Now more than ever it's important to surround yourself with influencers in your industry if you want to succeed online. This is how you build your own following, how you learn about the latest trends and stay up to date, earn more social shares and visibility, build natural links, and more. Even if you don't "know" some of the top online marketers, engaging with them by commenting on posts and learning new tips can be invaluable to your online strategy.
If you're not sure where to start and who to start searching for, it can help to break down some of their expertise into categories and sort out who you should follow that way. Below gives you a starting point with 23 of the top thought leaders for online marketers to get to "know" today:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Rand Fishkin. Wizard of Moz.
It sounds like a "ludicrous" title as Fishkin will tell you, but he is the founder and former CEO of the company, formerly SEOMoz. He is also the man behind the popular "Whiteboard" Friday posts that help to teach SEOs about complicated topics through video and whiteboard examples. He's one of the best when it comes to cracking tough SEO questions and breaking down complicated topics. He built Moz from the ground-up in 2004 as he began posting data reports and creating tools, and it has blown up to be one of the most well respected blogs and SEO tools in the industry.
Mike Blumenthals. Author of Understanding Google My Business & Local Search.
There is a lot of competition when it comes to thought leaders in the SEO category, but Blumenthals made the list because of his extensive knowledge on local SEO and his ability to stay in that niche and dig deep. He is the owner of the popular blog Understanding Google My Business & Local Search, and what's cool about Blumenthals is the fact that he keeps the blog in-house. In other words, when you want to hear what he has to say about SEO, you can count on his blog covering his writing and thoughts and his writing only. In addition to this blog, he also founded Local U, a conference series to learn more about search marketing, and co-founded GetFiveStars.com, which helps small businesses create a customer feedback and review management strategy.
Adam Heitzman. Co-Founder and Managing Partner of HigherVisibility.
Heitzman is Managing Partner of the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility. For over 10 years Heitzman has been a presence on the SEO scene before starting his own agency in 2008. Having worked with him before, it's clear that he is passionate about what he does and is filled with extensive SEO knowledge and how the industry has changed over the years (and why it's so important). He has worked with small businesses to Fortune 500 companies and was even recognized by Forbes as a Top 10 SEO Guru to know in 2015, so he's one not to miss.
Eric Enge. Founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting.
If you're even a little bit familiar with some of the SEO blogs out there, you've likely seen Enge's writing. Although he is the founder of his own consulting firm, he makes it a point to get out there in the community and contribute articles on hot topics in the SEO world. He has had a 30+ year career in SEO, is the author of The Art of SEO, and regularly speaks at some of the top industry conferences such as Pubcon, ClickZ Live, and more.
Glen Gabe. President of G-Squared Interactive.
If you look at Gabe's history it's no wonder he started his own agency. He has held leadership positions both in-house and at a global interactive agency, was a Vice President at MRM Worldwide, led all of the aspects of SEO for yellowbook.com (a website containing nearly 20 million webpages), and blogs over at The Internet Marketing Drive, which is G-Squared Interactive's blog. He is also a featured author in the Google Analytics Help Center, so he knows his stuff thanks to his 20+ years experience. His writing is clear and engaging, so he makes it easy to learn from him.
Larry Kim. Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Wordstream.
Kim is constantly speaking at the top PPC and SEM events and has been out in the community since founding Wordstream in 2007. He's one of the most approachable thought leaders on this list and really seems to "get" the importance of connecting with your community online. The Wordstream blog is stellar and consistently features Kim's own pieces, and he is the author of 4 award winning books on software development. If you head over to his author bio page for Wordstream, you can see a list of all the guest blogs he's ever written.
Jennifer Slegg. Founder and Editor of The SEM Post.
Slegg is another thought leader on the list who frequently speaks at different SEM and PPC events like Pubcon, but it's really her skills as an author and writer that make her stand out. Her blog includes a few outside contributors, but she remains the main writer, and you can find her writings on places like Search Engine Watch and Moz almost as frequently. She says that she's "definitely a writer at heart" and it shows with her content-rich websites and engaging articles. If you're someone that learns best through writing, she is the thought leader to follow.
Matt Umbro. Founder of PPCChat.
Although PPCChat might be what Umbro is most known for, he actually holds a more recent position as Senior Account Manager of Community at Hanapin Marketing. He specializes in e-commerce PPC and client relations and oversees content production for PPC Hero. In other words, although he is well versed in all aspects of online marketing he is definitely a thought leader that likes to focus on PPC specifically. As for his company, PPCChat is a weekly Twitter chat where industry specialists can interact to discuss various PPC topics using the hashtag #PPCChat. Give it a try and you'll easily see why he's a thought leader.
Brian Clark. CEO and Founder of Copyblogger.
Although the name Copyblogger Media is still in use for the blog, Clark actually rebranded and created a new company called Rainmaker Digital that provides solutions to help people grow their business through social media and online marketing. Brian has been with the company over ten years and in those ten years saw several impressive accolades, including shout outs from BusinessWeek and Technorati, urging small business owners to follow Copyblogger, one of the most popular blogs in the world. Because of the sheer quality of content, Clark was able to turn a blog into a $7 million+ company.
Joe Pulizzi. Founder of Content Marketing Institute.
Content Marketing Institute paved the way for content marketing, and even won the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts over the years. He's on top of his game and definitely puts a focus on content in everything he does. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) also produces Content Marketing World, a premier international event for content marketing. It is now the largest content marketing event in the world, so this guy is arguably the top thought leader in the industry when talking about content specific.
Lee Odden. CEO of TopRank Marketing.
Odden tops the list as one of the most experienced since starting working in web development and online marketing in the late 1990s. His company currently consults Fortune 1000 B2B companies like Dell and LinkedIn. Still, even with such high profile clients, Odden manages to share his expertise on the TopRank blog and continues to put out some of the best content in the content marketing space. He is a big believe in the power and importance of content for online success, stating on his website that "Content isn't King, it's the Kingdom," and it shows in his detailed writings.
Mike Stelzner. CEO and Founder of Social Media Examiner.
Stelzner's company was founded in 2009 and grew to over 435,000 email subscribers in just a few years thanks to the site's comprehensive articles, expert interviews, reviews, and overall quality content, all published daily. Social Media Examiner also hosts a Social Media success Summit where more than 3300 marketers from around the world can learn online as well as Social Media Marketing World, an in-person event that hosts more than 3000 marketers. Naturally, all of the content centers around social media topics.
Dan Zarrella. Social Media Scientist at DanZarrella.com.
Zarrella coins himself the "original Social Media Scientist" and that title has stuck on major blogs like HubSpot, where he really started his career and worked for over 6 years. At HubSpot he was able to help the company grow from a startup to a major public company. Since last January, however, DanZarrella has been his main website (which he built up over 10 years), although his projects extend far beyond. He is the author of four social media books, has a webinar series called "Science of..." that has drawn upwards of 30,000 registrants, and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest webinar ever.
Gary Vaynerchuk. CEO of Vayner Media.
Although Vaynerchuk could probably be considered a thought leader in a lot of categories, it's social media that makes him unique. He is all about "the hustle" and it shows with his massive community of social followers. His company is a social-first digital shop that focuses on storytelling across multiple platforms, gaining insight through micro-content to help build campaigns and drive results. VaynerMedia is one of the only companies you'll find that uses this approach so aggressively, and it works, so he's certainly and innovator. Just for fun, he was also an angel investor early on to many major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (as well as other companies like Uber and Birchbox).
Zac Johnson. President and CEO of MoneyReign Inc.
Johnson is also the man behind popular blogs bloggingtips.com and zacjohnson.com, and MoneyReign has been in the affiliate marketing space since 2000. His claim to fame: He is a self-taught entrepreneur who started making money online as a teenager. Fast-forward a few years, and on his blog you can read his story of "How I Made $860,538.38 Profit in 4 Months!" Now a seven-figure business, Johnson reviews affiliate networks to help small businesses understand where they could be making more money.
John Chow. Founder and CEO of JohnChow.com.
Chow has had JohnChow.com as well as his company TTZ Media Inc. both running for the last 10 years and has seen huge success with his affiliate marketing practices and his willingness to write about what works for him. He actually took his blog from zero to making $40,000 per month in just two years, and his blog still remains one of the biggest blogs on the Internet. With countless awards, he'll be a thought leader in the affiliate marketing space for years to come.
Jeremy Shoemaker. President of ShoeMoney Media Group Inc.
Shoemaker is a huge proponent of sharing his own stories and struggles to help you better understand affiliate marketing, and that's part of what makes him so successful and a thought leader in the industry. After all, who doesn't want to hear from someone who used to sell washers and dryers and Sears and now runs a multimillion-dollar company? He calls himself "Shoemoney" and is famous for running one of the highest-trafficked websites in the world, Shoemoney.com. He later launched successful businesses AuctionAds, FreeSEOReport, and Fighters.com
Brian Clifton. Director of Data Insights at Search Integration.
Clifton was actually Google's first Head of Web Analytics for Europe back in 2005 for three years, but he's actually known as an author. Students and professionals actually use his third edition of "Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics" worldwide. Despite the fact that he has his PhD in Physical & Theoretical Chemistry, he found his calling with Search Integration, a company that specializes in helping organizations implement "metrics understanding" using Google Analytics and other tools.
Avinash Kaushik. Chief Education Officer & Co-Founder of Market Motive Inc.
Kaushik's company provides online education and certification for different online marketing categories, Analytics being a big one, and he is also the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google. He runs a blog called Occam's Razor and is an author of many successful Analytics books, both known for being easy to understand and able to put a real-world application alongside all of his teachings. You'll also see his face on other authoritative Analytics blogs around the web offering guest articles, interviews, videos, podcasts, advice, and more.
Annie Cushing. Founder of Annielytics.
Cushing lives and breathes Analytics, and lucky for us she shares her knowledge all around the web. Although Annielytics may be her main project, so is a regular Analytics contributor to many online marketing websites such as Search Engine Land and MarketingLand. According to Cushing, she "makes data sexy," and we couldn't agree more. Her writings are engaging, easy to apply to your own company, and they're everywhere. She was also the Senior SEO at the popular SEER Interactive Agency, so she has experience working with Analytics in an SEO context, and it shows through her writings.
Justine Jordan. Vice President of Marketing at Litmus.
Jordan is a frequent speaker at interactive and digital marketing events, and according to her LinkedIn page she says, "my passion for educating and inspiring fellow marketers to create better email is relatable, actionable, and contagious." This comes through whenever she writes for the Litmus blog, and in fact she was even the recipient of the 2015 Email Marketing Thought Leader of the Year award.
Tink Taylor. Founder and President of dotMailer.
Taylor is a thought leader that focuses on email marketing made easy, but without skimping on quality. In other words, he's been famously quoted saying, "dotMailer's mission is to provide Nasa technology with a Fisher Price interface to marketers in the marketing automation space." He has worked with major brands like BBC and Shell and has over 17 years experience in digital communications.
Jordie Van Rijn. Founder and Chief of Email Vendor Selection.
Rijn's company was founded back in 2009 before there were any quality sources of information for those interested in email marketing. Today, the company has a list of over 300 email service providers to help make things easy for small business owners. As for Rijn, he's a thought leader because he's great about getting out in the community and offering interviews to Forbes and videos to email marketing companies, and of course he is an avid writer on his company's blog. Even as an independent consultant, he was also voted one of the world's top 50 email marketing influencers by Vocus.