The Only Road to Success?
Catching up on my reading this morning, my highest priority was Seth Godin’s blog. He’s an innovator, or at least an early adopter, in many areas. (That’s a reference to the Diffusion of Innovations theory.) I watch what Mr. Godin does, and I learn from it. And frankly, he’s such a success, his is clearly a business model that works.
In general, I like his business model. He’s authentic. Some of what he does… sure, it’s for marketing. Most of what he does, isn’t. It’s just what he does, and he’s the best Seth Godin we have.
No one can successfully compete with everyone else. Not indefinitely, anyway. There was a time when we though Yahoo would always be the top search engine, and Netscape would always be the browser of choice. Google is recently enacted some privacy policies that have driven away several innovators and early adopters among my friends. (Many are looking at up-and-coming search engines such as Gigablast. At the moment, it’s pretty ugly and the results aren’t easy to scan. However, it’s one of many alternatives that Google needs to be watching.)
This is also the lesson of the “long tail.” (The general concept was initially discussed in a 2004 Wired article by Chris Anderson. The concept is explained more clearly here and here. And, Jill Whalen argues against this as SEO, at her own blog, which has been amplified by a clever infographic at SEO Book.)
And, I’m reading the article he referenced, 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time. I understand the points in it, and — from a strictly by-the-numbers, this-will-work viewpoint — he’s right.
In that post, Mr. Patel makes a very good point about using the All in One SEO plugin, which I often include with my websites. Frankly, the All in One SEO plugin has earned steady respect in the SEO community, and — almost universally — the pros tell you (and me) to use it. So, if you’re using it, follow the tips at the plugin’s website, or the suggestions in Mr. Patel’s post.
However, the fact is: On my own websites, I use a different, free SEO plugin: WordPress SEO by Yoast. There is some inconvenience; the plugin can cause duplicate titles at your website. A simple code change (cut-and-paste within Appearance > Editor > Header.php) fixes it, and the instructions are on the SEO > Titles page within the plugin.
I own several premium SEO plugins, including SEOpressor and SEO Scorer. I don’t need them (and so, I don’t use them) when I use WordPress SEO by Yoast. And, to be honest, I’m not convinced it looks very natural to included your keyword in bold, italics, and underlined once in each post. I mean, really, nobody does that naturally, and I think our articles must look natural to both our readers and the search engines.
So, I use WordPress SEO by Yoast, and I may start including that, instead of All in One SEO, in future websites that I sell. I’m on the fence. I want to create sites that people will want to buy, but — in line with the theme of this post – I might be happier creating websites that reflect my own experiences with what works and what doesn’t.
Follow the rules, and you’re more likely to achieve moderate success.
Break the rules, as Godin does, and you’re taking the high roller route. People had better find you… or you’re talking to yourself, or just a handful of people.
The thing is, when I try to follow the rules — and I do, regularly, if only to see how they work — I soon come to a complete halt. It feels wrong, and I not only sound inauthentic, I feel like I’m not being authentic. For me, the latter is toxic.
You need to choose your own path. Maybe you’re more comfortable following the rules, proven by endless statistics and analyses. At the very least, they’re good “training wheels” when you’re starting out.
But, for all the long-tail naysayers, and all the risks of being one-of-a-kind, there’s still Seth Godin. He happens to be one of the biggest marketing successes, online and off.
I watch him. I learn. And then, I choose my own path.
Clearly, there is no “one true road” to success. It’s key to find that fine line where you’re both successful and authentic.
Your readers can tell when you’re faking it. If they want fake, they can probably find it for less than you’re charging. In fact, plenty of people are so desperate for approval and the illusion of popularity, they’re giving away fake.
It’s risky to go long-tail from the very start. It may take far longer to reach commercial success. However, a business built on authenticity will always feel better and resonate better with your friends, your fans, and yourself.
The tricky part is sorting out which rules are firm, and which are okay to bend to fit your unique business style.