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In the last four years, Danny Dover moved quickly through the ranks of one of the SEO industry’s most prestigious firms. He recently left his position at SEOmoz to become senior search engine optimization manager at AT&T, where his focus is organic SEO for Yellowpages.com.

Dover’s first book hit shelves in March. Last week, the 23-year-old Washington native spoke with SEO.com on the telephone.

With “Search Engine Optimization Secrets,” Dover said his goal was to “level the playing field.”

“There are a lot of people who want to know about SEO, from small brick-and-mortar businesses to large corporations,” he said.

According to Dover, his book explains everything he knows about search engine optimization, including how the pros do link building, the best metrics for measuring results, how to land SEO clients and how much to charge for SEO services.

“I asked people what kind of SEO book they wanted to read,” Dover said. “No. 1, they wanted it to be actionable. No. 2, they wanted advanced knowledge.”

He admitted he doesn’t know what the future holds for the SEO industry.

“It’s a ridiculously broad topic,” Dover said. “The definition of SEO is even up for debate.”

But getting discovered today means websites must rank highly in search engines.

“It’s part popularity, part relevance,” Dover explained. “Your website has to be both popular and relevant.”

There are reports in his book that detail ways professionals conduct SEO, including an audit of an SEO site.

“You can see what it is that we were charging all this money for,” Dover said. “I learned a lot from writing those reports and now we’re distributing it to the public.”

He said his book is for beginner SEOs “who want to take it to the next level.”

Speaking to SEO.com, Dover stressed the importance of engaging in white hat SEO.

“If you want these rankings to stay at the top, white hat is the way to go,” he said. “With black hat, there is a potential for getting higher rankings, but there is also a chance your entire domain could be removed from the index.”

College Dropout

Dover has come a long way since leaving the University of Washington about three years ago.

“I dropped out so I could pursue SEO full time,” he said.

That was after one of his professors used one of Dover’s articles as the basis for a test question. The professor didn’t realize the blog’s author was a student in his class.

But establishing relationships with his older colleagues hasn’t been easy.

“At first it was kind of rough just trying to get some respect,” the 23-year-old said.

Though obsessed with the Internet as a child, Dover said “at the time, I didn’t know what SEO was.”

“I certainly haven’t found a better way to study the Internet than to study SEO,” he said. “Next for me is learning more about the different channels of Internet marketing.”

So Dover is brushing up on social networking, affiliate programs and pay-per-click campaigns.

Happiness Audit

A career in SEO has allowed Dover to travel the world in his spare time, espousing his views on technology and philosophy.

“The beauty of being an SEO is that all the work I do is online,” Dover said. “All I need is an Internet connection.”

Along the way he performs regular exams of his lifestyle he calls “happiness audits.”

“It’s an audit I run through every month to decide if I’m on the path I want to go along,” Dover said.

He said he has “gained a lot from really simplifying my life.”

“Almost everything I own fits into a suitcase,” Dover said.

While Internet executives may shun the tenets of minimalism, some 23-year-olds will also ignore his advice.

“I’ve talked to a lot of very smart people about what makes them happy,” Dover said. “The pattern I saw over and over again was that it was experiences that made them happy, not possessions.”

Still, as a bachelor, he joked that “at some point there is going to be a girl who is going to completely derail my system.”