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Dear New SEOs,
First off, let me congratulate you. Whether by luck or good planning, you’ve entered the field at a time when business is booming and just about every decent company I know of is looking for talent. So, you may be wondering – why aren’t they hiring you? Maybe being a dad has gone to my head (I’m sure of it, actually), but I’m here to give you some tough love…
You’re doing it in the wrong order – you need to read this (hat tip to @chriswinfield). I’ll paraphrase – before you shoot your mouth off about how great you are, prove it. Yes, there are cocky people in SEO, and yes some of them make a lot of money, but you’re not them (at least not yet). Your attitude may get you 500 screaming fan-boys and girls on Twitter who all shout “Hell, yeah!” whenever you strike a key, but unless you’re taking your act to the big screen, fan-boys don’t pay the bills.
It’s not just about arrogance, though. I can’t count how many times I walked into a networking event to drum up business and couldn’t connect to anyone, because I had nothing to talk about. People don’t want to hear about what you could do, given enough time, money, and magic beans. They want to hear about what you have done (or, at least, what you are doing). If you want to get people interested in what you do, then do something interesting.
In this world, “do something interesting” means create something. It could be a mega blog post like David Mihm’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors, or it could be a tool, like Darren Shaw’s Local Citation Finder. Those are just two examples of dozens that catapulted a relative newcomer to SEO stardom.
The double-whammy is that building something not only shows you have skills, but it communicates your niche. We all want to be all things to all people when we’re first starting out, because we’re so afraid to close any door. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a generalist and I absolutely value a broad skill set. The problem is that being a generalist is horrible for marketing. If someone asks “What do you do?” and your reply is “Anything I get paid to”, prepare not to get paid. People want the “WordPress guy” or the “Link-building gal”. Find your niche – once your foot’s in the door, then you can kick it wide open.
The human brain is funny – some days, you can be cocky and self-doubting all in the same half-hour. There’s one area where the internet is especially awful – it exposes you every day to hundreds of people who arebetter at everything than you are. Get over it. You don’t have to be #1 or even #10,001 at something to make a living at it. Pick something, and do it until you improve. That’s the secret to everything. Last year, I finished the 100 push-up challenge (100 in a single set). You know how I did it? I did 1 set of 8, then 2 sets, up to 5, then 5 sets of 9, 10, 11… until I hit 5 sets of 40. It took me almost a year, but now I do 200/day most days. You want to become an expert link-builder? Stop watching cat videos and build some damned links.