Meet the Local University Faculty
The Leading Edge of Local Search Seminars

Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky in Canada. She has been working in the industry since 2006. She has a monthly column on Search Engine Land and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as SMX, LocalU, Pubcon, and Mozcon. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.


Mike Blumenthal

During the week, you can find Mike at where he does a weekly podcast and at his newest project, Near Media, where he hosts a podcast with David Mihm and Greg Sterling and writes about local search and its impact on the business community.

Mike has been involved with offering web services since 1995. Prior to specializing in web design and search consulting in 2001, Mike was a principal in a family owned & operated retail business for over 30 years. That business was very successful until it wasn’t and was crushed by the new reality of retail.

Like all small business owners attempting to market to a fragmented clientele, he was continually frustrated by the barriers & costs imposed by the advertising options available. Shortly after Google Maps was released in 2004 he threw out his 9 Yellow Page books and started focusing on Local Search via his blog, Understanding Google Maps and Local Search.

Mike helped co-found LocalU in 2009 and co-founded in 2012 (both were acquired in 2019).

Mike Blumenthal

Carrie Hill

Carrie is a Local SEO Analyst at Sterling Sky, Inc. and the Community & Event Manager for LocalU. She started her journey in SEO in 2006 with a boutique agency dedicated to lodging websites. Over the next 9 years she’d work her way up to Director of Marketing and managing an 11-person team of experts. Looking for a new challenge in a variety of niches, Carrie reached out to her mentor Mary Bowling, and they operated Ignitor Digital – an agency specializing in Local Search Audits until she joined Sterling Sky in 2020.

Carrie’s expertise in Technical SEO and aptitude for puzzle solving and organization help keep client work and LocalU events and features on track. Find a website issue here or at the Forum? Reach out to her at

Carrie Hill, Sterling Sky

Colan Nielsen

Colan started in the local SEO world back in 2010 and is also deemed a product expert by Google as a Top Contributor on the Google My Business Forum. He is a contributor to Moz’s famous Local Search Ranking Factors survey and is a former Google MapMaker Regional Lead.

Like Joy, he is obsessed with everything related to local search and is active on many online communities including the Local Search Forum where he is a moderator.

Colan Nielsen

Darren Shaw

Darren founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren’s passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

Darren is widely regarded in the local SEO community as an innovator, one whose years of experience working with massive local data sets have given him uncommon insights into the inner workings of the world of citation-building and local search marketing. Darren has been working on the web for over 22 years and loves everything about local SEO.

Darren Shaw

Greg Gifford

Greg Gifford is the Vice President of Search at SearchLab, a boutique Local SEO agency company that provides digital marketing services to SMBs all over the country. He’s got over 17 years of online marketing experience and is an international conference speaker, teaching thousands of small business owners and marketers how to get their sites to show up higher in local search rankings.

Greg Gifford

Aaron Weiche

Aaron Weiche is the CEO and cofounder of Leadferno, a business and text messaging platform to close more leads faster. Aaron is a digital marketing veteran of over 20 years founding and growing both digital marketing agencies and marketing software products. Aaron has built and optimized hundreds of websites and apps for companies and organizations of all sizes. He helped found the MnSearch Association, is a faculty partner at Local University, Google Analytics Certified, and speaks internationally on customer experience, reviews, conversion and mobile.

Aaron Weiche

Dana DiTomaso

Dana typed her first line of code in 1982, knew from a young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur, and has been giving talks and presentations since 1998. The Internet has always been a source of opportunity and challenge for Dana, and the three businesses she has owned have all taught other entrepreneurs and organizations how to benefit from digital-first marketing.

When Dana owned a web design and development shop in 2000, clients started asking her, “how do I get more people to come to my website?” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) introduced Dana to a brave new world of marketing, and to a large community of marketers, SEOs, business owners, and other speakers. Because she has always been future-focused, Dana paid attention to proven principles instead of quick tips, and to this day, not a single one of her clients have been affected by a Google penalty.

Her focus on the future contributes to the topics Dana speaks on, and she is often asked to cover emerging techniques because her digital marketing agency is committed to pushing for better opportunities for its clients. This commitment means that Dana always has new tests and experiments to incorporate into talks and presentations. Dana was also nominated as “SEO Speaker of the Year” in 2018, by Search Engine Land.

Dana lives on Treaty 6 land in Edmonton, Alberta with her wife and three cats (who have 2.5 tails between them). In her spare time, she yells at football players — especially the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Dana DiTomaso

David Mihm

David Mihm is a co-founder of Local University and also co-founder of Near Media alongside Mike Blumenthal and Greg Sterling.

He’s currently a freelance local SEO consultant.

In previous roles, David co-founded and ran, an application that helped over 3 million small businesses create and optimize their presence in local directories (acquired by Moz in 2012), founded Tidings, a SaaS newsletter product (acquired by DemandScience in 2021), and served as VP Product Strategy for ThriveHive prior to its acquisition by Gannett.

David has presented at numerous top local marketing conferences, including LSA/Localogy, SIINDA, StreetFight, Borrell Associates, ADP, MozCon, and SearchLove.

In his spare time (ha!) David works with Prosper Portland’s Mercatus program, helping entrepreneurs of color with their digital marketing, and has served on the Board of MercyCorps Northwest, an organization dedicated to funding aspiring entrepreneurs and helping them learn how to run a business.

David Mihm

Dave DiGregorio

Dave has been in the digital space for over 15 years now, dating back to high school, where he created his first website for a robotics class. As a hobby in college and shortly thereafter, he created and maintained various sports forums and blogs, before moving on to a professional role for an SEO agency. Starting out as an Analyst doing reporting and link building, Dave worked his way up to the Senior SEO Specialist role, where he worked on the technical SEO for the agency’s corporate sites.

In May of 2019, Dave took his talents and passion for local SEO to Canada, and joined the Sterling Sky team. (Joy claims this to be her best hire of all-time) Joy’s Note: Dave wrote this, not me.

Dave is an active member in the ‘SEO Twitter’ community, talking all things technical and local SEO. He is also a Google Local Guide and Google Trusted Tester, so his finger is always on the pulse of breaking news and strategies in the industry.

When he’s not working, Dave enjoys spending time with the fam, hiking, playing hoops (has a sick jump shot), and collecting vintage sports memorabilia.

Dave DiGregorio

Elizabeth Rule

Elizabeth has been in the digital marketing industry since 2016, working in both agency and in-house capacities. She grew up in southern Connecticut and after a few years living out of state, came back to live full time in New Haven. She received her Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston. After college, she began her SEO career working with various healthcare organizations across the country, doing everything from on-page optimization to PR outreach. From there, she moved into an agency role where she continued to do SEO and also began running LSA, PPC, and social media ads for local businesses. This sparked her passion for local SEM and she hasn’t looked back since!

Offline, Elizabeth enjoys listening to hip hop, instrumental, and metal music, as well as curating her vinyl collection. She is also passionate about animal rescue and welfare. She has a thoroughbred horse named Ever So Grand (aka Ever), and two dog nephews she loves like they were her own named Dexter (Italian greyhound) and Bogie (super mutt).


Lida Elias

Lida is a seasoned digital marketing and advertising executive with 20 years of experience in the agency and client-side landscapes. She’s an empath and passionate about workplace culture, diversity, inclusion and creating delightful experiences for employees and clients.

Lida has launched and managed two businesses: a marriage proposal / date planning boutique and a job site for agency roles.

When not working, Lida enjoys volunteering for human rights causes, travelling, checking out music festivals and spending time with her husband and daughter.

Lida is also a recent breast cancer survivor. She beat breast cancer during the global pandemic and is grateful to be here to continue to help others.

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Andy Simpson

Andy Simpson created his first web site in 1996 and hasn't looked back since. In the early 2000's, he became Senior SEO Specialist for a large UK DVD & Video online retail company which didn't understand how to rank on Google, and he helped turn that around. Andy has launched hundreds of sites in the UK and the USA; from design and development, through to site launch, he understands the customer and the users’ requirements.

After running his own web design company in the UK for nine years Andy moved to the States in 2014 with his wife Debi. He worked for a large SEO legal agency for almost two years but then escaped and found himself working for Digital Law Marketing in October 2016.

Andy enjoys sharing what he knows about this digital space in a way that his clients can understand, and has spoken to User Experience students in NYC and at local Chamber of Commerce events both here in the US and the UK. He also spoke several times to members of the Atlanta Local SEO Meetup Group. You can watch Andy on SEMRush and Authoritas discussing the importance of company brand and local SEO techniques.


Lily Ray

Lily Ray is the Senior Director of SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital, a digital marketing agency based in New York City and Nashville. She's been obsessed with SEO for over 12 years and loves diving into research about the latest trends in organic search. She also doubles as a DJ, drummer, biker and fitness lover.

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Noah Learner

Noah is as bottom-line driven as any digital marketer we’ve ever met. He’s just not satisfied until he’s sure he’s making clients money. Maybe it’s because he’s been there, as a local business manager, and as an agency owner himself. Prior to Two Octobers, Noah ran Bike Shop SEO, a digital marketing agency devoted to revenue growth for bike shops.

And the latest mouse this cat is chasing? Business profitability through system integration and automation, as Two Octobers’ head of tool building, and as co-founder of AgencyAutomators. Go ahead: ask him how to pull marketing data from disparate sources together so you can make better, data-driven marketing decisions.

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Curtis Boyd

Curtis Boyd is the founder of The Transparency Company. His expertise in Online Reputation Management gave The Transparency Company the direction for the technology.

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Cindy Krum

Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC. MobileMoxie was founded in 2008, and offers suite of cutting-edge online mobile web and app marketing tools, as well as providing individualized consulting for clients. She brings fresh and creative ideas to her clients, providing on-site training and workshops, as well as speaking at national and international conferences on a regular basis.

Cindy Krum

Claire Carlile

Claire is Brightlocal’s Local Search Expert, and has worked both client and agency side over the years. Claire has spent the last 10 years spent running her own business, Claire Carlile Marketing, offering freelance SEO and digital marketing services to a range of small and medium-sized businesses both in the UK and abroad

Claire Carlile

Blake Denman

Blake is the President & Founder of RicketyRoo Inc, a local SEO agency based in Bend OR. He has more than 13 years of local SEO and paid search marketing experience working with small businesses to 50+ location brands. He speaks at digital marketing conferences across the US about local SEO and he’s watched The Office more than 55 times.


Andrew Shotland

Andrew is CEO of a leading SEO consultancy with a specialty in Multi-Location & Enterprise SEO for 10+ years.

Andrew is editor of the Local SEO Guide blog which includes their definitive Local SEO Ranking Factors study. He has been a regular contributor to SearchEngineLand and co-founder of, the association of Bay Area search marketing professionals.

Andrew has over 20 years of experience in the Internet. He was a founding member of NBC’s Internet group and former GM of He helped start Insider Pages, a pioneering local-social search engine, which was acquired by CitySearch in 2006.

Andrew Shotland

Tom Waddington

Tom’s interest and involvement in local search began in 2006. Since then he has worked with dozens of businesses in several verticals, helping to improve their presence online. Many of the businesses he has worked with are in the home services industry. The rapid expansion of Google Local Services ads in 2017 is something he has been following closely and helping businesses understand.

He is a Google My Business Gold Product Expert and enjoys helping users and business owners solve their Google My Business related issues.

Tom Waddington

Ben Fisher

Ben Fisher is a Google My Business Platinum Product Expert and an experienced veteran in SEO and social since 1994. He is also a contributor to the annual Local Search Ranking Factors Study, LocalU, Bright Local and a weekly co-host on Local Marketing Institute. He’s the co-founder of Steady Demand, which works with agencies and businesses to maximize outsourced Local SEO and Social Media. His GMB specialties include guidelines, reinstatement, and spam fighting. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheSocialDude or @SteadyDemand.


Martha van Berkel

Martha van Berkel is the CoFounder and CEO of Schema App. Schema App translates website content into the language of search engines so content can be understood by search engines resulting in more traffic and more leads. Only Schema App has an enterprise-grade solution that works with all websites, all content, without an IT Developer.

Martha and her team do structured data 365 days a year. She uses her expertise to educate her clients, and help the search community do proper, connected schema markup.

Prior to Schema App, Martha was a Senior Manager at Cisco Systems for 14 years responsible for the global online support strategy. During her career at Cisco she was an intrapreneur, starting new organizations, or introducing new technology to Cisco’s global customers and partners.

Martha has a degree in Applied Mathematics and Engineering, attended MIT for Innovation and Strategy, and is a rower and a Mom of two energetic kids.

Martha van Berkel

Adam Dorfman

Adam Dorfman is a technology and digital marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience. His expertise spans all aspects of product development as well as scaling product and engineering teams. He has been in the SEO and Local SEO space since 1999. In 2006, Adam co-founded SIM Partners and helped create a business that made it possible for companies to automate the process of attracting and growing customer relationships across multiple locations.

Adam is currently Director of Product at where he and his teams are integrating location-based marketing with reputation management and customer experience. Adam contributes regularly to publications such as Search Engine Land, participates in Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and regularly speaks at search marketing events such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and State of Search as well as industry specific events such as HIMSS.

Follow him on Twitter @phixed.

Adam Dorfman

Faculty Emeritus

Mary Bowling

Mary has been involved in all aspects of SEO since 2003 and has always been intrigued by Local Search. With a background as a serial entrepreneur, she always tries to approach Local Search and Internet Marketing in a practical way and from a small business owner’s perspective. She enjoys educating others on Local Search and speaks frequently on the topic.

Mary Bowling

Joel Headley

Joel Headley leads PatientPop Labs, a team dedicated to testing and implementing innovation within the PatientPop practice growth platform. The company’s platform helps practices thrive by attracting new patients, streamlining the front office, and improving communication with patients. Joel brings more than a decade of experience at Google to his role, where he worked on web and local search products, managed support and operations teams that partnered with top publishers, and helped position businesses online.

joel headley

Krystal Taing

Krystal has spent the last decade working in SEO and e-commerce with a focus on local since 2014. Her experience devising local strategy aids multi-location brands in solving their most persistent marketing challenges. This includes improving organic visibility, search rankings, and online-to-offline traffic. Krystal is a respected authority on performing local searches and a resource for marketers and businesses. You can follow Krystal on Twitter.

Krystal Taing

Will Scott

Will Scott is a recognized leader in digital marketing, credited for coining the phrase “barnacle SEO” in 2008. A full-time faculty member of Local U, Will is a contributor to some of the most popular online journals and is frequently invited to present at conferences hosted by marketing associations as well as those in other industries. His speaking engagements have included the Certified Contractors Network, Louisiana Dental Association, National Association of Senior Move Managers, PubCon, SMX, and others.

With a degree in Architecture from Tulane University, Will is a professionally trained problem solver whose eye is always on the bigger picture. Naturally curious, Will has yet to meet a business or a person whom he’s not interested in learning more about.

Since putting his first website online in 1994, Will has led teams responsible for creating thousands of websites for business, building hundreds of thousands of pages in online directories, and delivering millions of visits from searches. At Search Influence, Will directs the teams of dedicated professionals who optimize your potential!

Will Scott