In a previous email I shared the two basic phases to SEO: initial and ongoing work and in that email focused on initial phase.
I’ve been working through why SEO doesn’t work for experts and what we can do about it for what’s felt like a while now. And to get a bit meta here, I’ve been thinking through this out loud with you in a regimental way without much organization.
Running through an exercise to look at the different threads, we’ve looked at models of thinking about content:
- A content strategy précis (components of content strategy)
- “What should I write about?” (Hero, hub, hygiene model of content)
- Things that matter and things that last (On hero content)
- How much hygiene do you need? (On hygiene content)
And looked at models of thinking about optimizing content regimens:
- What determines the rate your content improves (identifying what gets in the way of progress)
- Solving problems (considering what amount of focus is required for what size problem or piece of content)
More recently, I’ve been focused on why experts have trouble with wanting to do SEO or achieving success with it:
- part 1: why understanding “search” matters
- part 2: how influence is measured on the web
- part 3: the new seo best practices
- dealing with uncertainty in search
- “i don’t have the resources to do seo”
- social versus search for content visibility
It’s all regimental emails with only a loose plan in my mind: to develop an approach to SEO that is accessible and works for experts in a way that aligns all efforts toward the same goals of increasing influence through content and further developing expertise.
This is regimen with the loose intention to do planning and cleanup work around that goal.
In that earlier email about a first phase of SEO, we talked about initial work being planning and cleanup.
This is a one off.
You do it every so often but it’s the important strategy part that experts often miss that can help inform your ongoing regimen. Otherwise, when the time comes for another (or your first) round of planning and cleanup, you may end up cutting large swaths of pages and content, spending a lot of time trying to wrangle clusters of pages on similar topics into consolidated pages or at least into cohesive categories for ease of navigation by topic.
I liken it to planting lots of little gardens blindfolded, a group of people watching quietly, giving you occasional feedback: “that looks good, I like that one.”
You get good at feeling things out and the direction can be helpful. You make mental notes, but inevitably forget where you planted what.
After a couple weeks you take the blindfold off. There are all sorts of plants all over the place and weeds. Mad weeds.
You see you over-planted here and there. You didn’t water a lot of them so those are dead.
You create content at a certain level of quality with a certain consistency. Over time, quality and consistency can vary based on different inputs, effort, time, experience.
You really enjoyed the process and learned a lot from it, but your end goal of a lush beautiful garden was out of reach given the blindfold approach.
Most experts live here. They put their head down. They focus on honing their craft to serve an audience.
Over time we add things, remove things, but generally do content one way and it leaves a big footprint with a very specific pattern.
Even without a planning stage, this approach alone worked for some people. In outlier cases, I’m sure it still does.
In the golden era of accidental traffic, many of those who relentlessly focused on content quality now have insanely successful businesses.
Everything they publish meets rigorous standards of content quality around the question, “is this good enough for my audience?” The audience, built over years and years sometimes decides, “yes!” creating built-in amplification.
There are network effects at play that make it look like all we have to do is what they do and then we’ll get to where they are.
Those well-intentioned people will often give the advice they followed to get to where they are: relentlessly focus on content quality and you’ll be all set.
Maybe if you, too, followed this model starting 10 years ago, that would be true. But you’re listening to people with survivorship bias.
It would be a mistake to look at this model and think it still works.
Like the generations who look around at life as it was decades ago and give advice based on their prior decades of experience: follow your passion, you can be whatever you want to be, get a good job with a pension, and you’ll be A-OK, those rules no longer apply.
We now live in a world of uncertainty, competition, and volatility.
Unimaginable decades ago, employment today is a less stable path than self-employment, disruption is an expectation, and we are all challengers to the incumbents of wealth consolidating monopolies and oligopolies.
If this all feels dystopian, then good! That’s my dark Halloween treat for you.
Like all good dystopias, an illusion of a fair and perfect society exists and it’s your responsibility to see it for what it is.
Because without a content regimen informed by a strong planning foundation, you are playing by rules that no longer apply.
You either rely on external forces like word of mouth to spread your content, as if the wind will carry your message where you want it to go, or based on a strong planning phase, you pay attention to where and how the wind blows, plan for a downwind dissemination, and disperse something that is the right weight at the right time for the right direction.
Every piece of content you publish applies additional upward or downward force on your business.
Which direction is your regimen taking you?