David Harry on Personal Branding for SEO and How to Become an Industry Expert

holiday david harryDavid Harry is into SEO for the long haul. He sets 5-year goals, gives back to young SEOs coming up in the game, and has a clear vision of what his legacy will be in the industry.

He’s also Canadian, which I love.

In this podcast interview, Harry explains how he built his personal brand and SEO business by starting out with zero connections to become one of the thought leaders in this growing industry.

As you’ll soon find out, Harry is an extremely easy interview, really cool guy, and notably candid. That’s my way of warning you there could be 1-2 f-bombs dropped in the audio.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

  • Learn about the benefits of personal branding in the SEO industry:
  • Meet industry peeps (AKA SEO awesomeness by association)
  • Get free SEO schwag!
  • Media mentions from sources like USA Today
  • Attract more consulting clients
  • More opportunities to monetize
  • Other stuff you’ll learn:
  • Tips on guest posting for authority blogs like SearchEngineLand.com
  • Which SEO guys David Harry knows
  • How David Harry got into blogging
  • David Harry’s astrological symbol
  • Also mentioned in the interview:

    SEO News
    SEO Training
    SEO Services
    SEO Blog

    By the way, I kept recording past the of the “official” end of this interview. After some casual banter about Canada, Harry shares even more of the benefits he’s received as a result of developing a personal brand and blogging that we both felt could deliver added value to the listeners.

    How To Create SEOMoz Promoted Main Blog Content and Get a High-Five From Rand Fishkin

    In this the second interview with Ed Fry, he shares the secret sauce for getting your content from YouMoz to being published on the SEOMoz main blog, earning the respect of your industry peers, and getting a real life high-five from Rand Fishkin in the process.

    Ed Fry

    Ed, can you give us a quick run down of the blog posts you’ve had promoted from YouMoz to the main SEOMoz blog? What were they about?

    I’ve been following the main SEOmoz blog for almost two years (testament to how good it is!) – I’ve rarely missed a post. The ideas on their are generally new, interesting and engaging for advanced SEOs.

    I think part of the mission with the moz blog is to teach the pro’s something new – that’s perhaps why it’s so successful; SEOmoz, along with their associates and YOUmoz contributions are constantly thinking, researching and talking about SEO. The blogs are where the community’s ideas are shared.

    I’ve noticed however that SEOmoz has generally skipped around the topic of awesome content. Yes, they’ve defined the need for good content, suggested where good content would be good – even suggested what content is not… but never what it is, and how to make it.

    This is the area I had interest in before. Having started my own website entirely because it was impressed into me that with awesome content that was ranking, you could win. This has generally always been my favourite part of SEO.

    I’ve been taught using Site Build It, I follow CopyBlogger avidly and keep an eye on ProBlogger too…

    Gradually, I noted down a series of thoughts and ideas about the process of creating awesome content. Then over the course of about two weeks, I figured how to “join-the-dots” and make a remarkable article.

    And so I published the Definitive Guide to Awesome Web Content.

    I’ve got about a dozen other posts in various draft forms that I’ll tidy up and submit one day as well…

    What sort of benefits did you receive as a result of being featured on the main SEOMoz blog? (I.e. Adoring fans, consulting offers, industry cred, traffic to your Twitter profile or a virtual high-five from Rand Fishkin?

    I’ve never really got what Twitter was originally intended for – who really cares what you had for breakfast?

    Originally, I signed up just to follow people in search (worthwhile, just for the interesting stuff people share) and then later the Distilled folks before my internship there.

    But seeing my post flying around the Twittersphere does give a warm fuzzy feeling inside…

    Beyond the standard ‘headline + link’ tweet there have been some people who have really taken what I’ve said onboard, or its hit them in a particularly profound way. Those were the people I was really writing for, and I’m glad they chirped up.

    The timing of the promotion of the post was pretty good – a week before Distilled’s PRO SEO Seminar.

    Meeting people ‘from the internet’ who had seen my post was pretty cool. Having Will Critchlow introduce me to some of the SEOmoz team as the guy who wrote a post ‘this long’ (stretching his arms as wide as far as they go – and he plays basketball so a long way!) was even cooler.

    But an ACTUAL high-five from Rand Fishkin was the coolest :-]

    Being ‘published on SEOmoz’ is definitely a credibility-builder when talking to people about SEO, especially if the objective is to win over work. It’s also handy just to point clients to the post – I’ve found educating clients really helps.

    Do you think it’s worthwhile from a personal benefit standpoint to put in upfront time and effort that’s necessary to create the type of high-quality blog post that has the potential to be SEOMoz main-blog worthy content?

    As I put in the post, the world doesn’t need more content. It needs quality content. Remarkable, awesome, white-paper-worthy content.

    Always create high-quality content, because then you don’t play the quantity game. As Seth Godin says, we’ve had the race to the bottom (you can ‘buy articles’ with Mechanical Turk now for next to nothing. So is the article worth next to nothing?); now it’s about the race to the top.

    From a search and social marketing perspective, what factors will determine whether your the one that gets linked to, gets tweeted about, gets traffic and what SEOs really care about – getting ranked – is it the quantity of content you produce (increasing your odds?) or the quality (going for the win).

    I say, if you’re trying to make mediocre content rank, or even if you’re just posting mediocre content then shame on you!

    My post took me to write as long as it took me write. That’s the key point about Definitive Content – it’s as long as it needs to be.

    My argument is this – if you’re a stranger in a foreign city and you ask someone for directions, you’re not going to stop listening until you’ve got directions to where you need to go, and why should they stop telling you directions? Why should it be any different online?

    As someone whose work has been promoted to the main blog before, what sort of content creation advice to you have for others hoping to be recognized there?

    There’s three points here:

    1.) Write Definitive Content (Remarkable + Awesome + White-Paper-Worthy)

    2.) Write about something you know about inside out. Introduce something new, or put a new perspective on something (you’ve read about content before; I joined the dots and added an analogy. You can do that too.). If you know something well, you can write as yourself much easier. More natural posts appear more fluent, more confident and are more likely to be posted.

    3.) Write about SEO! There’s a handful of posts on the YOUmoz blog which haven’t had such a great response. Either they weren’t as well written, or didn’t say anything new – or they weren’t writing about SEO or something that is directly related to SEO. Recently there have been a couple of articles about Facebook, but as search and social becomes ever closer together there’s enough relevance for it to be received well by SEOmoz readers. Think of a cornerstone of SEO and hone in on it. Actionable posts go far too, I think.

    In your promoted YouMoz post titled “The Definitive Guide to Awesome Web Content” you leverage a number of graphs and photos to articulate your message. How are you able to find or create the type of imagery that helps explain difficult SEO concepts? Do believe including this imagery improves the odds your content is promoted?

    For starters, images help to break up a lengthy post. I knew I couldn’t just slap a huge text “essay” on a blog because no one would read it.

    Breaking up a post with images, sub-headings, lists and bullet-points is important, especially if your posts are of any length. Images also help emphasize key points. Be this in a humourous way, or with a diagram or something similar, it saves having to type out an explanation which may not even be as clear.

    Usually, I first try looking for stock images to add to posts, and failing that I use Google Image Search to find something to swipe (of course they get a reference link). Finding images isn’t the hard part, it’s putting them effectively into the context of a piece.

    The key analogy I used of a jet engine to represent the four types of content and how they’re used meant I had to produce a diagram of some sort. I actually ended up using Microsoft Word and then print-screening it into some graphics editing software (Paint.net) where I then adjusted the size and colour before uploading it. Anyone can do that, right? (Credit: Ed Fry’s Sweet Microsoft Paint Jet Engine Below.)

    jet engine

    Diagrams, graphs, humourous images and other pictures definitely help your posts hold up reader’s attention and make the post look interesting and shareable.

    I also embedded a YouTube video of a Seth Godin talk to explain one of my points. You could use other multi-media too (slide decks, prezzis, videos – even embeddable games!) to help reduce the need for text and retain readers interest.

    Ed Fry on How to Land an SEO Internship with a Major Agency like Distilled and the Lessons Learned

    Ed Fry is the kind of guy you wish you were at sixteen.

    Smart. Cool. (He’s into playing rugby and music.)

    But he’s got some other stuff going on that the average 16-year old doesn’t.

    You know, stuff like SEO, building up web properties, and courting industry vets twice his age to develop e-commerce websites for him (explained later).

    Fry is one of those guys you know will go on to be ridiculously successful at something. It’s simply a matter of deciding which muse he will follow.

    I had the chance to e-mail Ed Fry–quite possibly Distilled’s youngest intern ever–some questions about what it’s like to be an SEO intern at one of the planet’s most notable search-marketing firms.

    In this candid interview, Fry shares his experiences and the lessons learned from an SEO internship at Distilled.

    Ed Fry

    Ed, Tell me a bit about your background and how you first got interested in SEO?

    It all started in the school playground. In Business Studies we were tasked with setting up ‘a business’ in small groups.

    Frustrated with the quality and price of school lunches, a few friends and I got together and started selling cakes and other sweet snacks. We won customers thanks to better location, but despite being profitable it was hard work.

    “The Man” then closed us down, and the profits I kept (where later used) to setup another project. Browsing around the internet (in the Summer of 2008), I found an article saying how mini laptops (netbooks) were the fastest growing segment of the computer market. I then came across a company that was teaching thousands of people how to build theme-based content sites that get traffic from Google and make money. That company was called SiteSell.

    Online business made so much sense; my pet-hate of the school business was the shear amount of daily manual labour. Automation was the dream! Putting two-and-two together was the smartest $299 I’ve ever spent.

    I made a small four-figure sum by the time I had exited 9 months later (the technology industry is hard work!) primarily via Adsense, Amazon Affiliate commissions and the actual sale value of the website. With the money I invested in more sites, and enough business/online marketing books to fill a small library.

    The big lessons I learned were about online marketing and in particular SEO.

    From a teenager’s point-of-view, SEO is the ultimate evergreen marketing technique. I was picking high-demand, low-competition keywords which I could build pages, syndicate some articles and watch the traffic come in. It was a fire-and-forget strategy which meant I could keep expanding the “business”.

    My real interest in SEO took off when a family friend who after hearing about my lil’ site, introduced me to SEOmoz. After watching my first Whiteboard Friday video, I immediately subscribed to the blog and have been learning ever since.

    I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near where I was without SiteSell or SEOmoz.

    So Ed, I’ve got to know, how does a 16-year old “kid” end up with an internship at one of the most notable SEO agencies on the planet, Distilled? But before you answer that, I want to break this process down completely. How did you discover the opportunity to become a candidate for an internship at Distilled in the first place?

    I was acutely aware that the school was keen for everyone in my year doing exams to undertake some form of work experience before the careers department started getting all giddy spamming us with letters and forms. Honestly, Distilled wasn’t the first place I tried…

    My hometown Portsmouth is the second largest ferry port in the UK after Dover, and ever since I was a wee-lad my family used to go on the annual summer holiday by ferry to France (here’s a trip report on an enthusiast forum if you want to hear the real significance).

    Our favourite company, Brittany Ferries runs several cruise ferries from the port each day, and their UK management is based in the Portsmouth office. I see them everyday when I walk the dog or walk to school and so I was actually pretty excited when my Headmaster gave me the contact details of the PR and Marketing Manager.

    I wrote a lovely letter and never heard back…

    Meanwhile, more and more posts by a company called Distilled appeared on the SEOmoz blog, and after a quick browse around it turned out they were British!

    Based in London in fact. News of SEOmoz’s exit from consulting and joint venture with Distilled put them firmly on my radar.

    I actually first contacted Distilled whilst scouting around for folks to build an e-commerce store for a family friend. I’d been browsing around and it kept bugging me that I ought to at least try getting in touch with this top-end London company. Who was I kidding?

    Dear Caitlin sent a lovely email back suggesting that our £3k budget might be a bit thin for what we were describing, but was still worth a chat. I was rather taken back, and forwarded the email on – in the end nothing happened.

    Then a month later, totally out of the blue. I felt obliged to reply (Caitlin writes such friendly, compelling emails!).

    So the email went along the lines of “Erm no, sorry. See, I’m actually 16 and I’ve been working with a friend on this.” and then I the most daring idea popped into my head. It was one of those moments that maybe, just maybe, changed my life…

    “On the off chance, do you offer any kind of work experience opportunities?”

    And I got a yes!!! :D

    Silly thing perhaps, but I was still slightly cautious of Caitlin when I actually got in the office being ‘that time-wasting kid’ and all. But turns out I had no worries :p

    What kind of qualifications did you need for this internship? Did you submit a resume or write a report to get in? What sort of hoops did you have to jump through to get it?

    There was no real posting for an internship. Work experience placements tend to be ad-hoc and for a week or two only, but in my initial dialogue I explained the mini laptops site story, the electric bikes work and a bit of what I liked about SEOmoz and some of their stuff they’d done.

    I seem to have showed them enough interest to get a thumbs up.

    So what was the interview process like?

    There was no formal interview beforehand, but on my first day at the office (sounds like a line form a film?) Duncan (CEO, and co-founder. He runs the ops on the ground) took me into the boardroom for a quick one-on-one interview along the lines of “So what do you want to get out of this?”.

    Can you tell me what a typical day in the life of an intern at Distilled is like. Are you working on any interesting projects or stuck in a closet to do grunt work?

    I did a pretty meaty post on the Distilled blog about what I had done over the course of two weeks.

    I was working in the SEO team, who also took on two trainees Mark and Dave – both of whom hadn’t done any SEO beforehand.

    That was really neat; I essentially got to work in parallel with what the trainees were doing, starting with an ‘SEO for n00bs’ talk from Tom. Us three were essentially doing smaller tasks for the Lead SEOs on different projects.

    I was running a Twitter account for one client, creating mockups for a better-converting homepage for another, emailing bloggers to promote a piece of linkbait Distilled had created, shadowing Caitlin in a sales meeting, doing keyword research and also producing a list of quick-win recommendations for a particularly huge client Distilled had just taken on and writing my first SEOmoz blog post – Growing Up in the SEO Ninjahood – amongst a huge range of other things. Grunt work? I think not… ;-)

    What’s the most interesting experience or story you got from your internship?

    It’s a kind of hard question. The most interesting stuff I’d say was to do with individual clients which I can’t say anything about (or the Critchlow brothers will come after me with nunchucks).

    I think Tom mentioned he had to ring up Matt Cutts at Google once for a re-consideration request… (that’s how pro’s do SEO…)

    What’s the biggest lesson learned at Distilled?

    Two big lessons I think, one to do with business, the other personal…

    1.) It’s all about the bottom line. Distilled put this on their homepage for a reason. As consultants they’re responsible for making themselves more than worthwhile. In any business, even if you’re just a consultant you must realize that you need to produce a valuable return-on-investment. Investment doesn’t just consist of money. Time and other resources are important to.

    2.) There’s more to life than money. I go to a school where a substantial proportion of kids are quite well off. When getting the latest iGadget when it comes out isn’t a problem, the idea of money and materialism is king.

    Distilled’s current office is inside the square mile. I had the pleasure of commuting in on the Northern line beneath bankers armpits – they were perhaps (I’m totally guessing, this is just a hunch…) earning a substantial amount more than the folks at Distilled. Were they deliriously skipping to work each morning, and leaving with a smile each and everyday? Pah, no!

    I think that says a lot. When you’re amongst a team of people who are both top-of-the-industry folks IMHO who are also friendly, approachable and good banter… what does money have to do with it?

    If you could give one piece of advice to future Distilled SEO interns, what would it be?

    Distilled are looking for talent. People who don’t necessarily follow or break the rules, but make the rules. Okay, I’m just waffling…

    Distilled are a fast expanding company, and I’m pretty sure if you have an interest in marketing on the web (it needn’t be just SEO – do you have something new to add?) and you can clearly show some sort of initiative then they’d love to talk to you. If you’re looking for an actual internship job, there will be hoops to jump through:

    1.) Prove your smarts

    2.) Show you’re not a “loser” or a “douchebag” (to quote Tom Critchlow’s talk on How to Hire an SEO at their seminar last month)
    3.) Prove you’re available to come to London.

    Final question, what are you working on right now? What’s you’re goal for the next couple of years?

    I was in the States recently visiting my Uncle who married and moved out there. It was something he said which has really rung bells with me…

    “Focus on the primary mission”.

    There’s no argument here or there to say that schoolwork isn’t number one. A good set of A Levels opens up the opportunity for potentially going to a really quite spiffing university and having an awesome time learning how to live, think and be responsible with a drink… ;-) Not to blow my own trumpet, but if I work, I’m pretty confident I could get an Oxbridge interview, hopefully?

    Trumpet’s another thing. A big part of my life besides academia and fooling around on the web is music. I’m principal trumpet at Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, I’ve got Grade 8 Distinction aged 14 and I’m on track to do a Performance Diploma at the end of the academic year. I love music, and like business, will never be able to put it down.

    Web wise, I’ve got a handful of different projects going on. Besides experimenting with my own websites, I’ve been getting into consulting generally about web marketing (I feel empowered post-Distilled!). By next week, I should hopefully have secured my fifth client! Balancing consulting work against schoolwork, music, personal projects and going out is interesting!

    I’m posting a bit on SEOmoz’s YOUmoz Community blog. One area I think I’ve really taken an interest to is ‘content’. Whereas technical SEO stuff (301 redirects, rel-canonical etc.) is all about fixing and tweaking what you have, content (how you communicate) is expansive, artistic and creative. There’s no limits on ‘success’. I’ve a few awesome experiments lined up I’ll write about; keep an eye out!

    My big personal project is YourTeenBusiness.com I think there’s a huge amount of wasted talent and opportunity to help teen entrepreneurs get off the ground (Mow your neighbours lawn for money. Er, no!). No one has really created a truly remarkable, definitive resource to help introduce teens to the idea of creating their own business, build it and actually make something remarkable themselves. I see this talent everyday, and yet no one’s really digging in and nurturing it.

    The site’s going to take ages to get anywhere near complete. The basic concept is to introduce teens to a range of suitable business ideas, help them develop a business strategy and then build a community to sustain each other’s own momentum. It’s gonna be awesome!

    The five year plan see’s me going to Uni somewhere to do music (gotta love music) or something like Economics and Management at Said Business School Oxford?

    I’m throwing ideas around at the moment.

    I had a lot of great conversations with literally dozens of people recently, and I’ve got a few ideas of what to consider. Still, I had an email back from one of my most trusted advisors (the family friend dealing electric bikes, introduced me to SEOmoz etc etc etc.) suggesting the following:

  • You learn Mandarin
  • You do not go to Uni in the UK – if you really do you go to Cambridge or Warwick
  • You seriously consider doing Uni at somewhere zany which has a really high level web marketing / innovation course
  • Zany web-marketing course? F*ck that I’d go to Distilled!

    Connect with Ed Fry on Twitter here: @fryed7