I’m going to get a little bit personal, and tell you guys about my evolution from old school SEO practitioner to progressive inbound marketing advocate. Hopefully, this blog post will speak to people who are just starting to learn about content and inbound marketing. My goal is to motivate you to keep working hard to develop this skillset.

Career Background

I was in my senior year of college in 2008. I was given an amazing opportunity to do an online marketing internship for a local company. This was truly a life-changing event for which I will always be grateful. Up to that point, I really didn’t have any career plan. Little did I know, that internship would put me in an industry that would become a big part of my life.

After graduating college and working the internship for almost a year, I was ready to get started with my career. I was lucky enough to get hired at one of the larger SEO agencies in the country. For the next three years I was fed a steady diet of low quality link building and spammy onsite optimization. The basic goal was to trick Google into giving our clients top rankings.

You have to understand that back in those days, comment links, article marketing, and content spinning were widely accepted and used tactics. The philosophy was to get as many exact match backlinks as possible. While this strategy wasn’t rocket science, it did produce some consistent results.

Link Building Networks Previously Produced Amazing Results

One day, one of my work colleagues showed me a link-building network called Build My Rank. We were shocked at the rankings we could get by using their platform. It was very cheap to order posts, and would start to produce amazing rankings in less than a week. We thought BMR was an absolute godsend, and would be the key to success for years to come.

I used Build My Rank for personal and side projects. My clients and I enjoyed incredible rankings for over a year. I thought I had this SEO thing figured out, and would be able to enjoy this success indefinitely. Little did I (or anyone else) know all of the links I built using this platform would come back to bite me in a big way.

Beginning of the End with Penguin 1.0

SEO as we knew it came to abrupt end when Google rolled out the first Penguin Update. I remember sitting down at my computer to check the analytics. As I poked around in the different profiles, I saw huge drops in traffic. My worst nightmare had come true. Google had released a massive update that penalized websites with over- optimized linking profiles.

Almost all of my personal, client, and company websites were out of the first 5 pages of Google. Domains that had enjoyed the bounty of top rankings for years were thrust into outer darkness.

I was lost in the world. I had built my career on the principle of onsite optimization and offsite link building.

By this time, I had left the security of the SEO agency where I started my career. I had moved to doing in-house SEO for a large company, and had no clue how I was going to add value now that Google had change. To make matters worse, I had actually caused my place of employment’s website to see massive drops in rankings because of sketchy link building practices that had formerly been the norm. Basically, I was screwed.

New Beginnings with Inbound Marketing

After dusting myself off, I started research the next generation of online marketing. I saw how innovative pillars of SEO, like Moz, started moving away from traditional search engine optimization. HubSpot was another brand that showed me about a different way to drive authority and visibility.

The message was all about a better way to market. It was about turning your attention to the user rather than the search engines. This was the first time I heard this kind of language, and was completely intrigued.

Characteristics of a Successful Inbound Marketer

One of the things that made me very hesitant about changing fulfillment tactics from search-engine centric to user-centric was my lack of experience with copywriting.

When your content isn’t for human consumption, there is very little concern about creating an engaging post that adds value to the Internet. However, when your focus changes to the user, you open yourself up for critique. Your content represents your expertise and brand. This makes it absolutely critical to only build and release articles you can stand behind.

After a few years of inbound marketing, I’ve learned a few things. You don’t need to be an amazing, natural writer to be an effective inbound marketer. If you can strive to have the following qualities, you can be extremely successful:

Attribute #1 – Communicate Your Expertise

If you have something meaningful to say, it doesn’t need to be presented in the most eloquent language. Content marketing is all about sharing your expertise with others. It’s about communicating valuable information, so others can benefit from the knowledge.

Having an honest voice that can present your message is enough writing ability needed to get going with an effective inbound marketing campaign. So, even if you don’t have a significant background with copywriting, don’t let that limit your ability in taking advantage of content marketing.

I’ve worked with a partner in the past that wouldn’t agree with this point. He thought you needed to be gifted with a strong writing ability to be effective.

If you’re around people like this, don’t let them get you down. That type of attitude never drives success. Just keep working hard to communicate your expertise, and you will succeed. I promise!

Attribute #2 – Willingness to Evolve and Learn

Having success with inbound marketing is all about being on the cutting edge of your industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s car insurance or chemical engineering. Being able to provide innovative, interesting information that adds value to your community is the key.

Continued education and training is a must for staying up-to-date on new developments in your industry. Being willing to evolve and learn is a must for being a successful inbound marketer.

Attribute #3 – Become Part of the Community

We highly recommend finding other, reputable blogs where you can participate in the conversation. This will give you the chance to communicate with other industry experts and start to build your name in the community.

Networking with other people who are interested in your niche will present a lot of opportunities. This will give you the chance to guest post on other sites, build your social media following, and expand your industry knowledge.

Building your network is definitely a big part of being a successful inbound marketer. We recommend starting slow and listening to what others have to say on Twitter and Facebook. After you start to understand the tone and mode of communication, you can start to add your opinion.


There is no question online marketing is heading in an inbound direction. Google is definitely looking to promote and reward websites that provide high quality information.

It took me a long time to move away from my outdated online marketing ways and convert to this way of thinking. I hope my experience and story will motivate others to give it a try. If you are looking for a sustainable way to increase your brand’s online visibility, I’m confident this is the right strategy. Now, the only question is if you are going to take action or continue with the same out of date tactics.

Digital Flavor is dedicated to everything to do with inbound marketing. We would love to talk to you about how we can help take your online visibility to the next level. Please visit this page to get started with your free website analysis.