From YouTube: The SEOptimist

Hey there! Spending a little time outside the office today and wanted to do a video talking about the importance of getting away from superficial and same-y content. For years, everybody has said, “Content is king,” and you need to create quality content to rank on Google and get attention. But very seldom do people actually explain what quality content entails.

What does it mean to make quality content?

If you have a certain degree of ego and self-respect, you might be tempted to think that everything you create is quality content, because nobody wants to think what they just wrote is junk.

While it’s always been true that you needed to go a little beyond what a lot of the competition is doing in terms of what they’re sharing, I think it’s more important than ever to go the extra mile now. Google has only gotten pickier about how it selects real expertise when it gets it right.

I’m not going to get into the weeds discussing how many people believe it’s not doing a great job of that.

A simple piece of advice I remember being told by a writer many years ago was something to the effect of: If you’ve written something and you’re just about to hit the publish button and it makes you a little bit nervous, that’s exactly why you should hit publish.

What they were referring to wasn’t that you should be controversial or something like that, but more that if you’ve been forthright or kind of ruthlessly yourself in that content to a degree that it stops you for a second and you’re like, “Should I share this?”

Or maybe you’ve shared so much information in that post that a part of you is like, “Should I be giving all of this away? Should I be saying that much about this topic or should I pull some of this back?”

That’s the point you should publish.

A lot of people are reluctant to do that because they have this idea that if I give away the house in my blog post, there’s no reason for someone to call me because they’ll think they can run away with my whole plan that I’ve given them and do it themselves.

Occasionally, that’s true, but I want to challenge that in two major ways.

One, if that reader was going to read a piece of content and immediately be like, “I don’t need a professional; I can do all this myself,” they were probably never going to be a good customer for you anyway. That type of thinking—the “I don’t respect other people’s expertise, and I always think I can do it better myself, and I’m always looking for the cheapest way out of this”—even if you could close them today, that personality trait will come to the surface in some other way further into the business relationship.

(So I wouldn’t advise caring a whole lot about alienating that particular person.)

The rest of the time, my experience has been that as much as you might think giving somebody a lot of information makes them never call you, that’s not how it plays out.

Examples of Winning By Giving More Away

The earliest standout case I can think of where I saw this was many years ago, probably 10 or 15 years ago now, but it’s still true today.

I was working for a tax resolution firm. At that time, most of the competition was just spinning the same kind of information about, “If you’ve got this big threatening letter from the IRS, call us today and we’ll help you.”

They gave virtually no information about what that letter meant, what your options were, other than selling a couple of predefined solutions that they wanted to sell.

They were very much operating with the rationale of, “I’m not going to tell you how to do it, or you wouldn’t need me.” Fortunately, I was working under a marketing director who was bolder and wiser than that.

She had me write, among many other pieces, one that pretty much detailed the entire process of getting an installment plan with the IRS: what that looked like step by step, in enough detail that a person could conceivably read that post and then walk away and try to do it themselves.

And you know what happened? The opposite.

Not only did we rank number one on Google for searches related to installment plans with the IRS and questions about how they work, but we also got a lot of sales calls from that.

A couple of things were at play that made that true. One, especially in that example, you’re in an industry where there’s a ton at stake. By the time you’re behind in your taxes enough that the IRS is sending you angry letters, you are in a bad way, and if you don’t do something soon, it’s not a good situation. Everybody knows that. When the stakes are that high, who you are looking for to help you, you have to feel like you can trust them. You have to feel like they actually care, instead of just selling you something that supposedly is going to solve your problems—who knows if it will.

If you are one of the only people in your industry, at least in that area that people are finding at that time, that is actually saying, “Don’t worry. Here’s how much time you actually have to resolve this. Here’s what that process looks like. Here’s what you should be bearing in mind to avoid pitfalls each step of the way. These are common things that could go astray or that you should probably know as you’re producing this type of information for them. Here’s what they’re probably going to do at these phases. Here’s what you can expect.”

When you explain it at that level, their reception to that is kind of like, “Wow, thank you. Nobody else has really taken the time to explain that to me. I appreciate that you actually did.”

Then they also, whether they realize it or not, are kind of thinking, “Well, shoot, if this company would give me that grade of information for free, imagine what they’re going to do for me if I hired them at that point. How much more wisdom do they have when I’m paying them? Am I going to trust them more than somebody who’s like, ‘I’m not telling you my secrets. Pay me and then you’ll know’ versus ‘Sure, I’ll give you the answers’?” Who are you going to trust more?

I think it’s a real sign of confidence when a company is willing to put that much out there without fear that people are going to run away. It also is a vote of confidence that you’re saying, “This is not the full extent of my wisdom and my knowledge, and that’s why I’m comfortable sharing so much of it with you because there’s so much more where that came from.”

Another example of that was when I worked for a personal injury firm a few years back.

I use that example here and there because it’s one of the most competitive and difficult types of SEO campaigns I have ever worked on. Given what it is, both because it’s New York City and because personal injury itself is a very competitive genre where basically every competitor in the game that you have is wealthy and spending big money. So you’re not up against anybody small.

Related to the video I did recently talking about how you shouldn’t chase the sexiest keywords initially because they’re so difficult and so competitive, and you’ll just spin your wheels and probably get frustrated. In a similar way, I knew, “All right, if we’re going to beat them in an organic ranking kind of way, then we have to look at the content they’re creating and look at the limitations of it.”

Sometimes you get lucky the way that we did in that campaign, which is to say if you have a lot of really big competitors that are spending really big money to rank, the advantage you have is that if they are currently winning, they are used to that.

Sometimes you get lucky where they kind of rest on their laurels a little bit. They’re saying, “I have been the number one personal injury ranking attorney or firm for quite a while now, and I’m so comfortable with the number of phone calls I get from doing that that I’m not actively doing a heck of a lot more all the time because I’m already winning.”

That means the competition is probably also using a pretty superficial level of content.

In their case, a lot of their competition was ranking just because they’re gigantic firms that have been around a long time and are spending mad money on ads and links and other things.

So when they make a page or a blog post about construction accidents or other types of personal injuries, they’re being fairly superficial because they don’t want to waste or invest a whole lot of time in the content, and they want to give nothing away. Those attorneys, more than ever, are of the mindset of, “My information is extremely valuable, and I’m not giving you any more than I absolutely have to for free. You pay for that knowledge.”

Well, I advised my client at that time: let’s write content about the different aspects of construction accidents, scaffolding accidents—what do those entail?

  • What does that look like?
  • What are the usual costs of that?
  • What was going on on the construction site?
  • What are notable cases in the past, whether that firm or my client was the lawyer for them or not? Just discuss them in a way that is illustrative to the reader.
  • When has this been a major issue in the past?
  • What are identifiable cases that you, the reader, I invite you to look up on your own to learn more about it. Why was this case notable?
  • What constitutes a really strong case? What set of circumstances, if you or a loved one were injured in this type of scenario, would give you a very strong case?
  • What could we share in a blog post where we’re basically telling that person, “Yeah, if A, B, and C happened to you, this helps a lot. This is going to make a strong presentation in court for you to get it.”
  • The opposite: what kinds of scenarios should the person know about where it’s like, “Yeah, you might have been legitimately hurt and things went legitimately wrong, but sadly, if A, B, and C are the case, that really damages your ability to seek the outcome that you’re looking for.”
  • What should people know at each phase of the way? What should they expect? How can they be best prepared for these kinds of cases, etc.?

I looked at it with that law firm client and said, “I realize, legally speaking, there’s a certain level of details and talk that you can only do once they are officially your client and under your confidence. But right up until that line, what is the maximum amount of discussion that you could have with somebody and the maximum amount of information that is generally true in enough cases that you could safely communicate to a reader without it becoming a legal issue or an ethical issue for you as an attorney?”

Right up until that line, that’s where you should be sharing because, in a similar way to my example about the IRS, in a personal injury case, say you or your husband, wife, father, or somebody was injured in a major accident and has a debilitating injury.

That’s a big deal, and it’s a lawsuit that you’re only going to probably do once. You really want to make sure that you have your ducks in a row and you are the best situated you can possibly be to start that lawsuit to make sure that you win. Well, your choice in a firm matters a heck of a lot.

If you are reading content on one law firm’s website where they’re being very outspoken about what you can expect and really holding your hand and guiding you and already acting to a degree like you’re working together and they’re here to support you, in a lot of cases, isn’t that going to make you more comfortable than a firm that’s like, “Yeah, I can help you. Look at my track record”?

That’s what they all lean on: “Call me.” The track record matters, and it is persuasive.

But most law firms say that they have a good track record. So at a certain point, that’s actually not all that compelling anymore because it doesn’t make you different.

If every one of your competitors is talking about how they have this amazing track record, well, either you’re all correct and everybody has a great track record, so who cares? Or some of you are being dishonest and are embellishing your track record, and how can anyone tell?

So you have to put up to prove it.

You have to actually demonstrate real expertise at a level that when someone reads it, they’re like, “Damn, this guy really knows his stuff, and I love that they’re willing to just put it out there and share it with me. I believe them now. I am willing to have a phone call this afternoon to learn more about it.”

This Is Basically The New Minimum To Reliably Rank

It’s not just compelling for the reader, but at this point, I think that’s the level of content my experience has been that you need to be putting out there on Google to have a chance of really ranking and really competing.

If you’re just going to put same-y content and tell yourself things like, “Well, that’s all my competitors are doing, so I don’t want to be giving away more than them or putting myself at a disadvantage,” it’s the opposite.

You’re putting yourself at a disadvantage for being too similar to them because why should Google pick you if it looks at your blog post or your page and it’s giving away basically the same information that everybody else is saying?

Those other guys that have already said the same thing are already ranking better than you. You’re not going to change Google’s mind about that by publishing more of the same. It’s just going to look at your content and say, “Yep, you’ve said the same thing as these guys, but I’ve known them longer, so I’m still going to rank them.”

It’s not going to matter at a certain point.

Those are the ways you can get in the weeds or waste your time in SEO, and I think that’s for the people out there that say things like, “I’ve tried SEO and it doesn’t work.”

That kind of stuff, on top of what I covered in my last video about how you even prioritize the content you’re going to make, getting those two things wrong—this post and that other one—are the biggest reasons SEO ends up not working.

Reining it in and getting these parts right are the most important pieces of investing your time wisely in doing SEO that is actually going to move the needle.

When I work with somebody who actually has a long-term, big-picture view of SEO, where they’re saying, “Yes, I’m willing to give this at least 6 months or more to set up a really good content plan. We’re going to walk the walk every month and chip away at that big-picture content plan.

Everything we’re making serves this:

  • What did we talk about last month?
  • How does what we’re going to share this month build off of that and set us up for stuff that we’re going to talk about next month?
  • How does the whole batch of all of this content that we’ve made play together and illustrate as a group, as a cluster, our knowledge and expertise on these topics?”

Before long, Google starts to look at our site and say, “Yeah, you are kind of a thought leader in this space because you’re talking about this stuff more thoughtfully, more thoroughly, and just at a higher pace than most of your competition. You are legitimately the most knowledgeable on this topic from what I can see because that’s what you’re putting out there.”

If you guys think it would be helpful as far as me illustrating this in action to walk through a blog post that I’ve written for a client that I think is a great example of writing at this level, I would be happy to do that. Just let me know down below.

But in a general advice sense, because I’m talking to you as the viewer, I don’t know what industry you’re in or trying to write in, so it’s hard in this context for me to give you super concrete advice about anything.

But as a general rule, that would be what I would advise anybody: really be thinking less in terms of, “What do I think is important about my service that people should know?” and more, “What do other people view as important? What are the major questions they have on this topic?” Whether you need to do research and use software to find those answers or whether you just are very good at talking to your customers and straight-up asking them, “Hey, when you were first in this scenario, when you were looking for somebody like me, what were things that you were really afraid of or anxious about or concerned with? What did you really want to know? What are some of the reasons that you picked me?”

I’ve had those kinds of questions with clients before, and I found them pretty useful in a lot of cases, both where it confirmed my suspicions, where they told me a thing that I was already trying to zero in on and I was like, “Good, I’m glad I did that,” and also in cases where their answer surprised me and I was like, “Wow, I didn’t actually realize that quality of what I was putting out there was so important to people. I’ll focus more on that going forward.”

Those are good ways to plumb that as you build, and you should always be looking at the content you’re building, like I said, as a long-term game.

Think of it like social media.

People often erroneously say about SEO, “Well, can we just do stuff for a couple of months, and if it’s working, then we’re done?” You’re not done. SEO should be long-term and very ongoing.

You wouldn’t say about launching a social media campaign where you’re going to be on Facebook and TikTok and Pinterest and whatever, and you’re going to really have this well-crafted content plan, you wouldn’t go into it saying, “If we kick butt for like two months and do a good job, then we’re done, and we can pull back and we don’t need to post on social anymore.”

No one would do that. If you’re winning in 2 months, that only signals to you, “Excellent, keep doing what we’re doing and double down on this.” It’s the same for SEO.

I hope that was helpful for all you guys. I will catch you in the next video. Put your questions down below. Catch you next time!