Self Reinforcing Market Positions

Aug 16th

"I am the Center of the Universe" - random A list blogger.

An innocent fraud is a lie, but it's a lie that's more white than black. It's a lie that makes most everyone happy. It suits the purposes of the powerful because it masks the full extent of their power, and it suits the purposes of the powerless because it masks the full extent of their powerlessness.

Most of the people blogging about making money probably do not make that much money. Most people selling how to (insert your topic here) advice also fall in the same category. And they do it off the backs of people who link at them hoping to one day do the same. But in reality most people fail because it usually takes quite a bit of innovation, time, effort, risk, personality, or passion to break out of the mold, and many self-reinforcing institutions and social norms make it hard to succeed.

I think I have been learning enough about social networks, sociology, psychology, marketing, business models, authority structures, etc. that if SEO ever somehow lost its direct value that I would still be able to do well, but imagine the day that a field you studied for years was rendered useless. Would you instantly be able to change your model or pick another field? Would you keep pushing your ideas even after you knew they hurt more people than they helped (like the old LinksToYou link farm did)? Where do you draw the line? Or imagine that if many people you wanted to help never gained anything out of it other than the ability to help you grow more authoritative while they paid you with their time, attention, trust, link equity, and perhaps cash too.

Of course there is the hope that those things are not true, but the value and quality of advice you get from people (as well as how accessible their ideas are) is not just a function of what they know, but also market timing. Anyone who is doing well on the web right now was born it to some amazingly lucky timing to have found the web while it is still so nascent. Most people and/or business models that get to the top of a social structure have some idea how it works, and would never want to admit that their structure is overrated or their field has died. All that comfort, all that self reinforcing market position would be erased.

Why does Matt Cutts warn people about certain types of links? Google's authority is based on links representing relevancy. Without relevant links search has no ad based business model.

As the blogophere has become more rigidly hierarchical, not by design but as a natural consequence of hyperlinking patterns, filtering algorithms, aggregation engines, and subscription and syndication technologies, not to mention human nature, it has turned into a grand system of patronage operated - with the best of intentions, mind you - by a tiny, self-perpetuating elite.

Much like traditional media there are certain biases to blogging and web publishing.

  • Old sites get more exposure than new ones.

  • Controversy spreads fast.
  • Lists and types of bite sized content that offer immediate reward to an attention and time scare audience typically spread further than content which requires more attention. The attention deficit most of us live with is going to constrain the types of ideas that are profitable.
  • Better tracking and targeting, more social networks and meme trackers, cheaper and more efficient distribution, more feedback loops, and ad targeting engines that block certain words or categories are making it easier for the average publisher to know how profitable writing about an idea is before they even type the first key.
  • If my SEO for Firefox extension was SEO for IE7 it would have got about 12 links instead of a couple thousand. Is that group think linking legitimate?

It feels weird sometimes when you come across some of the self reinforcing patterns in action...like when you predict an idea will spread for a specific reason then see it happen, or see a high ranked article from someone talking about a topic they clearly demonstrate they know nothing about, or something spreading quick as correct when it was factually incorrect garbage the day it was published.

And that is another part of the reason it is so easy to rely on your established authority. The fear of being called out (some economics students hated my post on central banks) when trying to learn something new. And thinking of all the time and effort required to get back into another self reinforcing market position.

But relevancy is a personal thing. The market for something to believe in is infinite. Those who can get in early and evangelize their field will likely profit from it long after their techniques are rendered useless or their field has died. And if you are associated with an important market then your distribution and the self reinforcing nature of search will allow you to heard in other markets as well.

Published: August 16, 2006

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

Sayam Khan
August 17, 2006 - 6:18pm

"As the blogophere has become more rigidly hierarchical, not by design but as a natural consequence of hyperlinking patterns, filtering algorithms, aggregation engines, and subscription and syndication technologies, not to mention human nature, it has turned into a grand system of patronage operated - with the best of intentions, mind you - by a tiny, self-perpetuating elite."

Aaron, did you write this? If not, can you quote a source? It's an incredible insight into a heirarchical organization that emerged out of a system, not designed to be heirarchical! An unavoidable outcome..

August 17, 2006 - 7:50pm

The link at the top of the page is where the quotes come from.

Gus Farrah
August 18, 2006 - 7:23pm

"The market" has allways been there, no matter what you call it, it does not disapear, it just transforms itself.

September 17, 2006 - 8:45am

I totally agree with your article. I have read a couple of your articles on this site & have learned quite a bit. Keep up the good work.

Australian real...
April 28, 2007 - 2:28pm

Aaron
You write with a great blend of information and entertainment.
Your book is my roadmap to google blissdom - thanks

August 16, 2006 - 10:00pm

What great articles you've been puting up today. As well as the great insights on link building earlier. You're putting up some really profound stuff. Not just the stuff you'd expect.

Today's posts have been some of the best and most useful I've ever read.

Thanks

August 16, 2006 - 10:39pm

Great stuff, Aaron... man, you're getting deep in your old age. ;)

Mike
August 16, 2006 - 11:12pm

When I first saw you at pubcon Boston, I thought "i have heard this name quite a bit, lets see what he is all about." You were one of the more memorable speakers that i remember from all ofd those sessions and todays posts, just earned a bookmark to my favorites. Thanks for the info.

Cygnus
August 17, 2006 - 2:39am

If SEO ceased to exist, or failed to exist in the first place, I believe those that did very well would probably be doing very well in a different field.

There will never be a shortage for individuals with the ability to think critically.

Cygnus

August 17, 2006 - 6:06am

A transparent — and liquid — market for the ad spaces on single-creator media solves the problem, as adbitrageurs will profit from identifying and helping to popularize undervalued blogs…

August 17, 2006 - 3:13pm

I really enjoyed this article. I have also wondered how my life will change once SEO goes away.

October 5, 2009 - 6:39am

Thanks for another great article. I have read a few of your article on the site and have used quite a bit of the information. Thanks.

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.