Authoritative, but Often Wrong
Trusting a powerful authority is easy. It allows us to have a quick shorthand for how things work without having to go through the pain, effort, & expense to figure things out. But it often leads to bogus solutions.
This video does a great job of explaining how nothing replaces experience in the SEO industry.
A combination of numerous parallel projects, years of trial and error experience & a deep study of analytics data is far superior to having the God complex & feeling 100% certain you are right.
Change is the only constant in SEO.
Big plans often get subverted before they pan out & the more obvious something is the shorter its shelf life. By the time everyone notices a trend then jumping on it at that point probably isn't much of a competitive advantage. You might still be able to make some money for a limited time (or for a longer time if you apply it to new markets), but...
- investing in exact match domains was generally far more profitable in 2006 than it would be today.
- after Wired's The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model article in October 2009, the business model was torched within 16 months
- even the current "brand" trend that is in place now will peak out within the next 24 to 36 months. (more on that in a future post)
It is the contrarian investors who are taking (what is generally perceived to be) big risks who are allowed to ride a trend for years and years.
Options & Opportunities
When Panda happened a lot of theories were thrown out as to what happened & how to fix it. Anyone who only runs 1 website is working from a limited data set and a limited set of experience. They could of course decide to do everything, but there is an opportunity cost to doing anything.
Making things worse, if they have limited savings & no other revenue producing websites there are some risks they simply can't take. They can still sorta infer some stuff from looking at the search results, but those who have multiple sites where some were hit and others were not know intimately well the differences between the sites. They also have cashflow to fund additional trial and error campaigns & to double down on the pieces that are working to offset the losses.
Success Requires Failure
A lot of times people want to enter a market with a grand plan that they can follow without changing it once the map is made, but almost anyone who creates something that is successful is forced to change. Every year in the United States 10% of companies go under! And due to the increased level of competition online it likely separates winners from losers even faster than in the offline world. Those who stick to a grand plan are less able to keep up with innovation than those who have an allegiance to the data. Sometimes having a backup plan is far more important than having a grand plan.
Incremental Investing, Small & Large
Almost anything that I have done that has been successful has started ugly & improved over time. This site was an $8 domain & I couldn't even afford a $99 logo for it until I was a couple months into building it. Most of our other successes have been that way as well. If something works keep reinvesting until the margins drop. But when the margins do drop off, it is helpful to have another project you can invest in, such that you are not 1 and done.
The earliest Google research highlighted how ad-based search business models were bad & the now bankrupt Excite.com turned down buying Google for under $1 million. It turns out everyone was wrong there. One company adjusted & the other is bankrupt.
Overcoming the God Complex
We don't control Google. We can only influence variables that they have decided to count. As their business interests and business models change (along with the structure of the web) so must we.
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