Our May member highlight is on Sandy Rowley, CEO of Reno SEO, Marketing & Web Design. Sandy is an award-winning web designer and a leading expert in search engine optimization (SEO). She has worked with celebrity brands such as Universal Records, Oprah Winfrey Show, Martha Stewart and others.
Sandy started her web design business in California in 1999. She would create content to help clients on using emails, websites, and directories to acquire new customers. She hadn’t thought about charging her clients for this information. Her goal was to help clients stay in business, so they would hire her to update and redesign their websites.
Creating this helpful and free content brought Sandy more clients from around the world. Her business doubled every year as a result. The free content also led to her first celebrity client who introduced her to projects working for famous brands like Oprah Winfrey Show, HARPO Studios, Def Jam Records, Universal Records and others.
While working on large projects for record companies in the 2000’s, Sandy noticed an uptick in relevant traffic on websites that she optimized for user intent. At the time, she was not aware of the term SEO, but did have an experience with creating private social networks for record companies and their clients. Her goal was to convert record companies fan club communities to a digital version that allowed a wider audience to join. Her first celebrity client was Grammy Award winner, Patty LaBelle. The new digital version of the fan club tripled LaBelle’s membership base in one month. Over time, she developed safe SEO practices to help her business clientele position their companies for unique search phrases that yielded traffic from top search engines like Google.
Working for international record companies and brands with millions of fans was exciting and very stressful. Any challenges that came up, which were plenty, would be amplified. Sandy was constantly researching, testing and correcting SEO issues. As her business grew, she provided digital marketing services for other large brands, celebrities like Harpo Studios, Gwen Stefani, Aerosmith, Martha Stewart and others. Sandy has fond memories of working with a great team of developers and marketers, the late nights, after-show private parties where she’d meet up with some of her favorite artists like Natalie Cole and other R&B greats, but the hours were brutal and demanding.
Sandy decided to pivot her services and began to offer expertise to the startup community to afford a more humane work schedule. She began acquiring startup clients locally and nationally, including several Y-Combinator startups, looking to create custom social networks. She was able to use the vast knowledge and experience she earned from working with record companies to help startups. All social networking software sites were developed with SEO in mind, first hand. Development of a SEO-optimized website gave her startup clients an edge over their competition. SEO allows these small (but mighty) startups to position their services and products as evergreen content in organic positions throughout the Google search engine.
As a SEO technical expert, Sandy advises companies to start with a good SEO optimization strategy before designing/coding out the project. “There are over 200 ranking factors to be mindful of in a solid SEO campaign,” says Sandy. These ranking factors help popular search engines determine which websites, videos, images, snippets and other features would be listed higher on the search engine results page. Google updates its algorithm 600 times or more each year so one must keep up with major changes that could impact their website ranking. Sandy believes that good SEO is the backbone of most successful online projects and “slow and steady” wins the race.
When Sandy is not designing a website or looking at Google Analytics, she enjoys hiking, camping, and volunteer work. She is an avid organic gardener and sculpture artist. She has donated proceeds from her SEO/web design work to fund organic pollinator parks in Reno and beyond.