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Looking back, it wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew little Jeremiah Weilert then, that his gumption and go-getter-ism carried him through his entrepreneurial journey into adulthood. It just got more sophisticated.
Today, he’s president of SeoTuners – having co-built this multimillion-dollar SEO company from scratch. Launching with just him and a friend, in very little time, it went from a humble start-up, to servicing thousands of businesses across the US. It grew from “just another” internet company, to having an impeccable reputation in the SEO community and online.
Although – this is more than success. It’s more than coming out on top while competing against an already-saturated market, with literally thousands of direct competitors.
It’s a story of surmounting near-hopeless odds, trying things a new way. A tale of indomitable spirits.
It began with an unusual start. Before venturing into his own company, Weilert worked at the largest internet marketing firm in North America, in what amounted to a cookie-cutter sales role. The most interesting thing about his first day on the job? He really didn’t know much about computers at that time. (He jokes that even the on/off switch left him bewildered.)
But it was like that six-year-old who knew nothing about the obscure, niche industry of polished rock-selling, or the nine-year-old who dove into landscaping. Just do it, as Nike says. Hustle. Find your path. Grab the bull by the oysters, focus, excel. And that he did, in spades.
Through ambition and a fire-in-the-belly, he impressed the brass enough to become sales manager within six months, and six months after that, he was director of sales.
“I learned from some tech guys running this large agency, and I went from just being a sales person, to running the whole sales floor at that company. It wasn’t like some calling to digital or marketing. It was really just that I fell into it, and fell in love with it,” he says.
“I have a very driven personality. I’m passionate about learning. I went in hungry and ready to work, from a guy starting out who didn’t know how to turn on a computer, to running the department.”
It was there he and Tony Durso (then-Vice President and General Manager), both in executive roles, were pivotal in the company’s expansion from 2009 to 2011, when it listed in the Inc. 500. “We built that company up to be where it was,” he says firmly, of what was then the 300-employee strong firm.
But by 2012, there was writing on the wall that would spell doom: Google was making radical changes to its algorithm, and with a new update called Penguin, it would soon decimate their company.
“We knew that the company was eventually going to fail. When you get as big as they were, and you can’t pivot, you leave yourself vulnerable to Google,” he recalls. “We were running this ginormous SEO company going, ‘there are so many ways for this to go better,’ but upper management wouldn’t take the advice we gave.”
Durso and Weilert were thankfully already out on their own when it hit the fan, but two hundred fifty employees at their former company got pink slips. Clients were livid that everything they had built until then was rendered useless, because internet searches were now an entirely different beast.
From their end, Durso and Weilert saw a much-needed industry gap they thought only they could fill. They audaciously walked away from six-figure salaries, to take a chance on a big idea – a company they could call their own, run on their own terms, and most of all, run smartly.
SeoTuners was born – aiming to help budget-conscious small companies with their search engine optimization, so those sites consistently show up on the first page of Google for related keyword phrases.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial acumen, and always wanted to work for myself,” says Weilert. “It was a big leap of faith, but at the end of the day we wanted to provide a better service at a lower cost, and be more effective.”
Weilert is no stranger to risk-taking and ballsy moves. He’s a self-professed adrenaline junkie. An avid motorcyclist, he spends countless hours on the track – you can find him at Willow Springs International Raceway doing 170 miles an hour down the front straightaway on any given Sunday. (This is where they filmed Ford vs Ferrari.) Just for kicks, he jumps out of airplanes (with a parachute), he loves wakeboarding, and grew up snowboarding hitting 60-foot jumps at Big Bear and Mammoth Mountain. Super adventurous is a serious understatement. “If it looks like I can get an adrenaline rush from it, count me in.” Starting a business from nothing, venturing headlong into the unknown… meh, I just leapt out of a moving aircraft at 25,000 feet, and landed on my feet; I got this.
Slowly, the build began. The two initially worked out of Weilert’s garage, and out of Durso’s house, until they could afford to get an office.
Their plan of differentiation, for starters, was to keep abreast of search engine modifications – not like that “other” company. It is something that competitors don’t always do, either because they didn’t have the infrastructure or will to do it, says Weilert.
“We are connected with all the search engine forums, journals, all the top guys in the industry. If you don’t stay on top, you can be doing one thing one day, and the next day that thing is irrelevant.”
While most other companies focus on heavy content creation to rank, the problem is, he says it’s “super expensive.” Instead, SeoTuners focuses on link building – building of backlinks pointing back to a site. It is after all, he says, the number one ranking factor with Google. With this, “we tend to get rankings on the search engine faster than our competitors with our proprietary strategies,” he adds.
In virtually no time, the big jump into the entrepreneurial space paid large dividends, and had them picking off the competition. Now with twenty staff, and increased hiring, SeoTuners have been rated number eleven overall for SEO, and recently bestowed a string of coveted awards by Clutch – a well-respected rater of SEO companies.
SeoTuners has quickly carved out a niche into the drug and alcohol treatment category, and that has paid off tremendously. They are now one of the premiere SEO companies for treatment centers across the US, with over one hundred clients in that space. Weilert has flown around the country as keynote speaker at several drug and alcohol treatment center conferences.
Still another point of differentiation – a very important one – was that much in the same way his start-up was once a modest outfit that turned mega, SeoTuners really would love the same thing to happen to other SMBs.
While SeoTuners main focus is small to medium sized businesses they do have a few clients in the S&P 500.
“When I can see a mom and pop shop that doesn’t have a very big name, ranking above a big brand on Google because of our work, that is what it’s all about,” he says, beaming at the challenge.
"Google is a level playing field. That’s the great thing about it. We can get the smaller businesses to compete with the big boys online.”
But ultimately, this isn’t really a story about search engines.
Rather, it’s a lesson of searching for that engine inside us all. This is, really, a picture of character, cajones and chutzpah. About a forward-thinking fellow with a focused vision, who started from zero, climbed up, started from zero again, and climbed up again. And will likely continue climbing.
Hustle. Find your way. Grab the bull by the horns, focus, excel. Jeremiah Weilert is an example of how it’s done. As he would say, “See you at the top!”.
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