Competitive Webmastering

Appreciate the opportunity to read this blog? Say so on your social media.... referencing John Andrews at johnon.com. Or even better, link to it from your own website. Your voice matters, and your public comment will be counted as a success metric, encouraging more (and more specific) writing.
I encourage those pursuing edge seo to reconsider such ruinous, disconnected SEO efforts.

Niche Websites, AI Content, & Reality

As I prepare Ample. I am struck by the obvious, over and over again. In case you’ve been out of touch with the world for a week or so, sigh, Twitter was just “purchased” by Elon Musk & Friends. Within days many famous accounts were restored from censorship, with numerous reports of liberal & progressive outrage etc.

But within that chaos, there is a resurgence of “SEO Twitter” aka ”Marketing Twitter”. A loose comunity of self-desribed web entrepreneurs who seek fast money via the internet. Back in the late 1990s we used to call it MMF for “make money fast”.

When Google introduced AdSense (the ad serving program that shared revenues with web publishers), we saw the rise of the MFA Sites — MMF endeavors that sought to exploit the AdSense program.

Today I see “niche websites” and “Content” as the MMF for today.

All things cycle. But not all people learn history.

Here’s a hint for those wondering — today, as before, and before that…. the money is selling shovels & blue jeans to enthusiastic miners, not mining.

What does that even mean???”, you might ask. Well, I bet you’re a candidate not only for the long sales page on Niche Websites in the Age of COVID, but the optimized lander for my Gumroad coarse on How I grew a Brand New Niche Website from Zero to 1 Million Visitors in just 6 Months, enabling me to quit my day job and retire to the beach, where I now work just 4 hours per week while banking not only my retirement, but a house for my ailing mom, as well.

Subscribe to Ample. on Substack if you want to follow along:

Future Posts:

  • There's a podcast show in the works, and it covers a lot of what modern "SEO people" consider to be SEO. And it'll be fun, based on what I've seen so far. Are you ready?
  • The local web training seminar series is expanding, and may get some publicity this time, as I need to fill the room for more complete feedback. Free seminars are odd in that they draw a strange crowd on the first day, but if meaningful, some very interesting characters show up the second session. It's just fun for me, but for reasons unstated, it's about to get a little more "interesting" ;-)
  • Bring back some classics like /fake-reviews-cesspool.html, wednesday-fun.html, seo-consulting-2.html, google-chrome-privacy.html, health-vault.html, google-agency.html, google-go-words.html, google-toolbar.html, free-seo-tools.html, panda-update-seo.html, trailing-slash-seo.html, seo-zend-framework.html, seo-correlations.html, nytimescom.html

Emerging Paradigms for a New Age

New paradigms for a new age - this is my reality right now. Nearly everything has been changed by the past 5-7 years in the United States. Infrastructure, society and culture; even basic expectations have changed.

I have always been watching the world as I lived within it, and traveled through it. I have always known of my limited perspective. I have always acknowledged the importance of moving through space and time, to observe, and gain new perspectives. I have always noticed the essential importance of communication as an influencer of the aggregate cultural expression we call "society". Ever since my first meeting with "Doc" Herman Estrin back in the late 1980s, I've had words to describe this, with which I could guide my intentful endeavors.

Eandeavors which, not coincidentally, include web publishing and SEO.

I remember when I first learned the word "paradigm". I'm certain of why I learned it. I am not at all certain of why I remember learnng it.

I learned the word "paradigm" from a communist at Queens College in New York City. He was teaching a summer course in Political Science, while raising funds for the Sandinista's in El Salvador.

At the end of the session, that professor took my picture, and told me that someday he would notice that an important figure in world politics was once a student of his, at Queens College, and that he would have that picture.

LOL. I was an Engineering student, sojourning at Queens College just to gain some summer elective credits, in order to keep from falling behind in my grueling 21-credit-per-semester requirement for a legitimate 4 year degree Engineering degree. I would never be in politics.

No, I don't remember his name. I don't have a picture, either.

Last night I discussed some of what I used to call "advanced SEO" with a collegue. The use of words to persuade both search engines and readers. Back when Danny Sullivan was selling "networking in the hall with your friends and collegues" for premium dollar per hour pricing, by calling it "SMX Advanced", I was studing Cialdini's earlier writing and framing an approach to using persuasion to influence Google. As I gained experience doing that, I learned of the necessity of combining reader persuasion with Google persuasion, since Google started dynamically adusting in attempts to track (and later influence ) reader behaviors.

SEO was changing in a big way. The evidence was quite clear. The serp rankings granted to test URLs proved without a doubt not only what Google was doing, but how the language of persuasion was alternately powerful and counter-productive, depending on specific context within SEO: which queries, when, were conducted by whom, and how.

Over time, and with experimentation, new paradigms of search/seo emerged. More complex than ever, yet, often more "simplistic" as well. Apparently, it seems to me in hindsight, Google no longer needed the money, and didn't care as much about providing a high-quality search experience as it once did.

Google the monopoly had new plans, and they were political.

Friction

In commerce,"friction" describes the force(s) that oppose a sale or conversion. Friction in ecommerce generally reduces performance. The more friction, the less success.

Of course that is an over simplification. Of course there are cases where increased friction might encourage a bigger total sale, or sculpt a more committed customer with a greater life time value, etc. But in general, friction at the time of sale is a bad thing, to be reduced/avoided.

In a free market; a competitive marketplace.

In a corrupt market, or in cases where profits flow regardless of performance, this concept of friction may not apply uniformly.

Lesson : investigate your target marketplace early in your venture, to ensure that you understand the status of "fiction" in your sales/marketing stream. You best perform this due diligence before investing heavily in the venture, because you may determine that your planned approach to achiveing your business goals is anathema to the market dynamics.

How does one engage in this kind of due diligence?

I've already stated that this needs to be done before investing resources. I've asserted that this form of the concept of efficiency/avoiding friction may not be relatively important, depending on your particular market status and dynamics. So if you don't know how to conduct the investigation, you cannot safely proceed.

If you lack any other awareness of methods to conduct market research, you can at least engage in scenario planning, to support your own estimation of relative risk and costs.

I prefer this approach for those unsure of themselves, because, almost recursively, the scanario planning engages the entrepreneur into a process of validating hir own preparedness, or likelihood for success in the endeavor.

If you aren't sure of your target market dynamics with respect to conversion friction, then imagining a set of customer journey scenarios (and the associated process-oriented experiences, and ultimately sales friction), walks you through your own understanding of the market you are approaching as an entrepreneur.

You'll learn about yourself and your own readiness to go-to-market.

Friction always "happens", to some degree. When each specific identified type of friction happens in your scenario, does it lead to achieving your return on investment goals for your enterprise's expended resources? Does each discovered type of friction increase ROI, or decrease ROI?

In some cases, an immediate information result supports an empty brand impression, with corresponding low-impact branding, and low lifetime value potential.

Think of a "people finder" that has been clicked for information on a named individual. If the web page immediately produces a list of available information, the reader gains awareness of what-is-available, and isn't likely impressed enough to buy anything further. In this specific industry example, if instead the user is additionally queried for various associated hints of the value of the available information to them, that additional friction may actually increase customer interest in obtaining the full set of results (for a membership fee).

Various analysis will note such things as emotional investment, increased awareness of the effort invested in producing results, etc., but the bottom line is this : more friction increased the publisher's return on investment.

The web entrepreneur need not investigate, nor understand, nor master all of the fine points associated with persuasion and conversion. However, a low-cost analysis that reveals a situation in the marketplace where a delayed conversion with INCREASED friction adds value, has significant value.

Going to market better/faster/cheaper will not succeed in that marketplace.

A less obvious example: a food vendor at an event declines cash transactions, requiring instead that all sales be pushed through an app. Each customer must install and use the app, in order to buy food. Despite seemingly low prices, the lines are very long, and people are frustrated.

A hasty hustler might see an outstanding opportunity to offer fast food for easy cash transactions, right nearby. With visions of stealing customers from the long app-driven sales line, efficiently serving everyone with a conversion stream sans all that friction, she plans to coordinate a small set of sexy food trucks directly across the parking lot, and get rich.

Without ever asking "why" the original vendor allowed all of that friction to interfere with sales?

She might discover that someone else was subsidizing those food sales, based solely on the documented sales flowing through the app. That prices were artificially low, due to that subsidy. The challenger will not only fail to participate in the true marketplace (by sharing in the subsidies strategically planned for various reasons), but will have to compete with subsidized prices (which directly reduces bottom line profits).

Simple scenario planning would have asked -- why might the app be so essential as to ban cash, in light of obvious sales friction? The more experienced hustler would have seen the other signs... such as the use of entrance wrist bands but not food tickets; a tiered pay-one-price setup; and the obviously over-the-top branding of the "VIP Experience" highlighted throughout the environment, none of which is supported by sexy independent food trucks parked nearby.

This was a real life example, which I easily investigated. There was, indeed, profitable opportunity there, but not based primarily in efficiency, even when that reduction of friction would have obviously increased customer happiness and brand impression. The market was not "free". Each customer had some interest beyond immediate hunger, and the event owner had a very significant interest in how those customers were processed.

Learning SEO and Becoming an SEO

Interested in an SEO career? I'd first ask you "why", before offering any advice.

There are many kinds of SEOs, and many of them are quite different from others. Which one do you want to be?

SEO work spans a wide spectrum of activities... you can be "working as an SEO" but doing very, very different work than someone else legitimately "working as an SEO".

One of the biggest "red flags" when looking at any job offering is the clause that says "other duties as required" or "requested". No matter what the job, that clause needs to prompt some questions from the SEO candidate, during the application process.

In SEO World, some hiring people have been known to exploit that clause. They rely on it to permit near infinite flexibility regarding what, exactly, you will be doing with your time, while they (the employer) avoid any responsibility for you gaining SEO experience on the job.

Professional, contract, or "in-house" SEO is simply a classification of work supporting web technology or web publishing (which includes content generation). The work is directed by someone else (the typical "SEO Lead" or "Marketing Director" or founder/CEO).

The reason SEO jobs exist has to do with the unique specialization of the minutia of web publishing that impacts search marketing performance. That combined with the super dynamic nature of the need for direction of SEO efforts. SEO is always changing, and only experienced, insightful people who know SEO can see how those market changes are likely to impact the traditional SEO worker production.

For those very same reasons, you don't ever really know what the SEO job work will be, until you are in the work, being directed by the lead (or discovering the needs as part of your work).

Link building is part of SEO. Content editing for web marketing purposes, is part of SEO. Content generation is often considered part of SEO (especially when small teams are expected to be "creative" meaning not only deciding what content would perform, but also making that content.

Outreach is part of SEO, especially when it could involve link building. This can be buried into "B2B" work, where relationship building for the specific purposes of gaining mentions and links, or otherwise driving traffic, is part of SEO.

What About Technical SEO?

What about technical SEO, the most notable stuff that literally defines SEO, and is so attractive a skill in the job market?

Yes, Technical SEO is important and valuable. Both on-page and off-page/on-site SEO, including the poorly-named and more poorly executed "edge SEO" pushed by some practitioners.

But will you actually engage in this part of SEO work, on your job?

That is a key consideration for the SEO job applicant. The only way you can possibly engage in technical SEO is as a web developer, or as a key member of a team that brings together developers, content makers, and SEOs of various types.

That is why Wordpress SEO is so ubiquitous. If the publishing is done on Wordpress, there are a few levels of integrated technical SEO methods avalable via the editorial dashboards. Or, as some have done, developers can create custom admin screens to allow meta management of various SEO components, for the SEO workers to utilize.

Of course this can be done in any platform, or custom-coded. It isn't something unique to Wordpress. But... market dynamics strongly support the re-use of solutions thus far generated on the Wordpress platform, and so it is a popular "standard" for such SEO work.

Almost none of the high-functioning professional SEOs I know use Wordpress, btw, but everyone of them knows it cold. For many reasons.

How to Become an SEO - Here's my Best Advice

Start working in a publishing support capacity, and try to remain focused on learning ABOUT every aspect of publishing that already acknowledges that there are unique considerations that matter, and are considered part of SEO.

First learn ABOUT those on the job, by asking what your company does to meet the identified need. Then, research that for yourself by reading all about that process on the internet.

You'll learn what your team thinks the issues are. You'll learn how your team believes they should address those issues. You'll learn how the broader SEO industry believes those issues should be addressed.

If your team has someone who "adjust the meta data for SEO", go look at what they do. You can see it right in the published code. If you don't know how to do that, this endeavior will force you to learn that (and essential skill for anyone desiring an SEO career). Then, read about "SEO and meta data" on the internet. Compare what they do, to what others say should be done.

If your team gets editorial guidance from an SEO, look closely at what your team publishes vs. what your team publishes according to that SEO guidance. Ask about details, so you start to learn about content targeting as part of SEO.

If you team has an SEO editor, see if you can get access to pre-edited content, so you can see what changes are made. Read up on SEO copywriting and Content SEO etc. to learn how it could be done, while you watch how it is done.

Ditto for "conversion optimization". Look at the stated need. Look at the changes made. Listen to the discussions of performance. Learn.

This is how you learn to become an SEO. This is how you learn how to become qualified to apply to SEO positions. This is how you prepare yourself to be tasked with true SEO activities, while part of a publishing team, no matter what job title they have given you.

This is how you learn SEO and can become a successful SEO. You start working in web publishing, and learn while on the job, supplementing real world observations about your team's SEO efforts, with online learnings.

Good luck!

John Andrews and Johnon.com

Someone once told me that when they hear a conference speaker describe some SEO issue, they prioritize finding out "what would JA do..." as their next step. This blog was named "JohnOn" because it represents my opinions "on" a variety of topics (most related to entreprenuring using the web, in competition with other publishers).

A few selected references noted from a brief period when I was public with my SEO thoughts (a random few of many -- I see no reason to list them all here):

  • Sole guest on a segment of Webmaster Radio, where I was literally grilled by the host on a variety of SEO topics, as if he was capitalizing on his chance to get some free SEO consulting he could use for his own SEO consulting business. He admitted during the interview that, yes, I really did know a lot about SEO. LOL
  • Quoted in Bloomberg Business Week, on Google's and Demand Media's co-dependency (2011)
  • "John andrews is one of the smartest industry folks i've ever met", said the author of Killer Facebook Ads (in the book).
  • Cited as an essential resource in the book "111 SEO Tips" (published in German)
  • Cited for defining competitive website optimizing as an effective practice, in the book Website Visibility: The Theory and Practice of Improving Rankings
  • "John Andrews is one of the smartest, most perceptive people in search marketing", noted by search conference organizer in 2008, in a profile published in advance of a rare conference appearance.
  • A very kind reference passed along by a business owner looking for a trustworthy SEO consultant: "We have worked with John Andrews in Seattle for two years now, and are very pleased. He is very high-end as an SEO consultant, but for some reason he tolerates us bothering him month after month. He's very advanced, but still knows how to communicate (rare!)"
  • Invited and sponsored to attend/speak at numerous conferences, some of which I accepted and attended. These include TRAFFIC (several times), Search Engine Strategies (SES), Search Marketing Expo (SMX-Advanced), Domain Roundtable, Search Fest, and others.
  • Recommended as one of 3 resources for business people seeking top-tier insights into web publishing: "John Andrews.... you'll need to read between the lines a bit as he's not going to just lay out every tactic or shift in black and white. He'll suggest things to consider and in general he's way ahead of the curve. Read everything on his site and sign up for his newsletter."
  • I have known 2 former Rock Stars who became web marketers/SEOs, and this compliment was published by the one who went on to win a lot of web marketing awards: "Some writers have more guts than others...John is fearless and totally gets it. There was some buzz in 2010 about how effective certain SEO firms, known for correlation studies, are at reverse engineering Google’s algorithm. This post from John Andrews is the definitive one to our mind, and challenged other thought leaders in respectful and compelling ways."

Quoting My Self

"To an experimentalist, everything is an experiment. Observations are rarely what they appear to be."
"Confidently chase market share as an SEO success metric. Document your many assumptions (of course), but do boldly estimate market share based on real data you collect on queries, user distributions by intent, geo, and other factors. Always, always pursue higher market share."

MediaPost highlighted my "Healthcare Search Marketing" SEO notes, so I ranked myself into position #1

MediaPost highlighted a blog post of mine about healthcare search marketing consultants and agencies. I had noted that ranking for a healthcare search term was not always associated with servicing the searchers finding the top-ranking result. If you were good at SEO you could rank for a term, even if you didn't deserve to be top-ranked for that term (https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/68284/top-ranked-search-firms-all-aint-the-same.html).

After that, I decided to rank myself for "healthcare search marketing" and promptly earned the top #1 position. I held for over a year. During that time, I received emails from professionals in the health space, complaining that I had insulted them. Remember, this was back when people actually believed Google was a benefactor for the web. Some successful yet amazingly ignorant programmers back then were so sheltered, they openly hated on SEO (even technical SEO), preaching that you could rank for relevance by just-making-good-content (Cal Evans, "Just Say No to SEO", July 2007 updated Feb 2019).

On Censorship...quoted from a 2008 interview

Prior to Threadwatch I mostly stayed out of forums and the like, due to frustrations I felt dealing with those who quietly "managed the message" as moderators. People only see what gets published, and they want to believe it’s the whole story. If they are told "we only edit out obscenities" then they believe that what they see is what was written, perhaps sans obscenities. Sadly, that is far from the truth. Posts are edited and deleted as needed to manage discussions, and often there are strong agendas at work behind that process. Threadwatch started as a place that promised not to do that, and it didn’t. I was one of the first 3 editors of Threadwatch, and I didn’t even get any instructions for doing the job. It was simply assumed that we would only fix problems, delete obvious spam and bring questionable issues up for discussion. Everyone had a voice if they exercised it. If there were too many UFO posts the community complained to the posters before any moderators did.

On Helping Others with SEO as a Consultant, quoted from an interview

I follow the consultant model in my business, rather than an agency or practice model. That means I focus strategically on those aspects of search marketing (and competitive webmastering) that bring business success rather than simply SEO success. I believe that a business looking to succeed in search marketing is actually looking to succeed online in general, not just gain more search traffic. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have that general online success model worked out yet, and their SEO efforts fail to perform cost-effectively even if they succeed based on SEO metrics alone.

Fortunately, the same knowledge an SEO needs to achieve SEO success can be used by the business itself to refine the online success portion of the overall Internet marketing equation. This can be done at the same time, and with relatively little incremental cost, via the consulting model. I hope to demonstrate that for the Search Fest audience, by showing how working effectively with an SEO at the strategy level can guide you towards overall online success, while simultaneously empowering you to effectively manage your SEO engagement and empowering your SEO to succeed on your behalf.

On Competitive Webmastering...quoted from 2008 interview

Much of what we do as search optimizers is really just good web publishing, following proper technical and usability guidelines. But as search becomes the default access channel for Internet users, building for search (search friendly publishing, or SEO) is actually necessary.

And that is a self-reinforcing thing -- the more search works for people, the more they use search. If every webmaster optimizes, they all need to optimize further to compete. So if you expect to be competitive today, you need to be search optimized. If tomorrow we have something new that is more important than search, we webmasters will need to accommodate that as well. In general, you are a competitive webmaster.

On Content

Content. That word, is so important. And when you read it.... like when you read it above, you believed more than the type expressed. You projected into the typed word on my web site, your own committed belief of what it meant. And not just the meaning, but the pronunciation, as well.

Chances are very good that you read "CAHN-tent" as in the content of this web site post. But I wrote "content" pronounced "cunn-TENT", meaning at peace, pleased, satisfied, or perhaps some flavor of happy.

Stop projecting your own meaning into other people's words. Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. You look like an idiot when you do that.

*If there is a way to contact me, it is provided at the bottom of the page.

The Proper Definition of a Rat

For all the GodFather fans out there (the original, not "II" lol), we now have an update on the proper definition of a rat.

"you give up people around you, to save yourself (from a prison sentence). The people that you were in bed with, the people that you trusted, that trusted you -- to save yourself, you bury them, whether they were your friend or not. That is not something that you're supposed to do" - Michael Franceze

Now you can debate whether the guy who violated his oath and left the life is a rat or not, but like everyone else you have to work within a proper definition of "rat" so here we are with one that not only works but seems to match the working definition defined by decades of street life.

Not everyone is courageous. No everyone is wise. Not everyone has the skills needed to manage every situation. But no one, ever, should be a rat. It's not just ugly, or disgusting, or wrong. It's quite simply inhumane. Which is why the rodent was chosen as the model.

Do whatever you can to not be a rat. There is nothing better for you to do.

Need to reach me? Call me, or text me, or hit me up on Slack, Discord, Telegram, or other. I'm not active on Facebook, nor am I on LinkedIn.

If you need my contact details or phone number, just find someone you know who already has it, and ask them for it. #simple.

If you discover that you don't know anyone who knows me, well... sorry about that. Maybe you can you ask every SEO person you know "Do you know how to contact John Andrews?". That sometimes works well.

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