I’m an accomplished SEO Consultant in NYC, trusted on such accounts as Apple, JCPenney, Kraft and SAP who speaks with CTOs, CMOs, devops and developers with equal ease. My career goes back a quarter-century, to the halls of Commodore Computers, where the Amiga Computer showed me how passionate one could feel for tech. From there, it was an easy step into search engine optimization (before the industry had a name). My path has taken me from helping start-ups get off the ground, to being a V.P. of a boutique PR agency where my still-popular HitTail.com invention helped start the era of long-tail marketing. I helped the rising-star 360i (of Oreo Super Bowl tweet fame) to secure the upper-right quadrant of the 2012 Forester Wave Report based on an innovative proprietary seo tool I created called 360iTiger. I also love being in-house, doing the “real” work, and am currently at Ziff Davis.
20 years of solving diverse search-problems in this evolving and moving-target arena has made me good at tackling almost any challenge that comes my way, such as when I helped JCPenney get one of the most notorious Google penalties of all time successfully lifted. This also includes navigating the politics and motivations of various stakeholders that come into play at large multi-nationals, struggling to bake SEO properly into everything. Big wins come when natural search windfalls are a natural byproduct of skillful publishing. I currently lead up two of my own projects in Github: the Levinux small Linux distro for education, and the Pipulate free and open source SEO software. In addition to their obvious utility, these FOSS projects are also “authority experiments” in a new era of SEO.
I am in a much-maligned field, because SEO looks so much like advertising. It’s frustrating to a lot of marketing folks that they can’t just treat it like a straight-up media-buy; but that is exactly what draws me to this challenging field. When information is prepared and published correctly, its message spreads faster and cheaper than advertising. In this friction-free publishing world, spread-worthy information tends to spread on merit. But, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s where SEOs come in. We package the information so that it can constantly ricochet around networks, accumulating more and more mass and momentum. Zero-sum games, Nash equilibrium, population curves, network effects, the ad-subsidized media value-proposition; I break it all down for you in ways you probably never thought about. The need for SEO in today’s hyper-competitive world couldn’t be clearer.
Behold my stack!
I love tech, but art was my original love. Somewhere along the line, I switched based on how subjective art is, and objective data is in comparison. It took a long time to go full-circle and realize organizing information, and wielding abstract concepts is all the same; a Gödel, Escher, Bach sort of thing. They work together, because without manipulating perception through art, you can’t effectively close the feedback-loop that keeps data moving in the right direction. HTML5 / Responsive Design was a good reboot, but I’m now onto Notebooks that are great to both learn-in and share-from.
So I guess that’s really shaping up to be my mission: not going obsolete. My dad was in the textiles business in New York, even working in the same building as me for part of his career (The Empire State Building). But when all the textile mills dried-up, he switched careers and bought/ran a Check Cashing store! When he passed away a few years later, that set me back a wee-bit in life; like being drafted into the Army. I got my ass back into tech fast as I could, but today find myself dancing on one fault-line. That’s why SEO isn’t exclusively my thing; it’s the skills that go behind practitioning… the core skills portable to almost any field in this Information Age of ours. I can help you.
What am I capable of doing, and what have I done lately?
A man is what a man does, right? Men’s Studies is starting to show us what damage to the psyche such gender-roles do to us. None-the-less, I still pretty much feel that way, and without further ado, here’s some of the things that I can do and I’ve done recently…
2015:Pipulate, Free & Open Source SEO Software
In the field of SEO, you either make your own tools or you are a slave to other peoples’ tools—which are most often breaking and going obsolete right as you use them. Only recently have a few mainstream enterprise tools appeared that tackle some of the stickier problems and also withstood the test-of-time (and Google cat-and-mouse game). They include Net-scale web-crawlers and search engine result position (SERP) trackers—none of which I’m going to try to reproduce. But for everything else, there’s Pipulate, the latest rendition of a lineage of tools I’ve worked on and re-imagined since 1998.
2013:Levinux, Small Linux Distro for Education
Although the dots have been there for a long time waiting to be connected, I was the first to combine the QEMU PC Emulator and Tiny Core Linux into the most incredibly small (around 20MB) standard tiny Linux server on your hard drive that is perfect for USB and Dropbox, and doesn’t need admin rights to run—or even an install. Oh yeah: works on Windows, Macs and even other Linux desktops and is a perfect intro to “old-skool” Linux, Python or the types of “embedded systems” propagating everywhere along with the internet of things (IoT). It’s being used more and more in actual educational curriculum’s and settings.
2012:Raspberry Pi, First Unboxing Video
The cloud is nice, but real hardware is nicer. All those wonderful effects of miniaturization and economy of scale manufacturing and Moore’s Law mean tiny, cheap computers! I felt and saw this coming and was just waiting to jump on the bandwagon with the right device, which I did with an unboxing video when such computers for the first time in history came down to the $35 range—and it surpassed a million views. Technically, not my finest work, but my timing was perfect. Now, this million-view video is one of my bragging rights. And I still love the Pi, and believe that what it represents is important.
2011:360iTiger, Ad Hoc SEO Analytics
Yep, I worked for that 2013 Super Bowl Oreo Tweet marketing company that proclaimed “You can still tweet in the dark” in real-time during the black-out during half-time. I had nothing to do with that, but I did work for them through their 6 years of stellar growth during which time I directly helped them secure a Forrester Wave Report top-Agency position by filling in a proprietary technology piece which, like HitTail, is another first-of-its-kind. I could explain it here, but why not just read about it on 360i’s 360iTiger Press Release and Blog page.
2011:Python, Pros & Cons Article
Based on my web traffic, it appears that I’m responsible for turning thousands of people onto the Python programming language. I used to describe programming as a necessary evil to get my work done, but then I discovered Python and it truly all “clicked”—and I for the first time fell in love with a programming language. This is my love letter to Python and the only piece of writing I’ve revisited to improve over the years to keep pace with its growing popularity. I see an “Advanced Python” article in my future, as I become more fluent and port Pipulate from 2.7 to 3.x.
2006:HitTail, Long-tail Keyword Topic Suggestion Tool
Solving for the long-tail at scale since 2006! Ten years later, and the world is only now catching up. HitTail is a writing topic suggestion tool that gives keyword suggestions that are uniquely poised to be effective in drawing in new active organic search traffic to your website when acted upon, in an incremental and repeat fashion. I created it while working for Connors Communications, and it has subsequently been sold twice, and is still going as strong as it was in 2006 when it was named one of the most innovative products of the year by BusinessWeek magazine.
Where in NYC is Mike Levin, SEO consultant, today?
I’d like to teach the world SEO, in the most credible, difficult-to-fake, flavor that seems to be taking hold on the industry. Years ago, this would have been called “white hat”, but today it’s just being genuine. Being the real-deal so that Google and all other relevancy-signal-sniffers can tell what you’re all about is the new name of the game. Provide fewer, better, long-lived targets. Accumulate a growing preponderance of signals around forever-fewer and forever-more-important things. Know when you’re doing short-term traffic-grabs versus long-term building to last. I’m doing exactly that today, working publisher-side for one of the great somewhat independent technology segment publishing houses left in New York City, working exclusively and focused on a small set of “client” sites. My plan is to do a bang-up job here, and share what I can back out to the SEO community through my Pipulate project, being very careful to about the fine line between the share-able information showing how to walk-the-walk, while I hold back just enough (but as little as possible) to always maintain competitive advantage for myself and my employers. I’ll probably focus on the non-SEO-specific components of my passion: Linux, Python, vim and git. Subscribe to my Twitter and YouTube for my latest.
Mike’s Deep Thoughts & Advice to His Daughter
- Yes, the ways of the new generation often ultimately replace (trump) the
old… but… the ways of the old generation are that way for reasons worth
knowing (like, how do those robots work and how might we turn them off?)
- The ways of the old generation may be so lost by now that even their creators
no longer see their connection to the modern world, such as with the creator
of the vi text editor, Bill Joy. Efficiency always still gives advantage.
- What comes around goes around — always. It’s not like society will have to
reboot from total collapse, but it’s nice to know how you could. Knowing
things down deep helps when things go into flux, as they always do.
- Things are so complexly built-up these days, that they have become, as Arthur
C. Clarke once said, indistinguishable from magic. In general this is fine
for improving human quality-of-life, but must come with a warning.
- While inserting extra abstraction-layers is fine and necessary–nature itself
favors this trick–that experiential trickery we (humans) have imposed on our
own world will too easily become dangerous prisons, the moment we forget.
- There’s a few really important (fundamental) world-hacks to know. How
transmitters and receivers are the same thing is one. The two-slit experiment
of quantum mechanics is another. It is always important to know these things.
- Relays, vacuum tubes and transistors all help produce “digital logic” through
a reduction in the actual richness and infinite depth of our physical world,
and should not be over-valued as an apex of technological accomplishment.
- The world’s not digital. Nor is it even binary or bound by tight, confining
rules but for a few, like the-speed-of-light. Everything else is made-up
human mental constructs and should often be challenged.
- In life, in general, especially in your times, there is just too much to
know. You can’t know everything, so get the gist of what the latest in physics
and grand unified theories tell us. Then, focus on whatever else you like.
- Proof of what I’m saying surrounds us. Just look around. Take notice, and use
instruments of observation like microscopes and telescopes. Specifically,
look at life and DNA for some inspiring examples. Look for loveworthiness.
- Much of this reality-challenging is being done by particle physicists through
mind-numbingly boring experiments of smashing atoms with large atom-smashing
colliders to see what happens. Though important, it’s just one route.
- Big world-shifting changes do occur just as a result of thinking. People have
these thoughts all the time, but do nothing about it. Some who have done
something about it include Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Plank and others.
- If you think hard enough, are well enough educated, and have good communication
skills, you can figure out how to astoundingly change our very world — or even
blow it all up. A man named Leó Szilárd did just that, and showed Einstein.
- We survived people having those amazing world-changing thoughts, but just
barely. It’s like when Sammy clawed you near your eye. Humans are a lot like
infants, Sammy like the world, and tail-pulling like nuclear chain reactions.
- Watch Sagan’s Cosmos, and take note of the cosmic calendar. Also think how
long a human life is end-to-end. That’s how long ago WWII was. Super villains
really did try to take over the world just that long ago. We’re very young.
- This should not scare us. It should just drive us to be cautious when we
invent, and have good friends to look over our work, give us opinions, and
chime in at the critical times (as with the Szilárd-Einstein letter to FDR).
- Looking at the same things as everyone else, but coming up with different
results is one step in the process. Persistence, tenacity, confidence, and
exercising good communication skills are most of the other steps.
- At this point, you should watch Richard Feynman, particularly his Caltech
lecture series. Then, watch The Honeymooners. Now, ask your mother about
old-time New Yorkers and your Great Grandpa Bernie. You’re a New Yorker.
- Occasionally, a step is really-really-really hard. If you find this to be the
case, back off the problem and focus on something else (related) for awhile.
Sleep on it. Come back. Hard problems often require a new perspective.
- Taking a break is never a crime. Life itself seems to swing back and forth
rhythmically like a pendulum. We go bizarrely unconscious every night to
optimize and index our databases. Get a good night sleep… often.
- Our bodies need a bunch of things to operate correctly. One is starchy
carb-sugars to burn like slow-burning logs for energy (candy is tinder). The
other is protein for growth and repair. Stay hydrated and eat diversely.
- As beings, we are layered up, increasingly complex circles around an inner
fish at our core, following the 4-limb amphibian design branch on the tree of
nature. Rodents, social monkeys, us. “Us” is only a tiny veneer on top.
- Most people are lazy and scared of new things. They are following closely in
the foot-steps of those who have come before them, sort of running their
lives on automatic, not taking full advantage of what it is to be human.
- At this point, you should read the SciFi book, Dune. The movies are not good
enough. Get the point of the gom jabbar. No matter how much you think you may
be in control of yourself, we are all only animals, but for crazy-discipline.
- Because thoughts flow freely in an unlimited brain, but actions are inhibited
by our bodies, circumstance, motivation and the physical world, there is
nothing more important than deciding what to do next in the moment.
- Many good thoughts that run through your head are momentarily considered and
dismissed by the part of your brain that could do something about it. The big
differences in life come down to these tiny “right now” moments of decision.
- But don’t let that thought paralyze you. We don’t (can’t) live optimized and
efficient lives. We are each just one in a long chain of billions and
billions of similar humans. Just make good thoughtful decisions on average.
- You chain-up these momentary decisions from the time you’re aware of the fact
that you’re kinda-sorta in control of your own life, until the day you die.
There’s more, but that may be all that we as individuals may ever know of it.
- It’s all a constant building and refining and pruning and shaping of your own
mind. Your brain holds a subjective copy of reality, like a virtual universe.
I believe this is what makes humans most different from other animals.
- And so, there is an often discussed “inner-world” in literature, stories, and
much human thought. I once read one called The Master-Key system. All this
self-help crap says the same thing, but it’s true.
- Imagine new things in your inner world. Don’t just reproduce the boring old
world as you know it, but experiment with new possibilities, plotting a
course through life you think you might like. Take small steps towards it.
- All this can give rise to notions of greater purpose, the meaning of life,
and other unknowables. Don’t go crazy over it. Someday, we may be in a
position to know, but for today, just live well by your own standards.
- Create your own standards, and dismiss others who try to judge you by their
standards (control you). Much of what you think and believe comes from me and
your mom, and are our own standards (not yours). Shed imposed limits.
- Much of the point of all this stuff is to simultaneously feel good about
yourself, your immediate circumstances and conditions around you (the things
you can do something about), and to end your turn fairly satisfied.
- Look up belief systems like existentialism, solipsism and nihilism. Similar
human experiences can make one person depressed, another pleasure-seeking,
others mean and self-serving, and still others heroes tying to help everyone.
- Not everybody has the same view of life as this, and many folks will try to
impose their beliefs upon you (similar to what I’m doing here), but WITHOUT
asking you to think for yourself. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
- It’s not always easy to tell one type of person from another at first. This
takes practice, and you should strive to surround yourself with people who
bring out what you believe to be the best in yourself.
- Ultimately, we humans (and most life) are self-contained, self-animating,
temporary and reproducing units of energy/matter with lots of sensory
equipment giving us empirical evidence of an objective common world.
- There is a beautiful, musical, dancing balancing of attractive and repulsive
forces at play amongst the stuff that lumps together to form us and all the
stuff around us. And at its most basic, we have very little idea what it is.
- I can’t help but feel that despite the self-evident subjectivity of it all
(google the problem of induction), the highest callings in life are those
that on the whole help others without hurting. But that’s subjective too.
- The rest is up to you, and not up to all the bullies around you playing the
exact same game as you. The only difference between you and them is a roll of
the dice concerning genetics and initial circumstances in life.
- The only other thing that I find self-evident in this whole “existing” mess
is that the journey is probably the reward. We’re beings bound-inside and
limited by the very things we’re trying to understand, so don’t sweat it.
- Mostly do what you love, but on occasion push yourself to try things that
you think you won’t like or are already done with, such as playing a musical
instrument, sports, dancing, martial arts, or vim. You might be surprised.
- Stay in tune with your rhythms and the energy you’re willing to put into
things, then take on seemingly compatible challenges that push you a smidge
beyond your limits. Rinse and repeat. At least, I find that very satisfying.
What Do People Think of Mike?
Okay sure, but how can you tell I’m not just a silver-tongued snake-oil salesman? One indication is that when people feel good enough about you to associate their own name with yours in a public statement, there just may be something to it. Check out the rest of my LinkedIn recommendations.
From My Treasured Time at 360i…
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike for the last several years for two very different companies. His intelligence and creative problem-solving is off the charts, but unlike many who are hyper-intelligent, he is also great at making the complex understandable. He has been my go-to resource whenever I want to think about where the digital world is headed, and he has been invaluable as a partner in coming up with ways to turn our shared insights into practical solutions for our clients. I can endorse Mike without any reservations.
People who function at Mike Levin’s level of intelligence aren’t supposed to be personable and charming. They aren’t supposed to be able to explain complicated coding and mechanics so the layman can understand. And they’re certainly not supposed to have a holistic view of the entire world of tech and marketing. Yet Mike Levin has all these abilities and more. In that sense, he’s an anomaly. In every other sense, he’s an incredible guy to work with.
Over a 5 year period, I worked closely with Mike Levin at 360i. Our work together included SEO client engagements, internal projects and tool development. Mike is passionate, professional and a pleasure to work with on a daily basis. His digital knowledge is hard to rival with his diverse experience working on complex brands, across many verticals, for well over a decade. In addition, he loves to explore and innovate through the latest technologies or programming, and this keeps him a true expert. He has a unique mind to problem solve or troubleshoot throughout disruptive periods, common and recurring in today’s industry. Mike can quickly establish custom web strategies, develop best practice documentation, develop tools, or provide advanced points of view about what’s next. In collaborative situations, Mike’s deep thinking and technical knowledge become invaluable. I’ll be following what Mike does next, because it will likely be groundbreaking stuff!
Mike is a unique intelligence. A brilliant engineer, he also has a strategic understanding of the key features of technology that are driving change in our industry. He has a practical focus which allows him to develop remarkably effective technical solutions to business problems. He is also a great collaborator and friend.
I was fortunate to work together with Mike at 360i on many projects. Mike’s knowledge combined with his passion for his work are second to none. I knew that when Mike was on a project of mine involving many people that he would be a significant contributor. He’s a great presenter due to his passion and genuine approach. I hope to work with Mike again one day.
Mike is a very talented marketing and SEO person. I have learned so much from his guidance in my early years as an SEO analyst/technologist. He was a critical role in my support as a SEO Manager at 360i. Mike is a valuable asset to our SEO program. He has built some great tools to help our SEO become efficient, accurate, and actionable. Many of this predictions about SEO and the path SEO has taken were correct, which helped make the SEO team at 360i a powerful and trusted team. I think Mike would be a great asset to any team and I look forward to working with him in the future if that chance ever arises.
I had the pleasure of working with Mike at 360i. He was my mentor and a true visionary for the team. Because of his extensive knowledge not only in Search but with all new technology, he became our guest speaker for just about every client, and everyone who had the privilege of listening to him speak couldn’t wait to hear from him again. Mike’s invention, Tiger, was what drew me to work at 360i in the first place and was really ahead of its time. I can’t wait to see what Mike has in store for this world in his lifetime, and I fully intend to follow his every move.
Mike was one of the hires at 360i that I was most excited about, as I knew him and his reputation from when he built the HitTool search product – and all the more surprisingly did so at a PR firm. He kept cranking away at 360i, with some tangible results like his TIGER software, and some intangible results like providing thoughtful, sharp perspectives on emerging developments in technology and media. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat and hope to find some way to collaborate again before long.
Mike has an authentic passion for innovation which infiltrates his work. He’s a first mover when it comes to technology, and he’s able to bring this interest to help develop smart solutions for his team and clients. Mike is an expert in the SEO space, and he has used his knowledge and experience to extend beyond SEO, such as envisioning and developing new tools and processes that have been adopted by both his colleagues and his clients.
Simple put Mike Levin is just one of the best in the business!!! I worked with Mike for several years, on several different project while at 360i and he was amazing. While we had some very difficult projects, he was always ready for the challenge and never failed to come up with a great solution to the problem.
Working with Mike at 360i was one of the highlights of my professional SEO career to date. His sheer enthusiasm and indisputable knowledge make Mike a one-of-a-kind thought leader. He is equally respected by colleagues and clients for the passion and forward-thinking edge he brings to the table every day. Many of Mike’s LinkedIn recommendations include statements along the lines of “I can’t wait to see what he does next,” and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with him you no doubt understand why that is.
Mike is one of the smartest people I know! He is able to take complex digital concepts and explain them to people without his level of expertise. His passion for finding solutions is remarkable—my favorite being the creation of a tool which saves my 360i team hundreds of hours in monitoring and reporting each year. If Google makes the smallest change, I guarantee he will have something built in no time to take advantage of the data and solve problems for his clients.
One of the keenest minds I have encountered, Mike thinks about technology holistically. He adapts to essentially any skillset within his field, while blending multiple technical sensibilities for unique, impactful results.