I’ve owed Philip Morgan a gratis content audit for experts for months now. I’m sure it’s one of those things I think much more about than he does, and to be fair, I’m working out a process, but it also means that I think about his site a good amount.
Given its size, I could have done a traditional site audit in a few hours, zipped off the top five recommendations.
But I’m much more interested in developing and applying a more anthropological approach to:
- analyzing the key ideas on experts’ sites with lots of content
- doing the harder part of making good recommendations given the very real time, resources, and cognitive load constraints that experts with audiences have.
A root reason behind why I picked the direction of content strategy for experts serving audiences through content is getting experts more agency and value for their contributions.
I’m very grateful for the work Philip has done in helping others cultivate self-made expertise. And I get this feeling about a lot of books that have made a meaningful impact on the way I think about and approach life and work.
Almost always, this is how world changing books work. Author puts head down > does the work > makes something meaningful > shares it.
At that point, a stopwatch starts and over time the control or agency an author has over the online visibility and associated benefits of their work and ideas begins to decay.
This happens lots of ways, but a common culprit: someone else comes along, publishes some notes about the book on their own blog, and handily outranks the author.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about how the internet works here. Reduced friction is how ideas spread. And I like to think we aren’t just doing it for the attribution.
The lesson is that the note-taker is often providing a better experience for someone looking into the book than the crappy publisher book description on Amazon does.
Those book notes satisfy the search intent of someone in deep consideration phase, wanting a summary of key ideas without digging through reviews, blurbs, etc., to make a decision about whether they want to invest the time to read the book.
By providing a better experience in helping a user make that decision during their journey, they are ultimately satisfying that search intent better than the author, and in that sense, they deserve the position.
But. Now the notes moderate the decision to read the book. Notes replace books. Notes are incomplete. Notes by nature are taken through someone else’s lens. Often, early 20 something digital nomads with lots of time.
A couple takeaways:
Keeping it on the nose, make your own book page – this is the authoritative page people should go to learn about the book, read notes, subscribe to a related worksheet if applicable, and ultimately make an informed time investment (purchasing) decision.
More generally, make your own idea page – the is the authoritative page people should go to learn about the idea, concept, IP you’ve developed.
To be the authoritative book or idea page, it needs to be the page you link to EVERY time you reference it.
Exceptions? Yes, exceptions abound, like if you are saying “buy my book here” with AMZ affiliate link or some such.
Back to Philip as an example.
One of his key concepts is the idea of “working in public.” This would be a fitting place for an h2 or h3:
Working in public
The preferred approach is daily publishing to an email list and archiving on a website. This concept isn’t uniquely Philip’s, others have referenced similar ideas like Robin Sloan’s “working with the garage door up,” but the context is what makes it different, and his.
It’s actually hard to find an “authoritative page” on Philip’s site I could direct you to.
I had to read through a few Google results using a filter for his domain.
You might expect that a post called, “Working in Public,” would serve our purposes, but it’s more about an example of how Philip is doing that as he writes (wrote?) a third version of The Positioning Manual.
This post on how to more quickly cultivate a Point of View (another Philip concept) maybe has the best descriptor:
The common thread in cultivating a PoV through speaking, podcast hosting, or publishing the written word is that you’re working in public. I consider this non-optional, even though I know it’s horribly uncomfortable for many. Working in public creates this skin-in-the-game effect that’s a real accelerant.
You can fart around in hundreds of different ineffective ways when you’re working in private. When it’s in public, you sit up straight in your chair and do your best possible work, and that’s why working in public is an accelerant.ITERATING TOWARDS A POV (PMC daily email link)
So we have an example and then a benefit of working in public. But what would be wonderful is if this idea had it’s own page.
So what does having an authoritative page look like? Is it a tall order? Does it require a “A Beautiful Mind” whiteboarding of connected snippets and pages? Not really.
Here’s an example where Philip does a really nice job of defining, describing, and driving home value of a key idea:
The loyalty switch
During a process of specializing, there’s a mindset shift where you go from being loyal to the old thing to being loyal to the new thing.
Philip uncovered this concept, called, “the loyalty switch,” after noticing the pattern in clients experiencing transformations. He describes it as:
when your primary loyalty switches from doing excellent client work to building an excellent business.
This switch is painful, because the new primary loyalty causes trouble for the existing business… [it] disrupts your business. I’m never worried when I see a client undergo the loyalty switch, though, because I know the old service-driven business needed to die, to rise again as an innovation or expertise-driven business.LOYAL BUT NOT FAITHFUL (PMC daily email link)
Only by working closely with clients during periods of transformation could this type of pattern be identified, described, thought about enough to be named, and then put in a context that would be most valuable to audience members.
The above post is a clear winner as the authoritative page for this concept. It does a really nice job of summarizing this concept, and because of that, when you search “philip morgan loyalty switch” it comes up.
Alas though, loyalty switch is also a concept used by others when talking about customer loyalty and so when you simply search “loyalty switch” you get a bunch of info on that concept, not Philip’s.
This is why all references to a concept, like the “loyalty switch” should be linked to this page. It would elevate it to a level of being more readily found by others, so that they may link to and reference it (much like I did above) and ultimately have this concept win out on this naming. Alternatively, the name could be adjusted to something like the “something loyalty switch.”
An authoritative page for major concepts serves a multitude of facets, that compound for greater and greater visibility and reduced friction on idea dissemination:
- making it easier to find your idea/ content through search
- engage with what’s most relevant given who and where you are in your journey of independent work
- get users on an email list because your best thinking is easily surfaced
- when appropriate, share products, services, workshops or related paid stuff users may be interested as they are using your ideas to improve their lives and work.