Leaving for another “next big thing” service will only help temporarily.
At first startups innovate and grow backed by “venture capital” but sooner or later they have to squeeze out their user base.
Making money online from third party content and connections still largely amount to ads. These sites have to be squeaky clean to attract advertisers. You may not fit in anymore. Think Tumblr!
How to play by your own rules
How to prepare yourself for being platform independent in times when only a few sites seem to control everything, both in search as well as on social media?
Make sure to collect your contacts internally, that is using CRM software or similar tools.
Make sure to (be able to) connect with your peers using tools like Email, Skype etc. and NOT by using internal social media sites systems.
Make sure not to publish solely on third party sites like Blogger, WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter or Medium but make sure to have your own self hosted blog.
Make sure to have several major traffic sources, especially focusing on returning visitors and subscribers.
Make sure to brand yourself as a person or business. When people know you by name they will proactively search for you and seek you out.
Make sure not to rely on solely one ad provider, especially Google ads but try to get several revenue streams.
While I attempted to become independent from Google with this blog I failed to practice truly platform independent online publishing.
In order to stay independent for good you need to build your won audience using tools you control yourself. Feeds or mail have been such tools for a while.
Now Google even controls the inboxes of the global population through Gmail.
I invested much time and effort in some platforms like Google+ that either failed to become mainstream or that made it but throttle organic reach to sell more ads.
Connecting on your own terms
From now on I want to learn from my own mistakes and connect with my peers in a platform independent way.
Contact me by mail or comment below this post here so that we can connect independently of gatekeepers and walled gardens.
You can also tell me your favorite way of communication in case you prefer another channel. Tell me who you are and how can I contact you in future independently from any social site.
Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc. are great tools but they own you. They own your content. They control your connections. They decide what you see and what not.
There is even a popular term for the sad state of the Web. We call it the “filter bubble” where you only get shown what the algorithms chooses for you based on your past interactions.
First published: September 14th, 2009. Last updated: January 26th, 2018. I completely overhauled the post without diluting the message.
Sometimes, having a great website with great content isn’t enough. Even if you’re doing everything right, you might still fall behind a stronger, faster, better-resourced competitor. In almost every niche, SEO is about more than just improving your site — it’s about beating every other site. If you want to win, you have to do more than put words on pages. To beat your competitors, you have to publish resources. Here’s my take on why, how, and what happens next.
To succeed in search, you need to make sure that your website, content, and brand is the best possible fit for your audience’s needs. You need to be discovered, and be chosen. That takes time, effort, and resources.
But you’re not the only one trying to improve your content. Your competitors are also working to improve their websites, pages, and brands. Depending on your niche, and your location, there might be dozens of other companies who can meet your audience’s needs. Or hundreds. Maybe thousands.
Many of those competitors have goals, targets, and teams. Some of them have livelihoods tied to their success. Some of them are huge businesses. None of them are sitting still. They’re all hungry to win.
But when a user in your niche searches, Google will only surface content from a tiny fraction of those businesses. An even smaller number of results will get clicked. In many cases, there’ll only be one winner.
So, even if you follow all of the best SEO advice in the world, you may still lose to competitors who have better websites, better content, and stronger brands. Perhaps they spend more time, money and resources on improving their SEO than you ever could. And if that’s the case, then the gap is only going to get wider over time.
In competitive niches, SEO is about more than just improving your site – it’s about beating your competitors. It’s a fight for survival.
To win, you have to stand out from the crowd. You have to do more than just write more posts, and optimize more pages. To win, you have to publish resources.
Good content might not be good enough
Since the early days of online marketing, we’ve had a relatively level playing field when it came to content. One of the great things about the internet is that small businesses can compete with giants in the search results, just by writing compelling, relevant, useful information around their areas of expertise.
In some cases, small, local, independent site owners can beat a big business and national chains by writing authentic, passionate, content about their craft. We see lots of examples where users (and therefore Google) reward their compelling product information, detailed how-to guides, and blog posts, over the often generic information produced by larger or less personable companies.
But that’s not always the case. Words can be bought. Money can be spent, at scale, to shortcut the challenges of writing and publishing quality content. Mass-production and outsourcing of content production is a common practice for larger, well-resourced organizations. It’s often the case that the larger the company, the more resource they have to write pages (even if they outsource the work), and they drown out other websites.
That means that whether you’re a blogger, a baker, a beekeeper, or even a big business, it’s not enough to ‘be good’, or to ‘do SEO’. Your pages, your posts and your content has to compete with everyone in your sector, and you have to beat all of them.
To win, you must solve searcher problems
It’s a helpful mental model assume that each keyword (or keyphrase) you want to rank for represents at least one question, and that many of those questions represent needs, desires or problems.
To be discovered, and to win for that search, you need to have the best page on the internet for helping users to solve their particular problem.
But what does that mean? How is that different from normal SEO advice, which tells you to “write great content”?
To make this practical, we’re going to need an example.
Emily runs a local, independent interior design business. She wants to grow her audience and her sales, so she uses SEO as a marketing channel.
For the last year, she’s spent a few hours per week writing blogs post about her latest projects, and describing her products and services. Traffic to her site has grown steadily, because of the hard work she’s done optimizing her site and her content.
But now her growth is starting to plateau. She’s sees bigger competitors outranking her, and, she’s not sure what she needs to do to move the needle.
A problem of saturation
The core of her problem is that she’s already reached everybody in her addressable market. She’s already ranking for local searches (like “interior design company [city]“), and, for people who look for her business specifically. But she’s nowhere to be seen for broader or more generic searches around her products and services (like for the keyphrase, “living room layout advice“).
To understand why, we need to think about the intent behind the way in which her audiences search, and the problems those people have.
Let’s take the keyphrase “fitted cupboards“, for example. A searcher who has typed this into Google may actually mean “how much do fitted cupboards cost?“, or, “what’s the difference between a fitted cupboard and a normal cupboard?“, or even, “what kinds of fitted cupboards are there, which might work in my home?“. All of these questions represent a singular problem — that the searcher isn’t an expert in the market, and they don’t know what their options are.
In the real world, it’s rare for people to just decide to buy some furniture, then act. It’s more likely that they’ll start by searching with questions about types, colors, materials, and other topics. They do research, and try to understand their options.
A mismatch between her content, and her audience’s needs
The product pages and blog posts which Emily has been writing are designed to showcase her products and her experience; they’re not designed to answer those kinds of questions. They’re probably not “the best pages on the internet” for users who’re trying to understand their options.
Most of the people searching in this ‘research phase’ aren’t ready to buy yet, so Google is unlikely to show many product pages or stores in its results. It’ll favor informational resources, guides and media.
Emily’s pages are unlikely to be discovered by people who are asking those kinds of questions. Google will return the websites of competitors, household furniture chains, or media giants like Pinterest — sites which either spend more time and money on SEO and content than her, or, which provide types of content, advice and media which she doesn’t.
When those people do know what they want or need, and are ready to spend, it’ll be too late for Emily. Many will already have found inspiration, solutions, or other businesses in the sites and channels they moved through. They’ll have solved their problems without ever getting as far as searching for a specific local business, or encountering Emily’s website.
So, how can she compete?
As an expert in her subject, she’s better positioned to answer the questions — and solve the problems — of her audience better than many her competitors. But to do this, she’ll have to produce a different type of content. She’ll need to make something much deeper, more interesting, more engaging, and more useful than her current pages.
For example, the simplest version of this might be a guide which answers all of these questions, and which does so better than any other competing resource. That might mean writing long-form content, producing videos, creating an interactive tool, or some combination of each of these.
A resource like this is much much more likely to get the links, shares and engagement — which she needs to grow her visibility — than her day-to-day content.
The best version of this, most likely to transform her visibility, rankings and business, would be a piece of ‘10x content‘ — a resource at least ten times better than the current best result for her target keywords. In Emily’ interior design niche, that might be a rich, interactive, media-heavy browsing experience — something much more than just a textual product guide.
Of course, regardless of the scale of her ambition, she still needs to think about SEO. The content production process should start with keyword research, and still needs to get all of the basics right. But, unlike her day-to-day content, she needs to go above-and-beyond in making sure that it comprehensively answers all of her audience’s questions.
If she creates something genuinely good, useful and helpful, then it stands a chance to earn the links, social amplification, and positive user signals that it needs in order to outperform the competition.
She must create content with different objectives
Until now, most of Emily’s content has been written with the intent to rank for a relevant keyword, then to try and convince the visitor that her products and services are the best choice for them.
But the objective of this new type of content isn’t to convince people to buy — it’s to make a resource which users will bookmark, link to, and share with their friends when they have problems. Remember, the majority of this audience isn’t ready or willing to buy — they’re still asking questions and learning about their options.
So, for this different kind of content, she needs to be much more impartial. Answering the questions of her audience means not trying to sell to them, and not trying to convince them that her products the best answer to their questions.
Instead, she has to genuinely help her audience, and provide them with the best answers. Sometimes that might mean helping them to solve their own problem without her, or, even sending them to competitors.
It doesn’t matter that those visitors don’t buy from her, or even if they’re not her core audience. Because over time, the links and citations she her content gets not only help her SEO, but they also grow her brand awareness. Then, when users reach the point when they’re ready to buy, they’re much more likely to think of her, or recommend her.
Solving problems is resource intensive
Creating this kind of content takes huge amounts of time, research, energy and expertise. It might mean that, instead of spending an hour writing a page, you need to spend ten, or a hundred hours. Maybe even more.
That’s a big ask, and not just in terms of the hours of writing. It’s not enough just to write more, because an enormous wall of text likely isn’t a good answer for your audiences. Creating something truly useful and valuable means doing more than writing a page.
Because, chances are, at least one of your competitors already has. They’re already winning the hearts and minds of consumers in your niche — consumers who’ll no longer search for, and find your website. And they’re getting links, social shares and traction which pushes them further and further ahead in the search results.
If you want to grow, you have to create this kind of content.
If you represent a small business, or independent site owner, this undoubtedly sounds like an unrealistic requirement – especially given that these pieces are often the work of more than one person. You’ll need input from designers, developers, writers, subject matter experts and more, otherwise, you content might fall flat.
That’s a lot of work, right? Well, maybe not.
It’s only a lot of work if you’re doing it from scratch
In the examples I’ve referenced, one of the common themes is that these pieces often don’t look, feel, or behave like conventional text-on-a-page content. They have structure, layout, and design components.
That’s often one of the scariest, and most resource-intensive requirements for publishing these kinds of pages.
Until recently, this was one of the largest barriers which prevented smaller and independent content creators from taking on their better-resourced competitors.
But as the tools available to us continue to become more powerful, intuitive and accessible, this kind of content can become a lot less challenging to produce.
The continued evolution of WordPress is making it easier for content producers to construct more complex, sophisticated layouts, without needing development resources.
You still need to do the hard work thinking up and authoring the content, but the construction part of the process is getting easier and easier. In fact, we may not be away far from a time when the technical resource required to publish 10x content goes away entirely, and the playing field between small and large business becomes just a little bit more level.
The premise is that, rather than writing in a big content editor, you compose your content from blocks. Blocks structure and contain content, and can also have styling/presentation settings.
Love it or hate it, it’s important to understand that Gutenberg is rapidly becoming the backbone of a new era of structured content publishing. Even beyond WordPress, Gutenberg is being adopted as the de-facto content editing experience on the web.
Why is this relevant to us? Because, Gutenberg is (the early stages of) a framework which will make the production of 10x content cheap enough, fast enough, and easy enough to enable everybody to compete on equal footing.
One of the most common objections to adopting WordPress’ new editor is that people say they like to just write. The added complexity of thinking about blocks, structure and layout – of composing a page, rather than just writing it – is an imposition.
That’s fine, if you’re writing just for enjoyment. But if you want to grow your visibility, grow your audience and rank higher in the search results, then your content needs to compete.
If you’re going to beat everybody else in the search results, you need to do more than just ‘write pages’. You have to use every opportunity, and structuring your content with blocks is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.
Instead of just writing, you must compose. You must consider the structure, layout, design and flow of the stories you tell, and publish resources. Gutenberg gives you the tools to do this (and when it doesn’t, chances are that there’s a block plugin which will).
But each of these (and many other) products will increasingly find themselves ‘reinventing the wheel’, as the WordPress editor’s core capabilities begin to deliver the same kind of functionality.
At some point, these tools will likely need to reinvent themselves, and become an interface layer on top of Gutenberg. That’ll be necessary if they want their content and structure to integrate seamlessly with other plugins, and, if they want to produce the kinds of structured data which will power the search engine results pages of the future.
It won’t matter which design tools you’re using to compose and lay out your content; the back-end will all be powered by the block editor, and you’ll need to shift from writing to publishingwith blocks.
Changing roles and workflows
Switching from writing to publishing is a big leap. It means changes to processes, mindsets, and skill sets.
It won’t be enough to just write, to ‘just be a writer’. If you’re trying to grow your visibility, you’ll need move out of your comfort zone and consider layout, user experience and design.
Your writing environment will need to shift from starting in Microsoft Word or Google Docs (then pasting your content into WordPress), to working directly into the editor. Because you’ll need to compose the structure and layout of the content as it’s written, as part of a combined, iterative process. It’ll be hard to produce a 10x resource if either the structure or the content is added an afterthought. Your words, and how you present them, need to be considered in parallel.
All of this represents a difficult shift in workflow; most good writing happens when a person is ‘in the zone’, and distraction-free. Having to write and consider layout together is a complex process; but it’s what it’ll take to beat your competitors. We’ll need to re-train ourselves to take advantage of these new opportunities.
All of this may feel understandably uncomfortable. It’s a huge disruption to how we currently write and publish content. But competition will drive change; as other site owners take advantage of these tools, you may be left behind if you choose not to.
“This isn’t fair”
If you just want to write great content, that’s fine. You’ll still be able to reach, help and convert your audiences.
But if you want to grow your reach in a competitive market, but really don’t want to think about blocks and layout, you’ll have to over-invest heavily in other areas of SEO in order to attract, convince and convert audiences — because your website and content will feel comparatively bland to your audience, when held up against your competitors’.
This isn’t necessarily fair. If you have the best product or service in the market, but you can’t (or choose not to) invest in creating rich, ‘top of funnel’ problem-solving content, then, you’re going to struggle to compete against people who do.
In a perfect world, you’d rank first, automatically. But Google is an imperfect system, and it relies on content — and the ways in which users interact with it — as a proxy for quality. That’s unlikely to change any time soon; so for now, you must play by their rules.
If you’re reading this post, you have an advantage over many of your competitors. Chances are that you have a WordPress website, and that you’re familiar with the Gutenberg editor.
That gives you a head start.
Take this opportunity to think about what publishing resources might mean for your content, website or business.
Master the block editor, using advanced layout tools like groups and columns.
Explore new approaches to writing and content production, which bake the design of the piece into its ideation and production.
Surprise and delight your audiences with rich, interactive, problem-solving content, which makes them remember, prefer and recommend you.
Grow your visibility, your rankings, your traffic, and your revenue.
Get there first, because if you don’t, your competitors will.
If you’ve been in SEO for any amount of time, chances are you’ve ran into others who just don’t seem to geek out about 404s, redirects, backlinks, spiders, canonicals, and indexing the way you do. Instead, when you discuss any on of these elements in public, you probably just get a blank, confused look in return.
This is pretty standard, but when you’re getting that same look from the decision makers in your company, that may be more of a problem.
SEO is an important component to any business’s success. Many small business owners and CEOs, however, are often uninformed and uneasy about diving into SEO. They know that they need it, but they don’t know how it works or understand the great time commitment and value of it.
Whether you work for an agency or an in-house marketing team, trying to convince executives to bolster their SEO budget can be a good challenge. There are some simple tricks, though, that can help you communicate the importance of SEO and the reasoning behind your tactics and choices.
1. Help Them Understand the Terminology
Every field has its own industry jargon. The SEO industry isn’t any different. The same way your eyes glaze over when the accountants start getting excited about their extensive spreadsheets, someone from another department will easily get lost when you start busting out the industry lingo.
Coming into the SEO conversation with this realization will help you lay a good starting point.
Take time to teach and educate your audience about the basics of SEO and clearly define any and all jargon terms. Clarifying, defining and discussing relevant metrics can also be handy in helping your audience get a better grasp of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
2. Explain Exactly Why You’re Taking a Certain Course of Action
Many people in business have a hard time trusting SEO because it doesn’t deliver the kind of results they want in their desired timeframe. It can be difficult to convince the boss of your proposed course of action when there is a lack of tangible benchmarks and no set timeframes.
As you explain why you chose to do something or why you made a certain decision, try to keep the overall big picture or goal in mind and to explain both what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
For example, if you discovered an epidemic of duplicate content on the site, you might immediately set about rewriting the content or redirecting unneeded pages the ones you want to focus on. Your boss may then question you about that. After all, why not leave those pages alone because the more content – even duplicate content – is just more exposure, right?
Well, since you’re an SEO professional, you know all the reasons why duplicate content is a bad idea. And when they ask about it, you could fall back on the old standby reasoning: “Because Google hates it.” But that’s not enough to satisfy your boss’s need for information.
Instead, explain a little more about how Google works, how the same content would literally compete with itself on the search engines, and all the other reasons beyond “Google doesn’t like it.” They’ll have less questions when you pre-load them with the right answers.
3. Craft the Right Explanation for the Audience
Depending on the size of your organization, you may have regular meetings with a variety of audiences. People from the IT department to the marketing department to the executive office will want to know what’s going on and why SEO matters.
People in IT would like to know the technical details as well as any fixes or bugs that need to be worked out. The marketing department would be more interested in how SEO is attracting the right audience to the website, and the executive leadership will likely care less about what your SEO plan is, as long as it boosts the company’s bottom line.
If you want higher support and buy-in of your SEO plan, you need to know your audience. Then you can format your presentation in a way that “speaks their language.”
For example, a meeting with IT personnel may entail how certain technical implementations will be needed to make the website more mobile-friendly. A similar meeting with leadership may involve discussions about the time and resources that your SEO plan will need, the opportunities that it will open up, and the potential ROI that can result should the plan be successful.
4. Document, Document, Document
When talking to others who don’t know much about SEO, you may get a lot of blank stares and sarcastic remarks. For all they know, you could just be taking advantage of their ignorance and making things up.
This is why you need documentation and data to back up your SEO strategy, your reports, and your claims of success. Again, it is important to focus on particular metrics that would be most beneficial and interesting to the audience. Keep your explanation simple and limit SEO jargon.
How do you build your own credibility so that leadership will listen to you?
It begins by being a leader in your department. Write articles on behalf of the company, answer questions customers may have in the company’s website content, and provide valuable industry resources, such as how-to guides.
Like we mentioned above, you need to document all of this to show how your SEO efforts help contribute to increasing the company’s bottom line. To accomplish this, you may try the following:
Record conversion data from organic search traffic and equate those numbers to revenue. Get set up on Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console, so you can monitor revenue from contact forms and e-commerce, which will speak to leadership and the marketing department.
Report on how you are doing compared to competitors. Compile a list of 5-10 competitors who are currently beating your company for the top 10 keywords and show what the average monthly search volume of those keywords or terms are. Showing these lost opportunities can be enough to spur any executive to bolster and support your SEO efforts.
How CEOs See SEO
Many business executives know that SEO is a crucial component of their company’s success. However, they may not know or care to know how SEO works.
That’s why they want someone to do it for them.
However, you can geek out on them all day long about how this or that is doing great and blowing the competition out of the water, and they just won’t seem to get on board with your enthusiasm.
Again, they just care about the company’s bottom line.
Some CEOs have some knowledge of SEO and understand how it basically works. It is still a good idea to rein in your zealous enthusiasm and spare them of all the stats and numbers. You can touch on the SEO topics they are familiar with, but avoid the urge to go too deep. As much as they may be interested, they have busy schedules and want to know if the resources going to SEO is paying off.
The best way to deal with this is to agree on some clear key performance indicators before the campaign even starts. Since SEO takes time, monthly check-in meetings are also good ideas to keep leadership informed and reassured that you are gradually but consistently moving toward those KPIs.
It can be hard to get support for an SEO initiative. It can also be frustrating communicating with others who don’t understand the nature and workings of the search engines. Knowing your audience, proving the value of SEO, and always using data to back-up the successes of your strategy are some ways these difficult and frustrating conversations can become more successful.
Got some buy-in on SEO already? Are you ready to push for more social media action? Download your free Social Media Checklist and make sure you’re ready to get started.