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Getting started with your personal SEO

Image of some text that says 'Seo'

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I am by no means an SEO expert, but if you plug my name into most search engines, you’ll find a lot of what I want you to find in the first few pages of results. This has come as the result of years spent blogging, posting on social networks — in a word, publishing.

Occasionally, like yesterday morning, I speak to journalism students about how I do what I do. One of the things I’m asked most often is “How can I get myself to rank high in search results?”

This post is meant as a DIY guide to getting started, but I strongly, strongly caution you that this is by no means a definitive work of how-to. If you wish to scroll down past all my preamble, I’ve posted several links to sites that can teach you a lot more about SEO than I can. These are the people I learn from, and they’re mostly the sources for everything I have to say anyway.

Step 1/Rule 1: Good SEO comes from quality content

I cannot emphasize this point enough. Your goal in building up your own personal SEO is to draw people to your content, so you obviously want to put forth your very best.

I’m not going to pretend like every blog post I’ve ever published has been great. Some of it has been downright shitty. The stuff that’s worked, and that’s drawn people to this blog, has been the stuff I’ve invested my time and effort in.

Fuss over your writing the way you would a term paper. And seriously, if you work on something for a long time and it’s just not happening, don’t be afraid to trash it.

Decide on an identity and stick to it

I’m “paulbalcerak” on every network I join. It may or may not be as easy for you to claim your real name like that — sorry, John Smiths of the world — but from an SEO standpoint, consistency is more important. Just make sure you also use your real name. For instance, Ian Lurie’s Twitter handle is @portentint, but his name is Ian Lurie. (Follow the link.)

Do I have to say this? Don’t pick some ass-hatted screen name like “LadiesMan_2012.” Use something you can put on a résumé.

Decide what you want to blog about

If we’re talking about SEO, we’re ostensibly talking about blogging — like I said earlier, publishing. You need to consistently publish in order to build strong SEO, and preferably, you need to stick to a niche.

My niche on this blog has become, more or less, branding. I like that because it’s specific, but it’s also broad enough that it allows me to write about colors, and then pivot and do a piece about how to build up search engine rankings.

If you’re using your blog to further your career, you should use that space as the starting point for where you want to go. When I started out, I blogged a lot about where I thought the journalism industry should go and what it should look like. Now, I get paid to shape that future. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you’re about and what you want.

Read. A lot.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to write about, go find people that are a million times better at it than you are, and devour their writing. Link to it. Blog about it. Comment on their sites. You’ll be stronger in your field and better educated within a few weeks.

Now here’s the part where I send you to other people’s sites. These are the writers/SEO experts I learn the most from:

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  • Great post Paul.  Like you, I’m no SEO expert but know enough to at least get myself on page 1 of Google.  People seem to find it overwhelming when it fact simple steps can get you a long way.


  •  Thanks, Jeff. Yeah, I think the people who find it overwhelming are the ones who just don’t want to invest any time in it. Fact is, making yourself presentable — in any context, really — takes a little bit of care and effort.

  • Indeed just a little bit of effort.  BTW did you make it to Promax Station Summit in Vegas end of June?  It was fun.  Actually caught up with our Tribune Creative Director for our Seattle affiliate.

  • Sorry for the late reply. No, I didn’t make it out to Vegas. Good meetup?