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Better living through hyperbole

“Do you really think that all Search Engine Optimization is useless?”
“Surely you don’t think that advertising is dead!”
“PR works for some people. How come you say we can’t count on it?”
“All music labels aren’t dead… just some of them.”


I spend my days trying to make a point (or two). Trying to change minds. Sometimes, people are motivated by carefully shaded differences, delivered with reams of data by dispassionate observers. And sometimes it snows in Florida.

In my experience, many people get a concept stuck in their head and it grows to a size inappropriate to the original idea. I’ve met countless entrepreneurs and marketers who believe that one national TV ad, or one appearance on Oprah, or one lucky link in Google is the answer to their prayers.

Whether you’re running for President, running a non-profit or trying to go public, there is no shortcut. No obvious, easy, predictable solution that will get you the success you want. Instead, I’m pretty sure, you’re going to have to do a lot of work and build a measurable, predictable, improvable system that keeps getting better over time. And the miracles (that great link on Yahoo, that appearance on Air America) is just a bonus.

So, if I go a little overboard (as I did, intentionally, in my SEO post below) please cut me a little slack. All other things being equal, is an optimized website better than one that’s not? Sure. All other things being equal, is a check from Fred Wilson’s venture fund better than bootstrapping with no cash? Yep.

But first, you’ve got to make all other things equal. First, you and your colleagues have to do the hot, dusty and dreary work of building a permission asset one person at a time. You’ve got to create a remarkable product or service. You need to include that free prize that people want to talk about. Then, once all other things are equal, go wild!

Jeff Cerny’s insight

Did you ever notice that people tend toward two ways of thinking in the area of interacting with groups? 

Whether it’s driving, cleaning up a common kitchen area, or the internet, people have an idea that being in a group either gives them greater freedom or greater responsibility.  Driving down the road, one thinks, “I don’t know that guy and what are the chances I’ll meet him anywhere?” in the kitchen, “this mess doesn’t have my name on it — someone else will clean it up,”  and on the internet, “if I get one person to respond, it will be worth all the irritation to the rest for whom it is noise.” 

The other group of course, says to one degree or another, “I am a member of this group, and I have an obligation to treat others as I would like to be treated — I’ll let the guy go before me, clean up the mess, and not waste people’s time for my own minimal gains.” 

Thanks, Jeff.

I wonder if human nature has changed, or if we’re just in groups more often than we used to be…

The problem with search engine optimization

SEO is the purported science of optimizing your webpage so that you rise to the top of the listings in Google and Yahoo!

The theory is that a huge number of people find what they’re looking for via search, that virtually all of these people only look at the first page of the results and that if you don’t tweak your page, you’re doomed.

I just got a note from someone asking me for a recommendation, and when I said I didn’t think that most SEO was worth the money, he asked me why. So here goes:

1. Because it’s a black art, it’s really hard to tell who’s good and who’s not. Andrew Goodman is good, there are people who are less reputable… no matter what, it’s hard to guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth.

2. my real problem, though, starts with an analogy. Imagine your retail store was on a road that no one ever drove down unless they found it on a map. And then imagine that they redid the maps every week and the mapmakers refused to tell you exactly how they went about deciding which roads to draw and in which hierarchy to place them.

Could you imagine finding investors for that sort of store? Could you imagine being confident enough in your ability to grow that business that you’d want to work there?

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top slot of a great word on Google is not a business plan. It’s superstition. It’s blind faith.

If you want to grow your business, you need a reliable and scalable and dependable way to spend time and money and have it turn into traffic and revenue. In the real world, companies do that with real estate and with advertising. Online, it’s about adwords and site design.

If you can figure out how to BUY (not luck into) keyword searches that bring you X number of visitors, and then you can figure out how to design your site so that Y% of those visits turn into customers, you win. And nobody can stop you from growing all you care to grow.

Take a look at July 1, 2004