One of my first agency clients gave me a bit of old-timey wisdom I’ll never forget: the cobbler’s children are always shoeless. It’s such a perfect analogy for struggle many marketers – particularly digital ones – have with nurturing their own brands. We’re experts in our field, and we’re great at helping other businesses and brands articulate their stories. We meet deadlines and move mountains. But when it comes to keeping our own houses tidy, the work gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list and, far too often, altogether neglected.
It’s an easy enough cycle to fall victim to. The time you spend nurturing your own brand is non-billable and therefore very hard to make a priority, especially during busy seasons. But if you look at the bigger picture – your brand’s future – nothing could be more important. If you’re not following the latest best practices you recommend to clients in your own branding, why should they?
The good news is, it’s never too late to clean house. You may never find the time to clean out that basement closet, but you can at least tackle the places people see the most.
Get a responsive website
For the uninitiated, “responsive” basically means “mobile-friendly”. Content, images and page sections are sectioned off into invisible boxes that can shuffle, shrink and rearrange depending on the size and shape of the screen.
Why is this important?
Even professionals in more old-school industries are sporting their iPads at meetings and browsing the web on their smartphones. Websites that aren’t responsive are difficult to navigate on tablets and impossible to read on smartphones. If you’re a marketer – especially a digital specialist – you need your brand’s most powerful presence (i.e. your website) to be current and polished, ready to be airplayed in boardroom meetings.
Getting a responsive website may not have to be expensive or time consuming. The vast majority of WordPress and Tumblr site templates are responsive now by default, and unless your site requires a backend database or more complex ecommerce elements, redeveloping with a responsive template can be quite painless. If you don’t manage your own site and work with a developer who’s worth his or her salt, the switch to responsive design should be NBD.
Optimize your website for search
This one is painfully obvious, but worth stating. If you’re a marketer, your on-page content needs to be in order, period. Now, you may not necessarily need (or want) to optimize your personal brand’s website for competitive service terms. Unless you specialize in very niche work (say, medical equipment copywriting, or web development for independent CPAs), you probably don’t want to waste your valuable page titles and metas aiming for your most popular service descriptors, such as “digital marketing services”. Instead, you can optimize for your name, state and title, or you can target your favorite niche specialty (“SEO copywriting + state” is mine).
The point is: do the research before you go blazing through your titles and metas. Know what your key pages are, and what you want them to do. ID your most valuable terms. Then optimize, measure, rinse, repeat.
Manage your online reputation
How do people Google you, and what do they see when they search your name? Every marketer should not only be familiar with their online reputation, but should have a hand in creating it. Online reputation management (ORM) can be a bit tedious to implement, but it’s an incredibly simple way to control the information people see about you, and to steer the conversation about yourself. Don Draper would have loved ORM.
There aren’t really any magic tricks to managing your online reputation, you simply have to Google yourself, evaluate the results, optimize what you can, create new relevant profiles and follow the bad links down the rabbit hole. Depending on how much has been published online about you, it may be as simple as deleting a few outdated social profiles and optimizing a few others.
Guest blogging has gone in and out of favor in SEO communities, but the truth is that whenever you publish thoughtful, valuable content on a relevant outlet using ethical means, it’s a home run for your brand. It may not pack quite as much of an SEO punch as it used to, but it’s still a good strategy, and that’s not the main reason you should be writing guest posts anyway. You should be sharing your expertise on other, relevant blogs to expand your audience, to build thought leadership and to set yourself up for more opportunities, both in the digital world and IRL.
If you’re not sure what to write about, keep your ears open and listen for the most common questions people are asking. Listen for topics where your unique experience and skills can add something valuable. Then, look around for blogs and columns that match your vibe. Some blogs openly welcome submissions, others accept them only on occasion. The best way to start blogging is to reach out to your peers, who are more than likely hungry for fresh content to nurture their own brands.