The hilarious Joel Klettke of Vovia shared his mentor story with me. Make sure you wish Joel a happy birthday today!
I suppose mine is a different kind of mentorship story.
I fell into SEO immediately after graduating with an Entrepreneurship degree. I had a friend working for the company (Jon) who encouraged me to apply. At the time I had no idea what I’d be doing, I just knew it was “online marketing” and I’d never have to cold-call. Win/win.
But while others can say they had mentors within their companies, this just wasn’t the case for me. We were small – four of us between two sister companies – and while Jon was helpful in the outset for bouncing simple questions off of and getting at the basics, that relationship was far removed from what I would consider “mentorship”.
I had to begin to look outward from the company for smart people I could ask questions of when the answers weren’t coming from within.
Responsibility for my learning became my own by necessity; I am largely self-taught. But where my mentorship story changes from many others is that I had to begin to look outward from the company for smart people I could ask questions of when the answers weren’t coming from within. I think a lot of SEO’s find themselves in this position – too many of us are little islands by virtue of where we work. If you’re the smartest SEO in the office (or in my case, the ONLY SEO in the office for months at a time), you need to build a support network.
I believe that for many SEO’s like me, it ‘takes a village” to help you learn and progress. In October, my “village” came to life to help me make some tough decisions and guide me through the beginning of a difficult process which ultimately shaped my career path.
The question: “How do you build a modern online marketing agency with content at the heart”?
Facing this dilemma, I reached out to four people I respect a great deal: Bill Sebald, Mack Fogelson, David Cohen and Dan Shure. Four incredibly different perspectives, all of which I needed to hear. Bill Sebald is a veteran of the industry who has more or less seen it all, Mack is a brilliant startup owner with two feet firmly planted in reality, David Cohen has a business savvy and a marketing mind that I truly appreciate and Dan Shure has a deeply analytical perspective and experience in being a one man show.
I was at a crossroads and they were my dream team. Each gave freely of their time to help me form what would become my plan of attack. It is far easier to take on these heavy challenges when you don’t feel like you do so alone.
All of those people have published noteworthy pieces:
Mack: Define and Align: A Manageable Content and Social Media Marketing Process http://www.seomoz.org/blog/define-and-align-a-manageable-content-and-social-media-marketing-process
One other person who deserves a significant nod and whom I have brainstormed with more than any other SEO in the business is John-Henry Scherck. His creativity and link building ideas have talked me off the ledge of some very difficult campaigns and I am immensely grateful for it. He is a must-follow both for his brilliance and his friendship.
My advice is to build a village. Reach out to many people who have different perspectives. Find someone unafraid to call you on your mistakes. Find people who disagree with you. Find people who are excited to share their experiences and learn from yours.
If you’re just starting out in SEO, the obvious answer is SEOMoz’s guide for beginners or something like DistilledU. But for those of us a little further down the chain, my honest recommendation is to read everything that ever gets published from James Agate at Skyrocket SEO ever. It’s all pertinent.
I’m the lead SEO at Vovia Online Marketing, where I’m working to try and build a next-generation company. I’m the world’s best looking man – no big deal. Because I feel like free time is overrated, I also provide freelance copywriting for anyone who wants a copywriter with a personality.
I’ve published a book, sold albums in Japan, slept in my backyard in the dead of winter, traveled the world, painted an intoxicated looking sloth and purchased the greatest couch ever conceived by human beings. We’d make good friends.
Do you have a mentor story you want to share? I’d love to hear it!