Time For Fresh Adventures – I’ve Joined Hotpads in San Francisco

In 2011, I created a playlist called “Brooklyn” in Spotify. This was because I had just moved to Brooklyn to join Distilled and songs like “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, “Brooklyn Bound” by The Black Keys, and “Brooklyn Go Hard” by Jay Z felt like they defined my life. On my first day of work at Distilled, I listened to “Empire State of Mind” as I walked into the building. And yesterday, September 3rd, I created a playlist called “SF”.

You see, I didn’t think I’d be writing this post for quite a while. Since I moved to New York two years ago and joined Distilled, I’ve been very vocal about my love for Distilled, for New York, and for the life that I’ve been able to have here. It’s been an amazing adventure, but at some point all great things come to an end and we realize that it’s time to let some things go in order to embrace the future. Therefore, I have to announce that:

I’m leaving Distilled in New York City at the end of September and have accepted the position of Online Marketing Manager for HotPads, the fully owned rentals subsidiary of Zillow based in San Francisco, California.

This is a big announcement, and let me tell you that no one is more surprised than myself. Let me explain why I’ve made this decision.

Time to Spread My Wings

Distilled has been an amazing place to work for the last 2+ years. I joined Distilled at a very interesting time in my life where I was establishing myself in an industry, personal parts of my life were changing dramatically, and I was moving to a new city to take a chance at something I really wanted to do. Since then we’ve launched DistilledU, put on some awesome conferences, and done some really cool things in the industry.


In my two+ years at Distilled, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet and work with some of the smartest minds in the SEO and online marketing industries. Without Distilled, I would never be able to count people like Mike King, Tom Critchlow, Rand, Geraldine, Mat Clayton, Stephen Pavlovich, Jane Copland, Marshall Simmonds, Brian Provost, Mack Fogelson, Rhea Drysdale, Phil Nottingham, Paddy Moogan, and so many others among my friends. I am truly blessed.

Distilled has changed my life. I told Will Critchlow recently that it has been one of the top 3 things that has happened in my life to shape me into who I am today. It’s crazy to think that in May 2011, I published Distilled in NYC – A Win for SEO by hustling and getting Justin Briggs to set me up with a login. I hadn’t even officially started yet!

Since then I’ve published 14 blog posts on the Distilled blog, including my personal favorites of Beating The Panda, Recover from Google’s Penguin Algorithm, Producing Great Content with No Budget, and In Praise Of The Long Thought.

I’ve also written 12 posts on the Moz blog (thanks for the opportunity, Moz crew) that I’m incredibly proud of. My goal with content that I produce is to educate, entertain, and inform the industry as well as to make people think differently about their marketing and why they’re doing what they’re doing.  I’m especially proud of my WhiteBoard Friday on Smarter Internal Linking and A Linkbuilder’s Gmail Productivity Setup.

I can’t really find the words to express how much Distilled has meant to me. I’m listing all of these accomplishments, but really what Distilled has given me is a voice, a vote of confidence, and the freedom to pursue what I want to pursue. Distilled is no longer the place for me, but I would heartily recommend working at Distilled to anyone in the online marketing space. I fully believe Distilled is going to do awesome things.

Marketing Changes

I’ve been in marketing for about four years now. When I was working with Destinee Media in Switzerland, I discovered marketing and quickly realized that I was pretty good at it. I started doing SEO and did well, and was fortunate to get a job in it in Philadelphia.

Marketing has changed over the past few years as the Internet has matured, and especially as mobile has come into play. The SEO of old, of heavy exact anchor text and comment spam, has stopped being effective and is even dangerous now, leaving a lot of us to clean up the bad SEO of the past:



When I was at Mozcon back in July, I found myself sitting in a room of 1200+ marketers, which is an incredibly awesome experience. During the talks, though, I found myself most fascinated by the talks that had nothing to do with SEO. Instead, what interested me was UX, CRO, email marketing, and even the psychology of people on the Internet. This triggered something inside of me, and I’ve realized that I’m not as passionate about just SEO as I once was. It doesn’t work in the same ways (it definitely still works), and without buy-in to support it with all the other marketing channels a lot of our effort going into building links, creating useful websites, and creating content that people love and share goes to waste. I’m not “leaving SEO”, but I am broadening out into other channels of marketing as well that support search and can show a great return on their own. In reality, I’m pursuing being a strong t-shaped marketer:


Marketing has changed, but I’ve changed too. I’m the kind of person who seeks challenges, and SEO has ceased to be too much of a challenge for me right now in that I’m not learning a ton new every day like I was. I’m going to throw myself into it for Hotpads, as I do with all new clients I’ve taken on, but I’m most excited about being able to do other types of marketing for Hotpads. Watch out for some awesome things coming out of there in the next six months!

Time to Move West

Another reason for this move is the opportunity to move to San Francisco. I’ve always felt like I belong out west, being a Virginia boy originally. I’ve often called myself a West Coast boy stuck in a Virginia boy body, and now that I have the chance to move west I’m embracing it.

I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m excited to explore mid and northern California, especially Big Sur, Tahoe, and Yosemite. The outdoors person in me, especially as a skier and climber, has been calling for me to go west and it’s time to explore that. And as a new cyclist, I’m stoked to ride through Napa and do some epic rides.


Some Thanks

As I’ve said numerous times during this post, the last two years at Distilled in New York City have been amazing. As such, I have to say huge thanks to a few people.

First, I need to thank Will Critchlow, Duncan Morris, and Rob Ousbey for putting so much faith and trust in me over the past couple of years. It has been wonderful to work alongside the three of you and learn so many things from you. I will never forget our times hanging out in London, New York, Seattle, and elsewhere. It’s been a magical ride.

Next, I need to thank the New York team of Ron, Stephanie, Julianne, Pete, Chris, Mike, Sarah, and Shannon for the awesome times that we have had. All of you have taught me many things and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to spend time with you, learning with and working alongside you. The 8 of you are incredibly smart and talented and will all do very well!

Finally, I need to thank Tom Critchlow for the guidance he has given me, and more importantly his friendship. Tom and I became tight in the year that he was my boss, from June 2011 to August 2012, and I have been lucky to keep seeing him often in Brooklyn and sharing many good times rock climbing and riding bikes. Your friendship has meant the world to me, and we’ll get you to San Francisco yet!

Here’s a final pic to make us all smile:

Team NYC Turned Hipmunks

Will I be around still?

You’d better believe that I’ll still be around and involved in online circles. If you’re based in San Francisco, I’d love to meet up and grab a beer, a coffee, or throw together some crazy ideas. I’ll still be on Moz, I’m sure, at the least as a commenter and hopefully still writing from time to time. I’ll most likely be blogging a lot more here again, as I’ll be learning a lot of new things again and wanting to share them with you all!

It’s time for a new adventure. I’m stoked!

31 thoughts on “Time For Fresh Adventures – I’ve Joined Hotpads in San Francisco

  1. Congrats John, this all sounds so exciting! I know for sure you’ll be very missed though 🙂 Good luck! (I am very jealous of you getting to explore Yosemite…. that is like number one on my bucket list at the moment!) xx

  2. Looking forward to seeing how your personal content changes. The role of an “in house” marketer is fun and challenging. Congratulations!

  3. Woohoo! Congratulations, John. Really excited to hear this great news about your ongoing growth and evolution as a marketer. Looking forward to doing some of those epic rides through the wine country with you!

    Safe travels, good luck, and keep on hustlin’. 🙂

  4. John, it’s been great getting to know you and this makes so much sense. You’re going to LOVE it out there. I’ll be epically jealous of your excursions. Congrats and rock it! Also, when do you leave?! We need a proper send off!

  5. Congrats John – really pleased for you, and I’m sure it’ll all work out really well. Sadly I guess this probably means no trips to the UK in the near future, but ho hum. There’s always (hopefully) Mozcon next year 😉

    Good luck!

  6. Best of luck John, I started SEO and online marketing about the same time you started at Distilled and have followed you from a distance the whole time. I really appreciate your writing and have learned a great deal from all of your tweets, comments, and articles. Thank you! I cant wait to learn more as you evolve on the west coast.

  7. Congrats man!

    I’ll probably be out to SF a few times before the end of the year pitching and meeting with clients.

    We should try and hook up if you have time.

  8. Thanks for the kind words John.

    It has been great working with you over the last few years. I know you will do an exceptional job in your new role. Stay in touch.


  9. Hey John,

    congrats on the new role and thanks for everything you’ve done at Distilled. I think it’s also great that everyone in Distilled is being so gracious about you leaving and positive about your new role.

    However, as you know, my opinions differ slightly from the rest of the company and I will be hunting you down in San Francisco and then violently chasing you with a large piece of wood. While the new job sounds like a great opportunity, I hope it’s truly terrible and you have to come back to work at Distilled forthwith.

    Best regards from your ex-friend,

  10. John! Congratulations on the very exciting news and your upcoming adventures. San Francisco is quite the amazing city and being a city and outdoors type of fella, it sounds like it’ll be a great fit! Best of luck at Hotpads, have a seamless move, and hit us SoCal folks up if you come down this way 🙂

  11. Congrats John,
    Like I said, San Francisco has a lot to offer.
    And to all the folks at the East Coast, we will make sure we organize a warm welcome for John, similar as your warm goodbye…


  12. Congratulations, John! Two new adventures in one – a new city and a new job. Working in-house is a lot of fun too. 🙂

    I’m very excited for you, but I’m going to miss seeing you around New York! Let’s definitely grab coffee sometime before you leave!

  13. Wow. Philly > NYC > SF — Was surprised to hear, but after reading the post and it made sense. May it bring more challenges to enjoy (and more great photo opportunities). Hope I get an invite to the send-off.

  14. Thank you all for the kind words! I’m super stoked on the opportunity. I’ll still be around the Interwebs though, and if you’re ever in San Fran hit me up and I’ll show you how great of a town it is!

  15. I started off in SEO and recently became an online marketing manager. Have to say that I’m really enjoying learning about all of the different channels, and integrating them all so they work together. Its a great challenge. Good luck!

  16. Congrats John!

    I’ve known you since I started blogging. Was surprised when you joined Distilled (then even more surprised when you became director of NY office). Now, I’m surprised again to see you leave to face a new challenge. I’m used to it, so I’m sure that you’ll do great things in SF!

    Good luck man!

    1. Haha thanks Jason! I’m the type to constantly seek new adventures, and this is definitely that. My traveling feet have been getting itchy, so it’s time to make the move! Best Coast here I come.

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