Before you all start writing blog posts titled “Shock revelation of new SEO Chick” please let me explain.
When I first started out in SEO, I remember looking at the blogs, the SEOmoz comments & the Sphinn submissions, thinking that I wanted to be just like the people I was seeing writing there. They were doing amazing things, achieving great results, and working on exciting client projects that required huge investment and brought in massive returns. These people had relationships with the heads of marketing for huge companies, and wielded their power and influence to do good.
At the time I was an almost SEO, I was a sales person, an account manager first and foremost. Learning about SEO as I went along, learning from the great people I worked with and the sites I was working on. These were small businesses in the most part, or rather businesses with a small web presence and even smaller marketing budgets. The search terms were niche, but effective and the strategy was simply to get them found, it was all they could afford, and in most instances it was all they needed.
I can still remember reading Webmaster world and being bamboozled, It was a long time before I dared start posting, and when I did it was cautiously, and never challenging. After all these were people who knew far more then I ever would, who was I to challenge them.
After a couple of years learning the ropes, I decided I wanted to tackle something bigger, so I went in house. Suddenly I was working on huge accounts, with massive marketing budgets. I was telling the heads of online marketing for FTSE100 companies how to implement online strategies. I didn’t feel like I was a real SEO though. I still wasn’t doing the amazing campaigns that the bloggers were doing. I wasn’t doing mega projects, generating millions of viral views, or creating social media campaigns that would be talked about on blogs from here to eternity.
After a while I gained a little confidence & started participating on SEOmoz, talking to some of the people I had been reading for years.
This was where something strange happened to me. Slowly, once people started to recognise my name, they started talking back. Not like they were talking to someone inferior, or less capable, they were talking to me like an equal, like someone whose opinion should be taken into consideration and given weight. I took a chance and wrote my first SEOmoz post, I remember shaking while I hit the submit button. After all I wasn’t a real SEO like the other people on SEOmoz and Sphinn. I was a faker, just someone who was working, doing a job.
I can’t say that first post was given popular acclaim, but it was published, and seemed to go down well. and something very slowly started to dawn on me; Everything is a matter of perspective. From my perspective the people blogging and commenting, and more recently tweeting, were spending all day every day working on these amazing strategies. It seemed like they were able to take on a new client and immediately get everything on the website fixed, and move onto the “real” SEO and social media campaigns. It took me a long time to realise that they had just the same issues, frustrations and challenges as I did, they were doing the same work I was doing. The only thing they did that I didn’t was look at it differently.
I realised then that even rubbish, viewed in the right light from the right perspective can look exciting and innovative. Most of what I was seeing was not great work it was a great perspective. Now I’m not trying to say that the SEO greats are just blagging it, far from it. You will never become an SEO “guru” if you don’t genuinely know your subject matter in side and out. It’s also helpful to get genuine results for your clients, and be willing to share the hard earned information you have with the wider community.
Truth be told, tenacity, a thick skin and a stubborn streak a mile wide will help too, not to mention the ability to drink like a fish until the sun comes up. What I am saying though, is that anyone can become a recognisable name, and maybe even an industry star, if you’re willing to try.
There is no one way to become known in a community (and this applies to any community) but, since realising that all the people I really admire are just people, I have looked more closely at what they do and how they do it, and i have realised that there are a few things they all do when they enter a new community;
- Watch and learn – I have to emphasise this point. Every community, online and off, has a different culture and if you mis-judge it, it could leave you with a reputation that’s hard to shake. Walk into a room full of master woodworkers and tell them they’re using the wrong drill bit and the won’t tell you when the next meeting is. Log into an SEO site and ask for links and you’ll be blocked quicker then you can say captcha. Watch and learn for a little while first
- Be conversational – for the love of Google, talk to people. I really can’t stress this enough, ask questions, respond back when someone talks to you. You’re the new kid on the block, you can’t afford to be “me me me” like other people might, you need to be the nice one, the likable one, you need to make the effort.
- Don’t differentiate – the people you see as being awesome cool, are still just regular people, and they really don’t think of themselves the way you think of them. In fact they may be just as keen to talk to you as you are to them. (it’s not an SEO story, but I was once emailed by one of the biggest names in the rat fancy (hmm a sub bracket, I’m sure the grammar police will tell me off for this one, but just wanted to say, yes you read that right, there is such a thing as a rat fancy, and it does have it’s own superstars), saying how sorry she was to have missed me at a show. I nearly fell of my chair, as I didn’t even think she knew my name. suddenly she wasn’t so scary and unapproachable any more). So don’t stop yourself just because of who they are, if you have something interesting to say they’ll be happy to hear from you.
- Don’t expect instant results – SEO Rockstar Rishil was telling us on twitter the other day how he started out on SEOmoz in mid 2007, it’s taken him less than 30 months to become one of the most recognisable names in SEO. However, we’re not all that awesome, so be prepared to rise slowly, just like a good SERP.
- Get noticed - Speaking of Rishil, there is one thing that springs to most people’s minds when you think that name. Rishil certainly made sure he was noticed, with the sexiest avatar in the business. Making yourself recognisable from one site to the next will help people maintain their connection with you. It also makes people think you are around more then you are, as they remember you every time they see you.
Since realising how everyone is just as normal as me I have enjoyed what I do more and more, and been more and more vocal about it. Without this realisation, I would never have had the confidence to enter the SEO Chicks competition in the first place (in fact I shook sending the entry email to Lisa just the same as I did when I submitted that first post to SEOmoz)
So I hope you’ll all excuse the self indulgent first post, but I wanted to show anyone reading who wants to increase their exposure within the SEO community, or any community for matter, that it’s not about having the right job or the right clients, it’s just about having the right attitude.