The Post that Made Me

Over the years I’ve worked in print advertising in the electronics industry, online corporate communications, public relations and at Yahoo! (one of the largest, NASDAQ listed web giants.) In every sector, field and discipline I’ve ever worked in there’s always been a clear set of rules; sometimes formal qualifications and legal or legislative frameworks in which to operate.

SEO is a very different space however. In this I mean different to most other career paths. Sure there are internal processes and procedures, but this is an unregulated industry in its’ relative infancy, which has evolved from the success of the product of other commercial organisations (namely the search engines.) As a result of this, there are two commonly discussed and shared experiences most SEOs will agree on; firstly, it is difficult to know at which point one may feel completely comfortable and competent (for the lack of formal, direct qualification) and secondly that outside of our own test and analysis, a great deal of learning – comes from sharing knowledge with our peers.

I decided therefore, to ask a number of well-known, prolific bloggers, each of whom I respect immensely* to share with us their own experiences of blogging and writing – and to point out any seminal piece of work that signified a changing point for them.

*This is a small selection of the industry bloggers I read and respect, as I had to give thought to the length of the piece. The list is in alphabetical order.

These are the posts that made them.

Alan Bleiweiss

The article that comes to mind as being pivotal to my career is the first post I wrote for SearchEngineJournal.com – entitled “8 key points to multiple niche sites and controlling back links“. I wrote the article after being invited by Ann Smarty to guest post at SEJ back at a time when I was still just struggling to find a way to become connected within our industry, and still half-operating from self-doubt in terms of my thinking I really understand SEO at the highest levels.

The overwhelming positive feedback I got gave me internal permission to put even more energy into reaching out, participating, and sharing.   Ultimately, it led to more guest posts, and eventually being invited to become a regular columnist at SEJ.

As for whether that article is still relevant, well search has changed many times over since then.  There are still situations where multiple niche sites make sense, just under more limited circumstances. While the May Day update dictates deeper content be built out more on one site, Google puts much more focus on topical separation now.  Examples of this would be highly competitive geo-location based situations, multiple and distinctly different brand situations, and most recently, separation of information based content vs. shopping based content.

Ann Smarty

Two years ago I was invited to guest post for Search Engine Journal. I was a newbie SEO blogger and I was so excited! I’ve been working on the post for a week – not because it was so resourceful but because I was too afraid to fail. Then the post went live: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/make-the-most-of-seo-competitive-research-evaluating-the-competiton/6386/

The article was detailing the manual process of going through your keyword list using Google’s advaced operators.

That was my first step to getting recognized in SEO community as a voice. SEJ was huge and I was heard. It was exciting.

But then something bigger happened. Loren Baker invited me to become a weekly contribute and that’s when I started building my reputation. Blogging for SEJ has been the huge boost in my SEO career. I don’t think I would be able to build my brand without SEJ!

Here’s also the full story.

Bas van den Beld

The first article which meant a break through was back at the time I was writing for Searchcowboys. Google launched real-time search when I was on my way to Paris for Le Web. In the train I wrote an article about it. Not a long one, but one explaining what it was and what I believed the impact would be. The next morning the confirmation of me being someone people sometimes listen to was there. In between Danny Sullivan and the chief editor of Wired I was quoted by the BBC about the Google change. That was a surprise but also meant I really had made an impact, even if it was just a small impact, for me it was important because from then on I knew that people actually did something with what I was publishing.

The second article which meant a huge step, was one of my first articles on Searchengineland. I wrote about how in Europe you should not just look at the differences in languages, but also at the differences in cultures. That really ‘landed’ with the Searchengineland readers and especially the US readers. I got a lot of questions and requests to connect after that. Plus since then I’ve been asked to speak about that topic many times around the world.

The third article which made an impact was “8 things linkbuilders shouldn’t do when asking for links” on State of Search. This article was all written with my own experience in mind: that of someone who runs a website which gets a lot of requests from linkbuilders. It had been ‘bugging’ me for a while how bad some linkbuilders approached me that I decided to write a post about it. The post was ‘carried’ around the web and also showed the power of the publisher: people knew that State of Search mattered. This article really gave a push to the website and my own ‘image’ as a publisher.

Garrett French

At Ontolo we build links and drive leads for ourselves with both placed and onsite content. We are content marketers. Our pivotal placed article was this one, at Search Engine Land: A Guide To Qualifying Link Prospects For Relevance, Value & Potentiality.

Here’s what this piece did for us:

1) Forced me to shift from selling myself in content to selling a toolset + process. On the surface this may sound simple, but when you must write in a way that sells trust in software rather than in yourself and your personal abilities, there’s quite a leap to make! And obviously, this “selling” had to happen within the context of a highly useful resource that helped SEL fulfill its mission…

2) This piece tested (and verified) our “prize inside,” high-utility content theory. We created our first worksheet for this piece, with macros and everything… It mimicked what our toolset did at the time, sort of a pre-free trial if you will ;) By creating a worksheet we made a reason to visit our site and have a deeper interaction with our brand. The worksheet itself even got further coverage at SEJ. Talk about a linkable asset! The success of the worksheet prompted us to get smarter about our free tools.

3) This piece landed our first HUGE client. In their inquiry email, the client copied and pasted a line from the article: “Based on our experience in automating link research and link prospect qualification for millions of URLs, we wrote this article…” I guess that’s not exactly a soft-sell there, but it caught the prospect’s eye and started a great conversation that turned into a big close and a VITAL early-stage client that helped us keep the lights on.

Julie Joyce

I’d have to say “Could A Chimp Do SEO? Heck YES!” because when I met Jon Henshaw at Pubcon that year, he knew who I was from that piece. I giggled nervously, but hopefully still semi-cutely. Also, I remember Jill Whalen submitting it to Sphinn later on. I felt like I hit the jackpot, as I was just starting to (in my mind at least) be taken a bit more seriously. The post was insanely fun to write, and I stand by everything I said in it, especially now that we see loads of totally unqualified people promoting themselves as gurus, taking clients’ money, and creating problems for the rest of us to sort out at a later date. What’s cuter than a chimp with a party hat and beer??

Kevin Gibbons

A turning point for me would have been back in 2006. Having been blogging for around 6 months and writing – to be quite honest – a lot of crap, I started to think that it would be nice if someone other than myself read this stuff.

Having started to read some great blogs, most notably the likes of SEOmoz, SEObook and Problogger, I finally began to realise that by writing useful and actionable posts people would actually read these. I’m sure I had far too many failed attempts, but the one which stands out is a quick guide on how to increase StumbleUpon traffic.

I think I probably got more traffic to that single post than I previously had for the rest of the site. That’s when it really hit home about how I need to add value in each post, making sure that it’s either informative or generating discussion.

This helped to change my thinking a lot and looking back it’s no coincidence that this was the time when I really got into blogging, more frequently and looking to take part in the community in order to begin building up credibility and a reputation within the industry.

Lisa Myers

The blog post that “made me” is probably this one (proper old, this one was one of the first ones that I got a decent amount of comments on. I also wrote a blogpost a few years back on SEO chicks about black hats which got quite a lot of attention (although some arse- biscuit highjacked the comments)

What I think is funny though, is the blogpost you write that gets loads of attention and comments aren’t necessarily the ones you are most proud of or have spent the most time on. My favourite blogpost I wrote was this one that originally was posted on searchcowboys, but it didn’t really get much attention.  But I think that’s what drives you as a blogger though, feeling happy about what you wrote, it doesn’t really matter how many people read it as long as a few does and appreciate it.

I must say though that blogging has had a MASSIVE impact on my career, I think my blogging had a big part to do with me winning the Blackberry Women & Technology award. It also helped me to learn, in fact I recon the blogging has been the single biggest influencer on my career. I also believe that you don’t need to know it all to be a blogger, it’s supposed to be informal and personable, saying you are not sure or asking for others opinions will get you more respect and you learn heaps.

Malcolm Coles

I think the most important blog posts are those that help your form relationships with other people – so I’m going to go for one in March 2009 in which I pointed out that the national newspapers (apart from the Guardian) all had clauses in their terms of use that forbade linking to their sites. In numbers terms it wasn’t that successful. Only 600 people read it – compared with 5,600 who read my insane tale a year later of trying to get a paper licence to link to the Royal Mail site – and 15,000 who read the follow up in June this year of other major brands who forbid linking to them (a post that caused your own Lisa Myers to nearly keel over with horror . But it was that first post that led to me meeting people online like Martin Belam at the Guardian (we regularly link to each other’s posts these days) and Ian Douglas and Julian Sambles at the Telegraph (and shortly after that Julian kindly gave me the figure for the percentage of their traffic that came from social media sites which lead to a very popular post ). James Bromley, MD of the Mail Online, left a comment on that first newspaper/linking post – and it was he who alerted me to the Mail offering an SEO job advert in its robots.txt file, which is one of my most linked to posts. Obviously I’m pleased when I’m the first to spot something about how Google changes and then everyone goes “ooooh”. But in the long run, the best posts are those that get you a client, or someone who tips you off about things, or connect you to an interesting fellow tweeter – or help you meet someone who might become a friend in real life (RIP Jaamit ).

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9 Responses to “The Post that Made Me”

  1. Ann Smarty says:

    I am honored to be here! Thanks!

    Also, I am please to see SEJ has “made” not only me ;)

  2. Sam Murray says:

    Great concept for a blog post Nichola plus it has given me a few more articles to bookmark for reading today.

    Blogging is essential for our industry to continously move forward.

  3. The Post that Made Me | SEO Chicks…

    A collection of seminal writings from the SEO industry’s most respected writers, collated by Nichola Stott…

  4. Nichola, I think this turned out to be an awesome article. It’s great learning that people I think are rock stars had that starting point just like I did. And I’m not so sure I’m well known for anything other than the ranting I do where everyone turns their head to the side in embarrassment:-)

  5. Nice compilation, thanks for the read!

  6. Kudos to Lisa for the use of ‘arse bisuit’.

  7. gary m says:

    this post was a great idea, nichola. i have started to get into quality SEO blogging recently, and it definitely is somewhat frustrating in the beginning, but these stories give me the motivation to keep it going. i’m excited to continue and further my career in SEO through learning, experiencing, connecting, and blogging

  8. I’m so pleased people are taking encouragement from this post. Completely agree with Alan, that it is refreshing to read that everyone has their own starting point, regardless of the high-esteem they’re already holding in our eyes. We’re all human!

    Yes Carla, I agree. Best use of arse-biscuit in 2010! ;-)

  9. Tom Treanor says:

    Nichola, this is definitely worth bookmarking and I agree with what Sam says, I need to come back and read some of the posts that were hits for them early on. Reading through this a great way to generate ideas for some angles to try on my blog as well (so far my personal biggest hit has been a tools list)

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