Those who read the email I sent last night know that I lost a very important person in my life this week.
And yes, she saved my life. And no, I don’t think that she realized it was all of that. But, it was.
Eileen Corrigan Lonergan August 24, 1966 – October 31, 2018
How did Eileen Lonergan save my life?
We’ll get to that later on.
Although, I’ve spoken of her frequently, for those who don’t know, Eileen was my website guru/mentor, and over the years, that relationship became a deep friendship. But, I do not doubt that everyone whose life was graced by her presence feels the same way.
Eileen Lonergan made her living as a WordPress and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Expert. And, she knew what she was talking about.
Suppose you google Eileen Lonergan (not in quotes). In that case, you will discover that the contents of page one and many pages afterward are devoted mainly to the tragic story of a young couple, Eileen and Tom Lonergan, who apparently perished as a result of a tragic scuba diving incident two decades ago. Horrifyingly, they were accidentally left behind in the middle of the ocean by their scuba dive boat.
It never came up, but I imagine that Eileen was well-aware that another who bears her name has a monopoly on it, that is– on the internet.
I aim to do something, if possible, to change that.
It’s not that if I write one post, my blog is strong enough to wipe Tom and Eileen Lonergan away. (doubtful) And, it’s not that they don’t deserve recognition. But, in her far quieter and IMO meaningful way, my Eileen Lonergan deserves her rightful place on page one, too.
Eileen Lonergan was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Not only did she help hundreds of people with their businesses, but she was also an incredibly devoted mother to three beautiful daughters and wife to Gene Lonergan. In addition, she ran and owned at least two businesses, did volunteer work, and on and on…
However, how do you compete in the cyberverse with the shocking story of a young-married-scuba diving couple abandoned by their dive boat in shark-infested waters, never to be found?
Perhaps it is the fact that there is no resolution. There were no answers except for the small, tattered remnants of Eileen Lonergan’s wet suit.
But, that was Eileen Hains Lonergan, and yes, it’s a disgusting, horrific story, but that doesn’t mean that our Eileen Lonergan needs to get stuffed back to page ten.
I see the puzzled faces, and I bet I know what you’re thinking.
If she was such a hot-shot SEO person, how come when you google her name, she’s on page ten?
That’s a good question, but she shows up on page one if you put her name in quotes. And she’s number one if you put in Eileen Lonergan website. In fact, she owns the entire page in that case.
That’s how keywords (actually keyword phrases) work. If you don’t already know, Google needs enough information to make an educated guess about what people are looking for.
Eileen circa 1998 with her eldest daughter, Maura, now 21. And indeed, that is the World Trade Center in the background.
I have taken the liberty of helping myself to some of Eileen’s photos on her Instagram. It’s much more of a personal account than a business account, so I am judicious about what I’m posting. But knowing Eileen, she’d be tickled that I’m doing this.
So, Laurel, how did Eileen Lonergan save your life?
Well, we need to go back about ten years ago. It was pretty much the beginning of the dark recession. But, it hit hard and quickly. All of a sudden, my business came to a crashing halt.
Between that and substantial family issues, I was having a very rough time. However, by 2010, things gradually started picking back up again, and the work gave me a lift and some hope.
But then, business problems with at least one vendor knocked me back down, and then the family issues came to a head in 2011. I can’t go into specifics on the blog, but trust me when I tell you that it was challenging.
In fact, it got so bad that I felt that I had no choice but to leave, and so I did. I moved to my apartment. Most of this story is in my blogging guide.
But, the previous spring of 2012, I had started this website/blog. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was doing.
Six months after I moved, I realized that my phone had not rung the entire time. NOT ONCE. I mean, it hadn’t rung for new business.
This was scary because I had some nice jobs, but most of them were about to dry up, which meant no more income.
I knew that something was wrong and something had to change. And fast. I started fantasizing about my future and what I saw wasn’t very pretty.
Yes, that’s my face superimposed on a photo by @markthomasimages on Instagram.
I could see myself as an old, dirty, homeless bag lady muttering to myself incoherently in the streets of New York City.
Knowing me, I probably ruminated for a few days; then, I felt sorry for myself, had a cry, and went about whatever it was that I was doing.
But one day, I opened up my email and saw a post from a WordPress expert. Apparently, I had put myself on her email list but could not tell you where I found her to save my life.
Upon reading the post, everything she said made total sense. And, I could tell that she knew what she was talking about. That’s when I contacted Eileen Lonergan, and we began working together.
It was summer, and despite two air-conditioners in my 800-sq foot apartment, the sweat was dripping like mad down my back because I was trying to sound more or less sane during our Skype sessions. But, really, I felt like SCREAMING MY HEAD off out of frustration.
Not to be overly dramatic, but I truly felt that Eileen was my only hope, so the need to hold it together was imperative. However, everything she was talking about was like she was speaking a
- We’ll have to do the 301 redirects. It will be fine, Laurel.
- But, we’re going to have to change the domain name
- plus get a new Gmail address in your domain name.
- and then contact Yext…, and then we’ll redirect your old email…
That is a tiny sampling of what needed to be done!
At one point, my head was so crammed with information that I thought it would explode. And I remember saying, “Oh, Eileen, please just do it for me.” Because I had started things on my own, she thought I was more tech-savvy than I really was. But, I learned from her example, and what was once mind-bendingly-difficult, I can practically do in my sleep now. Funny about that learning curve thing.
However, I was totally kicking myself that I thought this could ALL be done independently.
Plus, things got worse before they got better. However, painful, by the end of September 2013, Eileen had helped me get all of my Google Geese in a row.
And on the heels of that, I got the devastating news that my BFF, Elaine, had terminal lung cancer.
Does life really have to be this sucktastic?
Phenomenally depressed but trudging on, Eileen and I discussed a game plan.
One day, I asked Eileen how many page views she had a day.
“Oh, about 500,” she said.
At the time, my jaw dropped open, and I meekly said, “You do?”
“Yes, but I’m workin’ it,” she stated quite matter-of-factly.
She didn’t ask me what my problem was. She didn’t have to. I’m plenty good at beating myself up.
Damn, I need to get with the program here; I knew good and well that I was NOT workin’ it.
But, that, plus Elaine’s devastating diagnosis, galvanized me into action at the end of November 2013. Thus, I started blogging every other day, without fail.
And, I have never stopped for more than a few days since then.
Those blog posts started rolling out with great regularity. This is key whether five times a week or once a month. It needs to be predictable.
And what happened next was the most shocking thing for me. And that’s because, in 19 months, I had not been able to get the needle to move at all, but by the end of December 2013, My page views had tripled! I kept going, and each month was a little better than before.
And then, Finally! The phone started to ring. It really did, and I was booking a ton of consultations and landed some nice new jobs.
By May 2014, the site was 250+ page views a day. Another Google search for interior designers in Westchester County provided excellent results.
Laurel Bern Interiors was on page one!
And, that’s how Eileen Lonergan saved my life.
What happened after that is another chapter.
But, I really don’t know what I would’ve done had I not found her. Sure. There are other good people who understand how things work, but Eileen had something extra. Actually, a lot of something extras. She was fun, empathetic, and always patient and understanding.
I admired her immensely and wanted to be like her.
Plus, she always said the right thing.
And sometimes, she said it on the blog. In fact, I went into my admin area and did a search, and Eileen Lonergan commented exactly 57 times.
I’m not going to put them all in, but I’d like to put in my top 15 favorite comments by Eileen Lonergan and the posts they link to. And, of course, a little of my commentary (in bold.)
“Thank you so much for this amazing guidance! A rug you can hose down; you have no idea how up my alley this is! I LOVE, not kidding, LOVE to power wash. But, I don’t like the feel of seagrass and better pass on the silk (you know it will be me who spills first). I will check out Dash & Albert right now and also consider wool (which I also love). Do you have an affiliate link?”
I adore Christmas decorating, and as my children are getting a little bit older, I am happy to transition from candy cane stripe everything to a little more sophistication. Thank you, Laurel! I am stealing the red branches in the huge ceramic bowl idea. Beautiful.
Eileen and her youngest of three lovely daughters, Fiona with Rusty, their Golden Retriever at their feet. December 2016. Too cute! Doesn’t Eileen look great here? And after months of chemo/radiation. I really thought that she had beat the beast.
I adore a white kitchen; I could not have anything else. I think you should refer back to the post you did about becoming emotionally detached when selling your house. As soon as you decide to sell, it’s not about you; it’s about making the house appealing to the masses. Great post to pour over with my morning coffee; I feel a project coming on! Thank you, Laurel.
Love this post. I don’t have many window treatments in my home either, and I appreciate all the tips on making a room more inviting without worrying about drapes. Also, I have a gallery family photo wall and love it! All black and white. One tip is to hire a pro to hang all the pics.
But, later on, Eileen did purchase window treatments from Overstock. And you would never know that they are ready-made drapes. The quality is really good.
I love the Pin It button on every image; I vote to keep it. I love these yellow rooms. You need to be brave to commit to the colors, and you should feel brave in your own home. My Sunday morning with this blog brings me so much joy. Thank you, Laurel.
I just bought the teal tray from One Kings Lane! Might as well tee up the breakfast in bed suggestion. The aprons from Anthro are awesome. I often give them as hostess gifts instead of the predictable wine.
A photo I found of Eileen from 2015 wearing an Anthropologie apron.
I wish this post never had to end, the images don’t even need words, but you are so dang engaging it’s double fun to look and read your commentary. 🙂 And how wonderful it’s not for everyone, wouldn’t it be boring if we all loved the same thing? My Wednesdays and Sundays would be quite dull. Thank you, Laurel.
Eileen, the summer of 2017
In fact, in March of 2018, Eileen ran a HALF MARATHON with her daughter, Fiona!
Oh my gosh, Katy! What an amazing kitchen you have created. I love all of it. Thank you for sharing all of those inspirational posts. Going for another coffee and spending the morning reading all of these! Thank you so much, Laurel; you are the best.
I have unsubscribed from their email list [GOOD], and I had an account (I wanted into a discussion on London Sky quartz) and deleted that as well (not an easy process). I never really understood why so many designers love them so much, happy to be off their list. Thank you, Laurel.
I am so proud of you, Laurel! I remember the summer day you called me and shared that on a good day, you had 30 visitors to your site! And, I appreciate you crediting me as part of your success, but really it is YOU who is amazing. Smart, tenacious, curious, and of course, talented. Never afraid to ask / learn or call it as you see it. Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the guide. Enjoy your son; he is a treasure.
(I know that Eileen was proud of me. She told me that ALL OF THE TIME. I don’t know if I’m all of what she said, but what I do know is that it’s possible to turn your life around. If I can, anyone can.)
Oh my gosh, I was PART of your rise to success and have listened twice and LEARNED so much!
LuAnn has a serious talent for interviewing. She does a great job of keeping the conversation on track, recapping, asking relevant questions, and remembering past podcasts!
I also am blown away by the amount of content you share, Laurel. You are so generous with sharing what you know and have learned along the way. This podcast really is a master class in either: getting found on Google if you are a local designer (THE FOOTER WITH YOUR ADDRESS PEOPLE!!!) or building your blog.
As a side note, a few of my friends have purchased your Guides (they are consumers, not bloggers) and LOVE them.
One woman used it to decorate a second home and another her main residence. Both of these women could afford to hire anyone but loved using the guides and your blog to put it all together on their own.
WOW! And yes, listen to Eileen!
One more of LuAnn’s podcasts I think is a good listen is Elizabeth Scruggs https://luannnigara.com/305-elizabeth-scruggs-the-things-i-learned-from-a-well-designed-business/. I have also worked with Elizabeth, and in her interview, she shares many of the tools that she learned about through LuAnn. There is a fun quiz app, Facebook Live tools, and tools to build your email list. A lot of really cool things which people may not know about.
Thank you for all you do, Laurel. I know you have lots of fans out there, but I am delighted to be one of the EARLY ones. I knew you were hot stuff the moment you called!
Um nooooooo. I was a hot MESS!!! But, thank you just the same. And as you can see, Eileen was always promoting her other clients as she often did me.
I would love a house on St. Simons and think this is lovely. How about sending the photos to Linda Holt for editing? https://www.lindaholtcreative.com/photo-editing/ She has a great eye and is so pleasant to work with. Happy vacation Laurel; you deserve a little time away!
It was such fun to see you and Cale! Thanks for not mentioning that I put you to work measuring and peppering you with questions about my kitchen 🙂
OH STOP! MY COMPLETE PLEASURE! I was so glad that I got the chance to see Eileen last August.
As someone who lives near the coast, I like a little beachy feel.
One thing we didn’t talk about with Ptown is what an amazing writing community there is out there in the Winter, http://web.fawc.org/ Ann Pachet, one of my favorite authors, is a graduate.
As always love the posts! Happy weekend.xoxoxo
I think I mentioned in the post that Cale and I stopped to see Eileen on our way to Provincetown. I had known since June that her cancer had returned and had made a new home for itself in her brain.
When I got the email from Eileen, I actually screamed. But, after a few weeks, she was back to commenting.
As you know, I just redid my kitchen and loved every minute of the process. Thanks to reading so many of your posts and looking at pictures, I had a strong idea of what I wanted. I kept your voice in my head, made a plan, and hired a local pro to deal with all the workers and create a design that wasn’t pieced together by non-pros (aka the husband and me).
You are the best, Laurel!
I need to get a second cup of coffee and re-read this whole post. Lotte, you have a beautiful talent, and Laurel, your photos are stunning. I have my toothbrush and am ready to move in! xoxoxo to you both.
And that is the last I heard from Eileen. I did write her a day later, on the evening of the 22nd but didn’t hear back.
I figured that maybe she was going through a chemo cycle and just felt crappy.
However, on the evening of the 31st, I checked her social media feeds. She hasn’t tweeted since October 18th. Nothing on insta or FB either.
I knew, but I didn’t want to know.
In fact, in another case of synchronicity which is a theme for so many of us, it was Lotte Meister who called me to tell me the news on Thursday morning that our dear Eileen Lonergan had passed away the day before.
Lotte and Eileen share a close friend. And, Lotte had met Eileen a couple of times. It truly is a very tiny world.
I owe so much to Eileen Lonergan. And, I’m incredibly blessed that she came along at just the right time. It’s cliché to say that I’m a better person for having known her. But, it’s true.
And while Eileen is not here in body, I feel that, if anything, her legacy will grow. And that’s because Eileen Lonergan was one to plant, build up and nurture.
The part above, after being on LuAnn Nigara’s podcast last summer, where Eileen said that she was learning from *me* took me aback at first; but then, I realized that Eileen had taken me to a place where like a baby bird who’s nurtured in the nest, I could fly on my own.
But make no mistake: I came back “home” many times for web help and guidance. And while I do now have other people helping me, it will never be the same.
I’m so thrilled that so many of my colleagues had the opportunity to work with Eileen as well.
And no accident that the top four colleagues listed above are all in the Modenus Designhounds top 100 Interior Design Bloggers and Influencers. (actually, they are all in the top 50)
I really can’t believe that she’s gone. She was so beautiful in every way, so full of life. A life as vibrant as that just can’t be snuffed out.
Eileen’s favorite word that always made me giggle was “shitshow.” Well, we’ll just have to figure out all of the shitshows on our own now.
After all, she showed us how to do it.
Love to All,