Find A Mentor (Or Some Mentos)

Along with the list of skills that you need to possess in order to be a good SEO, I’d like to add the following:

Knows how to find a good mentor.

I’ve been in the industry for enough years that I do think that, for the most part, I know what I’m doing. I know what’s going on, I can adapt to industry changes very quickly, and I feel confident that the advice that I give is valid and worthwhile. However, I’m not stupid enough to believe that I can’t be wrong, which is why I am so fond of having mentors. No matter how much experience you have, someone else has more of it, and someone else has better quality. Also, if you think this is an arse-kissing post…you’re damn right it is. I owe a lot to these people.

Mentors Who Are Fun To Socialize With

I have many mentors that are my contemporaries in some ways (although usually much better at everything) and they’re the ones that I value the most. Lisa Myers and Anita Chaperon, with whom I started this blog, are the people who first encouraged me to write about what I do. Before that, I didn’t trust myself enough to do anything publicly. Since then, I’ve realized how important it is to be able to back up anything that I say, and to admit when I’m wrong. Just putting myself out there and open to criticism has been the best learning experience of my career. I can also say with 100% certainty that every single one of the SEO Chicks is just stupidly fun to go out with, if you ever have the chance.

Legends in the Industry

Since then, all of us at SEO Chicks had Dazzlin Donna as our mentor. She was like our mama chick, keeping us all in check and, because she was writing for us and therefore giving us a vote of confidence, it made me triple check every single thing that I said. No one was willing to let her down, and even though she never scrutinized us, she did offer enough guidance to keep us on the straight and narrow, even when I was fighting about how cloaking and paid links were peachy keen.

When I was asked to write for Search Engine Land, Debra Mastaler immediately reached out to me as her fellow columnist and Southern link builder. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to have someone so revered in the industry act as if I was on her level. Liana Evans asked me to write for Search Marketing Gurus and was the first person to ask to interview me. I was so nervous that for days I could barely think of anything else…and then we had an amazing chat and I realized why everyone likes her so much.

People Whom You Trust 100%

Now, lest you think that because this is a female-written site I only have female mentors, there’s my current favorite SEO on earth…Paul Madden. I love knowing people who are much, much smarter than most of us but they don’t act like assholes. Even though he tries his best to get me to say something mean to him, he’s an amazing man who knows just about everything about SEO. He’s the one I want to bounce all my ideas off, because he will see the holes in my logic, and he’ll point them out without being a jerk. He also has a fluffy bunny that he loves.

Prolific Writers Who Rock

I read absolutely everything that Ann Smarty writes. I am totally in awe of her constantly useful posts and the fact that she never seems to sleep. She has definitely inspired me to try and write about ideas that are actually useful. That may sound silly, but I do have a fondness for the non-useful writing.

Common Sense

Jill Whalen is probably the most logical person in this industry. Whether you agree or disagree with her, her opinions don’t ever seem to be fueled by ego or rage. I’m not saying that she doesn’t care about the industry, certainly. I just love the fact that she seems to speak her mind without getting into a tizzy about things. You don’t usually see her ranting and raving. I admire that. It’s taught me to stop taking things so damned personally. Now, if she’d just turn blackhat…

The Model of Class

Christine Churchill. I don’t think I really need to say much more than that. I’d really like a WWCD bracelet (What Would Christine Do?) I was lucky enough to be able to interview her once, and she thanked ME.

Blackhat Scum

It’s no secret that I like the black hat boys and girls. I’ve learned more about SEO from chats with them than I ever have with strictly by-the-book whitehat types. I love that they have crazy and clever ideas that are just absurd enough to work. I love their passion for constantly figuring out something new to try, and I love that they’re the ones testing tactics that I might be able to use successfully. I won’t mention any names here lest people start making hateful comments, of course. They know who they are.

Your Own Little Flock

I particularly like to think about all of these mentors and what they’ve done for me when I deal with my own staff. I love nothing more than for one of them to ask me a question that I can’t immediately answer. I love it when they think outside the box and can trip me up. I love seeing them grow and become really, really good link builders who also happen to know more about SEO than they think they do. I love that they feel comfortable asking me questions, even if they preface them with “I know this is crazy/silly/stupid but…” and I love that THEY make me think. They make me think A LOT, even my newbies. It’s tough to explain SEO to people outside the industry. It’s tough to start someone out in the field, who has no knowledge of it, but it definitely is a truly worthwhile thing to do.

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23 Responses to “Find A Mentor (Or Some Mentos)”

  1. robin wade says:

    Great post Julie. I think it’s amazing when you can build and develop relationships within a competitive industry. But, I have to admit it’s been quite rare for me in the past. I’m game. Please consider a followup post of “how to find your mentor”.
    oh, by the way, will you be my first mentor??

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    Yes I will be. Can we get matching necklaces or something?

  3. Jill Whalen says:

    Hey Julie,

    Thanks for including me in your list, I had no idea!

    BTW, I’m also fun to socialize :)

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    Jill, you’re very welcome and I’ve heard quite a bit about that from Debra! One day, one day!!

  5. Thanks Julie for the fab post. Working freelance, in the sticks, it’s been important to me to connect with inspirational women in search that are willing to spend a little while answering questions, and I’ve found a couple of people who have been very generous with their time. I’d love to see a follow up post on ‘how to BE a good mentor’? In the spirit of good karma, one day the mentored might become the mentor:)

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    Wow…follow up posts on how to find a mentor and how to be a good one…excellent ideas! (and it means I won’t have to write about link building again!)

    Thanks for the comment Claire!

  7. Paul Madden says:

    awwww right back at ya crabsniffer…

    By the way the damn bunny growled and made a lunge at me tonight, I yelped like a girl….

  8. theGypsy says:

    Hey Julie… great stuff and something that we don’t seem to have as much of these days – mentors. We’ve had a few members actually asking us about a mentor program. I wanted to drop in as a few folks have been very supportive over the years (Donna and Liana), Ann is a machine I’ve worked with for 6 months now and more recently had the pleasure of hanging in the chat room with Debra. Some great peeps and they deserve the kind words.

    Keep up the great work and I hope to C U in the (Dojo) halls real soon ;0)

  9. Excellent post. Finding a mentor is very important if you want to be the best.

    My first mentor was Lisa Myers. I e-mailed her asking for SEO advice and she was very helpful. She even offered me a internship in London to learn more about SEO. That’s a good mentor in my book. That was in May 2009. Thanks alot Lisa, without your help I wouldnt be where I am today.

  10. Dave Fuentes says:

    Finally, someone spoke about SEO mentorship. Thanks Julie for this post. I’ve been in search for a mentor for almost a year now and I haven’t found one.

    There was even a point in time where I thought there must be someone out there who is willing to teach a fellow SEO follower. I also thought of offering my assistance for free in exchange for an actual opportunity to work side-by-side in a true project. BTW, let me know if you know someone who is willing ;-)

    I’m constantly updated and practiced SEO in my work, but I feel like there is so much value in an actual SEO expert teaching / working with you and teaching you what it takes to succeed in the industry.

    I do hope you can mention some willing-to-be-mentors soon in your future posts.

  11. Jason says:

    Oooooo Can I be blackhat scum, can I, can I, pleeeeaaasseee :)

  12. Julie Joyce says:

    @Jason…can you NOT be blackhat scum? That’s a better question haha!!

    Thanks so much everyone…what awesome comments! I was a bit reluctant to publish this post because I thought it was a bit too inadvertently ass-kissy but the comments have made me very happy that I did. Dr. Phil better watch out. I might be on Oprah soon.

    As far as willing-to-be-mentors, that’s a great point. I’ve been very, very lucky to just be able to get to know some great ones, but if I had to actively seek them out it would be different most likely. I’d say just jump in and chat with someone and see where it takes you. I’ve found that most people are quite willing to talk to you.

  13. Jason says:

    For the record I am looking for an intern if anyone is interested. I don’t know whether I am a good (or not mentor) but Julie may be able to answer

    Note to Julie – I’ll let you decide if I am a mentor, good or otherwise :)

  14. Rhys says:

    Great post Julie, love it!

    It’s amazing, suffered the same thing as Claire (she’s asked me questions from time to time too!) in that being in the sticks you have less competition but less people to ask. It’s amazing how much I was doing right, and more importantly doing wrong with SEO that I didn’t know better until I got a few people looking over what I do :)

  15. Lisa Myers says:

    Fabulous post Julie, and thanks for including me. I love you crazy southern belle!

    @Geir: Awww bless you Geir (or Garry as we named you when you were doing work experience as Sam couldn’t pronounce your name lol). It was great to have you.

    I really believe in business karma and paying things forward. When I first started out in SEO, Rand Fishkin helped me loads by motivation and econragment. And although it pains me to say it I wouldn’t be where I am today without Rob Kerry (evilgreenmonkey) as he introduced me to loads of people and generally helped me out when I had loads of questions. I also have a distinct memory of Christine Churchil supportive voice saying “don’t worry you will be fine” and a light squeze on my shoulder, just before my first speaking session at SES a few years back (I must have looked like a ghost…I was nervous)….And of course my lovely husband (Jon Myers) who I met at SMX London in 2007 for the first time and who have tought me so much about business and search in general (I don’t give him half the credit he should have…but that’s getting married for you, ha!)..

    I have actually just agreed to be a speed mentor next week for The Next Women (here in London) Thought that was a fab idea! It’s not SEO focused of course but business focused.

  16. [...] Find A Mentor (Or Some Mentos) – not entirely SEO related nor geeky, but there are a few folks on the list that have helped or influenced me over the years. So it makes the list. We really do need more mentors these days. [...]

  17. Great post Julie. I think it`s very important that there is some form of mutual understanding and respect between mentor and the person who`s growth he facilitates. Some people just click, and than they perform better. But I enjoyed reading this.

  18. Christine says:

    Wow Julie, you are a total class act. I feel honored to be included in such an inspiring article. Great job lady.

  19. I was lucky enough to be helped along my way by one of the bet in the industry Dave Naylor. Hat also tips to Seo idiot, I still think its a case of its not what you know its who you know when it comes to solid SEO advice.

  20. Julie Joyce says:

    Dan…I am so glad to see someone else giving SEOIdiot some props, as he’s absolutely brilliant and just too modest about it. Sure, he likes to cuss at me a lot, but he really is someone that I totally respect and whose advice I seek out a lot. A LOT. Probably too much now that I think about it…might be why he disconnects when I ping him on IM….

  21. Lakhbinder says:

    I need a mentor. I am based in London and need some mentoring on going freelance and other stuff. HELP!!!

  22. Ann Smarty says:

    Hey Julie, thanks for the mention and for your kind words – it is awesome to know you think my content is useful!

    And ummm, no, I don’t sleep (I am also a mom on top of all, so when would I find time for sleep LOL) and no, Dave, I am not a machine! :)

    Lovely community here! Thanks again!

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