An Search Industry Tribute To Dan Bell

Jul 13, 2021 - 7:05 am 6 by
Filed Under Search News

Dan Bell

This piece was put together by Nichola Stott, manager director of Erudite and friend of Dan Bell, with contributions by Amy McCartney, Sally Edgar and Pete Young.

On 1st July 2021 we learned of the passing of Dan Bell, following a serious accident some weeks prior. Many of us in the SEO and wider digital marketing industry were lucky to know Dan and to count him as a friend. Whilst Dan and I were introduced due to our common career path, we were instantly and only friends. I wanted to collate a tribute to his life from some of his closest friends and colleagues, as well as explain to you, who may not have known him, exactly who Dan was.

Dan was the bravest person I know because he was incontrovertible. If you have heard of the bystander effect, or the theory of diffusion of responsibility that would never be Dan. Never. He was the most authentic open person I have ever known. Without being moralistic Dan had a moral core like a stick of Redcar rock. This is the true measure of a person in my mind. Consistency. Consistency with bravery.

Some of you probably know this already because, as I say Dan was authentic and open, but he was a promising athlete as a teenager. At fourteen he ran the 400 metre National Schools hurdles. And then was diagnosed with Scoliosis so serious he had to have seven vertebrae fused and two Harrison rods to support his spine. You know what? About a year after his operation, he ran it again. And yes, this did change the direction of the career that Dan might have dreamt of because he loved his athletics, but Dan never let a setback get in the way of his outlook.

Positivity was another cultivated trait of his too. I say cultivated because things were not always easy for Dan. He was a very sensitive person who felt very deeply. Things did affect him, but he had the determination and mental game of an athlete. Go hard or go home was our personal slogan, which we adopted when we trained and ran an 18-mile uphill run that included water crossings and a neck-high bog (well, waist-high for Dan) in support of The Scoliosis Association. If you feel moved to make a gesture in honour of his memory a donation to that charity would be welcome and so fitting. Other favourite codes to live by include:

"Work hard and be nice to people" - his enduring professional motto, which he shared often and was in fact his recent last message to Gordon a mutual industry friend of ours.

"It is what it is" - his response to his family on acknowledging his condition which became their shared mantra of understanding and acceptance in the weeks before he passed.

Dan was full of mischief. It was a standing joke between us that I always called him "Daniel" because I was always jokingly telling him off. He was cheeky and funny and not afraid to stand out, usually wearing bright salmon or mustard coloured "lucky pitch trousers" which he insisted on wearing and swore by, for winning important business deals. I'm reliably informed by mutual friends that they ‘worked' and we've shared some laughing tears remembering these anecdotes.

If Dan liked you, he loved you forever. I have never met another person so loyal. When we met some ten or so years ago, he was at the same time forming some of his most enduring adult friendships. As our friendship progressed, so did his friendships and mentorships and admirations for so many others and I feel so connected to these people whose lives, loves, and successes he has mutually looped us all in to. You know who you are and you are all my people.

I never worked with Dan, and whilst we met because of our common profession, we instantly became friends who just happened to support each other in our work. Dan was the first person to "like" and share anything I, my business, or my staff might publish online. Something every other friend of his has also mentioned, so I am currently wondering how on earth he managed to do any of his own work when he gave so much of his time and energy to promote ours. But he did have an amazing work ethic and I am grateful to mutual friends who did have the pleasure of working with Dan and have provided their tributes too so you can see just how funny, consistent, and special he was.

Amy McCartney

After the awful news a few days ago that turned a lot of our lives upside down, I didn't know if I'd have the strength to look through the past 12 years of my life, which is the length of time Dan has been my friend. The thought then popped into my head that if it had been the other way around, he wouldn't have even hesitated, no matter how hard it would be. And so I dug my laptop out of the cupboard (I'm now a stay at home mum) and instantly realised that every time I have had this laptop in front of me I have spoken to, messaged or emailed Dan before putting it away. I also realised today that almost every memory on my Facebook page has a like or comment from Dan. My phone is full of screenshots, photos, videos and chats with Dan and my heart is full of grief that there will be no more. Processing this loss is going to be a challenge for me, his family, his other close friends and indeed, everyone who has ever worked with or even had the pleasure of meeting him. But I'll try. We'll all try. And hopefully by sharing some of my memories of Dan we can all remember how kind and warm and funny and genuine he was and hopefully try to be a little bit more like Dan to honour his memory as we go forward with our lives.

I first met Dan after work on a sunny Friday evening in 2009 when I went out to meet some friends that I used to work with at a little telemarketing company in Macclesfield. Dan had started working there after I left and, as you'll all know, he was always up for popping to the local for a drink, so they invited him along. I remember the moment I met Dan and having chatted to him for all of two minutes I knew we would be friends forever. I'm sure a lot of you reading this will have felt exactly the same when you met him. I had started working at Just Search as an Account Manager a few months before and after chatting to Dan it was clear we had the same personality, one that perfectly suits a client management role. He was open and warm and had a knack for explaining things ‘in blonde' which is how I once described it to him and how he referred to it ever more (I'm a blonde so this is just a playful dig at a stereotype before anyone gets shirty!). I'm sure this and many other jovial remarks raised an eyebrow or two with more conservative clients over the years but as Dan and I always said, surround yourself with those who respond when you're truly yourself. Thankfully over the years he developed in confidence and got to a point of being able to choose his clients and the work that made him happy. Only a few weeks ago Dan sent me a screenshot of a conversation he'd had with a client he was dropping and I felt so proud when he said "I'm a consultant, not an employee" in his email. Clearly this client had tried to take advantage of his good nature but Dan had the confidence to put her back in her box. That reminds me that Dan absolutely loved certain sayings and over the years we developed a few quotes that were a big part of our conversations; "get back in your box", "SEO is a marathon, not a sprint", "a website is like a car, you've still got to put petrol in to make it go" and "I'll explain it in blonde" were a few of his favourites that you may have heard him say.

At some point on the night we met I suggested Dan applied to be on my team at Just Search and so, true to form, the next morning he sent me his updated CV, and the rest is history. It's important to point out that at this point, neither Dan, nor myself had any experience with Digital, however we were smart, genuine and interested in being the best we could be, and that's part of what made Dan a success. Dan quickly learned the ropes and was the best colleague to have in the office. He'd always get to work early and I'd walk in to a perfectly made brew in the 2011 Royal Wedding mug he bought me (that I've still got and have been drinking out of every day since his accident) and my computer already booted up. He was hilarious, honest, caring and always had a positive vibe. These qualities never faded and were key in him becoming successful with his own agency, Foss Digital, as well as his many side projects.

From the first day working at Just Search Dan took everything in and it was clear he was one of those people who give everything 110%, however what was also clear was that he had found his industry, the people and work that made him feel a valued part of a team, even when he was working for himself. Over the years Dan worked at various agencies in Manchester and he would talk passionately about the projects he was working on and was so proud of the successes he had made happen. He would go above and beyond to help not only his team mates, but anyone else in the digital community who reached out. From looking at the recent posts online I can see that we all have a story about when Dan bailed us out of a tight spot or simply showed up to provide support when needed. Dan loved conferences, the digerati and would make time for any of us at the drop of a hat. He was genuinely pleased for everyone successes, the first to offer congratulations and did whatever he could to pay it forward.

Outside of work Dan's favourite things included spending time with his family and in particular his nephew ‘JT' who was the light of his life. He regularly sent me pictures and videos of JT and was incredibly proud of the little boy he was developing into. I'm so glad that a few weeks before his accident he spent the day with his parents, brother, sister in law and JT and told me it was ‘the perfect day'. His hobbies included cooking (weighing out everything and laying it out in little pots, writing down the timings, taking pictures of every stage and confirming that whatever he had cooked tasted ‘fit'), shopping (who doesn't remember Dan's colourful pitch trousers!?), going out to eat (roasts, steaks, pies and curries were among his favourites) going to comedy shows, going out on his bike (I have seen many, many pictures of colourful lycra shorts over the years), traveling (in particular going to Iceland), having the odd flutter  , cracking open a bottle of Rose, going ‘up the Boro' and going down to The Millstone, his local pub for a few beers. We had countless days and nights out and Dan was the life of the party, but also my protector. He used to join the girls and I on nights out and was perfectly happy dutifully taking a million pictures while holding our shoes and bags for a time so we could dance the night away without worrying. A friend messaged me yesterday to say that she always felt that he had all of our backs when we went out and I thought that was a true testament to his spirit. He was loyal, strong and I could be completely myself around him. Friends like that are hard to find and I will miss him forever.

Sally Edgar, Content Group Head at MediaCom North, 2012 - 2017.

One of the things I'll remember most about Dan is his love of people. Not only was he an inspiration to work with, but he was great fun to be around. When Dan joined MediaCom in 2013, you could tell he was going to have a big impact. He hit the ground running as SEO Group Head and was a whirlwind of enthusiasm and endless ideas. He made you feel like anything was possible and - if it was - you could be sure he'd find a way to make it happen! It was a pivotal time in the agency's growth, following the launch of the iLab, and Dan played a key strategic role in developing MediaCom's digital proposition, particularly within the content and link-building teams.

Renowned for his SEO training sessions, it was clear from early in Dan's career that he had a knack for breaking down complex SEO concepts and explaining them in a way that was easy to understand. This - along with his cheeky and outgoing nature - made him popular with clients and colleagues alike. He was confident, knowledgeable, and patient, which was a winning combination when dealing with clients and managing key accounts. Dan was passionate about what he did and it was contagious. It was his mission to be at the forefront of what was happening in the industry and to share his knowledge with others; always on-hand to offer guidance and encouragement to his team, the wider business and his clients. I often said he was my biggest cheerleader, both in our time working together and our eight years of friendship that has followed. He genuinely loved seeing people happy and achieving great things, and if he could help along the way then he would without hesitation. He'd be the first to reach out and say ‘you smashed it', whether I'd landed a new job or tried to give my son a haircut during lockdown!

It's so rare to meet someone like Dan, with such boundless energy and an endless capacity to go above and beyond for others. He loved a challenge and wasn't afraid of hard work. No problem was too big and he would drop everything to freely offer his time and expertise to anyone who needed it. One of the things I admired most about Dan was his kindness and generosity - the more he learnt, the more he wanted to help others, and he would frequently. He had so much to give, both professionally and as a friend.

Dan was a true socialite, always keen to arrange a get-together and get the first round in for his friends. He never missed the opportunity to mingle at a SEO conference or a ‘Media Thursday' event either - and, boy, could he work the room! I'd lose count of the number of people he'd introduce me to and it was clear how well-respected he was.

He was a familiar face to those in the industry and will be greatly missed by those who were lucky enough to work alongside him and call him a colleague and friend. I feel so grateful to have had him in my life all these years - a hilarious, mischievous, caring, loyal friend and one of the most talented and genuine people you could hope to meet.

Pete Young, worked with Dan at MediaCom

I have known Dan for over 10 years. I first met him during some of the early Manchester SEO nights out. Bright eyed and always super enthusiastic, Dan was so passionate about SEO, he loved what he did and he loved the community that came with it - in fact one would go as far as saying he embraced it. Dan didn't do things by halves, that applied to both his personal and professional life - and it was what made Dan so special and so unique.

Over the years, Dan became far more than just the sporadic drinking buddy on a night out. He became a friend and eventually joined my team at MediaCom - a role he held for just under two years before he went on to join Don't Panic. As with everything, Dan threw himself into his role, into his colleagues and into his friends. Dan was fantastic with people - and a number of his colleagues during that time became very close friends as a result of his time with us.

Dan was wonderful company - caring, friendly, funny and had time for literally anyone - as is testament to so much of the messages that have been posted on various social media networks over the last couple of days. I can't count on the number of times, I would have to focus Dan on his day to day with us - but invariably it would be to help a friend in need or give someone some advise - and that was Dan all over.

He leaves a huge hole for a number of us - but he leaves us with some wonderful stories, whether that be the infamous night out with Paul Spreadbury, the loss of not just one but two laptops during his time with MediaCom , or those infamous yellow pants. He was truly unique and just the nicest person you could ever meet.

Brilliant, Great to be around, wonderful - just some of the words that have been used recently to describe Dan. He was all those things but above all he was Dan - my friend and likewise to many other people in this industry.

RIP Bro - See you on the other side...


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