Links or Content? Nope, the Issue is Attention

WebmasterWorld recently had another debate on which is more important: links or content. But the debate is flawed. Links or content alone are just one type of asset. You might be able to profit from either for a while, but ultimately the real measure of relevancy and staying power is attention.

When you have a new idea can you spread it? You can do the most amazing thing in the world that would alter the course of history, but if you have no attention it goes nowhere. Days / months / years later somebody comes by and steals / repackages / reformats / relaunches your idea and is hailed a brilliant futurist. You wait in line for their autograph, and can do nothing but laugh or cry because you know you already published that idea, but unfortunately you did it at the wrong place or wrong time or you used the wrong headline.

An old site that already ranks well can see self reinforcing links for years until someone launches a better idea and owns that idea. But if ignored eventually someone will take the idea from you. If you do not have enough attention you do not have the margins needed to be sustainable and fight off competition. If you run a network without adequate attention it turns to spam.

A profitable SEO running a sustainable longterm website is an attention whore. They learn how ideas spread, what types of ideas spread, and how to format them to help them spread. They tap into the human ego and dig deep into psychology to help others want to help them. Marketers spread lies if the payout is high enough. Other times people accidentally spread inaccuracies, but that works too because people talking about it grants you more authority and reading the feedback forces you to learn more.

Some marketers are conservative and like to quietly build links and attention over time. Others like to see their name on the front page of the newspaper or Digg. Both ways work, but links are just a proxy for conversation and attention. Search engines follow people.

Once you have attention you can do whatever you want. Who cares if 90% of your ideas fail? You learn from every failure, content can easily be reformatted, and other good ideas come out of remains of past failures. You only need 1 to be really successful to be set for life. And if you keep trying to launch innovative valuable ideas then people are going to keep talking about you until you launch a success. And when it launches people will talk about it because you already have their attention.

Published: September 18, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


September 19, 2007 - 4:02pm

This struck a chord with me. I have been trying for over 6 years to create something that people will talk about. I truly think I've been doing everything wrong. I usually see all of my ideas through and then after a few days, I don't see the shipload of folks coming in, so I slowly move the idea to the back burner. This post made me realize that it take consistency to make ideas flourish. Some ideas when big over night, while others take time to grow. I heard a story once about how a farmer planted several types of plants. While all the other plants flourished with ease, there was one plant that never grew, but the farmer never gave up. He still watered the spots where nothing appeared. After years of doing the same thing a sprout appeared where there was nothing before. And with that sprout grew a very strong plant. It took all those years just to grow roots. So I guess this is the idea with everything else. Grow some strong routs and one day you will flourish.

Thanks for this post Aaron I truly needed it and I'm sure others did too.

September 19, 2007 - 11:26pm

Hi Jay
Most overnight success stories are only sold as overnight because it helps them spread. The founder of MySpace, for example, had about 5 years experience building community sites prior to the launch of MySpace.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.