Kate Morris

Otherwise know as @katemorris.com by friends.


Cat on a Plane: Tales of a Trip to Austin

My cat’s name is Archikneadies. He is a 16 lb bengal cat. Fairly quiet and very loving. HATES traveling. Archie and I went to Austin today and everything that could go wrong, did. Dallas and I were both pretty worried about it and I’m sad to say everything came true. Dallas stayed behind to close out things in Seattle. Packers were coming today, and we still needed to do the walk through. So I took Archie, Dallas stayed in Seattle. Our morning begins …


To start, we knew he wouldn’t like flying, so we went to the vet and got a prescription for xanax. We tested it on him, he acted drunk, but okay. We sucked at giving him the medicine though. We tried and failed at pilling him this morning. So my coworker, Morgan Chessman, and I took him to the vet for pilling. Success! We then got Archie harnessed and in his soft carrier. So far so good.


Dropping bags was fine, everyone wanted to see him. We got to TSA and was allowed through Pre-Check! Score! They asked that I take Archie out of the bag, which I did, to go through the metal detector so they could scan his carrier. We made it through the metal detector fine. They swabbed my hands and I went to take him back to the carrier.

It all goes wrong …

That’s when it got bad. An agent walked up to say hi to Archie and he bolted. I had a harness on him but it wasn’t working. He was too freaked, but I tried to keep him from running away. That meant his claws and teeth stopped me from stopping him. Archie bolted into Seatac Airport just as I realized I was bleeding profusely from my hands.

My first thought: I lost the cat. I’m never going to make this flight now. I lost the cat! Shit, I’m bleeding.

The agent that came to say hi and freaked Archie out was a paramedic. Thank God. He got my right arm up in the air, applied pressure to the right artery and stopped the bleeding. At the same time, I am apologizing because they shut down the line I was in because my blood was EVERYWHERE. I felt horrible.

And I still felt bad about Archie. Scared. Somewhere in Seatac.

Then they returned him. Just as they told me that paramedics were on the way. I might need stitches. WHAT??? Well shit. BUT Archie was back. That was what was important. Yes, I have messed up priorities (my arm is still in the air mind you).


So the paramedics arrive and get me cleaned up. No stitches needed but they make me promise to get a tetanus shot when I get to Austin. They then tell me more and more … I promise to tell the flight attendants. “No, don’t. They won’t let you fly.”

I cannot do this ever again. Take Archie on a plane. So not making it to Austin was NOT an option. So I hid my injuries. Bought Vitamin Water and Tylenol – and waited.

The Flight

Dallas and I are both worried about infection and a real cat bite at this moment. I don’t know if he bit me, I do know that my hand throbs so much. And my bandage is filling up slowly. I can’t let anyone see this lest they not let me fly. But how do you hide that?

Archie and I get on early and guess what? The carrier doesn’t fit under the seat. Bless the flight attendant that didn’t care and let me have him half hanging out. Damn you carrier maker!!! However, it did save the day as he worked really hard many times to escape the carrier. I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest.

So not only does he try really hard to get out of the carrier at 30k feet, he meowed loudly the WHOLE time. Dear mothers of small children, I know your pain now. There was NOTHING I could do. He was just so scared the whole time.

And did I mention how little I had eaten? We were in first class, so I got food, but I also wanted to sleep so badly. I did get some sleep in here and there, but most of the 3.5 hours was making sure he didn’t get out.

Oh and GoGo refused to work. I am so done with that service.


My mom was there to greet us with food and drink for me. I broke down when I saw her. So tired, so underfed, so stressed. Nothing is better than having your mom around. We got to the Extended Stay place and got Archie inside with his new toilet, food, water, and then I need to go to the hospital.

From about 7pm-9pm, I was at the St. David’s Round Rock ER getting my wounds cleaned, a tetanus shot, hand XRay’d, and drugged. The team there was awesome. I am now on two antibiotics and two pain killers.

Archie is happily sleeping on my legs as I think of sleeping myself. No, I don’t blame him or anyone else. He was scared and everyone did everything to help me today. Time to let my body start healing.


Marketing Festival: An Application in Being the Best

I just got done at a marketing conference in Brno, Czech Republic and it blew me away. I got the honor of speaking there because I have a wonderful friend named Jonathon Colman*. He could not attend this conference and recommended me in his stead. I am forever grateful as this was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. Now I am biased, Distilled’s Searchlove conferences are fantastic and so is MozCon. But this conference, a first time conference for the organizer and for this area of the world, is right up there with them in my opinion.

The organizer, Jindrich Faborsky, went to a number of conferences in the 12 months (or more) leading up to his conference, talked to attendees, and found out what makes marketinf conferences awesome. Here are the things I think he learned and what made this conference so great.

If you don’t want to read the rest of this, at least watch this video, it sums up the conference well.


Speakers make or break a conference. They are part of your marketing and the reason people come back. They are the meat of the conference and should be a big part of your investment. Jindrich knew that and took the steps to secure some of the top minds in search. Jonathon would have been a wonderful addition, and again, I am lucky he recommended me, but this audience got to hear from Phil Nottingham, Michael King, Gillian Musseig, Cyrus Shepard, and so many more.

He not only worked on getting some great people, but he made sure we could come by giving us plenty of warning and investing in the speakers. Investing in your speakers is something that should be done by all conferences really serious about teaching. MozCon and SearchLove both do it as I know both want to make sure the speakers have everything they need to make the conference and their presentation the best.


The next thing Jindrich did was talk to every speaker about their topic. As a part of my talk with him, I pitched a few ideas and he was very straightforward about what this market was interested in hearing about. Given his knowledge of the market, we were able to come up with a topic that the audience was really invested in. It makes for a very happy and engaged audience.

It was also a one track conference, which I am a huge fan of when it comes to marketing centered conferences. You should not be focused on one topic as a marketer. Your job might just be focused on one area now, but in learning, marketers should be interested in the whole picture. This format provides that.

Networking and After Parties

The other thing people go to conferences for is networking. PubCon is still the best conference in the US for networking, but Jindrich spent the time understanding that and provided so much opportunity for networking at this conference. Any conference that includes Mike King rapping at an after party with Phil Nottingham as his side kick is one I want to be at. Period.

* On a rather somber side note, Jonathon lost his mother the week of the conference. Jonathon, my deepest condolences. Please know that our love is with you and your family right now.


Dear Lawyers: I’m Sorry

I just got back from a party with lots of friends. Few know exactly what I do for a living. I did recently do a training for many of them to teach the foundation of SEO. Some of my friends have lost their jobs recently and I wanted to introduce them to SEO as a possible career path. I know so many places looking to hire, it seemed like a good thing to do.

Tonight, my boyfriend was talking to a few friends that didn’t attend the training and he got to talking about SEOmoz, a dear company to me. I assume because he was talking to a software developer about perhaps joining them. I was in another conversation until I heard “Well that’s what Kate does for a living …” (said by boyfriend) and “I just think that making tools to do that is irresponsible because SEO is bad.” (said by friend) Now those aren’t direct quotes but that was the gist.

Tomsu, the German Shepherd lives with many oth...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perked my ears right up.

So I went to ask what was going on, see if I could clear some stuff up. I asked what was being said and got back from our friend “SEO is horrible. All you do is rank crappy sites for terms that I search for and I don’t want to see those. I like you but not your company.”

That sent me reeling. This guy didn’t know who I worked for and therefore I had no idea how he had an opinion of them. It turns out he misspoke, he meant “but not your industry”. But that didn’t sit well with me either.

After the initial argument about how he hated my company and why, I then asked why he hated the SEO industry. He went on to talk about bad SEO: gaming the system and ranking bad websites. I tried my hardest to explain what it was search marketers really do, but he’d hear none of it. In his book I was okay as a person, but not my profession.

I likened it to hating all lawyers. Lawyers get a bad rap overall. But not all lawyers are ambulance chasers. There are many that went into law to actually help people. So very many. But no one sees or talks about them and their hard work.

At the end of the conversation, after trying again to explain what we do at Distilled and how it’s not what he thinks, the last statement from him was “if that’s what makes you sleep better at night, awesome.” I wanted to cry right there. Yes, fucking girl moment and all. Okay, maybe wanted to punch something too, but you get the idea.

So lawyers, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. The world’s view of all of you is tainted by a few assholes. They get press and you deal with the ridicule everyday. I’m starting to feel your pain.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not written to call out this friend (not in the least as I don’t think he’s the last person that will think this), it’s to think out loud about how SEO is perceived in the real world. We won’t be able to convince everyone that what we do is noble.


There are too many people that do that kind of SEO to change the public’s mind. Will I stop trying? No. I am too passionate about what I do. But I now realize that it’s going to just get worse and I need a personal plan for that. I need to work on calmly explaining what I do, and have examples ready to go. Know the elevator speech? I mean to build one that explains good SEO to the general public (and if you have one, I’d love to hear yours). I might not get everyone to understand, but I don’t care.

This isn’t about being right. Hell, this isn’t just about the SEO industry. I want the people around me to understand that an industry is not rotten. Not all congressmen are scum bags. Not all lawyers are out for the money. Not all MBAs are self-righteous. We are people.

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Big Data and SEO: My Outreach Project Updated

Big Data

Big Data (Photo credit: Kevin Krejci)

A number of months ago, I challenged myself to outreach to influencers in Big Data and get a quote for the audience at Seattle Interactive. I have been fascinated by the topic recently and I needed to show people at a show how good and bad outreach could be. I wanted to learn things about outreach and Big Data to share.

The presentation was a great success. I got a great response to the outreach lessons I taught but also to the big data lessons. I got a few more quotes after my session, so I wanted to take some time to review my thoughts on these quotes and thank the people that helped me out.

First, my slides:

Snuggie Guy

There was a gentleman that mentioned on Twitter that conferences were cold, so to get his attention, I sent him a giftcard for a snuggie on Amazon. By the time I spoke, I had not heard from him, but I did after the conference and this was his answer to the question “What is the one piece of advice you’d give someone just getting into using big data at their company?”

Foster a culture of curiosity about data within your company. Think beyond using data just to answer specific, BI-oriented questions about the past. Instead, set up a data science team within the company, and give them the tools, resources and freedom to *explore* the data you have. You’ll be surprised at what insights they’ll discover about your business, your customers … and even the future. And if you can empower them to create data apps that can be delivered to decision makers through the organization, you might find you have the power to  transform the way you do business through data.

David Smith, Revolutionary Analytics

I love the thought “foster a culture of curiosity.” What I take away from this is that companies should be looking to the future and allow their people to drive the future based on data. Thank you so much David!

Competitive Advantages

Another gentleman, Jeff Kelly, answered me after the session but had a great insight about how big data is the secret to your competitive advantage. I talk to companies all the time about their competitive advantage because without one, SEO doesn’t work too well. Big Data is a big driver in finding your company’s niche.

There is no vertical market or knowledge-worker that won’t be impacted by Big Data. Whether you’re a marketer at an online retailer, an analyst at a financial services firm, or a supply chain manager at a manufacturer, deriving insightful, actionable insights from Big Data to set and support both tactical and strategic objectives is now a requirement, not an option, in order to remain competitive. Make no mistake, Big Data is the new definitive source of competitive advantage across all industries.

Thank Yous

The Experts – These were the kind people that took time out of their day to answer my pleas. I want to thank everyone else on that list, even those not mentioned here. I am sorry if I harassed you, or my question was too broad. I am still learning and I intend on following you all for some time.

Shutterstock – For the use of a great photo of friends. I used it to make my point that friendships are not made overnight, unless there is drinking involved.

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A Life of Travel

Jamaica, the gem of the tropics. Beautiful, he...

Jamaica, the gem of the tropics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is for my friend, Jenny, like many other friends that want to know how I travel so much. I write this while on vacation in Jamaica. Sounds cushy, right? Flying everywhere, vacations in foreign lands. It has it’s ups and downs.

First, yes, I fly a ton. Mostly for work though. Conferences meant new connections and the chance to teach others. Working for Distilled, I have less time to spend at conferences than when I owned my own business. Now I travel the most to see clients. That means at least three trips a year to see them, if not more.

So traveling ends up in two buckets: for work and for fun. For this post I’ll break down how to do the two kinds of travel more often (if you so desire).

Traveling for Work
To get the honor (promise it won’t always feel like that) of traveling for work, you need a few things. One is a desire to travel. Not everyone does. Traveling is time consuming and tiring if you do it too much. If you are bored of your routine, I promise you traveling will make you want that routine back. It makes you see what is great about your “boring” life.

You also have to have the availability to travel. My clients come first right now, so I can’t do as much conference attending as I might have done otherwise. You might have a dog, cats, kids, family, or other obligations. You have to take those into account when talking to your company about how much you would like to travel. If you have such a desire and availability, make it known. They might actually be looking for someone.

Third is the opportunity to travel.

  • Do you like speaking? (no really it can be fun)
  • Are there conferences in your industry?
  • Are you willing to put the work behind the presentations (for at least a month up to the conference, right until the day of, PowerPoint will be your best friend and hated enemy) and networking before, during and after a trip?
  • If you don’t want to speak, or it’s not possible, do you have clients?
  • Is there a need to go see them?

You have to have somewhere to go that will be an asset to the company if you expect them to pay for it.

One final thing here is be aware that not all work trips are as glamorous as they sound. I went to Hawaii for a conference earlier this year. All I heard was “oh man, I wish my company would send me to Hawaii.” There is a ton of work involved (see above) and you are usually at the location for a short time. Why didn’t I stay longer?

You could combine your yearly vacation with a work trip. It saves you a few nights hotel and (your) airfare. Just remember, going to a top destination like Hawaii or New York will set you back about $300-500 a night. Your company might pay for the required days, but the rest is on you. It’s never really worked out for me to take a vacation around conferences (I’m usually so stressed before and so tired after), but I have done it around client trips.  You have to consider if the savings on flight and a few nights hotel is worth it. Sometimes it is.

Traveling for Pleasure
Alright, I know, it’s the Jamaica trips people want to hear about.

Vacation Time

It looks like I travel a ton because of one main thing besides speaking and clients: my awesome company. I get 4 weeks paid vacation a year. Yeah, that’s what you get for working for a British company. And we have to take it.

Now do I take all 4 weeks to go to Jamaica and Hawaii? Nope. I spend a week of it going home for Christmas, probably another week going home to Texas for other things. There is a week for actual vacation with Dallas and then the other week maybe skiing with my best friend and the random thing here and there. So I actually only take 2 weeks vacation a year.

So … if you want to travel to exotic places personally, the first thing you need is an awesome company that gives and makes you take vacation. I’m a big fan. The other thing is money. Yes, money. You have to get good at saving and be okay spending that savings. We don’t keep money after we die, so don’t horde all of it. Life is meant to be lived, vacation is part of living it.

Frequent Flyer Club

Alaska Air 737 Combi landing at ANC

Alaska Air 737 (Photo credit: Alaskan Dude)

One other piece of advice is to pick an airline. One that goes everywhere like American/Delta/Alaska (Alaska is who I fly, and I get the benefits on the other two), or United/Continental. I know there are more, but that’s all I can think of right now. But the point is, pick one. Join their frequent flyer program, and just use them and their partners.

With my trip to Jamaica, I will have reached Alaska MVP Gold next year. I don’t want to list all the perks, you can look them up, but it’s nice. I’ve been an MVP for 2 years now and it’s so nice. No baggage fees, early boarding, and more.

Oh and be a deal hound. We are staying in Jamaica on a Groupon deal. We stayed in Hawaii at a Homeaway condo. Be on the lookout for non traditional ways to travel and you’ll save.

I think that’s it for now. If you have questions, do ask and I’ll update!

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