SEO In A Winner Takes All Economy
What Is The Winner Takes All Economy?
Once upon a time, long long ago, you could open a store in your home town and only be competing against one other storekeeper, or perhaps three if your townspeople were willing to travel to the next town over.
Actually, that wasn’t such a distant time. Let’s call that the 2000 economy.
Since 2000, there have been two major changes affecting small businesses; the internet and globalisation.
The internet has affected small businesses because one small business in Timbuktu, aka the middle of nowhere, can offer their products and services to the entire world.
Globalisation has affected small business because one small business in Timbuktu, can draw on the labour market of the entire world, not just their local neighbourhood. They can use software from San Francisco, build their products in China, and have their accounting done in India.
Since a small business can now offer their products to the entire world, and draw upon the entire world’s resources this means small businesses are competing with every similar small business in the world.
That is a broad macroeconomic example of how the world change, and it both has an effect on, and serves as a metaphor for seo.
Why Should SEO’s Care?
Firstly, any small business that is using Google to attract customers is competing with more small businesses. If you’re selling a product that someone else is selling in a different country but can ship it for an affordable cost, you’re in competition with them. And this shows up in your search results.
For example, if you search “buy book” in Australia, The first two results are from the Australian companies Booktopia and Dymocks, but the third result is Book Depository which are a UK based company that sell their books for cheaper than both Booktopia and Dymocks.
Secondly, the metaphor of a winner takes all economy also applies to SEO. Roughly 95% of search traffic clicks on results on the first page—the top 10 rankings. So if 1,000 people search for the term “kitchenware”, and there are 10,000 pages users could click on, 950 will click on one of the first 10 pages.
And the winner takes all outcome of SEO has a secondary effect. Those companies that get ranked on Google’s first page will get more customers, make more money, and be able to invest more money into SEO than their competitors. This cycle continues, and it becomes harder to break into entrenched industries.
How We Can Win In A Winner Takes All Economy
Cal Newport wrote about the comedian Steve Martin in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. When Martin was 20, knowing that comedy at the time was all about the setup and punchline, believed it could be something different. Something more sophisticated.
“What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anti-climax?” Martin said.
For example, as Cal Newport wrote, “Martin developed a bit where he told the audience it’s time for his famous nose-on-the-microphone routine. He then leans in and puts his nose on the microphone for several seconds, steps back, takes a long bow, and with gravitas he thanks the crowd. “The laugh came not then,” he explains, “but only after they realized I’d moved onto the next bit.””
But Steve Martin didn’t only create a different comedy routine to become successful, he created a great routine. And that great routine took 10 years of relentless hard work to put together.
Martin’s example gives us a blueprint of how we can win in a winner takes all economy. We must be different. And we must be better. Essentially, we must follow Martin’s advice of “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
But How Can A SEO Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You?
To answer that question, let’s look at the man who barged into the top rankings for phrases like ‘link building’, ‘keyword research’ and ‘Google ranking’; Backlinko’s Brian Dean.
Dean’s story is so interesting because he is essentially a one-man band. He doesn’t have a big team of content writers, designers and a team for outreach. And he definitely doesn’t have the monster budgets many big companies have for their SEO.
Yet Dean gets over 1.7 million unique visitors per year and Inc.com called Dean “one of the world’s most sought-after SEO experts”.
What are the two main things Dean credits his success to?
Following a different strategy and creating better content.
Being Different — ‘The Do The Opposite Framework’
Dean writes, “If you follow the same SEO advice as everybody else, there’s no way you can win. That’s because you’re playing the game by the same rules as everyone else (including big brands).
But with the Do The Opposite Framework, you do the opposite of everyone else. That’s the secret to beating your competitors in Google.”
If you follow the same strategy as someone who can outspend you, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
In SEO, most blogs publish a new blog every week. But Dean did the opposite. He only posts a new blog every 4-6 weeks.
And that strategy helps him create better content….
Being Better — Prioritising Quality Over Quantity
Only publishing a new blog post every 4-6 weeks allows Dean to develop extremely high quality content. This is crucial to earning high rankings in google for two reasons:
- Google wants to give its users the best experience and therefore will rank the best content the highest.
- Receiving backlinks to a blog post remain crucial for it to rank well in Google, and other blogs will only link to your post if it has a wow-factor.
Dean has won in the winner takes all economy by being different and so good he couldn’t be ignored.
Some time from now, perhaps in ten years, perhaps one hundred, a story will be told that goes something like this…
Once upon a time, long long ago, you could start a business anywhere in the world and have access to the entire world’s resources, labour markets and customers.
We don’t know what the economy of the future will bring, but we can be certain that today’s economic environment presents enormous opportunities. At least, for those who become different and better.
But what if you’re not sure what to do? Then follow the advice of Cal Newport; “Start small and start immediately.”