Ch. 13 – Mentoring Others – Critical Thinking

Mentoring Others


I mentioned paying it forward in a previous chapter. That’s a concept I’ve practiced for many years, as my way of saying thanks to the people that have offered me their help, when there was no way I could possibly pay them back. Instead, I pay it forward¸ freely giving my assistance to others. If they express a desire to pay me back for the favor, I suggest they follow the same policy.

I’ve had the satisfaction of mentoring a few people in my lifetime, and found it to be a tremendously rewarding experience. Personally, I get some satisfaction out of giving something with no other reason other than that I can. Perhaps that’s human nature, to feel good about doing some good.

But I find it even more fulfilling to see someone take what’s offered and build upon it, turning it into something even more valuable.

Mentoring another is probably something akin to teaching a child a new skill, like riding a bicycle, and then watching them go zooming away for the first time, unaided. It feels good, it’s productive and it helps put more new minds at work in an industry, better prepared to survive, produce and prosper. You lose absolutely nothing from the exercise, and stand to gain quite a lot.

If you’ve never tried it, I seriously suggest you consider it. I think it’s safe to say you won’t regret it.

My three important lessons would be:

  1. Live up to your values. Set an example worth following;
  2. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated;
  3. Be responsible for your own actions and inactions, and hold others to the same standard.

We put this question to our contributors:


12. If you were mentoring a young up-and-coming person in your field… what would be the three most important lessons you would wish to impart to them?


Alan Bleiweiss

I happen to be mentoring just such a person these days, and have mentored a couple others along the way.

  1. Integrity.  We’re nothing without integrity.
  2. Empathy.  Not sympathy, but empathy.
  3. Find your unique voice – the expression of your unique God-given talents, skill and knowledge that are the culmination of all of your previous life lessons.

Andrea Scarpetta

1. Remember to check your Analytics every day, you’ll find the answer you are looking for. And even more questions to answer.

2. Study a server-side language (preferably php). You don’t need to be a full-fledged programmer, you just need to think like one and know how to solve the small issues.

3. Become an affiliate marketer and start earning some money without Adsense! After this experience, if you will use the same skills and motivation acquired, you will do wonders for your customer business!

Andrew Bleakley

1) Spread your wings; actively participate in many different communities and groups and you will become a more rounded Internet professional

2) Be less concerned about the colour of your hat and more concerned about the consistency of your results

3) The Internet is larger than search engines and social networks – don’t be falling to the trap of thinking the only places you can get traffic from is Google and Facebook.

Anthony Verre

  • Never think you’ve got the game licked. Always keep learning, always keep reading.
  • Get to know people within the industry. Sharpen your networking skills. The more people you know the more opportunities and knowledge you’ll be able to give and get.
  • If you focus on the user-experience by providing great content and a great site, the SEM will almost take care of itself.

Barry Adams

First lesson: avoid hype. Follow the tried & tested paths of Stuff That Works, and don’t try to chase the latest Killer Ranking Method. Others do that for you, and they will make the necessary mistakes along the way so that in the end you can profit from the lessons they learned the hard way.

Second lesson: move beyond your comfort zone. Read about things you’d normally not associate directly with internet marketing, such as neurology, mathematics, computer science, and even science fiction. And be sure to always invest time & effort into learning the basics of business and marketing.

See also my list of recommended SEO books that aren’t about SEO:

Third lesson: find your own voice and be your own person. Don’t try to fit the mold of what you perceive to be the ‘successful internet marketer’ template, because that doesn’t work. Everyone comes at this thing of ours from a different angle and perspective, and that’s what makes us stronger. Be authentic.

Take myself as an example: I’m loud and brash, and some might say even a bully when it comes to debating aspects of SEO and IM online. I regularly offend people and say the wrong things to the wrong folks. And while I sometimes regret getting on some people’s wrong side, most often I don’t. How people react to confrontation says a lot about who they are as a person and how confident they feel about their own skills and knowledge. My approach works for me, because the people I feel close to now in this industry are those I know I can trust. Being myself has turned out very well for me.

Dana Lookadoo

  1. Listen to and care about people more than search engines. Your marketing and content strategies will succeed as a result.
  2. Don’t try to be a one-stop shop. Become really good at your strengths, and partner with others who compliment your skills.
  3. When estimating how long a project will take, double it and allow for unknowns and “white space.”

Danny Sullivan

Test things.

Learn from others.

Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned.

Dean Cruddace

Learn to code HTML at the very least, SEO’s can get by without it and I have seen many a conversation for and against, but somewhere down the line you need to be on a level of knowing what you want devs and designers to achieve with the advice you are offering. Build a site of your own from scratch, learn from reliable and consistent sources about what works and what does not. If they say it does not work test that theory, if they say it does work test that as well.

Above all else, listen! You can’t hear a thing while your own teeth are making the noise, so when someone that has been around the block a few times is offering you golden advice, take it. Test it. Test it again.

Debra Mastaler

1.  Learn how to research. It doesn’t matter what type of link building tactic you implement, it matters where you place the link.  Learn how to find the best sites and a lot of them.

2.  Don’t scrimp on paying a copywriter, spend money and hire experts from the industry you’re promoting.  Even if you’re writing short basic articles, hire a person who already has a “voice” within the niche you’re promoting.

3.  Don’t depend on tools to do your marketing.  Tools are good for research and for keeping track but they won’t help build relationships or establish credibility.  You are the best marketing tool you can have, be aggressive, be creative, ask for the link and always keep looking.

Eren McKay

1- If you think that going online is going to be less work … think again. You’ll work a whole lot more than a 9 to 5 job.  If you’re not willing or able to push yourself to work, then you might as well go get a J-O-B.

2- You will find heaps of lying marketers out there who just want to make a quick buck off of you. Do not open your wallet to lying scumbags. Research anything before you buy. Most of all surround yourself with people who know what they’re taking about and are willing to help you out.

3- Don’t ever stop learning. The internet is constantly evolving. You need to have basic knowledge in a lot of areas ~ not just one. So, although I don’t recommend spending ALL of your time learning (you do have to work), it’s essential to separate a day or an afternoon every week to study.

Gabriella Sannino

  1. Never take bullshit from a client.
  2. Don’t ever think you can’t do something.
  3. Never make an important decision overnight.

Garrett French

I love this question and I love finding + promoting talented up-and-comers that haven’t built a large platform for themselves yet. My main advice would be to publish your expertise regularly, build your personal brand through emailing/engaging your heroes and to learn as much as you possibly can from your immediate work (even if it’s not quite exactly what you want to be doing).

Heather Lloyd-Martin

  1. Know the history of SEO – not just what’s happened in the last couple years. Having that foundation helps you evaluate new information much more critically – and that’s a good thing,
  2.  Know that this is a demanding, fast-moving field. It’s not enough to read a book and say that “you know SEO.” It means that you’re constantly reading, going to conferences, checking analytics – etc. The second you stop learning or think you know it all is the second you need to get out of the business.
  3. Get to know the “big names” in search. We aren’t scary (really). And we do want to help.

Hugo Gill

Know your industry inside out.

Don’t believe all the hype.

Conduct thorough keyword research before every project.

Ian Lurie

Know that you’re an advocate for your clients. Don’t just mine them for contracts – be their business partners, and help them really grow/improve their businesses.

Quality writing is the most valuable asset.

Constantly refine how you explain marketing to clients. Your ability to teach will drive your success and theirs.

Jahnelle Pittman

  1. It’s great to be specialised in one area of SEO (i.e. link building or on page analysis, etc.), but the more you know about the whole process, the better you can serve your clients
  2. Never ignore the marketing team
    1. Pay attention to others in your industry, read everything and discard all but 15% of it; which 15% you discard is what decides how good an SEO you are.

Jey Pandian

I would tell them to read the following articles and memorize them and ingrain them into their psyche because it will assure a solid foundation for any marketing discipline:




Joe Hall

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one way of doing things or thinking. Develop a strong intuition and live and die by it. Get enough sleep.

Joshua Titsworth

  1. Network with as many people at every level you can. Getting to know other “up-and-comers” is just as important as getting to know the industry leaders.
  2. Invest in your own career. It doesn’t matter if it’s building your own blog, or buying your own ticket to a conference. When you invest in you, you’ll take it more seriously so the funds aren’t wasted.
  3. 3.   Take advantage of opportunities presented and stay committed if you commit. If you’re asked to guest blog or speak at an event use it to your advantage. But if you say you’ll do it, do it. Also, bring the best you have to offer. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a minuscule blog no one has heard of or a gathering of 10 people. Provide that blog with the best post they’ve ever had and make it your goal to impress everyone at the gathering so they tell others about the knowledge you shared.

Justin Parks

Don’t believe everything that you read. Take the time to test with your own creations and don’t EVER devalue or underrate what you do.  People are quick to assume much and also take advantage of “geeks” and “techies” as they all believe that they can get the same service somewhere else for a 10th of the price.  This may be true in terms of dollar value but not for service and believe me the work involved and the requirements to be good are high.

Stick to your guns and go for the end goal that suits you and where you want to be, not where others tell you that you should be.

Lyena Solomon

1)       Always keep your customer’s interests in mind. Never set them up with some shady tricks because it will always work against you;

2)       Practice, practice, and practice some more;

3)       Never think you are the sharpest tool in the box. There are always people to learn from;

Michelle Robbins

The three most important lessons I’d impart to a young or new person in the field would be those I learned from my mentors:

1. Be passionate in your perspective, but be open to new ideas, viewpoints and ways of doing things.

2. There’s nothing you can’t learn to do. Channels, platforms and tools will always change but the fundamentals remain. Learn the fundamentals and you’ll be able to adapt to what is an ever-shifting landscape.

3. Share your knowledge. You never know who or what you might inspire.

M.J. Taylor

1. Network: it really is who you know.

2. Strive for the highest ethical standards; it pays off and you will sleep better at night.

3. Answer the phone and respond to business inquiry emails immediately. I know that sounds funny, but so many clients have told me over the years that they hired me and kept me because I was, aside from competent, always available.

Rand Fishkin

I wrote an answer to a question on Quora that I think is perfect here:

(“Build software that solves everyone’s SEO problems, not just yours. Be crazy-picky about hiring. Don’t try to raise VC post-2008. Blog more.”

I think that’s exactly 140, but boy I wish I could send more 🙂 )

Rebekah May

Don’t believe everything you are told, or read.  Go out, do it yourself and come up with your own conclusions.   This gives you experience, and you may find a better way to do it that wasn’t thought of yet, or yields interesting results.   Always test.

Develop good organization and time management skills from the start.  Things change so rapidly in this field you need to be on the ball with everything.  Good organization will help you do that.

Network and make friends.  There are a lot of great people out there who have more knowledge than you do in some area or another that you can learn from.

Steve Gerencser

  1. Think for yourself. Read, learn. But always take everything you learn with a grain of salt no matter who it comes from. Many of them may know a lot about the subject, but we are all working in a darkened room making educated guesses at the cause and effect of SEO.
  2. Test everything. Even when you think you know what will happen, test it. Every niche, every website, every keyphrase is different. The only way to really know if you are right is to test it.
  3. Try everything. How do you know it won’t work if you don’t try it? And just because a search engines says you can’t do it is no reason.

S. Emerson

Learn SEO before you start creating websites for yourself or others.  Not just a bit about on page search engine optimization but the whole ball of wax as related to the construction of a search engine friendly site.  You can also provide off site search engine optimization services or advise and an additional service to your clients.

Get yourself a RSS feed reader and follow all the people who participated in this ebook plus the search blogs for the major search engines.  You can follow each person’s Twitter RSS feed and Facebook feed also so you don’t miss out on any important information.

Read everything you can about search engine optimization.  You will soon learn what information out there is parroted myths and what is actual fact based information you should follow.

Taylor Pratt

  1. Don’t blindly follow advice from other marketers. You need to do what works best for you and your site. It’s great to get ideas from other people, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned and latched onto in this industry it’s that there is more than one way to successfully market your site.
  2. Brush up on your statistics/analytics skills. You need to feel comfortable navigating through analytics tools to help give you insight as to what’s working and what isn’t.
  3. Focus. Success online requires dedication, commitment and original thinking.

Thomas Fjordside

To not believe everything they read and to stop reading every bit of SEO news that comes to your feed reader. You will not get paid for sitting around reading. Do something, even if it’s wrong, it’s very often better than nothing.

Tim Nash

  1. Listen to more than just me; gain a broad spectrum of opinion and thoughts.
  2. Filter and test these opinions and thoughts, find the ones that work vs the rubbish
  3. Don’t ever call yourself a guru…

William Slawski

  1. To be passionate about what they are doing and give all of their ability to the efforts that they find themselves engaged in.
  2. To be open to new ideas and learn from successes and failures – both their own and those of others.
  3. To be rationally skeptical, and test and try things out for themselves rather than taking what they read or are told at face value.


You can begin with Chapter One of Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO here.