Who Is The Godfather Of Search

by Jeremy Schoemaker on January 22, 2007 · 45 comments

Godfather Of Search

I was doing some taping with a national radio show this week and I forget how it came up but I asked him if he knew who Danny Sullivan was and of course he did and I said well you know he is the God Father Of Search. Then the host paused for a minute and he said “you know you are the 5th person I have interviewed for this spot and they all say someone different is the God Father Of Search”. I asked him who else had been named and he said Bruce Clay and Brett Tabke. I was kind of suprised by this I just always thought of Danny as the “God Father Of Search”. But I am a newb when it comes to SEO and so I thought I would take a poll among my friends who have been around longer then I-

Simple question I asked them: Who is the GodFather of Search?

Michael Gray AKA Graywolf

I’d have to go with Greg Boser. For me the godfather has a “pulling the strings in unseen ways behind the scenes” meaning to it. Some of the best SEO’s I know work in stealth behind the scenes and under the radar. They have a network of tools, and people who get things done and do the job, without worrying about getting in the spot light and being a celebrity.

Andy Beal AKA Marketingpilgram

I’d have to say Larry Page. Assuming “godfather” means the person that controls a specific industry and has all the power, you’d have a hard time finding anyone with more power than Page (and sidekick Sergey Brin). Without PageRank, we’d have no Google, and without Google, search would not be what it is today. Google controls search, Page and Brin control Google.

Aaron Wall

Danny Sullivan. He has tracked every major change and put it in historical context (both online and off) since just about the dawn of search.

Marcus tandler AKA Mediadonis AKA Crazy German who runs around Las Vegas in lederhosen to win a 100$ Bet -

I´d clearly say Danny Sullivan…

Neil Patel

I see Danny Sullivan as the godfather of search. He has spread so much knowledge and helped thousands if not millions of people through his conference series, Search Engine Strategies and his search resource website, Search Engine Watch. Over the past few years he has really helped demystify search and SEO for both the search engines and marketers alike.

Kris Jones – Ceo of Pepperjamsearch (largest SEM agency in the world) –

It’s not even close – Danny Sullivan.

Danny founded Search-Engine Strategies (SES), which has been the meeting place for search-engine marketing (SEM) professionals and business leaders for nearly 10-years. However, it isn’t SES that makes Danny the godfather of search, it’s the fact that Danny’s inclusive, respectful, and non-corporate style has resulted in the creation of a large, active community of SEM experts with a level of respect for one another that is unparalleled in traditional business.

Patrick Gavin

When I think of “Godfather of Search? I think more along the lines of “Godfather of Search Marketing? and for me that would have to be Brett Tabke. Webmasterworld was my original learning grounds. I still vividly remember refreshing the page every five seconds hanging on the words of the next post to carry the answer to why my sites got wiped out with the Florida update! ;)

Rand Fishkin

There should be no debate on this issue, Danny Sullivan is the leader of this industry and has been since before there was a Google. There are other “leaders,” but to my mind, this is not an issue one must wonder about. It’s like asking who was the greatest mind of the 20th century is – sure, Sagan & Hawking have done extraordinary things, but Einstein stands in a class all his own. Such is the case with Danny.

Todd Malicoat -

Well – I’m sure it won’t stop you, but I don’t think you can nominate a SINGLE Godfather of search – for one main reason. In the “beginning” of SEO – there were a handful of guys that sent each other in the right direction, and all learned from each other that are ALL godfathers to us in the later generations. If forced, however, I would name co-godfathers Danny Sullivan and Brett Tabke. Maybe you should go the route of having seven families;)

Danny Sullivan -

do we have only one?

I’d give nods to…

Fredrick Marckini
Brett Tabke
Jim Wilson
Jill Whalen
Detlev Johnson
Shari Thurow
John Heard
Stephen Mahaney

All of them did a lot of talking and promotion of search very early on, on mailing lists or forming communities.

Thanks to all who participated I appreciate you all taking the time!

So you have heard from the experts now I want to hear from you? What comes to your mind when you think of “The Godfather Of Search”?

{democracy:3}

full disclosure

About the author...

– who has written 2895 posts on ShoeMoney.com.

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of the ShoeMoney Blog, Elite Retreat Internet Conference, & the PAR Program. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 Amazon Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. Jeremy currently lives in Lincoln Nebraska with his wife and 2 daughters.


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{ 33 comments }

1 Brian Turner

Godfather vs God Father:

Danny Sullivan is the “God Father” of search – he has nurtured the industry as an industry from the beginning.

As for Godfather…I don’t work in those verticals. ;)

2 Ian Feavearyear

It has to be Danny. He’s by far the best known. The others may be as well-known within cutting-edge SEO circles, but Danny’s reputation is much wider than any of the others.

3 oddcomments

The “Godfather” had an empire, and Danny Sullivan built the biggest empire in the SEO/SEM world.

…of course he later sold it to another family. I guess that makes him the x-godfather.

4 Peter Davis

Well, when you put Larry & Sergey in there it really doesn’t make it fair to any of the others. No matter how successful anyone’s been in search, they can’t step to Larry & Sergey.

It’s like putting the guys who created the game, up against the guys who play the game.

5 ShoeMoney

Maybe but I think my readers are smarter then the general public and realize search existed before google ;)

6 Eric Lander

“Godfather” in this sense refers not only to a leader — but also of a protector. Because of that, Sergey and Larry are out of the running — they’ve created a platform that all SEOs (black and white alike) attack and exploit often.

That was my excuse for getting them out of the equation. Assuming it worked, I’ll go with my original choice of Danny Sullivan. He’s had an eye on the industry like no one else and knows far more on it than anyone I’ve ever met.

7 ShoeMoney

actually I was hoping people try not to define what a godfather means and all that…. just when if you were asked the question what would you say.

8 SearchTheWeb2

You should have a “none of the above” botton for “The Godfather Of Search? vote.

9 Peter Davis

I think it would have been more clear if you had said “Godfather of Search Marketing” instead of “Godfaterh of Search”. I’m probably not the only one that sees a disctintion between the two. And, yea your readers are certainly smarter than the general public, but I think that most of them read the ‘Marketing’ into it out of assumption.

10 Bill

When guitarist Richard Thompson was asked a couple of years ago, by a rock music publication, for a list of the best pop songs from the last millenium, he responded with a list that included songs from across the whole 1000 years, including tunes from the 12th, 15th, and 19th centuries, as well as a Britney Spears song. Needless to say, the magazine didn’t publish his answer. But he went on a tour performing these songs, and made an amusing and thoughtful album out of it.

When faced with this question, I struggled with the terms “Godfather” and “Search.” Connotations of Godfather caused me to envision a continuum between Marlon Brando as the movie mob leader, and James Brown as the mover and shaker of soul. For search, my thoughts wondered all the way back to Melvil Dewey, and then some of the more modern computer scientists of today such as Jon Kleinberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. But, taking the question into context, I suspect that the answer you were looking for probably involved someone in the search marketing field.

I never corresponded with Jim Wilson, but his directory of 1000 directories was incredibly helpful a few years ago, in earlier days of web promotion. I’d carefully consider adding Ammon Johns to that list because of his many thousands of insightful comments across a number of forums that helped many learn about search from a marketing perspective. And Danny Sullivan brought us an observant and thoughtful eye to how search engines operate. I couldn’t settle on one, after thinking about what those three have brought. So my answer includes three Godfathers of search – Jim Wilson, Ammon Johns, and Danny Sullivan.

11 Andy Beal

Jim was a great guy and I learned a lot from him and Jim World.

12 Aaron Shear

I am surprised Eric Brewer, the founder and inventor of the first large scale search engine is not listed. But I am biased since I usto work in his division.

13 Silver

We should maybe define what criteria should be used. I’ll play disingenuous and say that the real Godfather of Search should be Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System used by many libraries for their book classification and cataloguing.

14 Scabage

Shari Thurow? You’re killing me!

15 ToddW

Hehe ;)

16 King

D. Sullivan – FTW

17 WebGuerrilla

Clearly Danny. Although I’ve always felt “the Dali Lama of search” was a much better description. God Father is just too dark for Danny.

18 Destry

Finding this post solves a proeblm for me. Thanks!

19 Li Evans

Hands down, Danny’s the leader, but I agree with Greg, “GodFather” is too dark for Danny. One person though I think that has been totally over looked, who could possibly know more than Danny is Mike Grehan, there’s a guy who knows a lot more than anyone can imagine…. and even helped out Danny with domain names for his new project.

20 John Loch

Theres no such thing. Perhaps the better wording would be:

Vote for the most prominent/visual SEO person.. (it seems to me they’ve spent a lot of time tooting their own horns (or had someone toot their horns for them)) over the past few years.

Like the *real* miracle workers (whichever side of the line you prefer) they dont need to be recognized – they’re too busy working for their only client. Themselves. :)

I vote for the ones you’ve never heard of, but pass you in the street with a smile. And a merc. :D

21 Laura

couldn’t agree with you more.

22 ki1

Too sad it’s already too late to become the godfather of search myself :D

btw: the right link to mediadonis is of course http://www.mediadonis.net/

23 Jon West

I’m relatively new to SEO, however, I’m well-versed in its workings and I’d probably have to go with Danny Sullivan though the stigmas associated with being a “Godfather” are a little too dark for Danny’s persona.

24 Jon West

Hmm.. my first attempt didn’t work: Danny Sullivan.

25 David Temple

I’d have to throw my considerable weight (that’s physical not influential weight) behind Danny but glad to see Jim Wilson on your list. He’s definitely underrated. Good list Shoemoney.

26 AussieWebmaster

Danny id the King of Search…. the godfather has to be the professor at Stanford who gave insights to the Yahoo and Google founders…. maybe he would be the Yoda of search….

27 Credit

My vote doesn’t count for anything but I would have said Danny.

28 Ventrilo

Yea lets start talking about the yoda of search instead

29 Search◊ Engines Web

Excite was the first major search engine – so its inventors would have to be in the running

30 Search◊ Engines Web

Excite was the first major search engine to launch – so its founders should be considered as godfathers

31 Popular Wealth

Bleh, too much ego stroking going on here but I just want to point out one thing. I don’t see any current #1 sites belonging to anyone on that list, no offense. If they have one please attach a link to the term used to find it. thanks.

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33 Henry Gilbert

I never heard of any of them! But I am inclined to believe that SEO and fame can’t go together. You need to work under the radar, away from the spotlight – devote all your energy in achieving record results for your “lucky” clients.

I’ve been searching for the best SEO webdesigner (not consultant!) for a very long time and still can’t find him or her anywhere.
Why is it so hard? Maybe because the real excellent ones are indeed never famous or very easy to find.

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