesday and served divorce papers from my then wife of twelve years, on Thursday — just two days later.
I remember vividly, I woke up the day after, unemployed and living with my parents. I said to myself, “I’ve become George Costanza.” I knew right then and there I had to make a choice. I could either feel sorry for myself, or I could believe in myself and do things on my own. Obviously, I chose the latter.
As part of my severance package, I was given Web Marketing Now. I moved into a killer apartment and started out full-time on my own and haven’t looked back since.
We all go through difficult times in our lives, and we always have choices. The easy choice is always to lie down and wait for someone to pick us up and help us. The hard choice is to work when you don’t want to, wake up when you are tired, and complete a task when you would rather be doing something else.