If you are an SEO, then you probably love marketing. You probably love to think about a company and their website and how to position them on the web using all of the tactics in your inbound marketing toolbox.
But have you ever thought about how to market yourself? Have you ever thought about what makes you different from your competition? Have you ever thought about what distinction you can offer to clients that your competitors can’t? This way of market thinking is known as branding—and it applies to you personally.
What exactly is a brand? A brand is a promise of a particular experience. It’s what you personally have to offer people that no one else can offer. And I probably don’t have to tell you how important this is to succeeding in this competitive market where alternatives are just a click away.
So let’s look at a thirteen steps you can take to help you build your personal SEO brand.
Step 1: Be unique
When potential clients first find you they are going to ask, “What can this SEO do for me that another SEO can’t?” It’s not enough to say that you will deliver the best customer service or exceed their expectations. Anybody can say that. Nor can you get away with saying, “I’m the best SEO in California.” That may be true, but why is it true? You have to make it concrete and unique: “I’m the best SEO in California because I help sites boost traffic with a combination of techniques from SEO, social media and conversion rate optimization.”
Step 2: Nail your visual hook
A visual hook is something that will make people think of you when they see this hook. This could be your logo or it could be a gimmick like Rand Fishkin’s yellow Addidas or Dan Schwabel’s suit and ties. Think of this hook as a personal extension. It should say something about your personality.
Step 3: Be authentic
Listen, don’t try to be somebody you aren’t. Talk about the things you love and enjoy. Share your thoughts and opinions about topics that make you passionate. People will see that enthusiasm and be drawn to it, even if they don’t like the topic! Will Reynolds at SEER is one of these passionate guys who you know is totally authentic.
Step 4: Engage like-minded people
Don’t waste your time trying to engage and talk to people who don’t think like you. I’ve found this to be a huge time and emotional energy waster. Instead, follow and engage with people who love the same things you love. Spending time with these people on or offline will feed into you—further building your personal brand. Use tools like Klout and WeFollow to help you find these people.
Step 5: Be honest
Marketing gets a bad name when businesses over promise and under deliver. If you can’t live up to your hype, then don’t go down that road. No matter what situation you are in always under promise and over deliver.
Step 6: Build brand attributes
Branding professionals often talk about how a brand will make the client feel. This is the most important part of your branding experience. It’s what your clients will remember the most about you, so it is important to get this right. Fans of Apple products feel like they are in an exclusive club. Fans of Vans shoes feel like are cool and counter-culture. How do your clients feel when they work with you? Do they feel smarter? More famous? More effective?
Step 7: Define your emotional appeal
Who are you personally? Are you funny? Caring? Hard-working? Creative? This will impact the experience a client will have with you, so you need to think about how people will benefit from working with you—and then you need to point this out clearly as you build your brand. People are more likely to spend time with a barrel full of kittens than they are with a perfectly optimized SEO guy.
Step 8: Describe yourself
Do you have a particular industry that you focus on? A particular sized company? Maybe you’ve refined your skills to help enterprises succeed. Or maybe you’ve got a customized solution for helping start ups. How would you describe your work? Who is your target audience? The answer to these questions will help you make your personal brand distinct.
Step 9: Talk about results
Personal branding is all about self promotion. That can make some people uncomfortable. They don’t like to talk about or draw attention to themselves. If this describes you, let me tell you how to handle this. Instead of talking about yourself, talk about your results. Did you help a startup get 30% more traffic in just two months? Perhaps you breathed life into a site that took a plunge after the Panda update. In these cases you are talking about what you accomplished, and not yourself. In other words, you are bragging on how you helped your clients succeed.
Step 10: Be an expert
Did you know you can create a personal brand even if you don’t work for an SEO firm? I recommend building your brand so you are not only known inside your company—but outside, too. Build your presence on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter and engage with influential industry leaders. It’s also a great idea to sign up for speaking and teaching gigs at conferences. These conferences and events are everywhere and they are always looking for people. And don’t forget about guest posting. Write content for sites like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal to help make you more visible.
Step 11: Build a network
One of the best long-term strategies to building a successful personal brand is to build a solid network…and a solid network is built on strategic relationships. A lot of these relationships will start on the social web, blogs or conferences you attend. Typically, this level of your network is large but superficial. So from there you need to start fostering individual relationships by offering to help them, giving them free advice and resources and even suggesting partnerships.
Step 12: Develop yourself
Your personal brand is only as good as your latest accomplishment, so you have to strive to continually improve. Never go stagnant. On top of staying current with the latest trends and tools, you can also volunteer to lead major projects where you are introduced to new team mates or clients or SEO challenges. This broadens your network but also your knowledge.
Step 13: Grow smart
Building your personal brand can be addicting, especially when you start to see the results…and when that day comes you have to avoid the temptation to spread yourself too thin by taking on more than you can handle. Being an entrepreneur I’ve learned some personal lessons about being balanced between work and life—and NOT biting off more than I can chew. As CEO of 37Signals Jason Fried said, “I’m a fan of growing slowly, carefully, methodically, of not getting big just for the sake of getting big.” Now that’s great advice coming from a CEO of a great company!
Building a successful personal brand takes creativity and courage. Creativity to figure out who you are and how you stand out against other SEOs. And it takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone to meet new people, tackle new projects and promote yourself.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Your personal brand is really just an extension of who you are. It should be natural and authentic. It’s really just about you being you with clients—delivering a trademark experience only you can deliver!
What makes you different than other people?