Personal Brands in SEO: Stop Obeying False Idols

March 2, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Branding

I apologize if this comes off as a rant.

Actually, no, I don’t. I’m in a ranty mood today and this is my blog. There will be warm milk after. You’ll be okay.

Todd Mintz had an interesting post today over on Search Engine People. In it, he talks about the self-branding of search marketers and how most branding in this industry is personal branding. It’s not about the company you work for, it’s about you. It’s your name, your personality, your skill set — it’s your image.

It’s powerful. The A-listers in the SEO community make good money off their branding. It gets them speaking gigs, comp’d trips, instant readers, bigger clients, etc. It’s like a drug. And Todd suggests you help feed that addiction. Grow your LinkedIn account. Become Facebook friends with people. Follow them on Twitter. Network, network, network so that you’ll grow your personal brand and you can feed off your connections should you find yourself in a mess. Let your network lift you up and walk with you into the hypnotic glow of SEO fame.

Dude, look away from the light! It’s freakin’ dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong. You should absolutely build your personal brand. However, more than that, you should be doing stuff. Stuff that will affect your brand far more than a blog entry or a thousand Twitter followers ever could. Building the Brand of You should not be your end goal. Succeeding at your craft should. Your goal is to learn and to be the best. Not to work your way into Twitter’s Suggested Users list.

The whole personal branding thing has created a bit of a mess in the SEO industry. It’s all people are concerned with. We don’t care about doing SEO and testing things. We care about attaching our names to concepts people like. We read SEO blogs and become dumber. All day on Twitter you have people’s personal brands smacking you in the face. Maybe I’m just feeling especially paranoid today, but some of the branding in SEO terrifies me. Like, keeps me up at night terrifies me. I see people speaking on panels, touting 4k Twitter followers and it makes me scratch my head. It’s like the Paris Hilton effect of SEO where people are famous for doing nothing.

It freaks me out because I’m arguably one of them. Why do 2,300+ people follower me on Twitter? I have no freakin’ clue. I’m not an SEO (though I don’t pretend to be). I tweet about knee socks, my frequent trips to the ER (shut up, I’m clumsy) and my daily fights with Michael Gray and Streko. Hell, yesterday I initiated a 20 minute Twitter conversation about baked potatoes and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Personal brands are valuable but you have to be conscious of what they’re based on.  What is the brand of you? Who are you? What do you want to be known for? And how can you build a brand by doing that instead of just talking about it? The objective is to be known for doing something, not known for being known. But that part is often forgotten.

Don’t support personal brands built on smoke and mirrors. Make people work for the brands they’re trying to create. Don’t let them scoble their way in. Don’t accept that someone is important just because they act like they are or someone told you they were.

  • Before you trust someone, find out who they are and what their motive is.
  • Before you retweet someone’s blog post, read it.
  • Before you sphinn someone’s article, decide for yourself if it’s worth it.
  • Before you follow someone on Twitter, make sure they’re not only tweeting about baked potatoes.

I don’t care how many followers someone has or how shiny their tiara is. Once you vouch for someone and their personal brand, you can’t take it back. Don’t be duped by fame. You may regret it later. Do your research.

Great. Now I sound ranty *and* bitter. I guess that’s my personal brand.

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