"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.
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